Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Earth Day 2010: Eating As If The Earth Matters
Forty years have passed since the first Earth Day, and many people now realize that, if we’re serious about saving the planet, we have to do more than just recycle, carry cloth bags, take short showers, and use energy-efficient light bulbs. While these are all worthwhile measures, we must also work to control our population—and our appetite for flesh.
There are currently 6.8 billion people in the world and experts predict that there will be at least 9 billion humans by 2050. Global meat consumption is projected to double by 2050. With meat-eaters putting such an enormous carbon footprint on the Earth already, it’s frightening to think what things will be like if global meat (and cheese) consumption doubles within 40 years.
In fact, my head practically starts to spin when I think about all the water currently squandered on animal agriculture; all the forests that are being bulldozed to make more room for animals and the crops to feed them; all the manure that seeps into our waterways; and all the fossil fuels it takes to operate slaughterhouses and processing plants, and to transport meat from the plants to the stores.
We seem to have a knack for procreating and destroying. It’s pretty grim, and we really can’t expect to have a livable planet if we use even more resources to raise even more animals to satisfy even more people’s taste for flesh. Ultimately, there must be fewer humans, and fewer meat-eaters.
Fortunately, we are making progress. More and more people pledge to go vegan every day. Officials in places as diverse as San Francisco; Israel; and Ghent, Belgium, are encouraging people to choose plant-based meals, at least for one day a week. Schools in the U.K.; Helsinki, Finland; and Baltimore City are observing “Meatless Mondays,” and New York City schools are considering a similar initiative. Forward-thinking scientists are even working to grow “meat” in laboratories, so that people who don’t have the discipline to stop eating animals will have another humane, eco-friendly alternative.
Some groups have also found clever ways to remind people that our exploding population is wreaking havoc on wildlife, as well as farmed animals. Back around Valentine’s Day, the Center for Biological Diversity distributed 100,000 free Endangered Species Condoms with packages featuring edgy messages like “Wrap with care, save the polar bear,” “Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle,” and “Hump smarter, save the snail darter.”
We just need to keep pressing on with our efforts to promote veganism and population control. It will make a difference. If people stop multiplying like crazy—and start eating their way to a smaller ecological footprint—we will eventually conserve resources, halt climate change, reduce pollution, preserve wildlife habitats, and lessen animal suffering. Someday perhaps, Earth Day will be commemorated simply as a tribute to our beautiful planet, rather than a frenzied rally to save it.