Earth Day not only commemorates the enormous wins for the environment outlined in the first post, but continues the international fight for a healthy and sustainable home.
Read on for more of some of the essential facts to know when considering how you can make change with your diet after Earth Day.
Exploitation of land
Much of the world’s available ice-free land is occupied by commercial agriculture, especially that which raises animals for food. Many previously healthy climates have been and are being ruined in favor of an economic system that shows little regard for the planet we inhabit.
- 80% of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used for raising animals for food and the crops required to feed them, totaling nearly half of the contiguous United States’ land. Worldwide, 80% of agricultural land is also occupied by animal agriculture initiatives. (6, 11, 12)
- 70 to 80% of all crops in the U.S. are produced to feed animals raised for food. (13)
- Desertification occurs when land previously used for agriculture can no longer sustain food production. Annually, around 50 million acres of available agricultural land become deserted, primarily caused by overgrazing. (14)
- Currently, the world’s cattle are consuming enough food to meet the caloric needs of over 8.5 billion people. (14)
- Both industrial farming and “free range” farming are detrimental to the environment. Industrial farming uses chemically intensive processes and produces highly concentrated pollution from excretants while the latter damages an otherwise healthy landscape’s soil and plant and animal life. (14)
Ocean ecosystems in collapse
Overfishing is a major issue in today’s food systems. Not only are nearly half of all animals caught discarded, commercial fishing practices largely do not make efforts to separate their intended catches from other marine life. Toxins from industrial agricultural practices also are damaging ocean ecosystems by killing off once-thriving habitats.
- It’s estimated that between 1 and 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from our oceans annually. (15)
- A team of ecologists and economists have predicted that, based on our current commercial fishing habits, the world could see fishless oceans by 2048. This is a result of overfishing and by-kill, habitat destruction, algae blooms (hypoxia), pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. (16)
- For every one pound of fish that are caught, up to five pounds of unintended species are also caught and discarded as by-kill. (17)
Exploitation of species
Apart from the terrible environments farm animals are exposed to, governments around the world continue to fund the exploitation of wildlife in protection of commercial agriculture. Predators and native species are often forcibly relocated or slaughtered for inhabiting areas where animals are grazed for food.
- Researchers tend to agree that the primary cause of modern species loss is animal agriculture’s overgrazing and habitat destruction (both on land and sea). (6)
- The USDA’s Wildlife Services program is funded to kill wild animals per the request of the commercial agriculture industry. In the last decade, it has self-reported the slaughtering of over 34 million animals, many of which have been native wildlife. (18)
- It’s estimated that we are losing over a hundred plant, animal, and insect species each day due to rainforest destruction. (6, 19)
- The rate at which we’re losing species is unprecedented; current estimations say we’re forcing anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate of extinction. (20)
Worsening air quality
The harmful toxins and gasses emitted by industrial agriculture directly fill our air with pollutants that cause significant health damage. In particular, humans’ respiratory and neurological systems are failing because of proximity to commercial animal agriculture settlements.
- Animal excrements significantly impact air quality by emitting harmful gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. These toxins have been known to cause respiratory illnesses and neurological damage. (2, 4)
- Pig farms have been known to collect such high levels of waste that they’ve started spraying the toxins into open air to rid the farms of it. Especially common in North Carolina and Iowa, many neighbors of farms are increasingly reporting respiratory and neurological difficulties. (21)
- The ammonia being released into the air is also known to cause acid rain and habitat destruction. (14)
Next week we’ll cover why a healthy climate is important for the good of our friends, family, and all of life on Earth!
For more information on Earth Day and connections between diet and Earthcare, see the previous post in this series.