Doctor’s tip: How your food choices affect the planet
With an increasingly crowded and overheated planet, it’s important that all its citizens know how their food choices affect it. Public health experts feel that many of the most challenging medical issues of the 21st century will be related to climate change with resultant displacement of people throughout the world, and migration of diseases to new places (malaria in Glenwood in 2050?). So it is appropriate to discuss the relationship of eating choices to the health of the planet in a health tips column like this.
Many people who convert to a plant-based diet do so for health reasons, some for animal rights reasons (see the documentary “Food Inc.,” available on Netflix) and some for environmental reasons.
Here are the facts regarding the environmental problems associated with an animal-based diet, and these can easily be verified on the Internet:
1. Raising animals for food produces 130 times more excrement than all the humans in the world. It is obvious when you drive by a feedlot that there is a tremendous pollution issue. Not only is the smell bad, but the animal excrement leaches into ground and other nearby water. And the manure and urine break down into nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
2. Methane is produced from belching cows and other ruminants as part of the digestive process, and is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
3. Water is another issue. To produce a pound of beef, it takes 1,847 gallons of water, 518 gallons for a pound of chicken, 34 gallons for a pound of potatoes or broccoli, and 26 for tomatoes.
4. The carbon footprint to produce a pound of beef is many times greater than producing a pound of any kind of vegetable. It is said that if everyone in America went vegan, the reduction of CO2 would be equal to removing 46 million cars from our highways.
5. Rainforests and other forests are lost every day in the world to produce beef and the grains to feed them.
6. It takes a huge amount of land to produce a pound of beef versus a pound of any vegetable.
It is said that the most powerful action an individual can take to stop climate change, and leave a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren, is to stop eating animal products. And whatever you eat, try to buy local as much as possible, to cut down on the carbon footprint associated with food delivery.
Dr. Feinsinger of Carbondale, who retired in February from Glenwood Medical Associates after 41 years as a family physician, will provide a health tip each Tuesday in the Post Independent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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