5 min read

We Are Devouring Food That Is Destroying The Planet

<p>Feliciano Guimarães / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsome1/2735891059/" target="_blank">Flickr</a> (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/" target="_blank">CC BY 2.0</a>)<span></span></p>

The phrase "climate change" evokes images of hybrid cars, stranded polar bears, and... hamburgers? It turns out, with human population on the rise, our dietary preferences are having a major impact on the planet. Resources needed to raise livestock and process meat are extremely costly. As a result an estimated 51 prcent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emission comes from animal agriculture.

If that isn't enough, the production of GHG from livestock alone is more than all of transportation combined. So if you can't afford that Toyota Prius, you're in luck, because by just cutting down on the amount of meat you consume, you could be saving the equivalent of buying a hybrid car.

In addition to emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), animal agriculture is also the underlying cause of 91 percent of Amazon rainforest deforestation. This is due to farmers cutting down rainforest to make room for their ever increasing number of livestock.

"It's so bizarre how people aren't talking about it," Kip Andersen, director and producer of "Cowspiracy," said.

For Andersen, his interest in the effects of animal agriculture started about seven years ago. Released June 2014, the documentary, "Cowspiracy," follows Andersen on his journey for answers. He reaches out to large environmental organizations including: Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Surfrider, to try and uncover the possible reasons why no one is talking about this issue.

He was met by more than a few brick walls. Greenpeace, the popular environmental organization, refused to speak with him on the issue, claiming "they would not be able to help this time."

So, why is this? Most environmental groups don't want to step on toes, claiming it's too much of a personal issue that is tied to culture, upbringing, etc. Telling people to change their eating habits can also cause controversy among members, other organizations, and sponsors.

The controversy over this topic is growing around the world. In Brazil, rainforest campaigners are being targeted and imprisoned. "More than 1,000 activists, small farmers, judges, priests and other rural workers have been killed in land disputes in the past two decades," according to a watchdog group Catholic Land Pastoral.

So, the question then becomes: What is the solution? And can we trust our federal or local government to create policies and regulations to reverse the damages we are causing?

For energy and environmental policy expert and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. John Byrne, the answer lies with the individual. "Right now at the federal level our political system is broken - The momentum is in the [dietary] behavioral change [to eat less meat] rather than a policy change. Sometime in the future could people be convinced? I think it's a little further out, but I do think it might be possible. I believe the way in which people will become convinced to pursue a policy like [this] is first through these behavioral changes."