A sustainable future is spreading its arms to embrace us all, like it was doing twenty years back, when leaders from every corners of the world where flying down to Rio for the first Earth Summit, to witness an unprecedented political will and commitment among governments to make a paradigm shift to sustainable development.
In June this year, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will once again fly down to Rio to attend the Rio+20, which is offering us a unique opportunity for our mutually interdependent world to secure renewed political commitment for Sustainable Development.
At Rio+20, seven critical issues like jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans and disasters will be dealt with, by focusing upon two theme agreed upon by the member states:
- Green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
- Institutional framework for sustainable development.
Out of these seven critical issues, food is an issue which when dealt, can help us in dealing with other issues like public health, climate change, forest preservation and social justice.
Food which is one of the basic requirement for the survival of a being, along with water and shelter, is getting scarce as the human population surges towards predicted 9.1 billion people by the year 2050 and thus there is a call for an immediate change in our personal dietary habits as well as governmental policies pertaining to agricultural industries.
Advocating a Vegan lifestyle is the most effective yet the most neglected strategy for reducing food crisis, climate change, and deforestation, and therefore organizations should consider advocating veganism as a major part of their global warming campaigns. At a minimum, environmental advocates should mention veganism in any information about the actions the individuals can take to address global warming. Government policy should also encourage vegan diets. Possible mechanisms should include an environmental tax on meat similar to one already recommended on gasoline, and a shift in farm subsidies to encourage plant agriculture over animal agriculture.
Albert Einstein, a noted physicist can be attributed for the quote, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet" which clearly depicts that a shift from an animal-based diet to a plant based diet can help us in tackling following issues:
1) Food Crisis: In many reports, it has been estimated that an animal based diet will consume 20 kilos of grains to produce one kilo of edible beef, 7.5 kilos of grain for a kilo of edible pork and 4.5 kilos for a kilo of edible chicken. Thus, if we consume the present amount of grains directly instead of feeding it to the livestock in order to produce the aforementioned amount of animal based food, we will be able to feed more mouths with the same quantity of grain that we produce at present and hence can tackle food crisis.
2) Public Health: A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that red- and processed-meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality, and that the higher the red- and processed-meat intake, the higher the risk.
The report states that the people who consume animal-based food are 27% more likely to have cardiovascular disease, 20% more likely to have cancer and 11% of deaths in men and 16% of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their meat consumption to 4 g/1000 kcal.
3) Climate Change: According to a paper by Prof. A J McMichael, PhD, out of 22% of the global total Greenhouse gas emission which is caused by the agriculture sector, which is equal to that of the industries and slightly more than that of the transportation sector, nearly 80% is accounted for the livestock production. Methane and N2O (which are both potent GHG and closely associated with livestock production) contribute much more to this sector’s warming eﬀect than does CO2. Halting the increase of GHG emissions from agriculture, especially livestock production, should therefore be a top priority, because it could curb warming fairly rapidly. As the available technologies for reduction of emissions from livestock production, applied universally at realistic costs, would reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions by less than 20%, we advocate a contraction and convergence strategy to reduce consumption of livestock products, mirroring the widely supported strategy proposed for greenhouse-gas emissions in general.
4) Forest Preservation: Prince Charles on Deforestation: “We have 18 months to halt deforestation of the rain forests to preserve life on this planet.” (European Parliament, 14 February 2008)
According to a report by UN FAO, ranching-induced deforestation is one of the main causes of loss of some unique plant and animal species in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America as well as carbon release in the atmosphere. It is estimated that nearly 70% of the former Latin American forest cover has been cleared for grazing of the livestock, which takes 1/3rd or Earth's entire landmass and hence is the major cause of deforestation. Further, the loss of these precious forest area posses treat of extinction of wildlife that are to be found in those forest area.
5) Social Justice: Justice is a term that means "righteousness". When we speak of justice, we speak of justice for all, irrespective of any discrimination and not confining it only to certain strata of the society. So when we speak of justice, why do we forget the justice for the livestock animals? Why can't they enjoy an equal right of well-being? When we consider about the adverse effect of climate change due to food habits, not only on the lives of people living in USA but also on the lives of people in Africa, then why don't we consider the effect of it on the lives of all the billions of animals that are wasted just for few pounds of meat? I believe that if justice will fall upon these billions of animals then only there can be any genuine chance of social justice for each and every one of us, as Dr. King has rightly said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
So, more than anything else, we should shift from an animal based diet to a plant based for the sake of being just to these billions of animals that are wasted every year just for few pounds of meat.
It will be very interesting to see if our leaders and policy makers will take some bold steps to embrace a sustainable future, which have been waiting for years to be embraced, by making polices that will encourage plant based agriculture and discourage animal based agriculture and thus make a paradigm shift to sustainable development.
~Caritas, Lux, et Varitas;
The Unknown Poet.