Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
The True Cost of Choosing Animal Products: Depletion of Mother Earth      
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Greetings, green-minded viewers, to this week’s episode of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home featuring an interview with Dr. Richard Oppenlander, a vegan, on how animal agriculture is destroying our planet.

Dr. Oppenlander is an American environmentalist, wellness advocate and dentist who over the last four decades has studied the effects of food choices on the environment and human health. He is also the president and founder of an organic vegan food production and education business as well as the co-founder of an animal rescue and sanctuary.

His research findings show that animal product production and consumption is severely harming our well-being and decimating our world by causing the substantial global loss of land, freshwater, clean air, food supply, biodiversity and energy resources at a frighteningly rapid pace. As the author of “Comfortably Unaware: Global depletion and food responsibility... What you choose to eat is killing our planet,” he has appeared on radio shows and written articles for newspapers and magazines to raise awareness of conscious eating.

We’re losing our global resources at an unprecedented rate. We are producing 70-billion or more animals each year and it’s growing in exponential fashion. That number is a bit difficult to pin down, because on any given day, there will be, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.7-trillion chickens in the world and one- to two-trillion fish in the world that are on their way sooner or later to slaughter. So, it’s a massive number and all of our resources are being deployed for this purpose.

So in the other direction, we’re using all these resources and all of our energies to produce essentially food to create animals. It’s really not even food, it’s animals that we’re creating. And then we’re eating those and the end result is we’re eating something that’s unhealthy for us too. So it’s sort of a two-bladed sword that we’re dealing with right now. If we just did away with all that unnecessary loss of resources, it would obviously be better for our health.

Meat production is inherently inefficient compared to growing plants for food. Vast tracts of tropical rainforests are destroyed annually to create space for livestock grazing and cultivating crops for livestock feed.

According to a United Nations Environment Programme report, animal agriculture-related activities take up 38% of our planet’s land. Producing animal products also consumes huge volumes of water. For example a person uses up to 15,000 liters of water per day for a meat-based diet, which is 15-times as much water as a vegan would use.

Water itself is the largest concern of any scientist that is studying where we’re going in our future. We are running out of land, of course, but we’re expected to deplete our water systems by 40% in just the next 19 years. So if we didn’t use the water for all of the aspects of animal agriculture, we certainly could be applying it more frugally to our own use right now. They’re concerned about water scarcity, when in reality, it’s more about water management.

Instead of technologies, we need to start looking at choices. Instead of choosing to eat animal products, which uses massive amounts of water, we could be using water just to sustain ourselves. If you use your acre to grow grass-fed livestock, one acre isn’t normally enough. You would need 5, 10 even up to 20 acres in most land in the world.

And when you do that, after two and a half years, which is what it would take to grow one grass- fed cow, you would essentially end up with about 480 pounds of that type of animal product that people are calling food. In the course of that 2 ½ years, you would create or produce about three to four tons of methane and carbon dioxide. And you would also use minimally 20- to 30,000 gallons of water.

Minimally, that’s what they would drink. But in most cases, they would use about a million to two-million gallons of water because of all the alfalfa or other aspects of water use that they would need to use to even irrigate the land to produce grasses for them to eat.

Whereas if you use that same acre of land to produce something like a kale-and-quinoa combination, you would have the equivalent on average after 2 ½ years of about 15,000 pounds of food produced. If you slithered off 1/8 of an acre, and you threw in some hydroponics, you could grow about 30,000 pounds of tomatoes during that 2 ½-year period of time. And you’d end up with food that’s infinitely healthier for you to eat and for our planet to grow versus animal products.

The value of biodiversity is inestimable. Globally, a wide range of plant species keep nature in balance, feed the world’s population and improve the quality of life for humans and animals. For example, over 70,000 plant species are sources of medicine. Plants also protect water resources, soil and support nutrient storage.

Due to the production and consumption of animal foods and other hugely detrimental human activities, we have entered what is being called "the sixth great extinction event" with the current rate of biodiversity loss of plants and animals 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate.

Most people don’t equate their choice of foods with the loss of a species, like the Javan Tiger, Tasmanian Tiger, or Ridley Sea Turtle. But in fact, the largest component of loss of biodiversity is due to loss of habitat, according to numerous scientific organizations like the World Conservation Union. The documentation that they’ve seen will show very clearly that most of the land is being used by livestock, not agriculture. So 30,000 animal species are going extinct per year. In just one day, there will be another 82 animal species gone forever.

Most of those animal species are affected in one way or another by the food we’re eating, by either unsustainable fishing practices in our oceans, or the animal agriculture that we’re seeing on land. By eating fish, we’re contributing to loss of biodiversity, we’re contributing to global warming, because it’s affecting the amount of oxygen that’s in our oceans right now.

We’re also affecting our own health because fish in fact have cholesterol. They have many other issues that affect us. Obviously, if we’re moving entirely over to a plant-based diet, we’re going to be true stewards of our planet by not creating such loss of habitat and destructions in our oceans. So species will be preserved.

Dr. Oppenlander estimates that meat consumption leads to a minimum of US$150 billion in healthcare costs in the US annually. He now explains how he arrived at his conclusion.

What I usually do is I try to frame it slightly differently. I try to point out that we have a US$2.1- to 2.3- trillion healthcare cost in America. Last year (2010) it was US$2.1- to 2.3-trillion. Now the minimal amount that you can quantify as applied to eating livestock is somewhere around US$150 billion. That’s minimal.

That’s because if you add up the US$88- billion from food-borne illnesses from livestock or the US$180 billion from hypertension, the US$300 billion a year from heart disease or cardiovascular concerns and then there’s diabetes for another US$100-120 billion. And eating livestock or animals is minimally between 20-25-30% risk factor of all those.

So it is at least US$150-billion dollars. I feel that this should be taken into account with our national healthcare plan and insurance. I feel like the title of my next book should be “Why Should We Be Paying for What Everybody else Decides to Eat?”

Livestock raising is the single largest human induced source of methane emissions, a highly potent, heat-retaining greenhouse gas, which has 72-times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Scientists know that we are in an escalated global warming period with more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere than at any other time. So we have to do something to solve it. We can’t continue on with what we’re doing. The United Nations 2006 report called Livestock’s Long Shadow stated it was 20% of all of our greenhouse-gas emissions, which is more than all of our transportation sector, all our airplanes, cars, trucks and trains that we drive and fly every day.

Some researchers that were also looking at it on the side very carefully since then have demonstrated that livestock is responsible for 51% of all greenhouse-gas emissions found in our atmosphere. It’s an issue of raising animals to eat. And that’s not going to change unless we get off of eating animals entirely.

Vegan organic farming improves the quality of our planet’s soil, water and air and thus enhances biodiversity. The practice can also tackle climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. The Rodale Institute’s farming trial in the US verifies that organic agriculture, if practiced on our planet’s 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40% of current CO2 emissions.

There are many food movements, as you know. There’s slow food, real food, organic food, and being a localvore. There are so many food movements right now. The issue is that they all are like a barge going down the river, and they’re carrying behind it this long line that is attached to animals, all of them are. So they’re not getting anywhere. In fact, they’re dragging more resources with it.

So we need to clip the line, essentially, get the animals out of the equation. So real food, slow food, organic food and buying local food are all extremely healthy without the animals. So you can say that whether it’s organic or not organic, it doesn’t matter if it applies to animals, because it’s not going to be healthy for our environment, our planet or ourselves. Now, if you’re talking about organic or non-organic or inorganic, vegetable sources and plant sources, sure.

Our respectful salute, Dr. Richard Oppenlander for your dedicated efforts to study the tremendously harmful impacts of the livestock industry, and convey the message about the virtues of the organic plant-based diet. May your benevolent work touch many more lives in the future.

For more information on Dr. Richard Oppenlander, please visit www.ComfortablyUnaware.com
His book “Comfortably Unaware” is available at the same website

Honored viewers, thank you for joining us on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. May we always experience abundant love and bliss from Heaven.

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