you want to save the environment, start off by looking at what you put
in your mouth.
Whatever your diet, and whatever reasons you have for eating the foods
you do, there are clear consequences to what ends up on your plate.
Foods are not inherently neutral in the
context of the earth, and most have an
environmental toll. A few, however, can give mother nature a helping
handand reverse the chronic degeneration underway on
much of the earth. Your food can actually save the
has finite resources, though from the perspective of a single
person it can seem impossibly vast and abundant.
Water, which is so
critical to all life on earth, is one such resource. Ask an inhabitant
of the perennially drought-stricken western United Statesif they have enough to go on if you have any doubts.
We can't save the environment without water.
soil we walk on seems infinite, but billions of tons of topsoil have
been lost in the last 50 years due to unsustainable land management
practices. We cannot save the environment if we can't feed ourselves.
world is also vulnerable to toxic fungicides and pesticides which are
liberally spread over crops, endangering us and polluting the earth.
We can't save the environment if we continue to pollute
clear that one diet actually helps the planet, and that's a raw,
organic, fruit-based diet that also includes plenty of vegetables as
well as nuts and seeds.
Below, and in subsequent articles, I hope to show you why adopting such a diet is
best not only for you,
but for the
earth as well.
Eat all you care for, but choose foods that save the
The Destruction of
Our Forests: Can Meat Eaters Save The Environment?
If we lose our topsoil, our tenure on this planet is
over- It's as
simple as that. The fall of numerous mighty civilizations of antiquity
can be traced to the loss of something as simple as dirt. When crisis
came, these groups choose not to save the environment of their
NOW thanks to your hacking my trees to
the ground, there's not enough truffula fruit to go 'round.
The Lorax - Doctor Seuss
In 1938, Walter Lowdermilk, an official in the Soil
Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
went on a world tour. He headed around the globe to see how older
civilizations had dealt with the erosion that was then ravaging U.S.
farms. Some groups had managed their land well and were still thriving,
others had not, and the consequences were stunning, he later said in a
Lowermilk described a spot in Syria where old ruins
sat atop barren rock in the section of his report entitled "A Hundred
"Here, erosion has done it's worst," he wrote.
"...If the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed
and the populations dispersed, the areas might be re-people again and
the cities rebuilt, but now that the soils are gone, all is gone."
But despite such lessons, we're not listening. The
States loses seven billion tons of topsoil a year, which could
coat an area roughly the size of Connecticut. About
Eighty five percent of this is caused by livestock grazing and the
clear cutting of forests to create pastures and fields
to grow food for animals. (1)
2005, 260 million acres of forest had been clear-cut for animal
agriculture in this country. (2) With the population growing and per
capita meat consumption increasing, deforestation is only increasing.
It's clear that our other conservation measures will not
equal the good that simply giving up meat would bring about.
In South America, our meat obsession is causing the destruction of the
rain forests, the greatest source of biodiversity on the planet, and an
absorber of vast quantities of carbon dioxide. The United States
imports 200 million pounds of beef from Central America every year.
are few natural pastures in this heavily-forested land, so they're
steadily being carved out of pristine woodland. A Smithsonian study
estimates that the need for grazing land and grain feed leads to the
destruction of a land area equivalent to seven football fields in the
Amazon basin every single minute (3).
means that if you eat a hamburger carved from an animal raised in South
America, you're meal has contributed to 55 square feet of rain forest
We cannot continue this rate of forest destruction if we're to have any
of saving the environment.
No Trees, No Topsoil,
Without these trees, the world loses an important
source of soil
stabilization. The grasses that take their place have a tenuous root
system and are eaten by livestock. The hooves of grazing animals
further churn up and destabilize the earth. Wind and rain can
then blow or carry the soil away, with most of it ending up washed out
analyzing the effect topsoil loss on crop productivity find that losing
an inch of topsoil reduced corn and wheat yields an average of 6
percent. An inch of topsoil takes centuries to form without human
intervention, so losses at current levels are irreversible on a
human-scale time frame. (4) We
are reducing our ability to feed ourselves as the population continues
to grow, as well as slowly degrading out breadbasket into something
similar to what Lowdermilk saw in Syria.
you find this a ridiculous claim, and you say that Middle-Eastern Syria
has nothing to do with with the Midwest, then I invite you to look at
pictures of the dust bowl. In the 1930s, farmers were plowing from
"fencerow to fencerow".
They cut down trees and didn't allow
the land to go fallow. When a two-year drought hit, the soil just blew
away. The humanitarian toll of this disaster is well recorded by
history, and it wasn't until the land was stabilized with tree, grass,
and windbreak plantings that some degree of normalcy returned to the
But the U.S. is still bleeding topsoil at an alarming
rate, and the dust bowl can happen again. The middle east, after all,
was covered with forests and renowned for its orchards until man cut
them down. (5)
An unbroken forest once stretched from Main to Texas,
but much of that is gone too, with more being cut down all the time.
Meat Wastes Our Water
and Pollutes What's Left
The production of meat consumes an amount of water equivalent to
all other uses of water in the U.S. combined. (6) Besides what
livestock drink, water irrigates the grains they eat until they're
slaughtered. Each pound of beef
requires 1939 gallons of water,
but a pound
of potatoes requires only 64 gallons. (13) Animals must be supported
for months and years before they're ready to be slaughtered, making
them an extremely inefficient foodstuff.
If you shower for 7 minutes every single day, at 2 gallons of water per minute coming
out of your low-flow shower head, that equals 100 gallons a week. Eating
a single quarter-pounder hamburger, then, at 484 gallons of water, is
the equivalent of giving up four weeks of luxurious showers.
The only more wasteful agricultural system imaginable
would be feeding meat-fed humans to cannibals.
Livestock feces is also a huge pollutant, and regularly
gets into our water supply.
in the U.S. produce 12,000 pounds of excrement per second, and we've
got sewage systems in just about every municipality to handle it. The
country's livestock produce 250,000 pounds of excrement per second, and
almost none of it is treated (7)
Even the EPA identifies animal excrement and
animal agricultural chemical
pollutants as a major contribution to the destruction of the
environment (8) The manure created from the billions of animals killed
for food has to go somewhere, and it often ends up in rivers and
streams, killing millions of fish (9).
agricultural chemicals seep into our waterways and groundwater,
eventually making its way into the oceans and creating massive dead
zones, or areas so toxic that neither plant or animal life can survive
there. These spots, like the dead zone created where the Mississippi
spews animal waste into the Gulf of Mexico, are visible from space.
If we want to save the environment, we need to control
our water use and pollution.
Meat Squanders Fossil
Fuels and Causes Global Warming
Everyone is talking about the harm that our C02 emissions are doing to
the environment. We fret about what's coming out of the tailpipes of
our cars and the pollutants being spewed into the air by coal-fired
power plants. These are all valid concerns, but few stop to think about
the fossil fuels burnt to produce our food.
turns out that eating 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for more
greenhouse gas and other pollution emissions than driving for 150 miles
while leaving a 100-watt bulb on for nearly 20 days. (10)
a hybrid car instead of an gas guzzler would conserve around a ton of
carbon dioxide per year. A great thing if you're trying to save the
A diet without meat and dairy, though, actually
conserves a ton and a half. A hybrid will cost you an arm and a leg,
but giving up unhealthy, expensive meat and dairy will cost you
nothing, and help you save the environment. (11)
Environment: A Slightly Better Way
absolutely clear that the single easiest thing a person can do to help
save the environment is to give up meat and dairy. This will free up
millions of acres now used for animal agriculture that could then be
replanted with trees.
Here's some food for thought:(12)
Percentage of food grown in United States eaten by
human beings: 20
Percentage of food grown in United States eaten by
Percentage of U.S. agricultural land used to produce
beef alone: 56
Number of pure vegetarians who can be fed on the
amount of land needed to feed 1 person consuming meat-based diet: 20
of people who could be adequately fed by the grain saved if Americans
reduced their intake of meat by only 10%: 60 million
Cost of common hamburger meat if water used by meat
industry was not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers: $35 a pound
Leading source of pesticide residues in the U.S.
Second leading source of pesticide residues in the
U.S. diet: Dairy products—23%
Total pesticide residues in U.S. diet supplied by
Total pesticide residues in U.S. diet supplied by
The Best Way To
Save The Environment:
Beyond grain-based vegetarianism, a diet of raw fruits, nuts, and
vegetables will actually regenerate the earth.
In terms of water, it's clear that fruits use the least:
Water Used To Produce 2.2 pounds of:(13)
2.2 pounds Beef - 16,000 Gallons
2.2 Pounds Cheese- 1,321 Gallons
2.2 Pounds Eggs- 872 Gallons
2.2 Pounds Barley- 343 Gallons
2.2 Pounds Potatoes- 142 Gallons
1 Apple- 18 Gallons
1 Quart OJ -5 Gallons
absorb C02, thus reducing the problem of global warming. They also stop
soil erosion with their extensive root systems and start to regenerate
it through the annual leaf die off. Leaves fall to the ground, rot, and
add to the topsoil. Jim Sloman, author of
Vision," writes, "If
the earth were covered with orchards (much like Tikopia) it would be
possible to feed humanity using even less water and soil while most
likely greatly increasing overall health."
Tikopia, an island settled 3,000 years ago. By 100 B.C., Tikopia was
throttling towards destruction, much like the Easter Island
civilization that wiped itself out by destroying its own trees. (14).
difference is that Tikopia pulled back from the brink. Its people
halted the practice of clear cutting their forests for agriculture and
in its place turned the entire island into a huge fruit orchard, with
dozens of fruit varieties. They even unanimously decided to slaughter
all the pigs becuase it took so much food to raise them. (13)
In their own small way, they were able to save the
environment, and in doing so saved themselves.
Fruit Is The Way To
Go to Save The Environment
What the people of Tikopia did was brilliant.
crops yield the most usable food per acre, as well as the highest pound
yield per acre, and the entire U.S. population could be fed on a
quarter of the current agricultural land if they were turned into
We can feed two and a half times more people with an
acre of fruit trees than with an acre of grain. (15)
Its through these kind of efficiency increases that we
can really start to save the environment.
a practical example, a mature apple tree will produce 20 bushels a
year. A half acre of apple trees would yield enough fruit to provide
about 115 apples, or 12,677 calories per day, more than enough to feed
a person.(16). On a half acre, grains can produce 14 cups of cooked
grain, or 9,583 calories a day (brown rice).(17).
are an example of a low-calorie fruit at about 112 calories for a large
apple. When you change the fruit to avocados, which yield 364 calories
per fruit, or 41,860 caloriesper 115 fruit, you see how orchards are
the superior choice for land use.
now, America's animal-centered eating habits require that 3.5 acres be
set aside to support each citizen, a huge waste. (17)
These lands could be better used as forests, forested
parks, or other recreational spaces.
does not even touch upon the huge energy savings brought about when a
civilization doesn't have to cook its food (statistics sought).
Though this simple dietary shift was can go a long ways
toward saving the environment.
Save the Environment,
Eat A Raw Food Diet
If you're at all environmentally aware, you can't help but look at a
meat habit with some sense of disgust. Its toll on the earth is simply
too great. We can't save the environment while eating meat at this
Even a grain-centered vegetarian diet has its flaws.
best way to go, for your own health, and for the health of the planet,
is a delicious diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
(1) "The case for
vegetarianism" , John Lawrence Hill , 1996, pg 109 (2) Earth Talk,
"The Environmental Beef With Meat," The Bay Weekly, 6 Jan. 2005. (3)
Smithsonian Institution, "Smithsonian Researchers Show Amazonian
Deforestation Accelerating," Science Daily Online, 15 Jan. 2002. (4)
Loss of topsoil from water erosion from USDA, Summary Report: 1997
Natural Resources Inventory (Washington, DC: December 1999, rev.
December 2000), pp. 46-51; effect of topsoil loss on yields in Leon
Lyles, "Possible Effects of Wind Erosion on Soil Productivity," Journal
of Soil and Water Conservation, November/December 1975, discussed in
Lester R. Brown, "Conserving Soils," in Lester R. Brown et al., State
of the World 1984 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984), pp.
62-65. (5) Perlin, John, A
Forest Journey. The Role of Wood in the
Development of Civilisation (Cambridge, MA; London, 1989), p. 15.(6)
Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United
States J. L. Beckett and J. W. Oltjen, J Anim Sci, 1993. 71:818-826. (7) "The Food
Revolution," John Robbins, 2001
US Environmental Protection Agency. 1984. Report to Congress: Nonpoint
Source Pollution in the US Office of Water Program Operations, Water
Planning Division. Washington, D.C. (9) Merritt Frey,
et al., Spills
and Kills: Manure Pollution and America's Livestock Feedlots, Clean
Water Network, Izaak Walton League of America and Natural Resources
Defense Council (August 2000) (10) The New
Scientist, 18, July 2007, page 15 (11) The New
Scientist,“It’s Better to Green Your Diet Than Your Car,” 17 Dec. 2005. (12) "The Food
Revolution," John Robbins, 2001 (13) A Global
Vision, Jim Slowman, Vibrance Magazine Issue 1, Spring 2008, pg 58 (14)
Bologna, M. and Flores, J. C. “A simple mathematical model of society
collapse applied to Easter Island.” EPL, 81 (2008) 48006. (15) Dr. Douglas
Graham, "Grain Damage," pgs 32-36 (16) Apples &
University of Illinois.One tree produces an average of 20 bushels. One
bushel contains about 120 apples. (Allenberg’s
2400 apples from one tree amounts to 6.57/day. One acre can produce 700
All About Virginia Apples)
700 times 120 divided by 365 days equals 230 per acre or 115 apples per
day from a half acre. (17)FAOSTAT
FAO Web Page (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(FAO), June 1997)
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