In the same way that we are responsible for the health and well being of our bodies, we must realize that we are similarly responsible for the health and well being of the environment. The network of life that we are part of does not stop at our skin. We breathe in oxygen every minute that was produced in plants around us, we cannot survive without it, like we cannot survive without the nutrition from plants. In that way we are inseparable from the one web of life we call Nature. In the same way that everything we do affects our bodies and minds, everything we do affects the ecosystem.
When we live harmoniously, we have a positive impact on the ecosystem. At the present moment though, 21st, human civilization is having a very destructive impact on the ecosystem of the planet. Deforestation is rampant and species extinction rate is 10 times higher due to the impact of human activity. The seas have been overfished to the point of reducing the fish populations by 90 %. The soil is fast being depleted of nutritional value due to industrial farming techniques and water reservoirs are being used faster than they can replenish. The effects of global warming are being felt all over the world. The arctic ice is disappearing. We are in the middle of an ongoing ecological crisis.
So what can we as individuals do to counteract the ecological destruction perpetrated by the human race? We can very simply make conscious choices in our daily lives by consuming as few resources as possible and choosing products that have less negative impact on the ecosystem when we have to. This being our food, clothes, household-items, means of transportation and so forth. If we in choose organic products we are contributing less to the pollution and poisoning of the environment. We should try to consume less and choose as many organic products and services as possible, to support a sustainable and environmentally sane human culture.
Besides the negative effects of meat on human health, the impact on the environment from meat production is huge. 51% of the world’s greenhouse emissions come from the meat industry, which is a larger share than both the transportation and manufacturing industries. So the meat industry is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses that is causing global warming. Human beings can survive just fine without meat if they eat a proper non-animal based diet. So the one thing we can all do to counter global warming is to eat less meat.
Another negative effect of meat production is how much land, water and resources it uses. Off all the grain that is fed to a cow, only 15% of the nutritional value comes out in the meat. So basically 85% of the food is wasted, this is often food that could be served to humans as grains, or it was grown on land that could have produced food for human consumption or left as forest. In a world where there is still hunger it does not make sense to waste all this food. Also in places such as Brazil, the rainforest is being cut down to clear land for cattle ranches. The topsoil of the rainforest is very thin so these ranches will soon turn into desert. These virgin rainforests containing myriads of plant and life forms will take millions of years to regenerate, if they ever do. Do we really want to sacrifice that so we can eat burgers? In the Midwest of USA huge areas of land produce wheat that is feed to beef cattle. These areas are grown as monoculture industrial farms that are depleting the soil of its nutritional value and also causing the topsoil to disappear creating desertification.
Meat production also uses a lot of water. The water table in the previously mentioned Midwest is falling drastically due to the use in meat production. If we want clean water in the future we must reduce this meaningless waste by reducing our meat consumption. A lot of pesticides are also used in the production of the fodder, which is then released into our food chain and water supply. Another health risk is that we don’t know under which hygienic circumstances the meat has been produced, slaughtered and processed. In recent times there has been scandals where meat has been infected with different viruses that have traveled to humans and caused disease. Meat has an increased risk of going bad compared to vegetables, beans and grains and thus constitute a greater health risk.
If you have any empathy with animals it is also obvious that the ways they are being farmed industrially are not ethically sound. If you know that animals have intelligence and feelings, then it is clear that the circumstances industrially produced animals live under is nothing clear of torture. Ask yourself if you would enjoy living under such conditions, or if you would let your pet live like that. So eating meat that is produced in an organic and ethically sound manner is obviously preferable to industrially produced meat. Still even producing meat under the most organic and ethical circumstances needs more resources and energy to produce than the equivalent plant based diet. In an over populated world that will soon have 9 billion inhabitants and rising, it is of utmost importance that we try to conserve resources. From a resource economy perspective, all kinds of animal production are a waste of resources. And if you believe in the spiritual law of karma, cause and effect, supporting the torture and killing of millions of animals is obviously a bad investment.
Fish in general is very healthy. But the sad fact is that 90% of the marine life population has been decimated and that the ecosystems in the oceans are on the verge of collapse. If this happens we have no idea of the consequences. So if we care about the health of the ecosystem and the planet, leaving out fish of the diet is an inevitable choice, especially if it has been caught by industrial mega trawlers and packed in cans, such as tuna for example.
So as we have just gone through, there are numerous factors about excessive meat consumption and production that are bad for our personal health as humans, and for the health of our planet and resources. When we aspire to personal and planetary health we should try to minimize our meat consumption. Notice here that I say minimize.
To eat meat is not an unnatural thing. Obviously we as humans have eaten meat since the beginning of recorded history, and the concentrated nutrition has greatly benefitted our evolution. But times and conditions change. We are not hunter-gatherers any longer and we must assess the pros and cons of our dietary habits. Humans have also routinely destroyed the habitat they live in by having too many animals that overgrazed the land that led to the creation of desert. The Sahara desert and the arid land of the Middle East are examples of this. Back in the day people could move on to other areas, though many probably starved and died in the process. Today we will soon be 9 billion people on Planet Earth. There is no way our resources can sustain the meat production for so many people at the levels of consumption that we have in the rich developed countries. So if we want others to let go of a meat based diet, we should lead the way by being a good example, and letting go of meat.
For most people in the world meat is and has always been part of their diet. For those people letting go of meat can be very hard as they are addicted to it. Many believe that they have to eat meat to get the nutrition they need. If one is conscious of ones diet one can absolutely get all the nutrients one needs from a plant based diet. Especially in the modern world where there are so many different vegetables and legumes available. If one substitutes meat with beans and lentils, one will be absolutely fine, actually healthier than on a meat based diet. Thinking that you are changing your diet to something healthier and more environmental will be more convincing than thinking you are letting go of something you need and love.
The clothing industry is enormous, and the production of cotton takes up enormous amounts of water and is often grown with a lot of pesticide and fertilizer. Many of us enjoy buying new clothes to feel new and look good, even though we actually already have enough clothes to keep us warm and comfortable. This creates a lot of surplus clothes in the world. Therefore if we wish to wear clothes that are new to us, there is a huge pool of used clothes that can be accessed at second hand shops. Wearing second hand clothes will greatly reduce the environmental impact of acquiring new clothes and save a lot of resources for the planet. There are also many clothes swapping initiatives emerging. If we do wish to buy and wear brand new clothes there are now quite a bit of organically produced clothes on the market. This is produced with less fertilizer and chemical dyes etc and is therefore healthier for the environment and also for the wearer.
In general we should try to choose products that are produced from organic materials under environmentally safe conditions, that don’t pollute the environment and are biodegradable.
If we live in a town or city, we can at a great advantage use bicycles for short distance trips. This is by far the quickest way to get around, is healthy for our bodies, don’t add to local air pollution and don’t add to global warming. And its fun! Bicycles are a win-win and should be treasured, honored and used as frequently as possible.
In many living situations such as when people live in the countryside it is necessary to use cars on a daily basis to get around. Here we should just be conscientious about using it for the bare necessities, and ideally choose cars that use less gas such as electric or hybrids. Whenever public transport is available we should use that since sharing the means of transportation reduces the stress on the environment and resources. It will also be cheaper for the individual.
Featured image and photos by Ejaugsburg. Share this Post
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