Here at the Center for Nutrition Studies, we are focused on nutrition and health.
But what we choose to do for our own nutrition and health has a dramatic effect on the health of the planet, which in turn has profound implications for our future societal health. All of these issues are interconnected, so it would be foolish not to think of the broader implications of our dietary choices. Knowing the power of food choices for environmental health, it should come as no surprise, then, that recent headlines tout that Al Gore has adopted a plant based diet (link).
Back in 2009 there were two reports released that are worth mentioning again here, both implicating the livestock industry as a grave environmental threat. The first, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (link), compared the environmental ‘inputs’ required for Adventist vegetarian diets with Adventist non-vegetarian diets.
Examining the 11 different food groups that differed between the two diets, researchers found the non-vegetarian diets required:
- 2.9 times as much water
- 2.5 times as much energy
- 13 times as much fertilizer
- 1.4 times as much pesticide
It seemed that the most offensive dietary component was beef, demanding significantly more resources than other food groups.
Of course, inputs aren’t the only things than matter. Outputs matter to, and the outputs of the U.S. livestock industry aren’t pretty. There are 7 billion livestock in the U.S. and they “generate 130 times more waste than is produced by 300 million humans” (U.S. General Accounting Office, cited in Marlow, et al.). Do you think this might have an impact on our soil, air, and water?
The second report (link), written by two very experienced environmental experts at the World Bank, found that the livestock industry worldwide was responsible for at least 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It’s worth repeating: the majority of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions is due to one industry – the industry that exists solely for us to eat animals.
This calls to mind Principle #8 from in The China Study: “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.” We support Al Gore’s dietary shift and hope he inspires others to follow.