Friday, 19 October 2007

Eco-friendly living tip: cease the beef

Eight years ago, general science magazine New Scientist said this:

IT IS hard to measure the methane in a cow's farts. But Dieter Ehhalt has made an estimate. It is hardly an easy task to count how many cattle there are in the world. But the West German chemist has tried to do that too. Ehhalt's answers are, respectively, 200 grams per day and 1300 million. Together, they suggest that the world's cattle emit into the atmosphere approaching 100 million tonnes of methane each year, enough to warm up the planet.

Today global warming is all-the-more pressing. CO2 may be the prime culprit in the eyes of environmental do-gooders, but methane is also a factor in the human-encouraged changing in our planet's climate. It is amazing to look back nearly a decade ago and see that nobody but 'environmentalist nuts' — as they are so often stereotyped in mainstream culture — heeded the warnings of scientists; now the general public is becoming more aware. Still, we see some hardly scientific denials every now and then, and many are still not even pretending to take action, but the thought of the precious polar bear dying out and the Manhattan of 2020 being a tourist spot for scuba divers has changed some minds. Where am I going with this? Well the topic of that old news article is the "Earth-friendly living tip of the week", albeit a few days late — methane, in specific the methane emitted from cows.

Why red meat isn't bad just for your heart...
Cows not only require a huge amount of food and water, considering especially how much food they provide, but also produce large amounts of methane, a key and harmful greenhouse gas that plays a role in global warming. Thus beef consumption is far from a good thing for the Earth.

As was written in the Christian Science Monitor,
American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person than vegetarians every year. ... Livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent, reports the FAO. This includes 9 percent of all CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. Altogether, that's more than the emissions caused by transportation.

Beef is a big part of the livestock problem; a study earlier this year reported that
A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

It can seem daunting that the steak you so enjoy is just as bad for the planet as a long drive in a SUV or 4X4, but it's about true. I'm one of those people who would love to be a vegetarian but just loves meat too much to kick the habit. However, I have lowered my beef intake, especially recently. This is more of a sacrifice than shutting off your computer or television, or changing a few light-bulbs; nonetheless it's something to consider. Lowering beef consumption is better for both health and environment, it seems.

Note: Usually I do the Earth-friendly living tip of the week on Mondays. Since this week has been a bit hectic, it's being done today instead.

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