Awhile ago, the United Nations estimated that the world’s 7 billionth baby would be born on October 31. So today, everyone’s talking about what the world’s recent boom in population growth means for the world; particularly its economic and environmental resources. There are endless ideas about how we should all adjust our lifestyle choices to reduce our burden on the environment and make better use of natural resources, but one idea that’s particularly popular in health- and eco-conscious circles is getting everyone to go vegan.
In 2011, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released a report that basically suggests we all go vegan:
Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.
Here are the top three reasons behind their thinking:
- Productivity: Meat production requires more land and and resources to produce less food than other kinds of farming. The land area required to raise & feed cattle, for example, could feed a lot more people if it were used to grow grain and vegetables. In short, feeding 7 billion people with broccoli and soy takes less land and resources than feeding them with chicken and milk.
- Environmental impact: According to the UNEP report, a breakfast of bacon and eggs could be worse for the environment than a daily commute: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”
- Health: As economies struggle to support growing populations, it will become harder and harder to foot the health bills that come along with heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and other diseases that come along with a meat-based diet. While a vegan diet may not create a population devoid of those problems, it has been proven to greatly reduce them, freeing up time, money and energy to spend on other problems, like housing, education and social welfare.
Full disclosure: I’m not vegan. I was vegetarian for years, and I’ve tried going vegan a couple of times. But in recent months I’ve eaten my fair share of meat and dairy as part of a protein-heavy diet that makes me feel (and, to be truthful, look) a lot better than a diet heavy on carbs and grains. But the 7 billionth baby is just one of several reality checks in the news and around lately that serve as a reminder that what we eat affects a lot more than our workout and weight. So while I’m not quite ready to call myself vegan or even vegetarian, I am starting to rethink my priorities when it comes to my grocery list.
Are you ready to take the plunge and cut out the meat and cheese in favor of a more planet-friendly diet? Sound off below: