Save the World by Eating Right

Categories: Uncategorized,

Hey guys! The connection between the foods we choose to eat and the health of the planet is an issue I love to talk and write about because there is so much we can do to help our bodies achieve their best health while helping the planet at the same time! It’s empowering to know that we can all make a difference, but the first step is education! This blog post shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to read, but it’s jam packed with facts about why the connection between factory farming and climate change is so enormous. Most of us think that reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is key, but is actually a combination of greenhouse gases that are warming up the planet. Read on to learn more and check out one of my favorite veggie burger recipes below too!

One third of the world’s people place an undue demand on land, water, and other resources required for intensive food production, which makes the typical Western diet not only undesirable from the standpoint of health but also environmentally unsustainable.

~WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

A HEALTHY PLANET = A HEALTHIER YOU

A pristine, well-cared-for environment keeps us vibrant and full of life-enhancing energy just as a high-quality, plant-based diet keeps us vi-brant and full of life. Nourishing Mother Nature with our love both by taking care of it with our own eco-friendly actions and by appreciating its beauty is vital for enjoyment of our lives, and it provides us with gratification that we are doing our part to preserve the beauty of the earth for future generations. Loving our bodies and loving the planet are similar because they both involve showing respect for life, maximizing our happiness, and enhancing the quality of our days.

Our lovely, natural surroundings effortlessly abet our enjoyment of life and enrich every day that we rise from bed with newfound hope, joy, creative energy, and optimism. Fresh, unpolluted air, green, well-watered grass, statuesque trees, sunshine that kisses the skin with warmth, and flowers that burst with vibrant colors gift us with life-enhancing, positive thoughts. It is the essence of the beautiful majesty of life all around us. Viewing a sunrise or sunset that sparks with a blend of reds, oranges, and yellows in the distant sky; venturing on a hike in the hilly, pebbled woods; or letting our toes sink into the sand as we walk on the beach makes our souls happy, which has real calming effects on our nervous systems. Even if we live in a city or suburban environment, we can find parks, rooftop gardens, and space to take deep breaths and go for walks or runs in fresh air.

Here are a few more reasons we should consider our environment when we think about our own health:

1. Think it doesn’t matter where you do your exercise? Think again. A 2010 Japanese study found that walking outdoors amidst lush forests heightens immune function, reduces blood pressure, and mitigates anxiety, depression, and anger. Walking along city streets did not have the same effects. All other factors, such as distance walked, climate, caloric intake, and smoking and drinking habits were controlled for in the study. Why is walking in the forest better for our health? It turns out that the stunning scenery, sounds, and sights of the natural environment do have a tangible calming effect on our bodies that results in measurable health improvements.

2. A Finnish study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that adolescents that have reduced contact with the environment are more likely to suffer from allergies and have less diverse beneficial bacteria on their skin. Fascinatingly, adolescents living in forested or agricultural areas had greater quantities of anti-inflammatory bacteria on the skin than adolescents who lived in either built-up areas or near bodies of water. This study gets even more interesting because a connection was found between biodiversity and allergy prevalence. As species diversity of flowering plants went up, fewer allergies were found in the adolescent participants.

3. Spending time in nature improves our sense of well-being whether we are in an excessively cold climate, a brutally hot one, or somewhere in between. Whether dark storm clouds are lashing the air with rain or a luminous sun uplifts planet Earth with brilliant blue clarity, being around nature improves our self-esteem and our moods. A green exercise research program at the University of Essex found that exercising amidst green-rich, light-filled environments improves mood the most, but that physical activity in any natural surrounding contributes to immediate health benefits. Even a mere 5 minutes of exercising outdoors was shown to enhance feelings of hope, positivity, and self-esteem.

4. Spending time in forests fights cancer! This crazy-cool anticancer research conducted by doctors at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo studied people who went on hiking trips. The activity of natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that kills cancer cells, increased upon a two-night/three-day stay in the forest, in which study subjects went on three forest walks and stayed in a hotel in the forest. Blood tests taken before and after the trip revealed a substantial boost in NK activity upon returning from the trip. And get this: The increase in NK activity was found for up to 30 days after the trip was over!

When it comes to our health, it seems like nature always wins! All this info has left me daydreaming of my next hiking trip in a lush green forest. Talk about time well spent!

All of us can do a better job of loving our bodies by spending more time out in nature and finding more ways to treat Mother Earth with respect. This, in turn, will make us prouder and more confident in our-selves, too. I can’t emphasize enough the impact the environment has on our health, and the importance of conserving the health of the Earth. I must admit, this chapter may feel less like rainbows and more like rain clouds, but these rain clouds will morph into a monsoon if we don’t take action. And like a budding rosebud amongst a bed of thorns, there is hope for a better tomorrow if we educate ourselves on how to combat climate change most effectively. We have to change the fact that only 34 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a serious issue or that 13 percent think we should just keep on doing what we’re doing without making any eco-friendly changes. This is not cool. (Literally!)

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 the 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 last 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 pro-tect susceptible nations and vulnerable species from the impacts of cli-mate change is pretty rad when you think about it. Adhering to the mind-set that loving yourself actually stems from loving the world around you, this idea is a vital component to the journey toward feeing emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually 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 Ad-ministration (NOAA). I don’t know about you all, but I’m not inclined to disagree with such reliable sources. NASA even has a Web site 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, declin-ing 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 footprint will easily find magazine articles and online reports advising us to buy ener-gy-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 ef-fects of methane, land use, respiration, and other greenhouse gases pro-duced via 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, Web sites, and blogs provide 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, envi-ronmental 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.

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, these other gases pose a more immediate threat to the warming we see today. And while many factors contribute to C02 emissions, the re-lease 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 these 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 emit-ted 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 gas-es 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 facto-ry 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 how we can help the world makes us more beautiful on the inside. Besides, you will sound so smart when you begin talking about reducing atmospheric black carbon and nitrous oxide levels to combat global warming!

I left that eye-opening conference feeling as though I had to spread the word as much as possible about what was shared with me in those stately, historic buildings (it was held in the Parliament buildings right in the heart of London). The scholarly climate change experts and inter-national group of scientists were all in agreement that reducing our an-imal product intake is pivotal if we are to cool the planet in the shortest possible time. The billions of animals on factory farms are one of the biggest polluters on the planet and our greatest source of potent green-house gas emissions. To understand why factory farming is so destruc-tive 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.

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 number-one cause of black carbon in the atmosphere? Why, factory farming, of course! It is produced primarily from 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 farm-ing related to deforestation of the Amazon? The awful reality is that much 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 Ama-zon deforestation is due to human activities, specifically grazing pasture or to produce soybeans to feed to farm animals. Scientists have con-cluded that a total of 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 number-one contributor to Amazon deforestation, which subsequently releases black carbon into the atmos-phere, which in turn melts glaciers in Antarctica. Now that’s some pret-ty 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 melt-ing. 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 glac-iers to not be so massive anymore, and most likely, cause them to disap-pear 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 in the atmosphere rather than CO2, 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 Ms. Mother Earth heats up over the next few years, reducing black carbon levels will be essential to cool her mounting temperature rises in a fast amount of time. Given that scientists have shown that SLCFs can reduce the earth’s warming to less than 2°C by 2070, this is something massive we can do to slow down warming!

We are losing one and a half acres of Amazon rain forest each se-cond, 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 this is why we are destroying all of that forest! As demand for meat rises in both the developed and developing world due to population growth and increased wealth (most-ly 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 de-mands. 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 con-nect 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 meat is a beloved component of the diets of billions of people. Given that so many people relish a good hamburger, confronting the truth is difficult. While I can’t relate to loving meat, it would be dif-ficult 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 strawber-ries, 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. Try my awesome meatless burger recipe on page XX and let me know what you think!

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 de-stroyer 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 at-mosphere, where it can remain for up to 150 years. N2O is such a power-ful 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 from 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 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 live-stock. Although we cannot completely avoid releasing N2O the atmos-phere, levels can be greatly reduced by eating more plant foods instead of animal products. And we can reduce manure production by not eating or minimizing animal product consumption. 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 competi-tion, 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 over 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 can only produce so much methane, but the col-lective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is simply incredible. Eighty-five percent of this me-thane 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 environmen-talists 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 their report Livestock’s Climate Impact, “Clearly the most effective means of reducing methane emissions is to reduce livestock production.” This knowledge becomes especially rele-vant given that reducing atmospheric methane concentrations is our most effective means of combating ground-level ozone.

GETTING RID OF GROUND-LEVEL OZONE

Wait, you might say, don’t we want to preserve the ozone layer? Well actually, ground-level ozone is a horse of a different color than the ozone layer in the stratosphere that protects us from harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. The truth is that we don’t want any ground-level ozone; it’s icky pollution, or to put it more scientifically, ground-level ozone is created via a series of photochemical reactions when sunlight collides with nitrogen oxides, methane, carbon monoxide, and other atmospheric, volatile, car-bon-containing compounds. Lasting in the atmos-phere from several days to several weeks, these gases make up much of what we refer to as smog. This stuff can do some serious damage, causing severe respiratory-related illnesses and reduc-tions in plant growth and crop yields.
I hope I’ve convinced you that ground-level ozone is the equivalent of an atmospheric garbage dump to our lungs and a serial plant killer (ad-mittedly I haven’t smelled it myself, but I have to assume it’s as bad as my dad’s armpits after a long tennis match–nasty). Yet the monstrosity of ground-level ozone doesn’t stop with its lung-damaging properties. This odious, sorry excuse for air has a potent greenhouse effect, heating 20 percent as much as all our CO2 emissions. Re-ports on ground-level ozone indicate that reduc-ing it alone will offset a decade’s carbon dioxide emissions. Research from Harvard, the Environmental Protection Agency, Argonne Labora-tories, and elsewhere have concluded that the most effective means of controlling ground-level ozone is by reducing methane. Because factory farming is the largest human-induced methane source, the best approach to lower atmospheric methane is to cut back on meat consumption.

FRIGHTENING FACTS ABOUT FACTORY FARMING

Statistics regarding the impact of black carbon, nitrous oxide, and me-thane alone are enough to convince me that eating animal products is not a good idea if our goal is to slow down the warming of the planet as hastily as possible. However, there is a lot more to this picture than greenhouse gas emissions. Think biodiversity loss, fresh water scarcity, forest decline, coral reef wipeout, and some highly impressive energy requirements required to produce current worldwide meat and dairy product demands.

You’d imagine that the dinosaurs ate a lot, right? Nah, they had nothing on livestock.
Here are some statistics about the gargantuan energy input and other worthwhile-to-know facts about the true costs of meat production:
Factory-farmed animals take up an unbelievable one-third of the earth’s total landmass.
• Livestock currently use five times as much biomass as humans do, yet only provide us with 17 percent of human energy intake and 40 percent of protein intake.
• Livestock now consume six times more than the dinosaurs ever did.
• Livestock now outweigh wildlife by 8:1.
• While the population of livestock continues to grow, ecosystems around the world are heading toward permanent damage as countries fail to achieve goals to protect animal and plant life.
• According to the USDA, factory farming is responsible for 68 percent of all species endangerment in the United States.
• All over the world, up to 270 unique wildlife species are now be-ing lost every day.
• A worldwide no-meat lifestyle has been calculated to prevent over 60 percent of current biodiversity loss.
• A diet of 100 percent protein from soy sources would have only 1 percent of the impact on greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 com-pared to a diet in which 100 percent of protein was from meat.
• An omnivore uses fifteen times as much water as a vegan would use.
• 200,000 liters to produce 1 kilogram of beef
• 2,000 liters = 1 kilogram of soybeans
• 900 liters = 1 kilogram of wheat
• 650 liters = 1 kilogram of corn
• By shifting to a vegan diet, the world’s governments would save $32 trillion by 2050, or a full 80 percent of total climate mitiga-tion costs.
• If farmers in the Midwest switched from raising livestock to growing fruits and vegetables, $882 million could be generated in regional sales, with 9,300 jobs created and labor income in-creased by $395 million.
• If everyone ate a plant-based diet, there would be enough food to satisfy 10 billion people.
• If current eating habits remain the same, half the world’s popu-lation will face grave food shortages within the century.
While we should focus on curbing carbon dioxide emissions, this is no walk in the park compared to 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 in-stant 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.
I’d also like to add that strategies to reduce livestock emissions, such as providing different food sources for animals and using manure for fuel, have been shown to reduce emissions by only a few percent and actually create more food quality and ethical problems than they would save. Experts have reported that our only option is to significantly minimize animal product consumption.

WHAT ABOUT ANIMAL CRUELTY?

After the nutrition club, the animal rights club was the second extracurricular activity I leaped at the opportunity to join at my college’s freshman year club fair. No surprise there! Eons be-fore I even thought about college, I was one of those unusually inquisitive children who thought deeply about where every single item on her plate came from, animal products included (I was exposed to animal products occasionally at friends’ houses and at school, even though my home was meat free). By the time I was an impressionable preteen capable of having any image or video of tortured animals solidly imprinted on my brain forever, I took it upon myself to watch animal rights videos. Needless to say, caring about the welfare of factory-farmed animals would forever hold a place in my life after that. Viewing gory videos is certainly not necessary to learn about animal rights or be a fervent supporter of humane farming practices, but it is my belief that the more we think about how we treat all sentient creatures on planet Earth, the better off all of us will be.

My wish for the chapter has been to clear the muggy air on the relationship between factory farming and the brutal toll it takes on our plan-et. I felt this subject was screaming for more attention. Conversely, the subject of animal rights has been written about extensively. In-stead of repeating what’s been said many times about these practices, I thought I would list a few of my favorite books on the subject:
• Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, PhD
• Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
• The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer

I encourage you to check them out and consider the real cost of eating meat!

If there were any time to care about climate change, it would be now. Whereas we continue to witness tangible consequences of global temperature rise, concern about warming is the last concern on a 2010 Pew survey of top domestic priorities for the president and Congress and has been every year since Pew began conducting this survey annually. Yet this disregard for the warming of the planet is like a young twen-tysomething girl disregarding her risk of breast cancer later in life. Just as breast cancer develops slowly and goes undetected for many years, the torrential effects of global warming may not be a problem for us now or directly affect our daily lives today. However, global warming is a pressing issue that will likely result in tremendous global turmoil in years to come. In fact, our indifference is already morphing into a massive tragedy.

While reading about the latest fashions in Glamour or Vogue is fun and headlines regarding the latest celebrity divorce are not going to disappear anytime soon, we owe it to ourselves to see the scientific light and wake up from our happily naïve slumber. As you have read, there are dangerous effects of climate change ranging from entire islands, low-lying countries, and coastal cities going underwater to an increase in droughts and food shortages worldwide, especially in areas already prone to poverty and diseases of malnutrition. It’s a shame that many politicians and our largely apathetic public question one of the gravest concerns to the future of humanity and something undeniable to scien-tists. It is not easy to face the reality that acidification of our oceans is threatening marine life, that we might lose coral reefs forever, or that climate refugees may increase to up to 1 billion people by 2050. Let’s act now before truly devastating worldwide events take place.

I think it’s a pretty good deal that we can eat foods like green vege-tables, beans, berries, nuts and seeds, and whole grains and make them taste simply heavenly, all while protecting our own health, preserving the earth’s finite resources, and fighting climate change at the same time.

MEAT-FREE SAVORY BLACK-BEAN–PUMPKIN-SEED BURGERS

It is my sincerest desire that this veggie burger recipe will change your mind about the endless possibilities of enjoying meat-free burgers. If you are accus-tomed to consuming standard American fare, hamburgers included, the idea of giving up meat might seem like an atrocious affront to the future happiness of your taste buds. Let it not be so! I would like to assure you that in time, and with delectable meat-free burger recipes such as this one, you will not feel deprived in any way at all.
As creatures of habit, we desire the foods we are accustomed to eating. Hence, the more you eat meat-free meals (and hearty veggie burgers!), the more they will become the foods that you crave and relish the taste of. For the sake of being kind to our bodies, planet Earth, and the creatures we share it with, let’s retrain those taste buds! It’s a win-win situation all around. My fingers are crossed that this burger recipe will facilitate the retraining of your taste buds and make the transition to more meat-free meals easier for you.

Makes 4 to 6 patties

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup vegan cheese of choice (I use Daiya Mozzarella)
4 scallions (white and light green parts), finely chopped (1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon onion flakes or onion powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a food processor, combine the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds and process until coarsely grind-ed. Add all of the remaining ingredients and process until a smooth, evenly mixed dough forms.
With slightly wet hands, shape the dough into patties. Roll the dough into a tightly packed ball and flatten it with your hands. You can make 4 large patties or 6 smaller ones.
Bake the burgers for 30 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled tinfoil, flipping the burgers halfway through bak-ing.

References:

[1] WHO (2002), “Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements,” World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/004/y2809e/y2809e02.pdf.

[1] Q. Li, T. Otsuka, and M. Kobayashi, et al., “Acute Effects of Walking in Forest Environments on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Parameters,” European Journal of Applied Physiology 111 (2011): 2845–53.

[1] I. Hanski, N. Fyhrquist, and K. Koskinen, et al., “Environmental Biodiversity, Human Microbiota, and Allergy Are Interrelated.”

[1] J. Pretty, J. Peacock, and M. Sellens, et al., “The Mental and Physical Health Outcomes of Green Exercise,” International Journal of Environmental Health Research 15, no. 5 (2005): 319–37.

[1] Bloom, Lisa. Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. (Philadelphia, PA: Vanguard Press), 85.

[1] “Study: Vegan diets healthier for planet, people than meat diets” (2006, April 13). EurekAlert!. Retrieved from: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/uoc-svd041306.php.

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Climate Change” (2012): Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html.

[1] National Aeronautics and Space Administration, “Climate Change: How Do We Know?” NASA, http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/.

[1] The Pew Global Attitudes Project, “No Global Warming Alarm in the U.S., China America’s Image Slips, but Allies Share U.S. Concerns Over Iran, Hamas,” Pew Research Center, June 13, 2006, p. 5, http://pewglobal.org/files/pdf/252.pdf.

[1] UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO). “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (2006). Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf.

[1] R.Goodland, and J. Anhang, “Livestock and Climate Change, World Watch Institute” (November/December 2009). Retrieved from: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf.

[1] V. Ramanathan and G. Carmichael, Nature Geoscience 1 (2008): 221–27.

[1] K. M. Chomitz and T. S. Thomas (2001), “Geographic Patterns of Land Use and Land Intensity in the Brazilian Amazon” Development Research Group, World Bank, with contributions by IBGE, University of Washington CAMREX Project, and IMAZON.

[1] UNEP and WMO (2011), “Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone: Summary for Decision Makers. United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization (UNEP & WMO).” Retrieved from: http://www.unep.org/dewa/Portals/67/pdf/Black_Carbon.pdf.

[1] “Industrial Soy Production Destroying the Amazon” (2003), Retrieved from: http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/soy121903.cfm.

[1] http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

[1] ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e03.pdf

[1] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20772&Cr

=global&Cr1=environm

[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,” (2006): Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e03.pdf.

[1] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “IPCC 2007 Assessment Report—Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing,” http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf.

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Ruminant Livestock” (2007). Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/rlep/faq.html#1.

[1] N. Mohr, “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes” (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm.

[1] World Preservation Foundation, “Livestock’s Climate Impact” (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/Downloads/livestocks-climate-impact-report.pdf.

[1] A. M. Fiore, J. J. West, and L. W. Horowitz, et al., “Characterizing the Tropospheric Ozone Response to Methane Emission Controls and the Benefits to Climate and Air Quality,” Journal of Geophysical Research 113 (2008): D08307, doi:10.1029/2007JD009162.

[1] United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization (UNEP & WMO) (2011), “Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone: Summary for Decision Makers.” Retrieved from: http://www.unep.org/dewa/Portals/67/pdf/Black_Carbon.pdf.

[1] M. J. Prather and D. Ehhalt, “Atmospheric Chemistry and Greenhouse Gases.” In J. T. Houghton et al. (Eds.), Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (239–87). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[1] A. M. Fiore, J. J. West, and L. W. Horowitz, et al., “Characterizing the Tropospheric Ozone Response to Methane Emission Controls and the Benefits to Climate and Air Quality,” Journal of Geophysical Research 113 (2008): D08307, doi:10.1029/2007JD009162.

[1] A. M. Fiore, J. J. West, and L. W. Horowitz, et al., “Characterizing the Tropospheric Ozone Response to Methane Emission Controls and the Benefits to Climate and Air Quality,” Journal of Geophysical Research 113 (2008): D08307, doi:10.1029/2007JD009162.

[1] One Green Planet, “Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment” (Nov 21, 2010). Retrieved from: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/facts-on-animal-farming-and-the-environment/.

[1] FAOstat, “FAOstat: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” (2011): Retrieved from: http://faostat.fao.org/.

[1] UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (2006). Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf.

[1] FAOstat, “FAOstat: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” (2011): Retrieved from: http://faostat.fao.org/.

[1] J. Romm, “Royal Society: There Are Very Strong Indications That the Current Rate of Species Extinctions Far Exceeds Anything in the Fossil Record,” Climate Progress blog (2010). Retrieved from: http://climateprogress.org/2010/11/09/royal-society-rate-of-species-extinctions-far-exceeds-anything-in-the-fossil-record/.

[1] G. Wuerthner, “The Truth about Land Use in the United States,” Watersheds Messenger (2002). Retrieved from: http://www.westernwatersheds.org/

watmess/watmess_2002/2002html_summer/article6.htm.

[1] J. Hance, “Collapsing Biodiversity Is a ‘Wake-Up Call for Humanity’” (2010). Retrieved from: http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0510-hance_wake_up.html.

[1] Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, “Rethinking Global Biodiversity Strategies” (2010), p. 81. Retrieved from:

http://www.rivm.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/500197001.pdf.

[1] N. Pelletier and P. Tyedmers, “Forecasting Potential Global Environmental Costs of Livestock Production 2000–2050” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2010, October). Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/43/18371.full.pdf.

[1] D. Pimentel, B. Berger, and D. Filiberto, et al., “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues,”

BioScience [electronic version] 54, no.10 (2004, October): 913. Retrieved from: http://webpub.allegheny.edu/employee/t/tbensel/FSENV201S2010/

Ag_Readings/Water%20Resources%20-%20Agricultural%20and%20Environmental%20Issues.pdf.

[1] E. Stehfest, L. Bouwman, and D. P. van Vuuren, et al.,. “Climate Benefits of Changing Diet,” PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (2009, February 4). Retrieved from: http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/2009/Climate-benefits-of- changing-diet.

[1] D. Swenson, “Selected Measures of the Economic Values of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in the Upper

Midwest,” Iowa State University, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (2010, March). Retrieved from:

http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/research/marketing_files/midwest.html.

[1] World Animal Foundation (n.d.), “Vegetarianism Eating for Life.” Retrieved from: http://worldanimalfoundation.homestead.com/Vegetarian.html.

[1] V. Stricherz, “Half of World’s Population Could Face Climate-Induced Food Crisis by 2100,” University of Washington News (2009, January 8). Retrieved from: http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=46272.

[1] N. Mohr, “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” (2012). Retrieved from http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm.

[1] R. Tieman, “Livestock: Burping Cow Is Just Part of the Problem,” Financial Times (2010, January 26). Retrieved from: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bdde1dec-0a00-11df-8b23-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1EWd9Zq9e.

[1] U.K. Food Ethics Council, “Meat Consumption Trends and Environmental Implications” (2007). Retrieved from: http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/system/files/businessforum201107.pdf.

[1] The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Public’s Priorities for 2010: Economy, Jobs, Terrorism,” January 25, 2010. http://people-press.org/report/584/policy-priorities-2010.

[1] S. Reed, “Environment and Security” (2007, August). Climate Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.climate.org/topics/environmental-security/index.html.

Leave a Comment