Chapter 3. Organic Veganism to Heal the Planet > Cool the Planet and Restore the Environment
I. Cool the Planet and Restore the Environment
Eliminate Methane, Black Carbon and Other Greenhouse Gases
Livestock—the Greatest Methane Emitter
Carbon dioxide is not our worst threat; methane is.
And methane comes from livestock raising.
We can start by cutting down on the biggest methane producer in the world; that is, animal raising. So, to cool the planet most quickly, we have to stop consuming meat in order to stop the livestock-raising industry, and thus stop greenhouse gases, methane and other toxic gases from the animal industry.
Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming Potentials
N 2 O
|Global Warming Potentials (GWP) *
|Pre-industrial atmospheric concentration
||0.270 ppm |
|Atmospheric concentration in 2005
||0.319 ppm |
|Percentile contribution from livestock industry **
* Averaged over 100 years, methane and nitrous oxide are 25 and 298 times
respectively more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming potentials.
Averaged over 20 years, methane is 72 times more potent. (One part per
million (ppm) denotes one part per 1,000,000 parts.) (IPCC, Fourth Assessment
Report, 2007, Table 2.14)
** Steinfeld et al., Livestock’s Long Shadow, 2006
If everyone in the world would adopt this simple but most powerful
practice of an animal-free diet, then we could reverse the effect of global
warming in no time. We would then have time to actually be able to adopt
longer-term measures such as more green technology to also remove the
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
In fact, if we neglect to stop meat production, either all these green
efforts will be cancelled out in effect, or we may lose the planet before we are
even having a chance to install any green technology such as the wind power
or solar power or more hybrid cars, for that reason.
Researchers from NASA just announced that methane, the potent
greenhouse gas whose largest human-created source is the livestock industry,
traps a hundred times more heat than carbon dioxide over a five-year period.
“Methane heats the Earth 72 times more than CO2
in 20 years of time.” 62
—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
“Methane heats the Earth 100 times more than CO2 in
five years of time.” “A ton of methane emitted today
will exert more warming in one year than a ton of CO2
emitted today would exert until 2075.” 63
—Dr Kirk Smith, Professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California, Berkeley
Please also keep in mind that although livestock has been reported to generate 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the world's transportation sectors combined, this is actually an underestimate because recently revised calculations have placed it at generating possibly more than 50% of total global emissions. I repeat: Livestock has been recalculated as to generate possibly more than 50% of total global emissions —more than 50% is from the livestock industry. So that was the number one solution.64
The Danger of Methane Hydrate and Hydrogen Sulfide
When it’s cold, [methane hydrate is] just compressed [under the ocean floor] and lies there, harmless. But now as the weather is getting warmer, these gases are going to be released. They are already releasing into the atmosphere, as you know from scientific reports. The permafrost layer is melting each day.65
There are already signs of this dangerous time approaching, through observations of lakes and elsewhere bubbling with methane gas that used to be stored safely below a frozen layer of the Earth.66 No one knows when the day might be that enormous amounts are uncontrollably released, causing a sudden spike in temperature that could then catalyze runaway warming. That would be catastrophic for us.
“Permafrost is like a time bomb waiting to go off—as it
continues to thaw, tens of thousands of teragrams of
methane can be released into the atmosphere, enhancing
climate warming. This newly recognized source of
methane is so far not included in climate models.” 67
(one teragram = one million tons)
—Dr. Katey Walters,Aquatic Ecosystem Ecologist at the University of Alaska
So, it’s not just methane we are worried about. There are so many gases from the ocean. [For example,] hydrogen sulfide is credited with wiping out the 90% plus living creatures in our Earth’s history in the past.68
Depending on the concentration dose, just the hydrogen sulphide alone can cause irritation of different body organs: eyes, nose, throat, bronchial constriction, spontaneous abortion, impaired bodily functions, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, coughing, difficult breathing, eye damage, shock, coma, death, etc.
We even might die from gas, not to talk about global warming yet. Right now, there’s so much methane already released into the atmosphere many people have more mental illness or other physical suffering, according to scientists’ research.
Methane gas can cause headaches, respiratory-system and heart malfu
nctions, and in more concentrated doses, death by suffocation. It is similar to carbon monoxide poisoning. It is 23 times more deadly than CO2.
Other Lethal Gases from Livestock
Other lethal, toxic gases are emitted by the livestock industry as well. It is the largest source at 65% of global nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with approximately 300 times the warming potential of CO2. It emits also 64% of all ammonia, which causes acid rain and hydrogen sulfide, a fatal gas. So to stop livestock production is to eliminate all these deadly gases, as well as methane.69
The Devastating Effects of Black Carbon
Black carbon is a greenhouse particle that is 680 times as heat-trapping as CO2, and it causes the ice sheets and glaciers around the world to melt even faster. Up to 40% of black carbon emissions come from burning forests for livestock.
Scientists found that 60% of the black carbon particles in Antarctica were carried there by the wind from South American forests that are burned to clear land for livestock production.70
Stop Meat Production to Achieve a Rapid Cooling Effect
If we want to see the cooling of our planet in the next one or two decades, it’s more effective to reduce methane first. And because the greatest source of methane on the planet is from livestock, to be a vegan is the fastest way to reduce methane, thus bringing cooling to the planet, successfully and fast.
U.S. researcher and IPCC member Dr. Kirk Smith has shown that within just a few years the dissipation rate of methane overtakes CO2, and it’s nearly completely gone within a decade, but CO2 will stay around warming the planet for thousands of years! So, if we want a quicker cooling of the planet we have to eliminate those that leave the atmosphere quickly.71
In other words, methane does much more damage in the short run, but if we stop it, we will be able to reverse the trend of global warming very fast.
The best thing is stop eating meat, stop killing animals, stop raising animals. Then the methane gas and the nitrous oxide gas will stop! And then we cut already a big chunk of pollution off our air, and we cut off the global warming process. I said already, 80% of it will be cut almost immediately, and we can see the results in a few weeks.
Preserve the Oceans
Halt the Production of Dead Zones
There are other huge benefits gained by halting livestock production. Oceanic dead zones, for example, are caused primarily by fertilizer runoff from agriculture that is mainly used for animal feed.
Dead zones are a serious threat to the ocean’s ecosystems, but they can be revived if we stop polluting them with our livestock-related activities.
The enormous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the size of New Jersey, which suffocates all marine life there, is overwhelmingly due to the nitrogen runoff from the Midwest, from the animal wastes and the fertilizers for the animal feed crops. This waste is toxic. It contains antibiotics, hormones and pesticides, and 10 to 100 times the concentration of deadly pathogens like E. coli and salmonella compared to human waste.72
In 1995 one time, an eight-acre, large pig-manure lagoon burst in North Carolina, spilling 25-million gallons of this poisonous waste, twice the volume of the notorious Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Hundreds of millions of fish in the state’s New River were killed instantly due to the nitrates in the waste, with further harmful effects once the contamination reached the ocean.73
“The number of oxygen-depleted, oceanic dead zones has
increased from only 49 in the 1960s to 405 in 2008.” 74
— Robert J. Diaz and Rutger Rosenberg,Top Marine Ecologists
Stop Fishing and Revive Marine Life
We desperately need the fish in the sea to balance
the ocean; otherwise, our lives will be in danger.
Fishing contributes to global warming primarily by disturbing the complex ecosystems of the world’s oceans. Balanced marine ecosystems are extremely important, as more than two-thirds of the planet is covered by oceans.
The ocean is a very complex ecosystem where every living thing has a unique function. So, removing even a small fish for humans to eat creates an imbalance in the sea. In fact, we are already seeing an effect of this imbalance on marine mammals.
Stop fishing and then marine life will rebound. Since the heavy fishing that caused the sardines to disappear from the coast of Namibia, eruptions of harmful gases have created a dead zone that is destroying the area’s ecosystems due to the absence of that one humble but eco-beneficial, powerful species.75
Overfishing has caused the remaining fish to be smaller, so the mesh size of the nets has been decreased to capture smaller fish, resulting in other fish being caught as well. So, it destroys even more marine ecosystems and destroys more fish life. These are either ground up as animal feed, used as fertilizer or thrown back into the ocean as dead fish. For example, for every one ton of prawns caught, three tons of other fish are also killed and thrown away.
Also, a US study revealed that pigs and chickens are forced to consume more than twice the seafood that is eaten by all the Japanese people, and six times the amount consumed by humans in the United States. At least one-third of all the world’s fish caught today is fed to livestock, not to us humans even.
“If the various estimates we have received come true, then
we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we,
effectively, are out of fish.” 76
—Pavan Sukhdev, Head of the UN Environment Program’s Green Economy Initiative
There’s another condition called acidification, where the lack of certain fish has contributed to higher ocean acidity, which in turn reduces the capacity of the ocean to absorb CO2.
Fish farms are like on-land factory farms. They have similar problems environmentally, with impacts that include polluting the bodies of waters. The farmed fish are contained in big, netted areas off the ocean shores with uneaten food, fish waste, antibiotics or other drugs and chemicals that pass into the surrounding waters where they harm our ecosystems and pollute our drinking sources.
So, for anyone who thinks that eating fish does not cause as much environmental damage, please think again. Consuming any animal products at all negatively impacts our oceans and our world.
Stop Water Shortages
Livestock: the Greatest Water Guzzler
“We must reconsider our agricultural practices and how
we manage our water resources, with agriculture and
livestock raising accounting for 70% of fresh water use and
up to 80% of deforestation.”
Water means everything to our existence. We must conserve the water; we must do everything we can. And the first step to begin is to be vegan, because the animal industry uses over 70% of the clean water of our planet.
While 1.1-billion people lack access to safe drinking water, we waste 3.8 trillion tons of precious clean water each year for livestock production.
We have [over] six-billion people in this world and the sources of groundwater for wells, which supports half of our world population, are dying, drying up. And the top ten global river systems are drying or ebbing away. And three-billion people are short of water.
Are we short of water?
One serving of BEEF uses over 1,200 gallons of water
One serving of CHICKEN uses 330 gallons of water
One Complete VEGAN meal with TOFU, RICE, and
VEGETABLES uses only 98 gallons of water 77
Even if we don’t shower, we don’t brush our teeth, it amounts to nothing when they don’t stop eating meat.
The Americans already worry about the shortage of water. Their glacier has melted a lot. And the rivers have become drier. In a few more years only, the water might not be even enough for 23-million people who depend on that water to survive.78
The Organic Vegan Diet: Saving over 90% of the World’s Water
Data Source: Marcia Kreith, Water Inputs in California Food Production,Meat production uses massive amounts of water. It takes up to 1,200 gallons of fresh and good, clean water to produce just one serving of beef.79 In contrast, a full vegan meal costs only 98 gallons of water. That is like 90¬plus percent less.
Water Education Foundation, September, 1991 (chart E3 p28)
We can stop water shortages. While droughts are plaguing more populations, we cannot afford to waste water. So, if we want to stop water shortages and to preserve precious water, we have to stop animal products.
Preserve the Land
Stop Overgrazing and Desertification
The livestock sector is the single largest human
use of land and the top driving force behind
We must stop livestock grazing to protect our soil and protect our life. Overgrazing by livestock is a major cause of desertification and other damage, and is responsible for more than 50% of land erosion.
We have only 30% of land that covers the Earth. Of that precious 30%, one-third of it is used, not for our true survival, but for livestock pasture or growing tons of grain for animal feed—all to produce a few pieces of meat.
For example, about one-billion acres or 80% of all agricultural land in the US, and about half of all US land are being used for meat production. By contrast, less than three-million acres is used to grow all the vegetables in the country.80
In Mexico, recent research stated that 47% of the land has already taken the toll of desertification due to damage from the cattle industry.81 And another 50 to 70% of the county is suffering from some degree of drought.
The clearing of land for livestock has created instability and serious soil degradation across Mexico. In the northern regions of Mexico nearly two-thirds of the land is classified as being in a total or accelerated state of erosion.82 When the livestock eats all the vegetation and tramples the land, what is left behind is cement-like ground, unable to grow anything. This worsens global warming because more carbon is released from the dying plants and bare soil.
Eradicate World Hunger
If everyone ate a plant-based diet, there would be
enough food to satisfy 10-billion people.
Waste of Land for Raising Livestock
Are we short of food?
How many people in the world are hungry?
Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger.
Grain currently fed to livestock is enough to feed nearly two-billion people.83
—Julie Gellatley and Tony Hardle
Ninety percent of all soy, 80% of all corn and 70% of all grain grown in the United States are fed to fatten livestock, while this could feed at least 800-million hungry people.84 We have hungry people; we have children dying every few seconds because we use too much land, too much water, too much food for livestock instead of on humans.
If we don’t eat meat, we will use the agriculture products, cereals, to feed humans instead of feeding more bred animals in the future. So we don’t have hunger anymore, and there will be no more war because of hunger. The effect is immense.
Data Source: USDA; FAO/WHO/UNICEF Protein Advisory Group, 2004
"It takes from six to 12 pounds of plant protein to
produce one pound of flesh.
It takes about 1,000 times more water to produce
flesh than it does to produce potatoes or wheat.
It takes two hectares of land to support one omnivore.
It takes 1.2 hectares of land to support 20 vegans.
So it takes 80 times more land, basically, to support the
lifestyle of an omnivore than it does the lifestyle of a vegan." 85
—Gary L. Francione, Professor of Law, Rutgers University Law School, USA,Vegan
In addition, the more we use organic, natural farming methods, the more food we have, the healthier we become and the healthier the soil will become. And from then on, the soil will recover and then we will have more and more abundance of food.
We have to ban deforestation, and we have to plant more trees, of course. Wherever there’s erosion or empty land we have to plant trees.
Deforestation is also largely driven by meat production. With the United Nations estimating that deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all deforestation itself is related to meat production.86 Eighty percent of cleared Amazon forest is designated as a cattle grazing area to prepare the animals for slaughter, and the remainder is planted as soy crops used also largely for animal feed.
Every year, we cut down forests as big as England just to raise animals. That’s why our planet’s heating up and then many places are having problems with floods and drought.
A rainforest area the size of a football field is destroyed every second to produce just 250 hamburgers.87
We are losing 55 square meters of rainforest for every beef hamburger patty.88
Forests play a tremendous role in absorbing CO2. For example, the forests in the Pacific Northwest region of the US are able to absorb half of all the emissions of the state of Oregon, USA.
According to the environmental organization Greenpeace, eight percent of the Earth’s forest-related carbon is stored in the vast rainforests of the Congo River Basin in Central Africa. Scientists predict that continued deforestation of the Congo will release the same amount of CO2 as the United Kingdom emitted over the last 60 years!89 So, it is important to preserve the forest while we still can.
Trees attract rain, keep the soil, and stop the erosion. And [they] give oxygen and shade, and give [a] home to the environmental forest friends, animals, which in turn, also keep our planet going in a good, ecological way.
[Deforestation] is not just [about] the permanent changes to the world’s temperature, rainfall and weather patterns, which the forests regulate. It’s not just about the millions of people who might lose their livelihoods that depend on the forests. There is more to it than that. There is the extinction of plant and animal species that is 100 times faster than what is natural, and it ruins our ecosystems.
Fortunately, we have the solution ready at hand, which is the organic, vegan solution. We have to accept this organic, vegan solution as the one and only to save our planet right now.
The land for grazing and feed growing could become forests that help reduce global warming. In addition, if all tillable land were turned into organic vegetable farmland, not only would people be fully fed, but up to 40% of all the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could be absorbed. This is in addition to the elimination of over 50% of emissions caused by livestock raising.90
Therefore, in sum, we eliminate most of the human-made greenhouse gases by simply adopting the animal-free, vegan, organic lifestyle.
The Energy Cost of Meat Production
Meat production is energy intensive and grossly energy inefficient. To produce one kilogram of beef consumes 169 mega joules (169-million watts) of energy, or enough energy to drive an average European car for 250 kilometers!
One six-ounce beef steak costs 16 times as much fossil fuel energy as one vegan meal containing three kinds of vegetables and rice.
Data Source: Gidon Eshel and Pamela A. Martin,
“Diet, Energy, and Global Warming”, Earth Interaction, Vol 10 (2006), paper No. 9.
The UN IPCC’s chair, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, further points out that meat requires constant refrigerated transportation and storage, the growing and transportation of the animals’ food, a lot of packaging, a lot of cooking at high temperatures for long periods, and a whole lot of animal waste products that also need to be processed and disposed of. Meat production is so costly and inefficient, so unsustainable that it is bad business to produce meat.91
The True Cost of Meat
“To produce one pound of beef, it takes 2,500 gallons of
water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the
energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. If all these
costs were reflected in the price of the product, without
subsidies, the least expensive hamburger in the US would
cost US$35.” 92
Everything on this planet, including us, is In the oceans and fresh waterways, so many species of fish have already been lost, with complete aquatic environments such as coral reefs being decimated by such practices as trawling and fishing with explosives. On land, meat consumption is responsible for vast regions being cleared for grazing crops such as soy that are fed to livestock.
interrelated, and we help each other to make our
lives here comfortable and livable. But if we don’t
know that, we are killing ourselves. Every time we
kill a tree or kill an animal, we are killing a little part
Threat Status of Species in Comprehensively Assessed Taxonomic Groups
Credit: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, 2010, http://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/gbo/gbo3-final-en.pdf, 28
With these activities essentially robbing our biodiversity, there has been an alarming rise in the disappearance of plants and animals.93
Reclaim Rivers and Soil from Pollution
If we really want to conserve our clean, safe water
for ourselves and our children, we must stop
livestock production and adopt the plant-based diet.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that agriculture, which is mostly for meat production, contributes to nearly three-quarters of the country’s water pollution problems.94 A single pig farm with say, 500,000 pigs, generates more waste yearly than the 1.5-million residents of Manhattan in New York City. In Virginia State, even the poultry farms are producing
1.5 times more polluting nitrogen than all the people living in the same area. There’s no law to regulate these.
The 1.8-million pigs in Ireland generate more waste than the whole country’s entire population of 4.2 million!
As the land cannot absorb it all, much of the excess runs into our rivers and soil. We are talking about a horrific amount of toxic material that poses an appalling set of problems, including poisonous gases like hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, residues of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and bacteria like E. coli that could, and do, cause food poisoning and also death.
Along with the waste are chemical fertilizers runoff used on crops fed to animals, which have been documented by scientists to cause dead zones as well as toxic algae outbreaks, those green moss that grow in the water.
One such event just occurred in Brittany, France, where a majority of the country’s livestock and a third of the dairy farms are located. On the Brittany coast, this waste and chemical runoff coming into the sea causes outbreaks of toxic algae, which emit the lethal, deadly gas hydrogen sulfide. So, recently in news we heard of a horse that died within half a minute of stepping into the algae and now the health concerns of over 300 people are being investigated for the same reason around that area.
Making all of this worse is the fact that animal waste is largely unregulated, meaning that there is nothing to stop these events of contamination that can cause illnesses or even death for massive numbers of animals and people.
(Please see to Appendix 9 for more examples of pollution from animal waste.)
Alleviate Financial and Health Costs
Save Trillions in Climate-Change-Mitigation Costs
Leaders are worried about the cost of mitigating climate change. However, the good news is if the world shifted to animal-free diet, then we could reduce the cost by half or more. That means we would reduce tens of trillions of US dollars.
• The Cost of Climate Change
“European Commission study estimates climate
change could cost up to US$74 trillion. One-
meter sea level rise would increase storm property
damage by US$1.5 trillion.” 95
— Environmental scientists F. Ackerman and E. Stanton
“Cost of inaction could reach US$176 billion annually by 2100 for Japan.”96
—Prof. Nobuo Mimura and colleagues
• Vegan-Diet Savings
“Global adoption of the vegan diet could wipe 80%
(US$32 trillion) off the estimated US$40-trillion cost of
mitigating climate change by 2050.” 97
—Elke Stehfest at Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Minimize Health Costs
The health risks of eating meat are more and more evident these days. Livestock are routinely given excessive hormones and antibiotics, which then when consumed as meat can in turn endanger human health.
There are also toxic byproducts in slaughter places such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. These poisonous substances have caused deaths among workers due to their extreme toxicity.
As a so-called food, meat is simply one of the most unhealthy, poisonous, unhygienic items that could ever be ingested by humans. We should never eat meat at all if we love and cherish our health and our life. We will live longer without meat, healthier, wiser without meat.
Meat has been scientifically shown to cause all kinds of cancers, also heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. The list goes on and on and on. All these diseases kill millions of people every year, millions, millions of people die due to meat-related diseases, and making millions of others seriously sick and disabled as well. There is no end to tragedies caused by the meat diet. We should know this by now through all the scientific and medical evidence.
We did not even mention the filthy conditions, the confined environments where the animals are kept until their slaughter, which promote the transmission of diseases such as the swine flu virus. In fact, some meat-transmitted diseases, like the human form of mad cow disease, are tragically fatal in every case. Whoever contracts mad cow disease is doomed to die
sadly and sorrowfully. Other contaminants such as E. coli, salmonella, etc., can also cause serious health problems, long-term damage, sometimes even leading to death.
In a vegan world, there would be no more sad news about someone’s child dying of brain damage or paralysis due to E. coli, the deadly bacteria which originally almost always come from farmed animals. There would be no more heartache due to deadly swine flu pandemic, or mad cow disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, salmonella, Ebola, etc., etc. Even AIDS that we fear so much is originally also from hunting animals to eat. Animal diseases from the horrid, filthy livestock-raising environment are responsible for 75% of all the emerging, infectious human diseases.
Even milk, which we have been told officially to be good for us, is on the contrary poison and causing diseases (and of course financial loss). Here are some: bacterial microbes, pesticides, and enzymes found in cheese, derived from the inner stomach linings of other animals; breast, prostate and testicular cancer from hormones present in milk; listeria and Crohn’s disease; hormones and saturated fat leading to osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
• Health Cost of Meat and Dairy
Cardiovascular Disease has cost $503.2
billion in the US$ in 2010.98 Cancer treatment costs $6.5 billion in the US$ per year.
Diabetes treatment costs $174 billion in
the US per year. Individual treatment of being overweight costs US$93 billion per year.99
Buy Time for Green Technologies
We cannot cut CO2 that quick because we don’t have other technological inventions right now to replace the ones that we have. How many electric cars do you see running on the United States streets yet? How much CO2 does that cut? Not much. But the methane pollution came from livestock raising, so if we stop that, no more heating!
There is already some advanced science to capture CO2 and mix it with sea water to create cement. That will reduce CO2 used by other cement-producing methods as well and also reduce new CO2 from polluting the air. But still, any new technology takes so long to develop and to be in the market.
The natural landscapes of grassland and forest are more effective to absorb CO2 than carbon-capturing technology, according to the UN Environmental Program. Besides, it’s risky, I think. It’s not tested yet. What if the carbon leaks back into the atmosphere again in a concentrated amount like that? When we capture them year after year, decade after decade, and then something happens, and it leaks up, then what do we do?
So, with the vegan diet, we eat what’s best for our health, for the animals, for the environment, and nature will do the rest to restore the balance and save our world.100