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Saving Our Planet: Are Vegetarianism And Veganism The Ways To Fix The World’s Environmental Issue?

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Introduction

The reason I picked this question is because the world’s current climate crisis has been a very topical and controversial subject amongst my peers. Vegetarianism was the solution that came up the most, so I decided to dig a little deeper into it and see if it was really true.

The planet is in a dire condition. Carbon emissions have increased drastically since 1970 by more or less 90%. There has been an immense influx of natural disasters, a classic example would be the Amazon Rainforest fire – where over 7 200 square miles burnt. We are in a state of planetary emergency. There have been several myths and tales about the “end” being near. Humans are in danger “from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems,”(5)(From theguardian.com, Jonathan Watts, Global environmental editor). The planet’s critical state calls for a plan of action. The aim of this research task is to figure out whether or not vegetarianism is the plan. Food production makes up approximately a quarter of total carbon emissions worldwide. I do believe that taking out meat, to a certain extent, from our diets. That is my hypothesis but can having a vegetarian based diet save our planet?

What is vegetarianism and veganism?

Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that contains no fish or meat. Veganism is the practice of omitting animal products from one’s diet and not using animal products. Vegans are total vegetarians. There are also lacto vegetarians who avoid all meat and fish but still have dairy products, then there are lacto-ovo vegetarians who don’t eat the flesh of animals but still have eggs and dairy products. Pesco vegetarians eat fish only and pollo-vegetarian eat poultry only (13).

What are the benefits of being a vegetarian?

Vegetarianism has several health benefits. An increased lifespan, lower cholesterol levels, less risk of stroke and obesity, reduced risk of diabetes etc. but what about the environmental benefits? A vegetarian diet uses 2.5 x less carbon emissions than a meat diet. Eating vegetarian food for a year could save the same amount of emissions as taking a small family car off the road for six months. It reduces carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Less water is used for the production. A vegetarian diet also helps to preserve habitats and species (6). In theory going vegetarian can reduce global warming because of carbon dioxide emissions which are some the of the gases responsible for global warming. Going vegetarian can also help avoid further pollution of streams, rivers and oceans. Animal wastes and hormones cause pollution of waterway (8).

Literary Review

Environmental vegetarianism

According to Wikipedia environmental vegetarianism “is the practice of vegetarianism when motivated by the desire to not contribute to the negative environmental impact of meat production.” Environmental vegetarianism is the “plan of action” that needs to take place. (1)

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Animal agriculture is to blame for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined. A global shift to a vegan or vegetarian-based diet is necessary to fight off the worst effects of climate change, according to peta.org (2). The production of meat and other animal products hold a heavy burden on the environment. It’s more than just cows producing methane it goes deeper than that. The production of meat needs vast amounts of energy. Fossil fuels are burnt in the raising, slaughtering and transportation of these animals. According to www.omar.co.uk “51% of the annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are the result of livestock and their by-products” (3). A person with a diet with meat in it creates double the greenhouse gas emissions than someone with a plant-based diet. Eating animals also calls for the loss of habitat and in some extreme cases, extinction. Meat production requires large amounts of land, as previously mentioned in the benefits of being a vegetarian. It is estimated that 1lb (453592g) is the same as 200 square feet (18581 square meters) and eating less meat needs three times more land than a vegan diet. The fact that many of the pollutants and waste products gets washed up in our water systems is also not good for the planet. These processes lead to “dead zones”. Veganism is becoming a trend in fact according to Statistics South Africa meat prices rose 9% between April 2017 and April 2018 which would make converting to veganism or vegetarianism appealing (9). If the world went vegan eight million lives could be saved by 2050 through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds (12). One in three people in the UK regularly buy plant based milk (12). Veganism and vegetarian are the latest trend and the numbers continue to grow which is good for the environment. Animal agriculture is to blame for 91% of the Amazon rainforest destruction which is a home to many species (12).

The problem with all of these anti-meat campaigns is that they seem to disregard the essential role that grazing animals have in sustainable agriculture. The way in which meat is consumed and produced should be altered and reformed rather than removed completely from the diets of humans. The production of meat is not the only one that is harmful to the environment. Livestock production takes 83% of global farmland and produces 56-58% of the greenhouse gas emissions from food but only makes up 37% of protein intake and 18% of calories according to a study done by Poore and Nemececk from Oxford University (7). There is palm oil, soya bean oil, rape oil and even sunflower oil production which is vegetarian friendly and also has a negative impact om the environment. The use of pesticides is known for its harmful impacts and should have been banned years ago but intensive crop and vegetable growers could not produce food without them (7). There is organic farming but for most this is financially taxing. An example of a reform could be the reducing of meat in the daily diet of humans. This could maybe start with not eating meat twice a week, just the little things matter. Blaming meat production lets the killing of rabbits, hares, wild birds and moles off the hook when protecting crops. A radical shift to plant-based diets for all is also not realistic. A plant-based diet loses many of the benefits of livestock like it’s contribution to many people’s livelihoods especially in Southern Africa (14). Humans cannot stop the increases in temperature with their diets. According to an article from usatoday.com by Bjorn Lomborg, A vegetarian diet will decrease an individual’s emission by more or less 1 200 lbs. carbon dioxide for the average person which means an emissions cut of only 4,3%.(16)

This photo basically reiterates that not all vegetables have low carbon emissions. Asparagus is a classic example because its carbon emissions is higher that pork and veal – which are at 6,87 and 7,8. (22)

Other solutions that “save” our planet

A plant based diet is not the only way to help better the earth, there are other ways too. A new energy system needs to be put in place because burning coals is not economically sustainable. This will be incredibly difficult for a country like South Africa where nearly 90% of the nation’s electricity comes from coals (15). Saving our planet does not need to take the form of drastic measures. It starts with us, the little things matter even if it is just making sure all of the taps are closed if they are not in use or even using a LED (Light Emitting Diode) or CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulb. Cutting out meat is not necessary a small change like adopting a Pesco or pollo vegetarian diet can make a difference, choose chicken over beef.

Conclusion

The world is going through a dark time and something must be done to save it. As Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health more and increase the chances of survival on Earth as much as the evolution of the vegetarian diet.” The solution to the problem that the earth now faces is the reforming of farming techniques in a matter that will better the environment and try cut down greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction of meat from the diets of the people. However, vegetarianism is not the only solution and not all vegetables are good in regards to carbon emissions. Eradicating meat completing will not help, meat production is also needed for economic growth. One of my struggles with this project was finding objective sources. Many of the websites I first came across were bias, so I stared to look at more reputable websites for example National Geographic and Forbes.

Reference List

  1. Date Accessed: 8 June 2019 Article Title: Environmental vegetarianism URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism
  2. Date Accessed: 11 June 2019 Article Title: Meat and the Environment |PETA Website title: PETA URL: https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment/
  3. Date Accessed: 11 June 2019 Article Title: 3 Environmental Benefits of Going Vegan Website Title: Ombar URL: https://www.ombar.co.uk/blogs/news/3-environemental-benefits-of-going-vegan
  4. Date Accessed: 8 June 2019 Article Title: Eating Less Meat, More Plants Helps the Environment Website Title: Greenpeace USA URL: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/sustainable-agriculture/eco-farming/eat-more-plants/
  5. Date Accessed: 11 June 2019 Author: Jonathan Watts Article Title: Human Society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life Website title: the Guardian
  6. URL: https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report
  7. Date Accessed: 11 June 2019 Article title: A vegetarian diet is better for the environment | The Vegetarian Society Website title: Vegetarian Society URL: https://www.vegsoc.org/info-hub/why-go-veggie/environment/
  8. Date Accessed: 8 June 2019 Article Title: Why avoiding meat and dairy won’t save the planet | Climate and Capitalism Author: Richard Young Website Title: Climate and Capitalism URL: https://climateandcapitalism.com/2018/06/26/why-avoiding-meat-and-dairy-wont-save-the-planet/
  9. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Article Title: Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Green to Go Veggie Date Published: 29 December 2018 Website Title: Down to Earth Organic and Natural URL: https://www.downtoearth.org/go-veggie/environment/top-10-reasons
  10. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Author: Sarah Smit Date Published: 19 October 2019 Article Title: Vegan trends put pressure on mainstream marketplace Website Title: The M&G Online URL: https://mg.co.za/article/2018-10-19-00-vegan-trends-put-pressure-on-mainstream-marketplace
  11. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Article Title: Vegan SA- South African Vegans Directory Listings Website Title: Vegansa.com URL: http://www.vegansa.com/
  12. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Author: Laura (Editor) Article Title: Shocking CO2 statistics Website Title: Vegetarians and vegans in Cape Town and South Africa URL: http://veggiebunch.co.za/shocking-co2-statistics/
  13. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Article Title: Statistics Website Title: The Vegan Society URL: https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics
  14. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Author: Gord Kerr Reviewed by: Jill Corleone Date Published: 12 February 2019 Article Title: The Statistics of Vegetarians Vs. Meat-Eaters | Livestrong.com Website Title: LIVESTRONG.COM URL: https://www.livestrong.com/article/481795-the-statistics-of-vegetarian-vs-meat-eaters/
  15. Date Accessed: 25 June 2019 Author: The Conversation Martin Cohen and Frederic Leroy Date Published: 19 January 2019 Article Title: Why we shouldn’t all be vegan Website title: The Citizen URL: https://ww,google.co.za/amp/s/citizen.co.za/lifestyke/fitness-and-health-your-life-your-life/2066606/why-we-shouldn’t-all-be-vegan/amp/
  16. Date Accessed: 2 October Author: Andree Boehling Date Published: 11 October 2018 Article Title: OPINION: What SA can do to aid the fight against climate change Website Title: News24 URL: https://m.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/what-sa-can-do-to-aid-the-fight-against-climate-change-20181011
  17. Date Accessed: 2 October Author: Bjorn Lomborg Date Published: 31 July 2019 Website Title: USA Today URL: https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/1804090001
  18. Date Accessed: 30 September 2019 Author: Alejandra Borunda Date Published: 29 August 2019 Article Title: See how much of the Amazon is burning, how it compares to other years Website Title: nationalgeographic.com URL: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/08/amazon-fires-cause-deforestation-graphic-map/
  19. Date Accessed: 1 October 2019 Author: Jeff McMahon Date Published: 10 June 2019 Article Title: Three Surprising Solutions to Climate Change Website Title: forbes.com URL:https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2019/06/10/three-surprising-solutions-to-climate-change/amp/
  20. Date Accessed: 15 October 2019 Author: Jen Christensen Date Published: 15 November 2017 Article Title: 16 000 scientists sign dire warning to humanity over health of planet Website Title: CNN health URL: https://edition-m.cnn.com/2017/11/14/health/scientists-warn-humanity/index.html?r=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.za%2F
  21. Date Accessed: 16 October 2019 Author: Stephen Leahy Article Title: Choosing chicken over beef cuts our carbon footprints a surprising amount Website Title: National Geographic URL:https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/relay.nationalgeographic.com/proxy/distribution/public/amp/environment/2019/06/choosing-chicken-over-beef-cuts-carbon-footprint-surprising-amount
  22. Date Accessed: 3 October 2019 Author: Caroline Kenede-Robb Date Published: 8 December 2019 Article Title: 5 Steps to save Africa from Climate Change Website Title: weforum.org URL: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/12/5-steps-to-save-africa-from-climate-change/
  23. Date Accessed: 15 October 2019 Author: Tamar Haspel Date Published: 9 February 2016 Article Title: The Surprisingly Big Carbon Shadow Cast By Slender Asparagus Website Title: nationalgeographic.com URL: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/food/the-plate/2016/02/09/the-surprisingly-big-carbon-shadow-cast-by-slender-asparagus/

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Saving Our Planet: Are Vegetarianism And Veganism The Ways To Fix The World’s Environmental Issue? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/saving-our-planet-are-vegetarianism-and-veganism-the-ways-to-fix-the-worlds-environmental-issue/
“Saving Our Planet: Are Vegetarianism And Veganism The Ways To Fix The World’s Environmental Issue?” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/saving-our-planet-are-vegetarianism-and-veganism-the-ways-to-fix-the-worlds-environmental-issue/
Saving Our Planet: Are Vegetarianism And Veganism The Ways To Fix The World’s Environmental Issue? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/saving-our-planet-are-vegetarianism-and-veganism-the-ways-to-fix-the-worlds-environmental-issue/> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2022].
Saving Our Planet: Are Vegetarianism And Veganism The Ways To Fix The World’s Environmental Issue? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/saving-our-planet-are-vegetarianism-and-veganism-the-ways-to-fix-the-worlds-environmental-issue/
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