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How big is your protein footprint? Does a meat-rich diet have a negative impact on our environment? Does it contribute to global warming?
In essence, a footprint refers to a measure of the size of land that a person can use to support his or her standard of living. The size of the footprint is determined by the kind of diet an individual takes on daily basis. There are usually two major types of meals which are meat and vegetables. If a person takes meat as his custom, he has a larger footprint than the vegetarians. This conclusion is agreed upon because of several facts about both the meat and vegetable production.
One of the biggest environmental impacts of a meat-eating diet is the depletion of natural resources, particularly the consumption of vast amounts of water for livestock production. For instance, it is estimated that half the grain and hay fed to US livestock grows on irrigated land, and that it takes on 400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat (M.F. Jackson 2006). The US meat consumption rates of about 0.5 pounds of meat and poultry per person per day, that means almost 200 galls of water per person per day are required to supply that meat this is twice what US citizens use for domestic purposes . Water tables are dropping drastically and wells are going dry. The United States Geological Survey says that 40 percent of fresh water used in the U.S. in 2000 went to irrigate feed crops for livestock. (State of the World 2004). It is important to change your diet to a plant-based one or minimize the consumption of meat in your diet so that you can save water.
Another natural resource that is being endangered by the enlarged production of livestock is the rainforest. According to the Nature Conservancy, each second of every day one football field of rainforest is being destroyed. Much of this forestland is mainly destroyed to farm and raise livestock, which is then exported to the U.S. and ends up in fast-food hamburgers. In fact according to the Rainforest Action Network, about 55 square feet of tropical rainforest are damaged to make each fast-food hamburger made from rainforest cattle (Campbell, and Jacobson, 2013). The effect is normally very huge because with every square foot of rainforest destroyed; up to 100 different insect species, 30 different plant species and dozens of mammal, reptile and bird species are ruined. Basically, rainforests are so significant because part of the species on earth live in them and the forests are very important to the source of oxygen supply.
Pollution of water and air is another impact of meat-eating diet to the environment. This is because all of the livestock that are raised all over the world normally produces massive amounts of urine and manure, which in turn pollute natural resources. Animal waste alters the pH of our water, contaminates our air; and the gases emitted are alleged to be the major source of global warming. These wastes from factory farms produce various harmful gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, as well as clouds of dust and particles, which pollute our air. For instance ammonia can react with other gases in the air causing respiratory problems and also contributing to smog and acid rain. On the other hand, methane traps heat in the atmosphere and causes the earth’s temperature to rise (Rifkin, 2014).
In conclusion, water scarcity, deforestation, climate change, pollution and species extinction are problems that affect all of us. We are all responsible for our own environmental footprint; therefore we should live by example and assist in educating those close to us on how to live more sustainably.
Campbell, T. C., & Jacobson, H. (2013). Whole: Rethinking the science of nutrition.
Rifkin, J. (2014). The hydrogen economy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
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