How vegans can save the world
DIET for one or diet for all? Turning vegan, eating less meat and cutting out the booze and pastries could all have a positive impact on the environment. LISA THOMAS explores.
IT may sound crazy to some, but many scientists and researchers claim a plant-based diet could be the way to save the planet from global warming.
Agriculture is the third largest contributor to global emissions, with methane and nitrous oxide produced by the farming of livestock considered more harmful to our environment than carbon dioxide.
Recent studies from Oxford University estimated that if the world were to suddenly adopt a vegan, plant-based diet – on a global scale – we would produce 49 per cent less food-based greenhouse gas emissions, reduce acidification to land by up to 50 per cent, reduce eutrophication to rivers by 49 per cent and save 19 per cent more water.
Murdoch University global health researcher Ana Rita Sequeira said the livestock industry also caused land degradation, water contamination and depletion, and loss of biodiversity through deforestation and created waste.
“We know the main causes of global warming are the burning of fossil fuels for energy, the burning of fossil fuels for transportation, methane emissions from livestock and the use of chemical fertilisers,” she said.
“If we want to address global warming as consumers then we have to find alternatives, which some people have done through solar or renewable energy in their homes, sustainable forms of transport and changing their diet.”
Dr Sequeira said while a 100 per cent plant-based diet would reduce emissions, people could also reduce their footprint on the environment simply by reducing the amount of meat and dairy they consumed on a daily basis.
“If citizens are willing to change their own diet and do something then that’s great, but we need businesses to follow,” she said.
CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Brad Ridoutt doubted a vegan world was attainable but said people could improve their health and relieve the environment by reducing the amount and types of foods they ate.
He said cutting out or limiting discretionary foods such as alcohol, cake and pastry could help.
“People are consuming far too much food and food energy – there is a correlation between how much you eat and emissions, as well as food waste,” he said.
He said traditional diets were being replaced by western diets, with overconsumption of livestock products affecting environmental sustainability.