Vegetarian heroes: Together they save their bodies and eventually the world
By becoming a vegetarian and eliminating meat from your diet, you will be improving the upcoming global food production and consumption crisis.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - 18:02
TAKE THE VEGGIE CHALLENGE: Stop eating meat and start saving the world. (Photo: Toronto Vegetarian Association/Flickr)
It's no secret that meat consumption poses certain individual health risks to our bodies. Over the years, this notion has fueled some to embark on the personal decision to avoid a carnivore-complete diet and trade their diet regimen for a herbivore food selection.
What if the choice to eat doesn't only affect us, though? What if on top of harming our bodies, eating meat could potentially affect our climate, amount of land and water available for food production and the world's energy resources?
According to recent reports by the Royal Society and UK government concerning the issue of meat production and our environment, this will all be true by 2050. In the collection of 21 studies published August 16, the Royal Society concluded that by 2050, the world population will be at 9 billion people. As a result, the world's food supply will have to dramatically increase by 70 percent. With the amount of labor and sacrifice it takes to produce edible meat right now, this will be practically impossible in 40 years.
The reports overseen by the UK government's chief scientist, John Beggington, look at some technical innovations, such as growing meat in test tubes or using nanotechnology to deliver medicine to livestock, which should help aid the impending issue of food production and the escalating population.
Dr. Philip Thornton, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, stated that two "wild cards" could transform global meat and milk production, which is another option in food production improvement in the years to come.
"One is artificial meat, which is made in a giant vat, and the other is nanotechnology, which is expected to become more important as a vehicle for delivering medication to livestock," said Thornton.
Truth be told, meat production is exceedingly energy intensive and inefficient. "According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, meat production accounts for 18 percent of annual greenhouse-gas emissions — more than transportation, which accounts for roughly 14 percent," said Eben Harrell, writer for TIME.
Just to feed the cattle and other animals we eat ourselves for their meat, millions of acres of rain forest must be cleared out each year, which contributes further to climate change. In addition, the amount of what we feed cattle is nowhere near how much we can profit from eating their meat.
"There's no doubt that the task of feeding the world and tackling climate change would be helped if people fortunate enough to afford meat cut decided to stop doing so. In 2008, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested that the most useful step ordinary citizens could take to help combat climate change would be to embrace a vegetarian diet," said Harrell in his August 16 TIME article.
John Vidal, environmental editor for The Guardian, quoted Oxford University biologist, Charles Godfray, saying, "Major advances can be achieved with the concerted application of current technologies and the importance of investing in research sooner rather than later to enable the food system to cope with challenges in the coming decades."
"The combined effect of these increasing demands can be dramatic in key hotspots [like] northern Africa, India, China and parts of Europe and the western U.S.," said Professor Kenneth Strzepek of the University of Colorado.
In gearing up for 2050 and our imminent food crisis, the most crucial thing to remember is the power of influence on others. In Belgium, the Flemish city of Ghent has paved the road for food production and consumption redemption for the rest of us.
Dubbing every Thursday as "VeggieDag" — translated as "Veggie Day" — the town comes together in an effort to improve this problem, serving vegetarian meals in schools and public businesses. Simultaneously, Ghent civilians promote local vegetarian restaurants and offer advice to others on how to adapt to the change in lifestyle and diet.
Harrell happily agrees with this foreign strategy, bringing up a valid insight from colleague Lev Grossman quoting novelist Jonathan Franzen.
"Franzen believes Americans would do well to adjust their conception of the concept of 'freedom.' To Franzen, constraints can actually be liberating. I know what he means. When I stopped eating meat, I felt free from the guilt of eating meat. By constraining my freedom of choice, I felt more free. So altruism, in a sense, can be self-serving and liberating. That's an alignment of incentives that even the most red-blooded, meat-loving American could appreciate," said Harrell.
Harrell's revelation is evident in most vices we choose to participate in, such as smoking cigarettes. There is more than enough evidence today to inform us about the dangers of smoking and what ingredients are in cigarettes, but we chose to ignore those facts because we like the immediate feeling they provide. Instead of avoiding the activity in our best interest, we lackadaisically decide to think about the long term affects to our bodies at a "more convenient" time.
So what happens when you finally decide to kick the nasty habit? Sure, at first you are not the most pleasant person to be around. After the storm of addiction passes, though, you feel like an entirely new person. You instantly feel like Superman, strong and confident in knowing that no object can bring you and your new-and-improved body down.
By quitting smoking, you are absolutely benefiting yourself. By opting to stop eating meat (even by considering 40 years to gradually do so in "baby steps"), you are not only improving your health, but you are improving the environment and food production, concurrently making room in the stomachs of the future's predicted population of 9 billion of your fellow global residents by 2050.
When it's all put into perspective, Mom ordering you to "eat all your vegetables," really isn't that bad of a request.
Photos: Takver, unforth, sillywailo, iLoveButter and didbygraham/Flickr