Think Meat, Water and Soil for Earth Day

By Abel Tomlinson

On Earth Day, observe our beautiful planet. It is difficult to fathom how anyone could have anything but gratitude, awe and admiration for all it gives. Earth provides us incredible natural beauty of mountains, oceans, forests, rivers, lakes and a dazzling array of life forms. Most importantly, Earth provides what we need to live, food and water.

Americans say they love their children and wish them to inherit a livable world. Yet, our collective actions indicate like Abraham, America will gladly sacrifice his child on the altar of fake wealth. Instead of Wall Street stocks, GDP and growth, true wealth is sustainable food systems, health, education and happiness. Please search Robert Kennedy’s 1968 speech on Gross National Product.

An indigenous American once said, countries like ours “(operate) on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake…When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

We are destroying our food and water systems for profit, unsustainable development and increasingly extreme fossil fuel extraction. This includes fracking, mountain top removal, offshore Arctic drilling and tar sands. However, due to corruption, obstacles seem immense for restructuring that dependency. The good news is another assault can be immediately confronted by everyone today!

A most comprehensively destructive activity we engage in is factory farmed meat, and beef is worst. The soils and waters of Earth have a carrying capacity or limit on a given population’s ability to survive, and we are incessantly disarticulating any semblance of sustainable existence. If we continue this along with exponential population growth, we are headed for mass famine. Perhaps we can survive on a depleted Earth, but our main protein source may be insects. It is mathematically impossible to continue our factory meat gorge-fest and rabbit-like breeding.

Before industrial agriculture, Lewis and Clark wrote about rivers teeming with fish, which was staple food for many natives. Now rivers are heavily polluted with eroded soil, chemical pesticides and excess fertilizer. Unmitigated fertilizer loads are causing massive algal blooms, depleting the water of oxygen, making it hypoxic.

Hypoxia is so extreme now that Scientific American reports an 8,500-square-mile lifeless dead zone at the Gulf of the Mississippi. This tragedy is replicated in major rivers worldwide, not to mention ocean trawler overfishing, fish stock decline, and plastic islands.

Do you have concerns about GMOs? The largest crops in the U.S. are corn and soybeans, according to the USDA, and 88 and 94 percent are genetically modified, respectively, primarily for Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide. Over half of those crops feed cows, pigs and chickens in factory farms.

Millions of gallons of water and fuel are used to plow the fields, plant seeds, irrigate, apply chemical pesticides and fertilizers, harvest and process the crops. Then, we feed it to animals pumped full of antibiotics in extremely inhumane and unhealthy conditions. This is incredibly wasteful of energy and water, especially considering a NASA water scientist recently reported California, a leading agricultural state, has only one year of water supply.

Are you concerned with climate change? United Nations and the Worldwatch Institute estimates indicate that 18 or 51 percent of all climate change emissions come from meat production, respectively. Both estimates are higher than the entire transportation sector. Most of these emissions are due to factory farming and razing rainforest to graze cattle or grow feed grain.

The amount of soil, water and forests being ravaged are not in question. Many of the biggest underground aquifers, including the Ogallala aquifer, are being unsustainably drained and 30 percent of arable land has become unproductive in the last 40 years due to soil erosion, according to a Cornell study by David Pimental.

Strong arguments suggest vegetarian diet is the answer, but Earth is a diverse place. Many soils are unsuitable for growing plant crops, and feeding the world by mass international transport of industrial, chemically manufactured grain crops makes no sustainable sense. Many places can survive only by locally using fish and other animals in a sustainable manner.

Also, it takes zero irrigation, chemicals, fossil fuel or carbon releasing tillage to grow vast fields of wild grasses, and cows evolved with digestive bacteria that enables them to convert otherwise inaccessible solar energy into food, leather and milk. Obviously, ranching in dry regions where overgrazing destroys soil must be abandoned.

To suggest universal vegetarianism also means no pet cats or dogs, perhaps correctly. Yet, it is laughable to suggest Eskimos, Saharan nomads and other remote tribes become vegetarian. It is very beautiful to have empathy and compassion for animals, but the cold reality is that life feeds on life. Even if you are vegan, countless insects are killed to grow vegetables, and plants have molecular intelligence no less rudimentary than jellyfish, shellfish or anemones. All life deserves respect and minimized suffering.

In places where plant crops grow abundantly, it may be best for all or most to become vegetarian. However, practically speaking, boycotting factory farmed meat must become the common unifying ground. The ultimate ethical answer may be to treat all life, soil and water with respect. This is what America misses most, and may lose its life over.

Applicable to all relationships, the message from beyond is “Disrespect Me at Your Peril.”

Categories: Commentary