July 21, 2015
I have a solution to the candlelight rallies against U.S. beef imports. Why not simply stop eating meat?
Eating too much beef is bad. It's bad for your health, it's bad for the environment, it's bad for the world, so it's bad for everyone. (1)
The raising of cattle for beef production is one of the most energy intensive and energy inefficient enterprises known to man. According to one British charity, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people by growing soy, 24 people by growing wheat or 10 people by growing corn - but only two by raising cattle.
Let's remember that the amount of grain fed to U.S. cattle in one year alone will feed 1.4 billion people. In a world of limited resources, can we really afford to live in such a way?
In an era with looming water shortages, let's remember that in North America approximately 2,000 gallons of water goes into the production of one pound (454 grams) of beef.
In a world of dwindling biodiversity, let's consider that millions of acres of rainforest have been cut down in Brazil, Costa Rica and other nations in the name of supplying beef for the meat eaters of the world.
Things are so dire in Brazil, that President Luis Ignacio "Lula" Silva recently announced emergency measures to halt the destruction of the Amazon, the proverbial "lungs of the Earth."
In the last five months of 2007, more than 1,250 square miles of virgin forest were lost to livestock operations in Brazil alone.
As for health reasons, many people claim that Korean beef is healthier than American, but that is not necessarily true. Korean beef, while perhaps not known for mad cow disease, is saturated with antibiotics.
In fact, the Korean livestock industry pumps more antibiotics into their swine and cattle than any other country on Earth.
Beef, while high in Vitamin B and essential amino acids, is also high in cholesterol. If you eat a lot of beef, you end up susceptible to heart-bypass surgery.
Americans, who have traditionally consumed approximately eight ounces (about 240 grams) of beef every day, eat roughly twice the world average. We need beef, but we don't need that much. This is the point of this essay.
Not only does livestock production destroy virgin forests around the world - forest such as Malaysia's Teman Negara National Forest which has taken more than one million years to develop, but it also produces large quantities of greenhouse gases, notably methane, which is caused by cows passing gas and belching.
Methane production due to bovine flatulence is such a problem that New Zealand proposed a "fart tax" on its cattle to mitigate the effects of global warming.
According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production worldwide produces a fifth of all greenhouse gases. The process goes like this.
When a forest is burned down, CO2 gases are released. Then, cattle are brought in, and as I already mentioned, the cattle emit methane, which has 10 times the heat retention capabilities as CO2.
Finally, the vanished forest, which once served as an important "carbon sink," is forever gone. Carbon sinks, such as the Amazon and the boreal forests of North American and Russia, are invaluable in that they trap CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere.
Finally, livestock production takes up valuable space. An estimated 30 percent of the world's ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in the raising of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and what not. Would this area not be put to better use, such as harvesting grain?
It's hard to convince people in Korea to stop eating meat. They love their bulgogi and galbi, and for a country that traditionally wanted for red meat, it's understandable that Koreans should expect to eat beef, just like Americans do.
But this is the point. We don't have to stop eating beef entirely. We should simply ask ourselves. Do we need to eat beef everyday?
(agriculture intro)July 24, 2002, Karen Gaia - WOA!!
Food production requires several elements, the most important being water and good soil. Unfortunately, many of the soils of the world are deteriorating due to wind and water erosion, salinization, and depletion of nutrients. This happens in both developed countries and lesser developed countries.
Most of the developed countries agricultural practices are not sustainable because they hasten the deterioration of the soil. Tilling practices can lead to wind erosion or compaction of the soil, irrigation can lead to salinization which makes the soil unusable for most crops. Use of chemical fertilizers will slow considerably when petroleum becomes less available. When croplands deteriorate, farmers look for other more fertile croplands. However, fewer and fewer new croplands are being found.
In either situation, rich or poor countries, when fewer crops can be produced, farmers turn to increased use, and often misuse, of pesticides which contaminate the water system and cause diseases in farm workers.
Researchers have developed a detailed analysis of humankind's impact on the biosphere, as represented by a metric known as HANPP or human appropriation of net primary production. They show that HANPP is 23.8%. 53% from harvest, 40% from land-use-induced productivity changes, and 7% from human-induced fires. In most areas productivity has decreased due to human activities, though in some areas it has been artificially increased through intensive fertilization, irrigation and mechanization of agriculture. Intensification is resulting from shrinking opportunities for expansion; croplands and pastures now rival forests as the largest ecosystems on the planet, occupying 35% of the ice-free land surface. The rise of human dominated landscapes has come at the expense of natural ecosystems.
Human land-use activities are consuming an ever-larger share of the planet's biological productivity and altering the Earth's ecosystems.
How our use of ecosystems be sustained, let alone expanded. Ultimately, we need to question how much of the biosphere's productivity we can appropriate before planetary systems begin to break down. Or have we already crossed that threshold?"
As global populations swell, farmers are cultivating more and more land to keep pace with the intensifying needs of humans. Agricultural activity now dominates more than a third of the Earth's landscape and has emerged as one of the central forces of global environmental change.
Zimbabwe is awakening to the reality that the land reform programme has disfigured the landscape through lack of land management, planning and natural resource conservation among new landowners. During the land seizures at the behest of a ruling Zanu PF party, peasants grabbed any land available regardless of its agricultural value. Indigenous trees were burnt, fires blazed unattended leaving swathes of scorched veld. Settlers sold firewood for a living instead of agriculture. Virgin forests have vanished, replaced by patches of cleared land and pole-and-mud huts, creating fears of land degradation and desertification. Environmental and conservation experts have begun calling on resettled farmers to plant trees to rebuild the ozone layer being depleted by toxic emissions. Resettled farmers should establish plantations to replace the trees they cut for building houses and for firewood. Post-independence resettlement missed an opportunity to place on the land independent small-scale farmers who could lead the sustainability of agriculture. But the destruction of the trees, plants, shrubs and grass as more land is opened for settlement has continued despite government pleas. Land degradation has worsened a desperate situation in communal lands. In rural areas deep gullies have disfigured the landscape and the Environmental Management Act has done little to discourage deforestation. The local people were unwilling to take up offers of free land but were lured there by the prospect of free meat. They arrived with their dogs, nets and spears, doing an efficient job of decimating the wildlife. Poaching is regarded as a craft and wildlife have dwindled - also due to lack of access to water and grazing sources. Government officials admit that dryland crops have a low success rate in this area, yet will not say anything against the disastrous programme. The settlers' livestock that rely on the major rivers for water supply threaten massive riverbank destruction.
Ecologist Says Population, Land at OddsFebruary 16, 2004, UPI
by David Pimentel Nearly half the world's population of 6.3 billion is malnourished and in the next 50 years the degree of malnutrition, disease and misery is unimaginable. Grains are being harvested at a faster rate, putting greater stress on land. Also humans are more susceptible to disease as a result of malnutrition. The world's population is expected to reach 12 billion in 50 to 70 years, putting greater stress on resources for fresh water, renewable and fossil energy, fertilizers and pesticides.
Alfred Lotka in 1922 formulated his law of maximized energy flows: In every instance considered, natural selection will operate so as to increase the total mass of the organic system, to increase the rate of circulation of matter through the system, and to increase the total energy flux through the system so long as there is present and unutilized residue of matter and available energy.
Human societies follow this law, their evolution tending to maximize their biomass, their rate of circulation of matter, and hence the total energy flux through the system. Throughout human societies the trend toward higher energy throughputs has been universal, but the process has been proceeding at a very uneven pace, with affluent countries claiming disproportionate shares of modern energies.
To keep global warming and climate disruption within acceptable limits, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 should be kept below 500 ppm; in 2012 they surpassed 394 ppm. To meet this goal it will be necessary to limit future rates of fossil fuel combustion. Energy conservation and massive harnessing of renewable sources of energy are two popular solutions.
Claims that biomass approaches could provide 50% of the world's Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) by 2050 would put the human appropriation of plant biomass close to or above 50% of terrestrial photosynthesis, leaving less available for microbes and wildlife, eliminating or irreparably weakening many ecosystemic services, and reduce the recycling of organic matter in agriculture.
For as little as 50 GJ (gigajoules) per capita energy expenditure, a society determined to channel its resources into the provision of adequate diets, good health care, and basic schooling for all of its citizens could guarantee decent physical well-being.
The US per capita expenditure is about 375 GJ and one-sixth of humanity consumes more than 150 GJ per capita. Anything beyond 110 GJ per capita does not seem to bring very many fundamental quality-of-life gains. Pushing beyond 200 GJ has been, on the whole, counterproductive. The only unmistakable outcome is further environmental degradation.
The benefits of high energy use that are enjoyed by affluent countries cannot be extended to the rest of the world because fossil fuels cannot be produced at that rate and the environmental consequences of this expansion would be quite unacceptable.
An ever-rising energy and material throughput is not a viable option on a planet that has a naturally limited capacity to absorb the environmental by-products of this ratcheting process. We must so operate as to stabilize the total mass of the organic system, to limit the rate of circulation of matter through it, and to leave an un-utilized residue of matter and available energy in order to ensure the integrity of the biosphere.