Monday, February 26, 2007

A Juicy Steak Melts more Glaciers than Your Car

Ok I'm not a vegan and I like my steak as much as anyone, but the shocking results of this United Nations study on the environmental impact of global livestock production are making me think twice (read the actual report here). Global warming is garnering quite a bit of media attention these days (ie Al Gore got his oscar last night for "An Inconvenient Truth"), but nobody's talking about these sobering facts:

  • The livestock sector contributes 18% of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, a larger share than even the transport sector. This is mostly due to the production of massive quantities of methane and nitrous oxide, which each have 23 and 296 times greater warming effects than carbon dioxide.
  • Livestock use 30% of the Earth's terrestrial land surface, including 70% of the Amazonian rainforests that have been clear-cutted to date.
  • Livestock production takes up 70% of all land currently dedicated to argiculture (including pastures and feed crops).
  • 8% of human water usage is dedicated to the irrigation of livestock feed crops.
So while it's obviously important that we reduce fossil fuel combustion by driving less and developing alternative energy sources, this report just highlights the fact that by far the greatest challenge to human survival is feeding ourselves in a sustainable, less resource intensive way. If we continue to practice agriculture as we do currently, it will kill us.