Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Environmental Vegetarianism

A Special Earth Month Series Article
by Gina of claynfiber
(one of EtsyVeg's vegan members)

Twenty years ago I became vegetarian because of the animal cruelties in the food industry, but today I would remain a vegetarian to help save the environment. This environmental argument for vegetarianism doesn’t come just from animal welfare groups, but from mainstream science. “Assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.” (1)

Some tidbits of information:

• According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, seven football fields' worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them.(2)

• The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, which generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases. That’s more than transportation! (1)

• Gidon Eshel, assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, ‘calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius.’ (1)

• It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour.(3) states a clear choice for me: "We can demonstrate our environmental values every time we sit down to eat by eating a vegan meal, or we can trample over the Earth in a Hummer by eating meat, dairy products, and eggs. Really, a true environmentalist doesn't eat animal products." That may seem like an extreme position to some, but the reading I’ve done has convinced me of the environmental consequences of what we eat. I hope that those who still eat animal products will consider the environmental impact and take the giant leap to give them up, or at least take baby steps by reducing consumption.

For those who’d like to tread lighter on our planet, here’s an easy recipe with ingredients that required very little water, didn’t expel all that methane gas, and are healthy for our bodies as well as the planet.

Ratatouille (Serves 4)

• 1 eggplant, sliced • 1 Tbsp olive oil • 1 onion, chopped • 3 cloves garlic, minced • ¼ cup red wine • 1 green pepper, chopped • 3 tomatoes, chopped • 1 zucchini, sliced and halved • 1 tsp basil • ½ tsp thyme • 1 tsp oregano • ¼ tsp pepper

• Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt, cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for fifteen minutes (or longer if you have the time). Rinse off salt and blot dry. Cut eggplant slices into cubes.

• Cook onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft.

• Add eggplant and remaining ingredients. Cook over medium low heat, covered, until vegetables are tender and sauce thickens.

• Serving Suggestion: Serve on a bed of brown rice with a glass of dry red wine!

Additional reading:
Environmental Vegetarianism
What does eating meat have to do with fossil fuels?
Diet and the Environment

1) The New York Times, Mark Bittman, January 27, 2008

2) Smithsonian Institution, “Smithsonian Researchers Show Amazonian Deforestation Accelerating,” Science Daily 15 Jan. 2002

3) Marcia Kreith, “Water Inputs in California Food Production,” Water Education Foundation 27 Sept. 1991.


Skye said...

I have been telling my friends about the environmental reasons to go vegetarian, but people are skeptical of bias in articles put out by pro-vegetarian or vegan groups. Thank you so much for these links!

Kelle's Kitchen said...

Great article, Gina!! Ratatouille - delicious, eco-friendly, and a hilarious movie :)

Heather said...

Oh Kelle.. you made me giggle with that one. I love Ratatoullie too

Very good article, Gina. Thank you for posting it. I love it. I think it's very important. I don't mind people eating meat, if they want to. If they just consume a little less, they will make a really good difference for the Planet. HUGS! Heather :)

Pop Champagne said...

oh neat facts! Haha I've been trying to cut down my red meat intake by eating more chicken... Eventually I will try to not eat as much meat! :)