"When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money." -Indian Proverb
Even a cursory look through news headlines can be depressing. From the effects of global warming on ocean biodiversity to EPA suspension of environmental laws and weakening the Endangered Species Act, it can be difficult to see any way to make a difference (Pandolfi, Connolly, Marshall, & Cohen 2011, Beitsch 2020, Friedman 2019). Throughout Earth's history, geologists and paleontologists have identified five distinct mass extinction events, where more than 50% of the Earth's biodiversity went extinct (Hodges 2016). According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 2019 report, there is an estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth. The current extinction rate is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years, a rate that continues to increase. Up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within the next few decades. These reports have led experts to dub our current era the sixth extinction event. There are many factors that play into the rapid decrease of biodiversity, but the common theme between all of these factors is human interference.
Key areas of concern include increased pollution, over-fishing, habitat destruction, and global warming. While the situation is bleak, there are many people that want to do their part to make a difference (Kolbert 2015).
A study conducted by Kerschke-Risch (2015) found that climate protection is the second biggest motivator for people to transition to a vegan lifestyle.
Meat-based meals have an average environmental impact of 6622 Ecopoints per meals compared to a vegetarian meal, which has an average of 2085 Ecopoints (Leuenberger, Jungbluth, & Büsser 2010). An Ecopoint is a unit of measure of environmental impact. "The Ecopoint score is a single score obtained from the combined results of a life cycle assessment against the 13 impact categories identified in the BRE Environmental Profile methodology. The Ecopoint score is also relative to the impact of an EU citizen over one year: 100 Ecopoints = the environmental impact of 1 EU citizen over one year. The more Ecopoints a unit or design gets, the worse the environmental impact of that unit (BRE Group)." There are many factors in animal agriculture that contribute to global warming, including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss (Castañé & Antón 2017).
While it is true that human-created CO2 emissions play a large role in increasing greenhouse gases, they are not solely responsible for the earth's warming. There are many other greenhouse gases that trap heat that can be ten of thousands of times more powerful than CO2. Methane contributes more to global warming than all of the other greenhouse gases combined (Mohr 2005). According to the 2005 EarthSave Report, methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Since the pre-industrial age, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 31% while methane concentrations have more than doubled. While methane is produced by a number of different industries, the leading source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture (Mohr 2005).
Forests cover 31% of the earth's surface and play an important role in mitigating climate change, fostering biodiversity, and providing food, medicine, and shelter (Bennett 2017). In 2018, the UN’s environment, development, and agriculture chiefs issued a joint statement stating "forests are a major, requisite front of action in the global fight against catastrophic climate change – thanks to their unparalleled capacity to absorb and store carbon. Stopping deforestation and restoring damaged forests could provide up to 30 percent of the climate solution (Silva & Fao 2018)." Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, and within the agriculture industry, livestock is the primary cause of deforestation in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco, Cerrado, East Africa, and East Australia (Bennett 2017).
"A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use." - Joseph Poore, University of Oxford
Humanity has had a grave impact on our planet's ecosystems. As the human population has increased, so has global warming, extinction rates, and ecosystem destruction (Hodges 2020). Sustainability and conservation is not just a matter of corporate responsibility. To enact a lasting change it is important for everyone to do their part to reduce their ecological impact, including reducing single-use plastics, supporting public transit, and changing diets. From a vegan meal-plan to animal-free medicines, we can make a difference. Go Animal-Free.
So you're already vegan and consume animal-free medicine. Here are some more ways you can make a difference! To celebrate the 50th ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY, Earth Day 2020 brings us three ways to take action!
ALWAYS CARRY A REUSABLE BAG! Although they are billed in some states/countries for their “convenience,” grocery bags are extremely inconvenient for the planet.
ADD REUSABLE EATING UTENSILS TO YOUR EVERYDAY CARRY! ...the problem with eating on the run is that you can’t turn to your silverware drawer to pull out a fork and knife. Plastic utensils used for eating on the fly are an unnecessary but major source of plastic pollution. Plus, most plastic utensils can’t be recycled curbside, making it even more important to ditch the single-use plastics.
VOLUNTEER FOR A CLEANUP IN YOUR COMMUNITY! Ready to take the first step in protecting our planet? There’s no better way to contribute to a cleaner and healthier community than by volunteering to tackle out-of-control waste. Join your fellow community members as you work to throw away bad waste habits. Together with partners across the globe, we’re building the world’s largest cleanup crew. Be part of the largest environmental volunteer event in history!
From all of us here at VeganMed, thank you for doing your part to protect our planet!
Kerschke-Risch, Pamela. “Vegan Diet: Motives, Approach and Duration.” Ernaehrungs Umschau, vol. 62, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 98–103., doi:10.4455/eu.2015.016.
Leuenberger, Marianne, et al. “Environmental Impact of Canteen Meals: Comparison of Vegetarian and Meat Based Recipes .” International Conference on LCA in the Agri-Food Sector, Bari, Italy, vol. 22, Sept. 2010, file:///C:/Users/icema/Downloads/leuenberger-2010-meals-LCAfood.pdf.
Beitsch, Rebecca. “EPA Suspends Enforcement of Environmental Laws amid Coronavirus.” TheHill, The Hill, 30 Mar. 2020, thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/489753-epa-suspends-enforcement-of-environmental-laws-amid-coronavirus.
Bennett, Lauren. “Deforestation and Climate Change.” Climate Institute, Apr. 2017, http://climate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/deforestation-final_r1.pdf.
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Hodges, Montana. “Mountain Minds Monday.” Mountain Minds Monday. 16 Apr. 2020.
“How Toothbrushes Affect the Environment: An Infographic.” MYSA, 24 May 2017, www.foreo.com/mysa/how-toothbrushes-affect-environment-infographic/.
IPBES. “UN Report: Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating' - United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, 6 May 2019, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/.
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction an Unnatural History. Picador, Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Mohr, Noam. “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists Are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes .” An EarthSave International Report, Aug. 2005, http://animal-friends-croatia.org/data/file_2923.pdf.
Pandolfi, J. M., et al. “Projecting Coral Reef Futures Under Global Warming and Ocean Acidification.” Science, vol. 333, no. 6041, 2011, pp. 418–422., doi:10.1126/science.1204794.
Petter, Olivia. “Going Vegan Is 'Single Biggest Way' to Reduce Our Impact on the Planet, Study Finds.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 29 Aug. 2018, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html.
Silva, José Graziano da, and Fao. “Forests: A Natural Solution to Climate Change, Crucial for a Sustainable Future.” UN-REDD Programme, 3 Oct. 2018, www.un-redd.org/post/2018/10/03/forests-a-natural-solution-to-climate-change-crucial-for-a-sustainable-future.
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