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Monday, January 5, 2015

Reverse climate change and solve global poverty

Dr. Arvind Panagariya is a professor of economics at Columbia and an alumnus from Princeton. He is also an editor for India Policy Forum and Brookings Institution. He is currently the Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog of India. Talking about climate change in developing countries like India and China, his solution is that developed countries such as the US should invest heavily in research in developing countries so there is enough technology using non-fossil fuels to alleviate climatic change. This may sound like a solution but so far, we have not found any convincing alternate fuel source that can be implemented at a global level. Besides, climate change, poverty and world economy are interlinked to the point that one can adversely impact the other. New technology still requires exploitation of natural resources which again may put us back to square one.

There is another solution – shutting down or at the least reduce half of the global slaughter houses that promote factory farming. This can have a significant impact on climate change and global poverty. Slaughtering animals on a mass scale (factory farming), repeated research has shown, creates massive amounts of greenhouse gases that it is the leading cause of climate change. Al Gore is on record saying "the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is bad for the planet…and the factory farming way so much of our livestock is raised now is very bad for the planet, no question about it". While Al Gore won Nobel peace prize for elevating the climate issue, he admits he likes his meat and has no plans of giving it up. Obviously, there is an inherent hypocrisy involved in his book and movie.

Raising animals for slaughter is a highly inefficient way to use our land and its resources. The prestigious Worldwatch Institute states, "Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain—the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.” According to the United Nations, raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) uses a staggering 30 percent of the earth’s land mass. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals, and according to scientists’ at the Smithsonian Institution, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals. It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.

Raising animals for food gobbles up precious energy. Nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food. In 2008, John Anthony Allan, a professor at King’s College London and the winner of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, urged people worldwide to go vegetarian because of the tremendous waste of water involved with eating animals. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons. You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months! According to Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms. Finally, According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, “factory farming constitutes a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems”

The evidence is overwhelming - animal slaughter is not only causing global climate issues, it also is promoting and sustaining food poverty. By living a vegetarian lifestyle, one can save large amounts of land and water resources. Using the saved land and water, more people across the world can be fed thus fully eliminating food poverty. When people do not experience food shortage (or food insecurity) there will not be a need to work in substandard working conditions at low-wages. This will also bridge the gap between the rich and poor thus creating a more equitable social, economic and political society.

If the leaders of society can simply take one strategy of stopping or reducing factory farming of animals, one can solve global poverty and reverse climate change. Since the desire to eat meat will always remain, a policy should be mandated to cull animals’ in small scale in local farms. As such a practice will be expensive; the frequency of meat consumption will reduce.

Hare Krishna

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