How what's on your plate affects the earth
IN THE wake of the recent War on Waste series on ABC, animal rights organisation PETA have released an inforgraphic about how your diet impacts the earth.
The infographic points out the greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and the impact on the land, ocean and reefs related to the animal agriculture industry.
In an article published by the International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Australian researchers found that livestock emissions make up half of Australia's global-warming impact over 20 years.
A spokesperson from PETA said these findings were not unique, with the United Nations cautioning that the meat industry was "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global".
Not only was the livestock sector one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide, it's also the single-largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide, which are, respectively, 25 and 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the spokesperson continued.
When you consider that Australia is the meat-eating capital of the world, that's a whole lot of gas for a bit of steak.
Meanwhile, researchers at RMIT University have put together a dataset to calculate the environmental impact of their diets.
They found that, whereas 1 kilogram of greenhouse-gas emissions could produce just 44 grams of beef, it could also produce a whole kilogram of lentils - with 20 times the amount of protein.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, livestock agriculture sucks up 32% of Australia's fresh water.
In 2007, Charles Sturt University looked into water consumption in Melbourne suburbia and found that a vegetarian diet can save households up to 35% of their total water usage simply because plants take less water to produce than meat.
The folks at lessmeatlessheat.org calculated that eating one hamburger has the same water footprint as a month of daily showers.
Not only does land clearing kill many native Australian animals, it also takes away the "lungs" of the Earth, said the PETA spokesperson, so it's an important contributor to our net greenhouse-gas emissions.
Expanding urbanisation usually cops the blame, but research points the finger at graziers.
A report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that "[l]and clearing, primarily for agriculture, is perhaps the single most important cause of environmental degradation, loss of species and depletion of ecological communities, both in Australia and worldwide".
It noted that only a "reduction in grazing pressure" would stop the desertification of some areas.
In Queensland, last year's Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study revealed that 296,000 hectares of woody vegetation were cleared in 2014 and 2015.
That's 810 hectares per day.
Oceans and Reefs
Last year, the Queensland government bought a cattle station in the northern part of the state in the hope of stemming the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of pollution that flow from the property into the Great Barrier Reef.
And it's more than coral that's dying, the PETA spokesperson said.
According to Commonwealth Fishery records, more than 3,300 protected dolphins, seals, sharks, birds, and turtles were accidentally killed by the fishing industry in 2016.
Countless other animals were also killed unnecessarily as "by-catch".
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Give Meatless Monday a try: Going meatless once a week can help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources. And you can still enjoy your favourite meaty meals on the other days of the week.
- If you want to cut back even more, you could try a Meatless Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three times as much impact.
- Cutting out meat altogether will make a huge impact. Recent studies show that vegetarians have a dietary carbon footprint of approximately 1.7 tonnes of CO2 per person, per year, compared to 2.5/3.3 tonnes of CO2 per average meat eater/meat lover.
- If you're really feeling inspired to help the environment and curb your carbon footprint, go vegan. Your carbon footprint would lower to approximately 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per year.