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Earth Day: To Meat or Not to Meat

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Today we should pause and reflect on the survival of our planet; what we as an industrialized society have done to damage it and what we can do to repair it so that future generations can prosper as we have. A whole day to celebrate and bring awareness of the by-products of our civilization: deforestation, pollution, ozone depletion, the amount of garbage we generate every single day.

As individuals there are things we can do, such as recycle, use public transportation (or our own two feet), plant drought-resistant gardens to reduce water use, give up smoking, and even cutback on the amount of meat we eat. Blasphemous, you say? Given that we eat approximately 250 pounds of meat per person, per year, it probably is. But the effects of all that meat, not only on your digestive system and your waistline but on the world as a whole, is taking its toll.

An in-depth report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), titled Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options, reported that cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation (planes, trains and automobiles). Cattle-rearing is also a major source of land and water degradation.

“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” senior U.N. official Henning Steinfeld said in support of the paper he co-authored.

Livestock utilize approximately 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, mostly permanent pasture but also 33 percent of the global arable land. In some countries in South America, deforestation is taking place to make room for grazing land and the deforestation has an additional impact on our environment. It takes 2,400 gallons of water and 7 pounds of grain to raise 1 pound of beef.

While you and I both know that the act of giving up meat is probably not going to happen for most individuals, you can take a small step to minimize the impact that livestock has on our planet. How about going vegetarian one day a week? That’s not so hard is it? I’m not saying you have to learn to love tofu (although it is quite healthy for you), but there are so many alternatives. Switch to a hearty bean or vegetable soup, cheese lasagne or pasta primavera, portobello mushroom burger, bean and cheese enchiladas, an Asian stir fry over rice.

Try something new. And if you need some additional coaxing, head over to wannaveg.com, a site dedicated to the education and awareness of adopting a vegetarian diet one day a week. Help save our planet.

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