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5 reasons your food choices can make or break the environment

/ 12:15 AM January 02, 2016

The world’s population has breached the seven-billion mark, making the human species a “super organism” able to alter ecosystems. And one of the most significant ways humans are affecting the planet is with what and how we consume natural resources to convert into food. With the reality of climate change looming larger as we enter 2016, it is high time for us to reassess how our dietary choices are changing the Earth, perhaps irreversibly so:

  1. The demand for meat (beef, pork, poultry) in industrialized countries has shifted the economic balance even in developing nations. Pressures now exist in many of the less affluent countries to raise animal products for export to more well-to-do nations. This is according to preventive healthcare expert Neil Nedley, MD, author of the book “Proof Positive” (in its chapter on Nutrition and Environment).

“When wealthier individuals in those nations demand animal products, land is used for grazing and growing feed for livestock that would otherwise be available to feed the poor directly with plant sources of nutrition,” said Nedley. He cited Livestock Economy Worldwatch Paper 103: Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment, Washington DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1991, p. 6.

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  1. The No. 1 cause of the elimination of Latin America’s tropical rainforests is cattle-grazing. (“We are seeing) the ‘hamburgerization of the forests,’” said Norman Myers, author of “The Primary Source: Tropical forests and Our Future.”

Life forms destroyed in the production of each fast-food hamburger made from rainforest-grown beef may number between 20 and 30 different plant species, 100 different insect species, and dozens of bird, mammal and reptile species, according to John Robbins’ “Food Revolution.”

  1. Livestock farming accounts for the use of 70 percent of the global freshwater and 38 percent of the world’s land-use conversion. Some 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared for grazing and feed crop production. The “Livestock and Climate Change” article published in the World Watch magazine reported that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions as noted on April 20, 2012.
  1. With the world’s available land getting scarce for more farms, marine resources are now being exhausted, as well. “Since the early ’90s the total number of fish caught globally has leveled out. The ramification is that we’ve maxed out the ocean. About 85–90 million metric tons of fish are pulled from the ocean every year, and that hasn’t increased since the late ’90s. It has leveled off not because we’ve decided to be really proactive and be kind to the ocean and not fish anymore. It’s leveled off because we can’t get any more fish out of the ocean,” said Bruce Monger, who teaches oceanography at Cornell, on the implication of our food choices in the environment (for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies).

5. Fifty-one percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs and poultry (chicken), according to an analysis  by Robert Goodland, a former World Bank Group environmental adviser, with Jeff Anhang, an environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp.

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TAGS: food choices, Health, live stock, meat, nutrition, Population, poultry
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