Environmental Freakonomics 101

By: David Swartz

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     Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide

What is more shocking is that this percentage is more than all transportation sectors combined. That means animal agriculture contributes more to human caused global warming than every car, truck, train, plane and ship on this planet. Why as a society are we more focused on reducing climate change through innovation in transportation and energy sectors than we are on changing our diet? This is one of those “Freakonomic” moments that is still hard to wrap my head around. As much as I fully agree with the conversion of our energy and transportation industries to renewable clean energy, an equal amount or more resources should be allocated to the conversion of our diets from a western diet to a plant based diet if we really want to tackle the problem of human caused climate change.

         More water in Utah is used to grow one crop than is used for every city, town, commercial and agriculture business in the state and it’s a crop we don’t even eat.

The alfalfa being grown here is fed to animals for human consumption. My local city government has created programs to reduce water consumption such as reductions of lawn watering, encouragement of taking shorter showers, making sure water pipes are not leaking, etc. These are all nice programs however, residential water usage accounts for just 5% of all water usage in the state. If everyone in the state stopped taking showers, watering lawns, flushing toilets, and for that matter stopped drinking water, we would still only have a 5% reduction of total freshwater usage. This is another “Freakonomic” moment that boggles my mind. If our city really wants to decrease water usage it would highly encourage a change in diet as opposed to a change in shower time.

                      Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon  destruction

Another fact that is hard to fathom is that by many estimates it takes roughly 15 to 20 times the amount of land to feed a human on an animal based diet as opposed to a plant based diet. For a cow to gain a pound of meat he has to consume many more pounds of grass, alfalfa, and grain just to gain that pound. Similar to humans and all other animals for that matter, we burn calories just by existing and thank goodness we do that because if we did gain a pound of flesh for every pound of food we ate, we would be in big trouble! So what is the leading cause of deforestation on this planet? We would think that logging for homes and buildings would be the leading cause, however it turns out animal agriculture is far more responsible for deforestation than industries such as logging.

As I travel through rural Utah I can only imagine what our world would look like without animal agriculture. By letting the land revert back to the time before raising animals for human consumption, we could have more wilderness, more wildlife, more free flowing rivers, less global warming, and a planet that is truly sustainable. If we as a society really want to have a thriving planet for future generations, there is a something we can all do that doesn’t cost any more money than what we are already spending and that is to switch our diets from animal based to plant based.

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