Monday, January 05, 2009

Start the Year with Some Perspective

The United States of America constitutes 5% of the world's population. We use:
  • 25% of the world's oil (China is next highest at 8.3%)

  • 159 gallons of water per person per day (world average is 25 gallons)

  • 31% of all nuclear energy (France is next highest at 16.5%)

  • 23.3% of the world's coal (China is higher at 28.7%, India follows the U.S.A. at 7.4%)

  • 123 kg of meat per person per year (Germany is next highest at 86 kg)


Eric said...

Another dose of perspective:

A vegetarian diet saves up to 1.3 MILLION gallons of water per person per year (because it takes so much water to produce meat and dairy products, in addition to all the food that the cows, pigs, etc. eat).

That means I could leave my shower running day in and day out and still not waste as much water as an average American meat-eater.

More trees are cut down for livestock land than for paper every day, so being vegetarian saves over an acre of rainforest a year per person.

American farm animals produce 130 times more excrement than Americans (86,000 pounds per second!!!), so not eating meat also saves unfathomable amounts of water, energy, chemicals, pollution, and all the other factors embedded in farm-raised animals.

The United Nations found that raising farm animals for food contributed more to global climate change forty percent MORE than all the planes, cars, and trucks on the planet COMBINED!

Okay, so I drive a hybrid (a Camry hybrid that we've had since 2005) and work at home (which saves a ton of gas/emissions) and water harvest and compost and have been "green" since my dad took me to a solar home show when I was about eight. My brother and I built our first solar oven when I was in fifth grade. But all those things are NOTHING compared to the impact our diets have on the planet.

In fact, if Americans reduced their meat intake by just five percent, we would have enough grain (that would have gone to produce that amount of meat) to fully feed 25 million people per year, which is enough to feed all the poor/homeless/hungry in America.

All the compact fluorescents in the world won't undo the havoc that the Western diet is doing to this planet.

Dennis R. Plummer said...

H2O consumption was the motivating factor in my becoming vegetarian in 1991.

I don't understand your comparison about animal excretion and how not eating meat would save water, etc. in this arena. Wouldn't there be less animals excreting if I were eating them?

Eric said...


Animals are raised as livestock because people eat them. If you don't eat them, then that's however many animals that don't have to be raised for your diet.

The excrement I listed is only that of farm animals raised for food, not things like pets and wild animals. So, the only reason there are so many billions of pigs and cows on the planet is because they are raised for slaughter. It's a continuous cycle of supplying the demand for meat and dairy that keeps getting replenished. If less people ate meat, less animals would be raised because demand would go down. The reason we have these huge factory farms instead of the ranching way it used to be done is because of the insane demand for meat. If that demand changes, then the livestock population changes as well.

These massive factory farm produce astonishing amounts of waste, and SEED magazine (a science magazine) recently published a story about how there is a giant "dead zone" at the mouth of the Mississippi River where the water from the river has killed the ocean there, and that the number one source of pollution was from farm-raised animals and their excrement. And that's just one example. Much of the excrement goes into runoff and pollutes water sources, and some of it is treated, which uses huge amounts of water and chemicals, and then there's al the water it takes to hose down 86,000 pounds of poop per second...the embedded energy in the practice is just astounding.

"Embedded Energy," or what people are now starting to call "Emergy" is becoming a more popular concept lately, and it's just incredible to see how much emergy there is in average, everyday things. It's obviously not an exact science because land usage, farming practices, and transportation differs from place t place, but it gives a reliable average quanta of energy in a thing or practice. Well, meat and dairy are extremely high. (Eggs are not, however, and are actually a very efficient food for the most part. It takes about a tenth of the embedded energy to produce a hard boiled egg - including the water and electricity it takes to cook it - than it does a simple glass of milk.)

There are ways to farm sustainably and for people to still eat meat, but that is exceptionally rare, and the products of such farming are completely unavailable to almost all consumers.

In fact, the embedded energy in a single hamburger is estimated to equal about two and a half weeks of luxuriously long hot showers, even though there are ways to raise livestock in a completely sustainable nature. But the food system in America as it is now just is not sustainable in any way, shape, or form.

Eric said...

Here's a link that explains the excrement pollution a little more:

And here is a TED video about how the American diet is causing an environmental crisis:

And I forgot to mention fish farms too, and how Psychology Today just released a study that showed farm-raised tilapia is actually BAD for your cholesterol because the lifestyle of farmed fish changes their makeup so much that they develop a ratio of fats that stimulates inflammation, cholesterol, and all the other things associated with red meat. So it's not just the environmental impact, but that raising food in this way also makes the food itself unhealthier, so much so that "heart healthy fish" becomes just as bad for you as a steak. (Similar studies have been done with eggs as well. Free-range eggs were found to actually balance cholesterol in humans because they are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, whereas factory-farm-raised eggs contributed to high cholesterol levels in humans.)

Here's another TED video that mentions a sustainable farming practice that really could produce food (including livestock) in a completely sustainable way:. It's about ten minutes into the video.

Dennis R. Plummer said...

You are a plethora of info, Eric! (As in "superabundance", not as in an excess or "a morbid condition due to excess of red corpuscles in the blood.")

I believe, as I've said before, your brain is hardwired into the internet.

Looking forward to checking out the links. I always enjoy TED.

Eric said...

I used to say that "I always enjoy TED," but then I watched Rick Warren's video. Who the hell invited him? And why?

Dennis R. Plummer said...

Obama invited give the invocation at the inauguration. Part of his inclusivity.