Environmental Concern and What to do About It.

Are you concerned about the announcement that Myron Ebell will possibly head the EPA during the Trump presidency? You might be concerned that he denies that global warming is caused by humans, and states that that alternative fuel sources are far too costly, at this time to implement.  I do actually agree with him on some part of that. For example nuclear power is an alternative. This is mostly safe, and some countries such as France get a majority of their power from it. There have been nuclear disasters in the past (think Chernobyl) and there is a problem of where exactly to put the radioactive waste.  Wind turbines can only be used effectively in certain parts of the country and they are a threat to wildlife, namely birds and bats. Solar is nice but it is quite expensive, takes up a large footprint, and the technology is not advanced enough to power everything. Electric cars are ok…but they are charged by your home power system which likely runs on natural gas and oil. Despite these limitations I personally believe they should continued to be developed and invested in, especially because fracking and pipelines come with their own major environmental hazards. Pipeline leaks and breaks spill millions of gallons of oil into oceans and rivers. To those people who say that pipelines are 100% safe, I say that “unsinkable ships” sink.  But if you want to heat your home and drive your car, we will have to continue drilling and fracking while the other technologies improve in cost and functionality.

You might be concerned about water quality. For example, California seems like it’s always in a drought, and our amazing underground aquifers going to run dry eventually because we are taking water out faster than it is collecting. Maybe the upcoming Trump presidency will not be supporting clean water, air, and alternative energy laws. I have no idea.

Let me give you some facts and some ideas about what YOU can do right now, today, to help the environment in spite of whatever policies are enacted in the next four years.  You could drive less. You could use a low flow shower head. You could stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

WHAT????? Stop eating meat and cheese!!!??? That is too extreme. I am probably a psycho.  Only psychos hate cheese!!! 

Or….maybe I’m just logical. Let’s take a look.

GREENHOUSE GASES: 

9% of all greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture according to the EPA (with some non-EPA estimates as high as 18% or even 51%). As with all biased reports, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The large variables come from how these numbers are calculated. Some include the transportation of grain and animals in the "transportation"category and some include it in the "livestock" category, with the idea that if we weren't trying to feed and move these animals, the greenhouse gases wouldn't be produced.

While CO2 emissions are concentrated in the energy sector, agriculture accounts for the largest share of non-CO2 emissions (54 % of emissions in 2005).

Agriculture is responsible for 79% of all emissions of nitrous oxide that is 296x more destructive than CO2 and lasts for at least 100 years in the atmosphere. 4% comes from breakdown of manure and urine. The remaining 75% comes from the fertilizer used to grow the crops that us and animals eat. 

Methane from cow farts sounds funny but is a serious issue. Methane is 25x more destructive than CO2. The good news is that Methane leaves the atmosphere in 20 years. The bad news is that the livestock industry is not giving it a chance to leave. 

26% of the earth's land is used for grazing livestock and growing corn, soy, and wheat to feed the livestock (don't get me started on deforestation and loss of biodiversity). Humans would need far less land to feed ourselves if we just ate the plants directly instead of having another body filter our nutrients for us. We could also replace all of these plants with a more diverse range of crops that would allow for increased local food production. 

Converting to wind and solar will take over 20 years and a conservative estimate of 43 trillion dollars. (which is the point that Myron Ebell is making that it is too expensive). To be clear, I think we should continue to pursue these alternative energy pathways. But going vegan (no meat, dairy, or eggs) takes seconds and can be cheaper for you than what you are eating right now. 

WATER USE:

One pound of beef= 1847 gallons of water

One pound of almonds= 1085 gallons of water

1 pound of eggs= 391 gallons of water

1 gallon of milk= 122 gallons of water

10% of California water goes to almond production. That is a lot! but....30% of California water goes to raising livestock (10% of that goes to hay production alone) Also people don't usually eat a pound of almonds in one sitting..or even 1/4 of a pound. But people eat quarter pounder hamburgers like they are going out of style. 

Yes, all plants need water. Even in a vegan world we would be using water to grow plants. But right now we are raising plants, to feed to animals, to eat the animals, which is ludicrous when we could grow plants that we could eat directly! 

If you take 15 minute showers with a low flow shower head you will save 2500 gallons of water per person. Being vegan for 1 year can save up to 724,925 gallons of water per person per year (355,000 gallons from dairy, 161,000 gallons from beef, 196,200 gallons from other meats; 11,925 gallons from eggs) if you are currently following typical American consumption habits of animals. Eliminating fracking will save a minimum of 70 billion gallons of water annually. Eliminating animal agriculture will save a minimum of 34 trillion gallons annually. Logistically neither of these practices will be eliminated (probably not for 100 years at least...just a guess), but YOU can vote with your dollar to not support animal ag, which would go a long way on helping protect our water and air. You don't have to wait for congress, the EPA, and the president to protect our environment, and indeed if you wait on them we are all doomed. 

Check out Cowspiracy on netflix for more information on how animal agriculture affects this planet! 

 

(Aside: There will be an additional cost to meat and dairy farms because they will have to switch their product line from animals to plants, and if the world went vegan overnight, our economy would collapse. Realistically the world is not going vegan overnight and instead it will be a LONG road. However, I don't believe in supporting a business just so the economy doesn't collapse. Industries rise, industries fall...nothing is "too big to fail". It happened with the slave trade, the gold rush, the coal industry, the auto industry, and soon the oil industry and the animal agriculture industry...collapsing industry is a huge source of poverty and despair in America. I understand why Congressmen and women fight any attack on animal ag tooth and nail- they want to get re-elected and they won't if their constituents sense an attack on their jobs. I don't believe dying companies should be bailed out by government. I do believe that the old industries need to get their money and power out of the damn way so new, brighter industries can emerge. Companies hold their money and power over towns until the life is squeezed out and people hang on until they have no job opportunities and no new skill sets.  But luckily companies in 2016 are seeing the value in vegan-izing their products. Hellmans just started offering vegan Mayo. Burger joints are offering vegan and veggie options. I can get anything vegan-ized from Taco Bell! I am from Virginia and pass a lot of dairy and beef farms on my way to work. If those places all converted to apples, stone fruits, berries, beans, and potatoes, and all types of veggies we would be swimming in local produce!!!  Everyone loves apple, strawberry, and blueberry picking around here whereas no one loves slaughtering cows.)