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Photo by Nourdin Ryon

One of the most important and urgent topics currently talked about is a climate change. However, most people are still unaware of which human action is the most detrimental to our planet. The governments and large multi-billion dollars corporations have been able to hide the true culprit until fairly recent exposure by environmental scientists. But luckily, the scientists have a solution - and it is quite a simple one, and one that would not only significantly slow down the current warming but also save our forests and rainforests, save wildlife, our water and oceans, our health, and also ensure our children and grandchildren have a sustainable future on this planet – they are advocating turning to a plant-based diet.

Many people are aware that global warming is an urgent crisis requiring our immediate attention but how many people really know the true culprits that drive global warming at such a worrying speed?

For years, we have been told to turn off our lights when not in use, walk instead of driving whenever possible to reduce the environmental pollution. However, in recent years the research clearly states that the biggest single driver of climate change is animal agriculture. There are currently about 8 billion people in this world but we are raising over 80 billion animals to be slaughtered for meat. Meanwhile, wild animals have become, due to our actions, a disappearing minority on this planet. With these billions of animals raised for meat and with more than 97% of the animals kept in factory farms, animal agriculture has become a very powerful and considerable pollutant causing a significant damage to the Earth.

In the US alone, there are 20,000 factory farms, cramming millions of animals inside. These large industrial structures are leaking over 500 million tons of excrements every year into lagoons that are visible from a satellite. These ‘dead zones’ are significant toxic polluted areas of land, causing these areas to be desolate of life. The oxygen-starving waste leaks into waterways and eventually into the oceans harming and killing our marine life including mammals. Small amounts of manure can be enriching, however, such large amounts starve organisms of oxygen and have the opposite effect.

A report published by the Worldwatch Institute states that animal agriculture is responsible for staggering 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Three powerful gases cause the vast majority of climate change and these are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

It takes on average 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie from an animal protein than it does to produce a calorie from a grain, thus making a protein from a vegetable source much more climate efficient than producing protein from animal sources.
Researchers have established that one of the ways to help combat climate change is to adopt a plant-based diet. They found this would be much more effective in reduction of carbon print (and more feasible) than switching from a conventional car to a hybrid one.

Nitrous oxide is another powerful greenhouse gas.

According to the United Nations, the meat, egg and dairy industries are accountable for astonishing 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions.
This powerful gas is 200-300 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and it lasts a long time in the atmosphere (about 150 years), meaning the emissions today will influence climate for many generations ahead.

Methane gas is a significant culprit when it comes to influencing the climate. The animals in agriculture produce enormous amounts of methane through their digestion and from the ‘excretion pools’ on factory farms but also organic farms. 

The US Environmental Agency has stated that animal agriculture is the single biggest source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas 25 times more effective at trapping heat in atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

All three heat-trapping gases, act as an insulation and thermal blanket wrapped around our planet. The accumulation of these gasses is rapidly increasing through human activities such as animal agriculture, clearing of forests for agriculture development and burning of fossil fuels in cars and power plants.

As a result of this, the thermal blanket is getting too thick, overheating the Earth, as less heat is able to escape to space. This means disastrous consequences for life on Earth such as species mass extinction, catastrophic flooding, devastating super storms, wars over land, world hunger and more. It is very difficult to know what exactly will happen and to what extend but scientists can speculate based on previous, just slight changes in temperature and its effect on Earth’s life. For example, we know that a drop in temperature by only 5 degrees over thousands of years can cause an ice age. So what happens if temperature rises by just a few degrees?

We know that glaciers and ice shelves around the world are melting already. These losses of large areas of ice also contribute to global heat acceleration because less of sun’s energy can be reflected away from the Earth. Even a few inches rise of sea level causes flooding issues to low-level coastal areas but if the West Antarctic ice sheet would melt and collapse into the sea, this would push up sea levels by staggering 10 meters, causing many coastal land areas to be permanently beneath the water.

Deforestation
Another important factor in climate change is deforestation.

We know that trees are extremely important for life on Earth. Forests cover around 31% of land on the planet. They create the vital oxygen that we breathe and without them, there would be no life. They are a home to millions of species and they protect the soil from erosion. They also store carbon dioxide and help control climate. When Mother Nature created forests and rainforests she has done this with a mastermind precision. All trees, plants and animals work together in perfect harmonious cycles that benefit each other. Even a slight disruption in these cycles can have negative consequences for the health of the forest and its fauna and flora. Deforestation, not only releases carbon into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming, it destroys these perfect natural cycles, often with irreversible consequences. It is estimated that 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Removing this protection leads to more extreme temperature swings and this is harmful to plants and animals. Therefore removing a forest, not only destroys the trees, it ultimately kills most, if not all, fauna and flora in the location with it.

While mining and urban expansion are important but not very significant drivers of deforestation, animal agriculture accounts for around 80% of deforestation worldwide and scientists say that 91% loss of our precious rainforests is due to beef production. Our rainforests (the lungs of the Earth), like the Amazonia, are being cut down on a unsustainable, huge scale (some 46-58 thousand square miles of forest are lost each year - an equivalent of about 48 football fields every minute), wiping out their entire fauna and flora life in the process, mostly to raise more cattle, accommodate international trade in palm oil, grow soya and grains for animal feed and for packaging (wood products). This destructive business is producing an estimated US $61 billion per year. The largest buyers of these commodities are the EU, China, Russia, India and the US.

World hunger
More than 3 billion tons of grain is produced yearly but nearly half of that is given to meat and dairy industry to grow the animals to be slaughtered, instead of feeding the 900 million people suffering from hunger worldwide. Also, huge amount of water is being supplied to these animals to keep them alive.

People, including children in developing countries, are starving next to fields of grains destined for export to more affluent countries to be used to feed the livestock. Most of these animals are confined on factory farms in filthy, cramped conditions and pumped with chemical drugs and antibiotics to keep them alive until slaughter in a disease-ridden, unnatural environment where nearly none of their basic needs are met. They are impregnated over and over until their bodies cannot handle it any longer, they are then sent to their death. They are treated purely as moneymaking commodities instead of living, sentient beings capable of suffering and pain with complex social and emotional needs.

The high quality land used to grow soya, corn and grains to feed these animals could be instead used to grow crops for human consumption and we would not need as much land to do so while supplying enough plant-based food for the whole world twice over.

Solution Lies in Plant-Based Eating
The present way of feeding the ever-growing human population is not only extremely unsustainable - causing irreversible climate change, loss of land and fresh water, oceanic destruction, pollution, world hunger and wildlife extinction but it is also dangerous for human health.

With clever advertising, the meat and dairy industry had made us believe that we must consume another species milk and their flesh to be healthy. However, the longest and most comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted - The China Study – led and documented by Dr. Colin Campbell, obtained overwhelmingly consistent evidence that the very same diet is, in fact, killing us. While we were told that drinking dairy milk is essential for the health of our bones and teeth, countries with the highest consumption of these products also have the highest cases of osteoporosis.

Our digestive system in comparison to carnivores, omnivores and herbivores, is without any doubts the closest to herbivore’s digestive tract. Indeed our ancestors – apes, feed almost exclusively on plants, with the omnivorous part in their diet being small insects. It has been proven that when we eat as nature intended for us, we, not only avoid the diseases of modern world - most cancers, diabetes 2, heart disease, obesity and many others - but also, we can often reverse these through adopting a whole food plant-based diet. Consuming animal based products eventually causes an acidosis within our bodies, which is a welcoming gateway for disease cells such as those of cancer.

The latest research also points out that if everyone now adopted a whole food plant-based diet, there would be staggeringly high savings in health costs, an estimated $1 trillion per year. These savings would come from much lower rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes type 2 and cancer, the biggest and most common killers in today’s society.

Scientists discovered that a whole food plant-based diet is ultimately the healthiest way of eating for human health. The American Dietetic Association stated that a well-planned vegan (plant-based) diet is appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes.

With vegan cafes, restaurants and supermarkets rapidly opening up around the world, it is easier than ever to make the change.

Destructive, unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change are wiping out the Earth’s ecosystems as a result of our failure to recognize our biological and spiritual connection with the natural world and the inevitable fact that we can not live without nature. We are in the middle of the largest mass extinction of species. We hold a moral obligation to preserve our planet for our children and future generations. Each and every one of us holds that responsibility and has the power as a consumer to do so.

Our plates are in the shape of the Earth - round. Each time we sit at a mealtime, what we put on our plate is either contributing to the destruction of our planet and ultimately the human kind, or is helping to conserve the planet for our children.

We are running out of time and there has never been a better, more important and effective time to go vegan - for the planet, the animals, for our own health and ultimately our children and their future.

FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that empower us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.

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