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Walk & Eat Less Meat, Save the Planet

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007 · No Comments

I was really glad to see this story in Sunday’s Times Union — Fighting fat and climate change:

One numbers-crunching scientist calculates that if all Americans between 10 and 74 walked just half an hour a day instead of driving, they would cut the annual U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, by 64 million tons.

About 6.5 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved. And Americans would also shed more than 3 billion pounds overall, according to these calculations.

Of course, we Americans have a love affair with our cars, so the odds of that ever happening with all Americans are slim to none. But some of us are better than none of us, so I, for one, certainly try to do my part in walking and biking as much as possible.

The article continues from exercise to diet:

But it’s not just getting out of the car that’s needed, said Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. A diet shift away from heavy meat consumption would also go far, he said, because it takes much more energy and land to produce meat than fruits, vegetables and grains.

Recent studies support that argument. Last year the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the meat sector of the global economy is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Much of that is indirect, including the fertilizer needed to grow massive amounts of feed for livestock, energy use in the whole growing process, methane released from fertilizer and animal manure, and transportation of the cattle and meat products.

Jen and I learned that 18% fact at the recent Vegetarian Expo we attended. That’s a higher percentage that contributes to global warming than emissions from all forms of transportation, according to the study from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (page xxi):

The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.

Given that the “average American man eats 1.6 times as much meat as the government recommends,” cutting back on meat consumption even a little — perhaps to the recommended amount — could have profound effects.

Related NY Times article: Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change.

Tags: food · the world