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Eating Healthy to Curb Global Warming

Essay by   •  January 12, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  1,995 Words (8 Pages)  •  845 Views

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Eating healthy to curb Global warming

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DeVry University

Eating healthy to curb Global warming

Global warming is a phenomenon which is affecting our lives in more ways than one. Over the past few years, its effects have become more noticeable. Climatic changes have caused some major natural disasters in the past few years and humans have played a pivotal role in the accelerating the warming of the planet. Many animal species have become extinct in the past century due to climate change. Some of the major reasons are rapid industrialization throughout the world in the past century, rapid depletion of forests and the extensive use of fossil fuels which have increased the carbon content in the air. Healthy eating practices can curb global warming and reverse some of these changes. Proper farming, local distribution of food products and cutting down on meat and fish consumption can drastically reduce the carbon footprint of a community.

Problems

Today, farming has taken on a global scale. Food items produced in one corner of the world is sent for consumption to the other end in a matter of days using various forms of transportation. The demand for global cuisines and products which are not grown locally has increased considerably due to globalization and change in lifestyle and eating habits throughout the world. Food processing involves a massive amount of fuel usage, first for manufacture of fertilizers for cultivation and then for food processing. Added to that, long distance movement of food products means massive usage of fuel for transportation as well. This clearly is not a sustainable model. Petroleum is a finite resource and its usage adds to the already existing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to a report by Food Share in 2003 from Canada, it was found that the average distance travelled by locally produced food products was 62.7 miles and on the other hand, imported food items travelled 3333 miles on an average. (Bentley & Barker, 2005) The report states that the total carbon dioxide emission from transportation of items doesn't just depend on the distance travelled. It also depends on the mode of transportation. Lamb chops from New Zealand travel by air and are thereby the most polluting.

Organic farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers would also help curb greenhouse gas production. Not only are synthetic fertilizers harmful if they enter into the food chain, but also their production and usage also causes a lot of pollution as seen different studies. (Wood & Cowie, 2004) Organic farming on the other hand helps in soil conservation and management and uses greener techniques like crop rotation or natural manure which can be very helpful. According to a report from The Rodale Institute, organic farming greatly reduces fuel consumption and can even reverse some of the effects of pollution and sequester carbon into the soil which removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Fuel consumption is said to be reduced by 33% by the removal of artificial nitrogen from organic systems. (LaSalle & Hepperly, 2008) The governments can introduce "Eco labels" for food products which will give out details about the total carbon footprint of any food product and can be very helpful in increasing awareness of consumers and changing habits.

Meat consumption and cattle rearing has been found to be one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases across the world. In a 2006 report by the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization, it was noted that livestock farming alone makes up about 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emission. In comparison, public transportation systems like cars, trains, planes and boats contribute 13%, which is a lot lower. Most of this emission is due to deforestation for creating new farmland. The second reason is the processing, storage and transportation of the meat. Meat is extremely perishable and needs to be consumed quickly, which means that quicker and more fuel consuming modes are generally used. The second problem is of manure. Livestock manure nitrous oxide, which has 296 times more warming effect that carbon dioxide. (Walsh, 2008) Flatulence in cattle produces methane as well, which also is major greenhouse gas. It has 23 times more warming effect and considering there are 100 million cattle in the US alone, this is a big problem. Geophysicists Gidon Eschel and Pamela Martin have suggested that cutting down even 20% of the average yearly meat consumption 176lb would reduce the greenhouse gas emission significantly. (Walsh, 2008) According to the FAO, to produce half pound of beef, approximately 7.4 pounds of CO2 is emitted. That's nearly gasoline for driving a car for about 10 miles. In comparison production of vegetables only produce about 0.1 to 0.2 pound of CO2 for the same amount. These facts show that even a slight decrease in consumption and production of meat would translate into a lot less greenhouse gas emission. It also shows that meat alone contributes most of the greenhouse gases considering the whole food production industry as a whole making this the first priority.

If not checked, these greenhouse gases can have far more catastrophic effect on the planets climate. While the earth does go through heating up and cooling down phases, it has got accelerated by excessive greenhouse gas emission. Eating more local grown and vegetable based food will not only is healthy for our body, it will also cut down on greenhouse gas emission. Meat consumption is the most important and tricky problem to be tackled. Changing food habits of a community is not possible by force and can be only done through awareness but it can be very rewarding in the long run.

Human population on earth has exceeded 7 billion in 2011. This high population makes it important for our generation to invest and optimize the food production and distribution channels. In the past few paragraphs, we discussed the problems faced due to our current food habits and in next few paragraphs we shall discuss about the solutions to the problems in some more details. Today, farming is mostly done by the use of artificial fertilizers. This allows short term gain by increasing soil productivity but in the long run, it damages soil fertility. Contrary to popular belief, it was found during research by scientists from University of Illinois that farms using high amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers were having up to 20% lower yield

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