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Earth Day 2010: Eating As If The Earth Matters

Earth Day 2010: Eating As If The Earth Matters

Forty years have passed since the first Earth Day, and many people now realize that, if we’re serious about saving the planet, we have to do more than just recycle, carry cloth bags, take short showers, and use energy-efficient light bulbs.  While these are all worthwhile measures, we must also work to control our population—and our appetite for flesh

There are currently 6.8 billion people in the world and experts predict that there will be at least 9 billion humans by 2050. Global meat consumption is projected to double by 2050. With meat-eaters putting such an enormous carbon footprint on the Earth already, it’s frightening to think what things will be like if global meat (and cheese) consumption doubles within 40 years. 

In fact, my head practically starts to spin when I think about all the water currently squandered on animal agriculture; all the forests that are being bulldozed to make more room for animals and the crops to feed them; all the manure that seeps into our waterways; and all the fossil fuels it takes to operate slaughterhouses and processing plants, and to transport meat from the plants to the stores.

We seem to have a knack for procreating and destroying. It’s pretty grim, and we really can’t expect to have a livable planet if we use even more resources to raise even more animals to satisfy even more people’s taste for flesh.  Ultimately, there must be fewer humans, and fewer meat-eaters.

Fortunately, we are making progress. More and more people pledge to go vegan every day. Officials in places as diverse as San Francisco; Israel; and Ghent, Belgium, are encouraging people to choose plant-based meals, at least for one day a week. Schools in the U.K.; Helsinki, Finland; and Baltimore City are observing “Meatless Mondays,” and New York City schools are considering a similar initiative.  Forward-thinking scientists are even working to grow “meat” in laboratories, so that people who don’t have the discipline to stop eating animals will have another humane, eco-friendly alternative. 

Some groups have also found clever ways to remind people that our exploding population is wreaking havoc on wildlife, as well as farmed animals. Back around Valentine’s Day, the Center for Biological Diversity distributed 100,000 free Endangered Species Condoms with packages featuring edgy messages like Wrap with care, save the polar bear,” “Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle,” and “Hump smarter, save the snail darter.”

We just need to keep pressing on with our efforts to promote veganism and population control. It will make a difference. If people stop multiplying like crazy—and start eating their way to a smaller ecological footprint—we will eventually conserve resources, halt climate change, reduce pollution, preserve wildlife habitats, and lessen animal suffering. Someday perhaps, Earth Day will be commemorated simply as a tribute to our beautiful planet, rather than a frenzied rally to save it.    


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12:28AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Great article. Thanks for posting.

9:36PM PDT on Apr 30, 2010


2:48AM PDT on Apr 29, 2010

We need to control our breeding. There are too many people on this planet. We can curb our procreation. its unnecessary.

6:16PM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Cows on factory farms do not have pleasant lives. Yet it's impossible to feed everyone on the planet meat without factory farms. Even the US has to import meat because Americans eat too much meat to raise it all here. Vegan is the only sustainable way.

2:06PM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Thank you!

3:48PM PDT on Apr 24, 2010

I generate 1 bag of garbage a week and 1 bag of recycling every 3 weeks. I buy few packaged products because I eat mostly meat and vegetables. The meat was raised locally on grassland. I consume no pharmaceuticals that enter the water supply. My cleaning products are earth-friendly.

Yes, the cow died. As we all die. But the cow had a very pleasant life and had only one bad day. To say killing for meat is wrong is nothing more than a moral judgment imposed on another. All of nature kills something else for sustenance.

If you don't like killing animals, that's your call. But don't tell me it's wrong, unless you want to question the wisdom of Nature. And then figure out how many rodents, reptiles, birds and other animals are killed when vast tracts of land are plowed for agriculture.

"Is beef the primary reason for the high atmospheric methane concentrations which have nearly tripled since they began rising a century ago?
No. Landfills are the #1 source of methane emissions. Landfills, natural gas and oil systems and coal mining were responsible for nearly 2/3 of U.S. methane emissions in 2003. As for pollution and ozone depletion, the focus should be on total Greenhouse Gases. Methane produced by all domestic livestock accounted for less than 3% (2.5%) of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2003. The EPA reported that in 2003 methane emissions from all sources of GHG only accounted for 9 percent. Additionally, methane emissions decreased 10% between 1990 and

3:31AM PDT on Apr 23, 2010

Imbalance has brought about the problems; only balance with correct these problems. Too many people will stop eating meat for numerous reasons, but if people can learn moderation in all they do, we are on the way. Clearly, it is not one thing that will make a difference, but all of the little things we collectively can do on a daily basis. Our efforts and the changes that big businesses and governments must make can go a very long way. The earth is a living organism that responds to the way in which we live. Let's keep moving towards a long and healthy life of our planet.

11:54PM PDT on Apr 22, 2010

May you never hunger

10:39PM PDT on Apr 22, 2010

While eating locally and consuming only animals raised humanely on small pastures sounds nice, it is unrealistic as there is not enough land and resources to humanely raise animals to support our current human population, which is growing at a wicked speed. Cramming animals into factory farms is the only way to feed so many meat-hungry people.

The key is for people to cut down or eliminate their meat consumption. Most humans (especially in the developed world) already get too much protein as it is. If people cut down their meat consumption by even by 10% it would help the environment a lot.

4:03PM PDT on Apr 22, 2010

Brilliant, thanks for this!!!

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