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He is Able Who Think He is Able

Published 21st December 2010 - 0 comments - 3689 views -

„If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat.” This is probably, for all vegetarians and vegans,  the most popular quote by sir Paul McCartney. He is definitely aware of the seriousness of his words, but unfortunately not many other people are. Only a minority of people takes care of the environment by doing small, seemingly insignificant things, such as turning off the lights at home, switching off water while shampooing etc. This is all considerate and right, but with this kind of actions people cannot contribute much to decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gases. It takes more than this.


First of all, we have to be aware that the industry that contributes the most to large emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants is the meat industry. The Amazon Rainforest is being burnt down because of the production of fodder plants, such as soya bean and corn. This is causing disastrous outcomes for the world climate. If deforestation and consumption of meat continue to progress at today's speed, the Amazon Raiforest will be reduced by 40 percent in 40 years. According to the FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal husbandry, including removing forests in order to get space for pastures and remaking of fodder plants, contributes to larger greenhouse gas emissions (18 % measured in CO2 – equivalent) than all the SUVs, cars, ships, and planes in the world together.


Despite all this, the major problem when talking about climate changes is avoiding this delicate topic in the first place. We must keep in mind that the production of only 1 kg of beef causes larger greenhouse gas emissions than a person taking a three-hour car ride while leaving all the lights at their house on.  Also, ruminants, such as cows, sheep and goats, are the largest producers of methane because of their grass-based diet and ruminant digestion. A dairy cow, which behaves based on its instinct, averagely releases 11,7 kg of methane and 2,2 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This equals 18000 km driven by a car with the average emission of 100 g CO2 / km. If we include gases that are emitted from the cow's feces, it means we have to add 6000 more km.


Today, agriculture is one of the major industries in the world. We, humans, are interfering with nature, for example by creating pastures that are needed for breeding animals. The world that we know keeps being changed by the mankind, not the mother nature. So far, the humans have been successful at destroying the nature unintentionally.  The emission of methane has increased by 150  %  in the last 250 years, while the amount of carbon dioxide has only increased by 30 %. On the national, continental and global level, 90 % of ammonia emissions are the consequence of agriculture. In addition to this, 80 % of the emissions caused by agriculture are caused by stock-breeding alone. Germany alone annually releases 528000 tons of ammonia because of their numerous stables that serve as storages and contain organic fertilizers. By reducing the number of livestock, changing their eating habits and reducing the use of organic fertilizers, the country would be able to reduce their large emissions of ammonia and carbon dioxide. These changes would not only have a good impact on the environment, but also on the country's economy.


All kinds of meat, from pork to poultry, cannot contain proteins without the animal consuming certain kinds of fodder. In order to get enough land when different fodder plants can be raised, humans change the nature in different ways – by changing savannas and deserts, causing erosion in mountains etc. In addition to this, the breeding of livestock demands large consumption of energy and water. This is how every kilogram of beef damages the nature.


Several researches have been made in order to look into the effect of human diet on the emissions of greenhouse gases. The results have shown that every carnivorous citizen of the United States annually produces 1,5 ton of greenhouse gases more than a citizen who only eats vegetarian food. Altogether, this means 6 % difference in the annual greenhouse gas emissions.


It has also been proven that arable lands, used to raise crops for people, take a lot less space than the ones used to raise food for animals. If humans used less space to raise food for animals, there would be more more space for afforestation.


Production of 1 kg of meet creates 6,5 kilograms of carbon dioxide, while the same amount of fruits causes only 0,5 kilogram and vegetables only 0,15 kilogram of greenhouse gases. And, withal, a vegetarian diet only needs 300 l of water, while a meat-based died needs more than 4000 l.


According to the research made by the Environmental Protecting Industry, the meat industry causes more pollution than all the other industries together. At the same time, the meat industry is a large causer of erosion.


Occasionally giving up meat is, in the words of Mr Schnappauf, a contribution to protecting the world climate. Here are a few short shopping advices that may also contribute to protecting it: include more vegetables on your menu, eat more fruit and vegetables that were raised outdoors, use regional crops  and eat organic food instead of the deep-frozen one. By having this kind of eating habits, you can annually emit less than 1 ton of carbon dioxide, as opposed to eating a lot of meat, deep-frozen dishes and not paying attention to where your food comes from, which causes at least half a ton more greenhouse gases.


Consumers can, by reducing the consumption of meat and transitioning to a vegetarian diet, influence the agricultural production. And by eating less meat, people can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Breeding livestock also demands larger energy consumption than raising plants. The production of meat and dairy products has a larger effect on the environment and global warming than the production of cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit, which are raised outdoors.


A person who reduces their consumption of meat by a half can improve their personal balance for 2,8 GJ of primal energy. At the same time they can release only 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year and reduce the consumption of water and the use of space where fodder plants are raised.


The results of these researches are implying that if each person only ate 90 grams of meat, the climate changes would slow down by 2015. These changes have to be made especially in the distinctively industrial countries, where an average citizen daily eats about 240 grams of meat. It is very important to raise the costumers' awareness about climate changes. Organizations, such as the European Vegetarian Association, can play a very important role raising their awareness.


Finally, an unpleasant fact: in Germany, they use 8,8 kg of beef per person. If the use decreased for only 1 kg, they could save, from an entirely mathematical point of view, up to 11,4 % of fodder plants that are raised to feed animals, and at the same time reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.  Germany could reduce its emissions of N2O and CO2 by 93000 tons, which is about 1,5 % of all emissions caused by agriculture. People could achieve a similar effect if they travelled less by plane and car. This means giving up 6 billions of km flown by planes (which is equal to a plane flying around the equator 150 times while carrying 100 passengers) or 7 billions of km driven by cars.


I didn't write this blog to turn everybody into vegetarians and vegans. I simply want people to see their food from a different angle and realize how their diet can change the world.


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