No Bake Gluten-free Rich Chocolate Walnut Cake

Categories: Desserts,Food,Gluten-Free,Holidays,Recipes,

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This no bake cake was devoured by friends in under 10 minutes! It was an impressive sight to see. It truly is the best compliment when your taste testers love your recipe so much they can’t stop eating it or asking for seconds. The day I created this recipe was also the day I wrote this poem. In my next book you will find a collection of recipes as well as poems. It may be unconventional, but I think the writing and the recipes go together hand-in-hand. As every recipe I create is healthy, my poems are uplifting and their common ingredient is uplifting words. I hope you enjoy both this recipe and the poem!

Inspiration and productivity may reach you today,
or it may be a moment in which you find no muse has come your way.
Each day, month and year is different than the last,
an obvious truth most of us have come to inevitably grasp.
Many search for treasure in the form of ego, looks, money and fame,
failing to understand that helping others is the name of the best life game.
If today wasn’t one in which your heart soared with creative unobstriction,
or you found the best way to say, “I existed!” or “I matter!” with conviction,
remember that it is not one day, month or year that matters in the end,
but many years of practicing integrity, humility and kindness to those you meet and befriend.

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Prep time: 15-20 minutes Cook time: None, just freeze!

Bottom layer:

12 medjool dates, pitted and softened
1 cup ground or finely chopped walnuts
½ cup rolled or steel-cut oats
3 tablespoons coconut shreds
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
ground coffee (optional)
1 teaspoon ground vanilla or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Filling:

1 ½ cups soaked cashew nuts (4-6 hours of soaking) or 1 cup raw cashew butter
2 tablespoons coconut butter or (more) raw cashew butter
3 tablespoons vegan butter/margarine (melted) or more nut/coconut butter
12 medjool dates, pitted and softened
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground vanilla or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 can coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (do not use the liquid part!)
½ cup whole walnuts or walnut pieces, optional

Optional toppings:

Cacoa powder
Cacoa nibs
Nuts of choice
Berries
Flowers

Directions:

To prepare the base for this no bake tart, add all of the base ingredients to a food processor and pulse for a few minutes or until the mixture forms a sticky dough. For a rustic texture, be careful not to process as much. For a smoother texture, process for a few more minutes. Once mixed, use you hands to push the mixture down into a 9’’ cake tin with removable bottom. Place this in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

To prepare the filling, add the softened dates to your cleaned food processor along with the rest of the filling ingredients (except for the walnuts). If using vegan butter/margarine, melt it by heating it in the microwave for 30 seconds before adding it to the food processor. Process all of the ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Pour the filling over the base layer, flattening out the top. Leave the tart in the freezer for at least 2 hours or the fridge for at least 4 hours. Add your favorite decorative toppings before slicing and serving. Enjoy! This tart will last for up to a week in the fridge and 3-4 weeks if stored in the freezer.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cookies

Categories: Desserts,Quick & Easy,Recipes,Uncategorized,

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I believe in this cookie dough. I believe in these cookies. I believe they can achieve sensational tastiness in my mouth and yours too. I too believe that they will forever be a staple in my house and again, hopefully yours as well. I love them like I would the best of the best cookie dough (or cookies!) at any restaurant I’ve ever been to. Yes, I just wrote that. What a declaration, but it’s not one I am about to take back. This is why: I eat the dough (or a warm cookie!) with coconut milk vanilla ice cream and/or coconut whipped cream on top and it’s insanity! For the purposes of clarity, I mean insanity in the best way possible. It’s like when you are at a Taylor Swift concert (Unfortunately I wouldn’t know, we are imagining this hypothetically) and you say (it’s really almost a scream because the music is so loud), “This is INSANITY!” and you mean it in the best definition of the word “insanity!” possible. If you end up at a Taylor Swift concert, it will likely only happen once in your life unless you are her stage manager or another position working for her, but we are thinking in terms of probabilities here. If however, you make these cookies while playing Taylor Swift music as loud as you want, you can do so as many times as you want. How fun does that seem! If we are to maintain utmost accuracy, I happened to bake these cookies while listening to Eminem. You might not have expected me to be an Eminem fan, but I happen to be a very large one. If I am going to prepare one of my favorite cookie recipes, then I should obviously put on my favorite rap music.


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Now, you don’t need any ice cream or whipped cream to find this dough or cookies almost sinfully delicious because, hey, a cookie should shine without any assistance from tasty toppings, but I really do like one warmed with ice cream as a special treat. Sometimes I make these cookies and eat one without ice cream on the go as I’m running out the door because I’m desperate to get to my favorite book store and don’t want to purchase any junk food at the cafe while I’m there. I warm a cookie up in the microwave (for 30 seconds if refrigerated and 1 minute if frozen) and mmmmm a warmed cookie is, as mentioned before, INSANITY. Oh yes, and I love how short the ingredient list is.

Now, you don’t need any ice cream or whipped cream to find this dough or cookies almost sinfully delicious because, hey, a cookie should shine without any assistance from tasty toppings, but I really do like one warmed with ice cream as a special treat. Sometimes I make these cookies and eat one without ice cream on the go as I’m running out the door because I’m desperate to get to my favorite book store and don’t want to purchase any junk food at the cafe while I’m there. I warm a cookie up in the microwave (for 30 seconds if refrigerated and 1 minute if frozen) and mmmmm a warmed cookie is, as mentioned before, INSANITY. Oh yes, and I love how short the ingredient list is.

Note: This cookie is for sweet potato lovers such as myself. For those who are more in the mood for conventional chocolate chip cookies without the addition of sweet potato, the ice cream scoop cookies or the BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies may be ideal cookie recipe choices.

There once was a girl who delighted in chocolate,
as she did so while looking at a night sky filled with stars.
During these moments the present was all that filled her mind.
A past of toil and struggle escaped her as did all of her scars.
Dancing in the dark as the ocean waves brushed her skin,
she felt the beauty of the breeze all around her and deep within.
All we have is the present and future, she thought.
So you may create a life anew at any time sought.
It’s never too late to eat more healthy desserts,
and to play and laugh until it almost hurts.
We can find our footprints grazing the sand beneath our feet
in a land where new paths filled with charms of our own choices
are always within our determined reach.

New choices, new desserts and new adventures are always in your reach. Here is a new recipe waiting for you! Recipe time!

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes for baked cookies!

Ingredients (makes about 6 large- or 8 medium-sized cookies):

½ cup sweet potato
1 (15 oz) can white beans or garbanzo beans from EPA-free can
¾ cup date sugar or 12 medjool dates, pitted
½ cup date sugar, optional (for extra sweetness)
2 tablespoons peanut butter or coconut butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground vanilla or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cup oat flour (for gf version) or spelt flour
1 tablespoon maca powder, optional
⅓ cup steel cut or rolled oats, optional
¼- ½ cup dark chocolate chips or carob chips
⅓ cup raisins, if desired

Directions:

To make cookie dough, process all ingredients (except for oats, chocolate chips and raisins) in a food processor until smooth. Pour the dough into a large mixing bowl once processed and mix in the oats, chocolate chips and raisins. Voila! It’s done. Eat as is or bake them into cookies!

To make cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F, place tin foil on a baking pan and lightly grease the tin foil. Scoop individual tablespoons of the mixture onto the tin foil until the batter is completely used. Slightly flatten each one with your clean hands. Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly brown. Make sure not to overcook them if you desire a crunchy outside and soft inside. They will continue to cook and harden once you remove them from the oven.

Skin Cancer: The Protective Effects of A Plant-Based Diet

Categories: Health Tips,NUTRITION IQ,Uncategorized,

RainbowJuly26th!I live for the summer. I love the feeling of the sand between my toes, the refreshing ocean waters and the warmth of the sun on my skin. To me, summertime is all about lying on a beach with a great book, wearing cute, strappy sundresses, and enjoying outdoor picnics! I want nothing more than to be jovial and carefree during my favorite season, but two words come to mind whenever I think of basking in the sun: skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.  More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. Shockingly, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. This is serious business. Applying sunscreen regularly, avoid tanning beds, and limit your hours in direct sunlight is definitely not all that we can do to protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays. The power of our diet cannot be underestimated. Thankfully, many of the foods that help us prevent other diseases have skin cancer–fighting properties too. Given our high odds of developing skin cancer, it’s good news that fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help protect our skin. In fact, nutrient-rich, plant-based foods happen to be a shining sparkle of glorious {healthy} light at the end of this grim tunnel.

I am going to get a bit scientific here, so bear with me: Cancer can flourish in the body only when cells that undergo free-radical damage and the subsequent DNA damage (which happens when we spend too much time in the sun!) can’t be repaired by the cell’s DNA monitoring and repair tools. Natural, plant-based foods are rich in phytochemicals and other amazing, skin-protecting compounds, substances that are needed for these repair mechanisms to function optimally. If your diet is low in vegetables and fruits, your body will not obtain enough nutrients for its cells to defend it from oxidative damaged caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Studies have pointed to green vegetables especially as foods that fight skin cancer {and most cancers, for that matter}, because they have the most phytochemicals per calorie.

The cancer-fighting benefits of consuming a high-nutrient, plant-based diet were supported in a 10-year Australian study. Researchers analyzed the diet, skin color, and sunlight exposure of 1,360 adults, ages 25 to 75. Two main eating patterns were identified: a meat and fat pattern and a vegetable and fruit pattern. Results showed that the meat and fat pattern diet was positively associated with development of skin cancer and even more strongly associated in participants with a skin cancer history. Increased consumption of the vegetable and fruit dietary pattern reduced skin cancer occurrence by 54 percent, with the protective effect mostly attributed to the consumption of green leafy vegetables. In conclusion, the researchers deemed that a dietary pattern characterized by high meat and fat intakes increases skin cancer odds, while a dietary pattern characterized by higher consumption of green vegetables decreases them. No surprise there.

A Decadent Defender

It turns out that dark chocolate, with its abundant supply of antioxidants and flavonoids, can help us ward off skin damage from the sun’s rays just as fruits and veggies do. A study con- ducted by German researchers at Heinrich Heine University found that women who drank a dark chocolate hot cocoa vs. a “chocolate” placebo beverage devoid of flavonoids had smoother and moister skin than those drinking the placebo beverage. Upon exposure to UV light, the skin of the women drinking the dark chocolate hot cocoa did not show as much of the redness that indicates skin damage. The women who drank the high-flavonoid cocoa had 15 percent less skin reddening from UV light after 6 weeks of hot chocolate drinking and 25 percent less after 12 weeks on the trial. The women drank the cocoa once every day along with breakfast.

The protective effects that flavonoid-rich foods, like dark chocolate, have on our skin can also be attributed to their ability to get more blood flowing to our skin cells. Our skin, just like the other organs in our bodies, requires steady blood flow to achieve peak health. In the German study, the subjects drinking real cocoa had skin that was 16 percent denser, 11 percent thicker, 13 percent moister, 30 percent less rough, and 42 percent less scaly than it was at the start of the experiment. Sounds good to me!

Just make sure that the dark chocolate you consume isn’t sugary (like many popular chocolate beverages) or loaded with saturated fat (like most chocolate candies). Most of the chocolate in candies is not dark chocolate and is so overly processed that it is devoid of the antioxidants that were once present in the chocolate. My suggestion is to skip the candy aisle and check out the rich dark chocolate sold in health food stores. I add organic, fair- trade cocoa powder to my homemade dessert recipes, like my favorite chocolate-carrot bread, or buy 88 percent extra-dark chocolate from my local health food store. Eat your high-percentage dark chocolate from fair trade sources and you shall reap the rewards of beautiful, healthy skin.

Some cocoa is shipped to the United States from West Africa, where child slavery is commonly practiced. Children are abducted from their families or sold for a pittance to cocoa farm owners and work 80- to 100-hour weeks without pay, much food, any education, or contact with their families. Many of them are physically abused. You can easily avoid buying chocolate produced via these inhumane practices by purchasing only chocolate that has a fair trade certification label on it. For more information, check out johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-child-slavery-in-your-chocolate!

Scientific references and further reading:

1) H. W. Rogers, M. A. Weinstock, A. R. Harris, et al., “Incidence Estimate of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer in the United States, 2006,” Archives of Dermatology 146, no. 3 (2010): 283–87.
2) J. K. Robinson, “Sun Exposure, Sun Protection, and Vitamin D,” JAMA 294 (2005): 1541–43.
3) M. B. Engler, M. M. Engler, C. Y. Chen, et al., “Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23, no. 3 (2004): 197–204.
4) D. Taubert, R. Roesen, C. Lehmann, et al., “Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” JAMA 298, no. 1 (2007): 49–60.
5) http://www.skincancer.org/understanding-uva-and-uvb.html.

Plant-based is the New Prius!

Categories: Eco-Conscious Living Tips,Uncategorized,

I love myself the most when I know I’m actively making kind choices for the environment and doing my part to preserve the future of the planet for all creatures that will live here even after I’m gone. Caring about the health of the planet can be contagious as our lifestyle choices influence those around us! Instead of denying the existence of global warming or avoiding the issue of climate change because they’re intimidating, scary or confusing, we need to open our eyes nice and wide to what is actually happening on planet earth and the consequences we are expected to face. The recipes on this website, in Love Your Body and my upcoming cookbook are all vegan not just for health reasons or because I love animals, but avoiding animal products, especially meat, is one of the most effective means we possess of reducing our eco-footprint. We actually can do something about Mother Nature’s impending fever and all the people, wildlife, and habitats that are affected.

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The photos in this post are from a recent trip to Yosemite National Park!

A Truly Eco-Friendly Diet Is Plant Based

Did you know that a person adopting a vegetarian diet for a year would reduce more emissions than someone swapping their gas-guzzling SUV for a Toyota Prius? While the causes of global warming are multifaceted, consuming a healthy, plant-based diet filled with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables is actually one of the most effective and most feasible strategies we possess to combat the most threatening greenhouse gases over the next few decades. The evidence is concrete rather than controversial that humans are responsible for the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas levels and that factory farming is a substantial part of the greenhouse gas emissions pie. Understanding why a reduction in factory farming practices would be a tremendous advantage in one of the greatest battles of our lifetime is essential if we are to move forward toward a greener, less catastrophic future. Given that 2000 to 2009 was the hottest decade on record or that sea levels have risen between 4 and 8 inches worldwide during the past century (experts predict they could rise as much as 2 feet before 2100), it has never been a better time to start caring!

The knowledge that the same foods that make us beautiful, healthy, and smart can actually make the planet a better place and protect susceptible nations and vulnerable species from the impacts of climate change is sensationally amazing when you think about it! Adhering to the mindset that loving yourself actually stems from loving the world around you, this idea is a vital component to the journey toward feeling emotionally and intellectually at peace with ourselves and loving who we are, both inside and out.

Global warming is real, and if you disagree, you’re going up against organizations such as the United Nations (UN), Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA even has a Website devoted to disproving skeptics with impressive data, titled “Climate Change: How Do We Know?” This article painstakingly details current statistics concerning rises in sea levels, warming oceans, melting glaciers, declining Arctic ice sheets, increases in ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and heightened average temperature trends all over the world. To disagree would also mean dissension with 100 world governments and most countries around the world. The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 15 countries and found that only the Chinese expressed apathy toward climate change similar to Americans’.

Anyone seeking advice on ways to reduce our global foot- print will easily find magazine articles and online reports advising us to buy energy-efficient products, drive less and in more fuel-efficient cars, use hot water less frequently, and plant trees, for example. While these are all fantastic recommendations and I support these strategies, these actions actually have far less of a mitigating effect on global warming than does the act of reducing or eliminating animal products from our diets. In fact, a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report, which was neglected by the American media, announced that worldwide livestock farming is the number-one cause of climate change ~ more than all planes, trains, cars, and boats worldwide! To put a number on it, World Bank analysts have calculated that livestock are responsible for up to 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This figure includes the environmental effects of methane, land use, respiration, and other greenhouse gases released by the production of factory-farmed animal products alone. The same report calculated that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, more than the combined impact of industry and energy.

Plenty of magazines, websites and blogs describe actions we can take to live more eco-friendly lives, yet rarely do I see recommendations to consume less meat. Plus, less meat means less breast cancer! I can’t decide whether this is more strange or frustrating, given the immense data on the tremendous relationship between livestock farming, environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. Be prepared to start talking about black carbon and nitrous oxide with your girlfriends, because climate change is hella interesting and possibly the most critical issue of our time!

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Reduce Gross Global-Warming Gases

When we think about global warming, most of us have been taught that rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are our greatest gaseous threat. But what about black
carbon (informally known as soot)? No, I don’t hear too many people talking about that. How about nitrous oxide or methane? Nope, not nearly as much. If I ask my friends if they know what black carbon is, most of them just stare at me blankly. I didn’t even know what black carbon was until I attended a conference devoted to climate change. The kicker here is that while we focus on CO2, this particulate and other gases pose a more immediate threat in terms of the warming we see today. And while many factors contribute to C02 emissions, the releases of black carbon, nitrous oxide and methane are all largely rooted in modern factory-farming practices, destruction of rain forests, and the production of food to feed factory-farmed animals. According to a report from EarthSave International, “Other greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully . . . Sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we are going to see for the next half century.”

I used to think rising carbon dioxide levels were our biggest climate-change nemesis until I had the privilege of attending one truly remarkable global warming conference in the United Kingdom in 2010, hosted by the World Preservation Foundation and filled with the many respected scientists who meticulously study climate change. The world’s leading experts gave lectures about black carbon, nitrous oxide and methane gas’s contribution to global warming, and I sat in the audience positively baffled as I learned, for instance, that “methane heats the Earth 100 times more than CO2 in 5 years of time (or 72 times in 20 years’ time).” Dr. Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at the University of California–Berkeley, stated, “A ton of methane emitted today will exert more warming in one year than a ton of CO2 emitted today would exert until 2075.” So while it is true that human activity produces much more carbon dioxide than other greenhouse gases, more in this case does not mean more powerful. In fact, other greenhouse gases trap heat far more strongly, even tens of thousands of times more strongly for some of them.

You might be wondering what these gases have to do with what we eat and how we feel about our bodies, but the link between our factory farming and levels of these gases in the atmosphere is undeniable, and minimizing or eliminating animal products from our diets is the best solution we have. As far as our bodies are concerned, educating ourselves about atmospheric black carbon might not make us skinny or help us clear up our skin, but I do believe increasing our knowledge about atmospheric black carbon might not make us skinny or help us clear up our skin, but I do believe increasing our knowledge about how we can help the world makes us more beautiful on the inside. Besides, you will sound awesomely intelligent when you begin talking about reducing atmospheric black carbon and nitrous oxide levels to combat global warming! The billions of animals on factory farms are one of the biggest polluters on the planet and our greatest source of potent greenhouse gas emissions. To understand why factory farming is so destructive to the environment, we need to get the lowdown on the gases I mentioned above and why they trap heat in the atmosphere like it’s their full-time job.

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BLACK CARBON

Black carbon (BC) is a light-absorbing little particle, technically the carbonaceous component of soot. It’s a greenhouse particle that traps heat a whopping 680 times more effectively than CO2 and causes the ice sheets and glaciers at the poles to melt even faster than they would via temperature rises alone. Tiny particles of BC possess an impressive dose of power and experts have concluded that they add two to three times more energy to the climate system than an equivalent mass of CO2.

What’s the #1 cause of black carbon in the atmosphere? Why, factory farming, of course! BC is produced primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass, with the burning of trees in the Amazon rain forest being the largest source. How is factory farming related to deforestation of the Amazon? The awful reality is that many of the statuesque trees of the Amazon are burned and chopped to make way for farmland used to produce feed crops, which are fed to livestock. More specifically, calculations by scientists at the University of Washington and the World Bank have found that 80 percent of Amazon deforestation is due to human activities, specifically for grazing pasture or to produce soybeans to feed to farm animals. Scientists have concluded that 60 percent of black carbon particles in Antarctica actually come all the way from rain-forest lands near the equator. Hence, grazing practices are the #1 contributor to Amazon deforestation, which subsequently releases black carbon into the atmosphere, which in turn melts glaciers in Antarctica. Now, that’s some pretty ridiculous science!

As a tremendous contributor to the melting of the polar ice caps, BC represents a quarter of observed global warming in the Antarctic region. Little but not-so-innocent BC is so powerful because it reduces reflectivity on the surface of ice caps, which increases the rate of melting. Even when air temperatures are below freezing, black carbon causes ice to melt. The dark color of black carbon adds to its heat-absorbing properties, and once melting begins, a domino effect occurs in which darker earth or water below snow or ice becomes exposed and promotes further melting. Glaciers hate black carbon. As black carbon induces melting on the surface of glaciers, the resulting water percolates down through cracks in the ice and increases lubrication at the bottom of the glacier, causing the glacier to flow increasingly rapidly. This is just one massive positive feedback loop that can and will cause our massive glaciers not to be so massive anymore, and most likely, cause them to disappear completely. As we see a continuous rise in ocean water levels, massive flooding in vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan is now becoming a formidable threat with the potential to cost billions of dollars in repairs.

Reports from scientists indicate that our most effective weapon in the battle against global warming in the next few years will be to reduce black carbon levels rather than CO2 in the atmosphere, because black carbon is a short-lived climate forcer (SLCF), with forcible warming effects in the short term, unlike CO2, which is a long-acting greenhouse gas. As Mother Earth heats up over the next few years, reducing levels of black carbon will be essential to cooling her mounting temperature increases in a fast amount of time. Given that scientists have shown that SLCFs can reduce the earth’s rate of warming to less than 2°C by 2070, this is something massive we can do to slow down warming!

We are losing 11⁄2 acres of Amazon rain forest each second, and much of this deforestation is occurring for the simple purpose of producing more land to cultivate soybean crops to feed animals on factory farms. Most people have no idea that this is why we are destroying all that forest! As demand for meat rises in both the developed and developing world due to population growth and increased wealth (mostly among developing countries), we are becoming increasingly needy of fertile land to grow soybeans and other crops used to feed livestock. We simply don’t have enough land in the United States to meet current demands. Soybean, corn, and wheat grown in the Amazon are used to feed animals on factory farms in the United States and elsewhere. This is a long chain of events, and it’s crazy, yet frightfully true, that we can connect animal product consumption to rising levels of black carbon in the atmosphere and the rapid warming of the earth that comes with it.

It’s tempting to ignore the relationship between animal product consumption and something as tremendous as the melting of the polar ice caps. Given that so many people relish a good hamburger, confronting the truth is difficult. It would be difficult for me to give up fresh peaches, blueberries, and mangoes, so I’ve thought about what it would be like if I learned that by giving up peaches, blueberries, or mangoes I could fight global warming. It didn’t take me long to make a decision. I would just consume more strawberries, melons, and apples as an alternative. Most meat eaters have no idea how divine meatless meals can taste and that helping the environment and protecting our health by eliminating or reducing animal products is really not much of a sacrifice at all.

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NITROUS OXIDE

The crazy link between livestock production and climate change by no means ends with black carbon or carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is actually a much more formidable threat to global temperature rise over the next few decades than carbon dioxide or methane and is up there with black carbon in its short-term impact on climate change. Richard Conant, Queensland University of Technology professor and member of a Nobel Prize– winning team of scientists, has advocated that we all turn our attention to nitrous oxide emissions, given that N2O is 296 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide. N2O traps heat so efficiently because these particles absorb much more energy per molecule than a molecule of CO2 does. Therefore, per molecule, N2O is the biggest destroyer of the cushioning ozone layer that surrounds the earth. Referring to the energy-radiation capacity of major greenhouse gases, Conant reports, “Let’s say carbon dioxide has an impact of one, methane has an impact of say 21 times, and nitrous oxide has an even bigger impact, something like 300 times the impact of CO2.” On top of the incredible energy-absorbing capacity of N2O, it is also very persistent in the atmosphere, where it can remain for up to 150 years. N2O is such a powerful ozone layer antagonist that doubling its concentration in the atmosphere would result in a 10 percent decrease in the ozone layer, which would increase ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth by 20 percent. This means that we can make great strides against global warming by reducing N2O in the atmosphere!

Livestock activities contribute two-thirds of all anthropogenic N2O levels and as much as 75 to 80 percent of agricultural emissions of N2O. Most N2O comes from manure, but much of it is produced by feed-related fertilizers used to grow the crops fed to factory-farmed animals. A large portion of grain and other crops is fed to animals rather than to people, and mineral fertilizers (which produce N2O as a by-product) are applied to most of this cropland. Scientists estimate that 20 to 25 percent of mineral fertilizer goes directly to crops that are used to feed livestock. Although we cannot completely avoid releasing N2O into the atmosphere, we can greatly reduce levels by eating more plant foods instead of animal products. And we can cut manure production by not eating animal products or by minimizing our consumption of them. That sounds like a good deal to me!

METHANE

There may not be as much methane in the atmosphere as there is carbon dioxide, but don’t be fooled by atmospheric concentrations alone. What methane lacks in atmospheric concentration, it makes up for in potency. As I stated earlier in this chapter, methane is 100 times more potent than CO2 over a 5-year period and 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. While CO2 wins the atmospheric concentration competition, this doesn’t mean there isn’t oodles of methane released into the atmosphere via human practices, primarily animal agriculture. The amount of methane released into the atmosphere from factory farming alone amounts to millions of metric tons annually! Globally, livestock release 100 million metric tons of methane each year, accounting for 28 percent of all global methane emissions from human-related activities. Yikes. Here in the United States, cattle release 5.5 million metric tons of methane every year. This does make sense given that there are more than 100 million cattle in the United States at any given time and about 1.2 billion cattle raised for food around the world.

Granted, each cow produces only so much methane, but the collective effect of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is simply incredible. Eighty-five percent of this methane is released from the digestive processes of livestock, and the rest of the agricultural methane emissions are released from massive “lagoons” used to store untreated farm animal waste, also a target of environmentalists for their role as the primary source of water pollution in the United States. Other sources of human-induced methane emissions include coal mining, gas and oil refining, rice cultivation, waste, and on a much smaller level, energy and fossil fuel production. However, it is difficult to reduce these sources of methane emissions. As stated by the World Preservation Foundation in its report Livestock’s Climate Impact, “Clearly the most effective means of reducing methane emissions is to reduce livestock production.” This knowledge becomes especially relevant given that reducing atmospheric methane concentrations is our most effective means of combating ground-level ozone.

While we should focus on curbing carbon dioxide emissions, this is no walk in the park compared with the simple act of switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Resolutions to cut back on CO2 are impossible without drastically weakening our economy; even the most innovative strategies fail to cut CO2 emissions by more than half. And who doesn’t enjoy instant gratification? Shifting in the meat-free direction will enable us to witness greenhouse gas reductions at a much faster, more noticeable rate than CO2 reduction strategies. The turnover rate for farm animals is 1 to 2 years, so decreases in meat consumption would lead to an almost immediate drop in black carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions. Moving away from fossil-fuel-burning activities from power plants and cars, on the other hand, can take many decades. Practically speaking, it’s much easier to go meat free than to fight powerful and wealthy corporations, such as the auto and oil industries. We all have it in our power to decide what to eat, but not all of us can afford to buy a more expensive yet fuel-efficient vehicle or live in an eco-friendly house. Reducing or eliminating meat is simple and it is effective!

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