AN EARTH-KIND DIET
By Angel McNall
Earth Day, April 22, is the one day out of the year when people take time to honor the Earth. Some people plant trees, clean up trash, celebrate by going to an Earth Day event, and they may even make a promise to be more eco-friendly. The single most powerful thing you could do however, is to consider how your food choices affect the Earth. It's hard to believe, but what you decide to eat, every time you take a bite, has a dramatic effect on the future of planet Earth! This year, honor the Earth by making the change to a more Earth-kind diet.
An earth-kind diet is one that takes the least energy to produce, does the least amount of damage, and is sustainable. There is no diet more earth-kind than a vegan diet. A person on a vegan diet consumes no animal products. So how does this help the environment?
One very important way is that vegan foods take only a fraction of the amount of water it takes to produce meat and diary products. For example, it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat, but it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. You could float a naval destroyer in the amount of water it takes to process one cow into food! By wasting all of this water processing livestock, we are quickly depleting our supplies of fresh water.
Underneath a major portion of country lies the largest body of fresh water in North America, called the Great Aquifer, probably formed during the ice ages. America's farms are rapidly draining it they are also polluting what's left.
Because there is such a high demand for animal products, most people eat at least a few at every meal, small farms have given way to factory farms where many animals can be raised at once. Factory farms accomplish this by cramming as many animals as possible into a building or feedlot.
These animals create A LOT of waste. In fact they produce 250,000 pounds per second! Approximately 1 billion tons of this waste is never recycled. Most feedlots have no sewer systems, so this waste piles up, eventually runs off into fresh water, or seeps into the ground, raising nitrates in the water to dangerous levels. This poisons fish and any wildlife that depend on them for food, including humans. These sick fish also end up as food for livestock; the pesticide residues build up in their flesh, and are then stored in our bodies after we eat them. Nitrates and pesticide residues can cause cancer in humans.
The sad thing is that many people believe that fish is healthy food. Because of this belief, there has been increasing demand for fish and other sea food. So much demand in fact, that every year fishermen deplete 80-90% of a given fish population from our oceans. This has a profound effect on the sealife that depend on those fish for food, and on the other creatures who get stuck in the nets accidentally. To quote statistics given by EarthSave International, for every pound of shrimp that ends up on your plate, upwards of 20 pounds of marine life is killed and thrown back. This includes diving seabirds, juvenile fish, fish of little value turtles, and marine mammals such as dolphins. By wiping out certain species we are causing a collapse of entire eco-systems because all life is connected. We need to learn to live in harmony with the Earth and with our co-inhabitants.
Another alarming trend that is directly related to what you eat, is the massive destruction of our forest land. 260 million acres of American forest land have been cleared to create crop land to raise feed for animals. In South America an acre of rain-forest land is cleared every eight seconds to make way for cattle grazing. The meat from these cattle is then exported to the U.S., mostly to supply fast food chains. Land that has been cleared will be used to graze cattle for a few years and then becomes useless.
You can't replant an entire eco-system, and you can't bring back the members of the 100 species who are forced into extinction every day because their homes have been destroyed. Many plant species are also becoming extinct, which concerns you more than you may think.
We have only identified about 1% of the plants in the rainforests, however 25% of all prescription drugs come from those plants. So imagine the possibilities that will never be realized because we are destroying it, and all to feed our craving for animal products! At the current rate of destruction, 15% of all the Earth's species will be extinct by the year 2000. That's soon.
The burning of our rainforests emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to the greenhouse effect as does the large amounts of methane gas attributed to the belching and manure of farm animals. These gases collect in our atmosphere creating a thick layer of insulation around our planet. Heat from the sun is then trapped there. Global warming means more drastic weather, such as El Nino, the hottest temperatures on record, and the melting of our polar ice caps. These are no longer things that will be happening in the future, it is happening now, and we need to stop this.
If all of these things seem abstract to you, or don't concern you enough to make some changes, maybe this will. To date we have lost 75% of all of our top soil in America, and 85% of this can be directly attributed to livestock production. Top soil is the nutrient rich soil in which we grow crops. In order to feed all of the animals people are eating, large amounts of grain must be produced.
Instead of using more sustainable practices like organic farming, expecting reasonable yields, and crop rotation, the land we have is being exhausted by continual use. The quality of the soil is so poor that more than 20 millions tons of chemical fertilizers must be used every year. Without trees to hold it in place, topsoil washes and blows away. Once one of America's great resources, our rich farm lands are a mere skeleton of their former selves. What will happen when we can no longer produce? People certainly won't be wasting 95% of our grain on livestock. We will be turning it into bread, pasta, cereals, and other vegetarian foods to stretch it as far as it will go.
So what are we getting in exchange for the future of our planet? You would think that we are getting some high quality food! Instead we are getting heart disease, cancers, diabetes, asthma, kidney stones, food poisoning, osteoporosis, obesity, and many other degenerative diseases. We are poisoning our farm lands in order to feed millions of animals that in turn feed less people, when we could be feeding 60 million starving people if we only cut back a little bit! 500,000 animals are killed every hour in our country for food, meanwhile we are killing ourselves by eating them.
While we are dying from diet-related diseases, the plants that could be used to save us are being destroyed, so people can eat more animals. These are only a handful of reasons animal agriculture is wasteful. It is a situation where no one wins! Start doing your part to stop the insanity. Start eating more organic plant foods; support environmentally-friendly companies; recycle, and move towards a vegetarian diet.
By cleaning up your diet you will be cleaning up your health, our planet, and your consciousness.
For vegan meal ideas, cooking lessons, catering, and classes that will help you make your transition, contact Angel's EarthKind Kitchen at: (818) 343-4123 or by e-mail at: AnErthKndK@aol.com
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