By Leah Nath, Staff Writer
In no way is the climate crisis a result of the common person’s actions, nor is it our individual responsibility to solve it. The culprit lies with the companies and organizations who directly benefit from the further degradation of the environment—thus in the capitalist system of America, they are only incentivized to continue destroying the Earth and convincing the world that climate change is not real. Although no single person can change the world by themself, each person does have a responsibility to live in a way that reflects their own morals, priorities, and best interests.
One of the most common reasons that people cite for not voting is that they do not believe their vote will be able to change anything. One among millions does seem like too small of a percentage to hold much value, but when millions of billions feel that they do not matter and thus choose to stop trying, that percentage grows to a vast amount. Our individual actions do make a difference, particularly when actions become sustained habits throughout our lifetimes. The feeling of helplessness understandably invites apathy, but this feeling is often generated by the very companies who benefit from your apathy and inaction, like the creation of the term “carbon footprint” by British Petroleum (BP) to make individuals feel that the climate crisis was overwhelming and unsolvable. Actively choosing to care is one of the most difficult and important decisions you can make in today’s world of ignorance and inaction.
Altering humans’ consumption of animals is arguably one of the most manageable and impactful changes that an individual can make in their daily life to help the planet, but so many people choose to turn a blind eye due to the uncomfortability of behaving in a way that directly opposes their best interests and morals. Humans are naturally omnivores, born with canines to eat meat–the consumption of other animals is a natural part of our biology and history. However, the commercialization of agriculture has become one of the biggest contributors to a multitude of growing environmental concerns.
Today, world hunger is at an all-time high, not due to a lack of supply, but due to the choice of our governments to use land inefficiently, subsidize meat over other crops, and avoid distributing food to those who need it. In America, 44% of the country’s land is utilized for agriculture; 75% of this agricultural land is used to grow feed for livestock. This genetically modified corn is fed to livestock to make them fatter faster with extra sugar, making American meat fattier than ever in history. Besides being fed nearly indigestible corn, animals are kept in extremely dangerous living conditions, where they are forced onto the smallest amount of land possible for the highest yield of meat per acre. For cattle, having so many grazers on a small plot of land quickly depletes the soil of any vegetation or nutrients, making the land more susceptible to desertification. Further, the immense amount of waste the cows produce on such a small plot leads to groundwater contamination and polluted runoff into water bodies. The waste and close proximity also spread disease very quickly among the animals. Due to the health problems from the feed and conditions, the livestock are kept alive with antibiotics, so the consumption of animals has also contributed to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.
In addition to the inhumane conditions imposed upon livestock, the commercial breeding of animals is causing a host of problems for people. 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, the largest source of climate change, can be attributed to land use for meat consumption. One cow produces hundreds of pounds of methane per year in cellular respiration, a greenhouse gas that is more than 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. One pound of beef requires nearly a ton of water, while people on the west coast of the country are already experiencing increasingly worse droughts each year and it is projected that we will reach a global freshwater crisis by 2040. The list of environmental issues that the meat industry contributes to is only growing.
People who do not eat animals have lowered risks of heart disease, diabetes, and potentially even cancer, besides consuming less fat and having an easier time maintaining muscle mass. Simple Google searches can reveal the benefits of cutting meat out of one’s diet, plus can provide a myriad of substitute options. Many restaurants and grocery stores have greatly increased their alternatives to meat in recent years, including meat replacements such as Impossible and Beyond Burger, Quorn, and Morning Farms companies, as well as natural replacements like portobello mushrooms. For those worried about protein, eggs, lentils, beans, tofu, quinoa, rice, oats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based options can be used to supplement protein from meat in a way that is better for your body. Furthermore, veganism has been shown to decrease your carbon footprint by more than 70%, but even decreasing the amount of meat you eat regularly makes a huge difference. The average American eats almost a whopping 300 pounds of meat per year, so any decrease to this enormous number would help the world. Try implementing Meatless Mondays, or eating only chicken three days a week instead of beef. You can change the world just by watching what you eat.
There truly is no logical reason to eat meat other than selfishness, laziness, or ignorance. Habitual behaviors are the places where you can easily overlook contradictions to your morals, so look carefully at yourself and think about how you can make your life and others better. Every little bit makes a difference.