Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
A new study reveals that a plant-based diet has significant benefits for both the human body and the planet. It explains that the demands of our current meat-based diet “is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions while unhealthy diets and high body weight are among the greatest contributors to premature mortality.”
While we have known for decades that a meat-based diet contributes to the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other long-term degenerative illnesses, recent research illuminates the connection between animal agriculture and climate change.
Cows release methane gas while eating their feed. One molecule of methane is equivalent to 23 molecules of carbon dioxide, making it one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Scientist have traced 10-12% of US greenhouse emissions to cattle farming.
Adding to the global problem is the rise of deforestation to make way for cattle ranching, creating a double whammy for the environment. Forests are one of the primary sources for converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, acting as a cooling agent for the planet. Their destruction only makes the problem that much harder to solve, as humans have no means to transform carbon dioxide to oxygen without them.
A plant-based diet would have the dual benefits of reducing the production of methane gas while increasing the production of carbon-dioxide conversion through natural means.
The study is not a dictum to go vegetarian or vegan, but rather an opportunity for consumers to adjust their diet to change the balance, starting with what is on their plates. The study suggests consuming an additional 24-35% more fruits and vegetables, while reducing meat consumption by 51-57% would have significant health impact, with a projected 5.1 million fewer deaths by 2050.
The impact on the planet is even more profound. Current projections for the status quo estimate a 51% increase in greenhouse gas emissions; that figure would be reduced to a mere 7% with the adoption of the plant-based diet recommendations.
Ultimately, the study empowers people to think in the short and long terms simultaneously, with the awareness that how they send their money and what they put in their bodies has far-reaching consequences for themselves and for the environment. At the same time is avoids the dreaded Draconian approach, allowing meat eaters to continue to enjoy their pleasures. As Thomas Paine wrote in “The American Crisis” in 1776, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.