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Want to help the Earth? Start with your dinner table

Posted August 21, 2019

Everyone is concerned about the future of our planet. Climate is changing rapidly, there are more and more extreme weather events and we are destroying big parts of tropical regions. We need to change something to improve our outlook of the future. But how? Scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology say that we should start from our diet.

Vast areas of tropical biodiversity are lost to farming – we need to reduce our demand for farming land. Image credit: Charles Lam via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Researchers studied the impact of consumption trends on biodiverse regions. Those tropical areas have a vast number of different species living in them due to fertile ground and abundance of food. However, human activity is reducing them substantially through the climate change, industrialization, poor resource management and other problematic activities. But what can we do? Well, for starters, we should eat less animal products.

Scientists found that rapid increases in meat and milk production result in sharp rises in land clearing in tropical regions. Because these areas are typically underdeveloped financially, population there is growing very quickly. This means that more food needs to be produced to maintain the growing population and, therefore, more land is needed. 9 % of natural land or one quarter of the world’s tropical land could disappear by the end of the century unless global dietary habits change. And that change should be a switch towards reduced meat and dairy consumption, because meat and dairy production is associated with higher land and water use.

As economy grows, more people can afford meat and, of course, they jump right on that opportunity. Meat is a great source of nutrition, but it is highly damaging for the environment. If we managed to replace a significant amount of our animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives, we could reduce the global demand for agricultural land by 11 %. Dr Roslyn Henry, one of the authors of the study, said: “Reducing meat and dairy consumption will have positive effects on greenhouse gas emissions and human health. It will also help biodiversity, which must be conserved to ensure the world’s growing population is fed. Changing our diets will lead to a more sustainable future and complement food security goals while addressing global food inequalities”.

Human population is going to continue growing for foreseeable future. And so our demand for food is going to increase as well, driving more and more topical wild lands into farming. This is a sad reality, but it is a reality and we need to find ways to avoid catastrophes. Starting with your dinner table might be a good plan.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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