Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Impact of Diet Choices on the Planet

Talia Fuhrman, daughter of nutritarian M.D. Joel Fuhrman, accompanied her father to the recent meeting of the World Preservation Foundation in London, and filed these facts she collected at the meeting about the impact of diet choices on the planet. I can't vouch for the facts or for the World Preservation Foundation, but her list is a good summary of "impacts" being discussed widely these days. (I mean by that last statement that I'm slowly learning that numbers, facts, and statistics, be they ever so authoritatively presented, have to be held lightly. When the Obama administration says "a million jobs were created," or some such thing, I don't believe it for a minute. I treat it as political agenda-speak. That's obviously a round number that is completely unverifiable at a moment in time. Therefore, it's only fair to treat numbers that I want to agree with the same way—as round numbers that are guesstimates based on varying degrees of verifiable research. Instead of taking the numbers literally, I use the "where there's smoke, there's fire" approach—the numbers represent trends that bear looking into. Another way to look at large numbers like these is to say, "If the numbers are off by a fourth/third/half, do we still have a problem?" In the case of the following numbers, I would say mostly "Yes.")

1) Raising livestock and their by-products account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide green house gas (GHG) emissions.

2) Thirty percent of the entire land surface of Earth is devoted to livestock production, including plants used to feed the livestock.

3) Replacing meat with plant-derived sources of calories and protein could reduce the land area required to feed the human population by more than 80 percent and recover about 25 percent of the land for restoration, solar energy capture, or other eco-friendly purposes.

4) Between 23-30 percent of our global ecological footprint comes from agriculture, primarily livestock production.

5) Beef takes 70 times more land to produce than vegetables.

6) 80 percent of the world’s soy production is consumed by livestock.

7) About 50 percent of the world’s grain supply is used to feed livestock. This is while almost 11 million children who live in the countries where these feed grains are grown, die ironically of hunger each year.

8) In 2009, for the first time, the number of people suffering from hunger exceeded 1 billion. This doesn’t include people facing hunger shortages from natural disasters.

9) If all 6.78 billion people on Earth began consuming as many animal products as residents of the United States, we would need over 3 planet Earths to meet the demand. If all people on Earth became vegetarians, less than one Earth would be needed to meet food demands.

1 comment:

  1. William, I am blown away by this discovery. I knew there was a great impact but I wasn't really certain how much. Fact or not, humans have got to change their way of eating. I honestly believe there should be some kind of free counseling for people wanting to change the way they eat. The addiction to sugar is like a drug and difficult to get off of without help, as are many other foods. Thanks for posting this. I wish the world could read it. Too bad things like this aren't in the daily local news.