Wednesday, July 2, 2008
When I was in grade school -- 20, 25 years ago -- I worried about issues that no kid should worry about ... like the destruction of the rainforests.
At some point my dad had told me about them, and it kept me up at night. But as a child, I thought I was helpless to solve the problem.
Fast-forward to the present day when environmental issues have finally hit the consciousness of mainstream America. Now people are changing out their lightbulbs, investigating the MPG ratings of cars, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, continuing to recycle and eating more organic, locally grown food. And, frankly, it's about damn time.
But one solution to our environmental woes -- the solution that would make the biggest impact -- still hasn't hit most Americans' radars.
Stop eating meat.
I know, I know ... blasphemy, right? What on earth am I talking about? You grew up eating meat. Your parents grew up eating meat. Your parents' parents grew up eating meat.
Well, it's time for a change.
Stay with me while I toss some stats to you:
n Creating animal protein (ie. meat) uses eight times as much fossil-fuel energy as creating plant protein.
n Cattle grazing has contributed to the loss of 26% of threatened and endangered species.
n Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.
n Factory farms contaminate well water with nitrates, which have been linked to miscarriages in women.
n An area of rainforest equal to seven football fields is destroyed every minute to create land for cattle grazing. (And many American fast-food restaurants import their beef from this region.)
n 5,000 gallons of water are needed to create 1 pound of meat, while only 25 gallons of water are needed to grow 1 pound of wheat.
n Overgrazing leads to soil erosion and desertification that renders once-fertile land barren. (See photo.)
n A person can save more water by not eating meat than by not showering for an entire year.
n It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat.
Still with me?
So while it's great that you've made small eco-friendly improvements in your life, it's time to make the biggest -- and easiest -- change you can make.
Stop eating meat.
When you order spaghetti, get it with marinara sauce.
If you want a sloppy Joe, use Boca crumbles instead of beef.
Feel like a hamburger? Opt for a veggie burger instead.
You'll be consuming less saturated fat and no cholesterol. (Bet your doc never told you only animal products contain cholestrol, did he?) You won't have to worry about Mad Cow disease. You won't be contributing to the death of an animal. And you'll be helping our Earth in a big way.
I wish I knew when I was 10 that if I stopped eating hamburgers, I'd be doing something to help the rainforests.
Fortunately, I know now.