Vegetarianism and Water

I am not a vegetarian…but eat almost no meat and, perhaps stupidly, have not thought much about the environmental impacts of meat production. I just received an email pointing out the following post:

I’ve been vegetarian since 1982. I attended my first anti-vivisection protest in the spring of 1985 at UC San Diego, when anti-apartheid demonstrations were taking place. I first got interested in promoting vegetarianism in mainstream society after reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America (1987). Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it makes veganism seem as reasonable and mainstream as recycling.

Half the water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. Huge amounts of water wash away their excrement. U.S. livestock produce 20 times as much excrement as does the entire human population; creating sewage which is 10 to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. Animal wastes cause 10 times more water pollution than does the U.S. human population; the meat industry causes 3 times as much harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation’s industries combined. Meat producers are the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contributing to half the water pollution in the United States.

Joanna Macy, author of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, depicts the advantages of America moving towards a vegan diet in her foreword to Diet for a New America:

“The effects on our physical health are immediate. The incidence of cancer and heart attack, the nation’s biggest killers, drops precipitously. So do many other diseases now demonstrably and causally linked to consumption of animal proteins and fats, such as osteoporosis…

“The social, ecological, and economic consequences, as we Americans turn away from animal food products, are equally remarkable. We find that the grain we previously fed to fatten livestock can now feed five times the U.S. population; so we have become able to alleviate malnutrition and hunger on a worldwide scale…

“The great forests of the world, that we had been decimating for grazing purposes, begin to grow again. Oxygen-producing trees are no longer sacrificed for cholesterol-producing steaks.

“The water crisis eases. As we stop raising and grinding up cattle for hamburgers, we discover that ranching and farm factories had been the major drain on our water resources. The amount now available for irrigation and hydroelectric power doubles. Meanwhile, the change in diet frees over 90% of the fossil fuel previously used to produce food. With this liberation of water energy and fossil fuel energy, our reliance on oil imports declines, as does the rationale for building nuclear power plants…”

Joanna Macy admits, “This scenario is wildly, absurdly utopian. It is also clearly the way we are meant to live, built to live.” What could possibly make it a reality? “It is this very book!”

Paul McCartney also says, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let’s do it! Going veggie is the single best idea for the new century.”

Update from John Phipps on corn and beans

Notes from John Phipps’ Blog on his observations on corn and bean crops:

  • We finished (or at least stopped) Friday night. I decided against spotting in corn wetholes – too much damage, too little gain.
  • We replanted about 130 acres of 800 of soybeans. Around here, no-till for beans was a difficult mission this year. The replanting was even more nerve-wracking: “Is this part thick enough? What about this part?”
  • When I was traveled to Ames last Thursday, the view from I-80 was deceptive. Things didn’t look all that bad until you noticed:
    • It’s June 19 – not May 19.
    • At first glance you might form the impression IA farmers only plant the tops of the hills. The sides and bottoms were bare.
  • When I flew into Des Moines this morning, I had a clear view. Immediately you are struck by the absence of green and the dominance of brown. Too much brown. The entire state appears late – very late.
  • Surprisingly, the attitude of farmers I spoke to Thursday evening was relatively calm. Some will continue corn planting today, they hope. I guess some were pretty late last year and got decent yields anyway. Still, this far north I was surprised they were still going with corn, although many already had atrazine down.
  • I’m currently going through the second adjustment stage emotionally. I recognize these now. Up until Friday, all I could focus on was “GET DONE”. Now I’ve been out on the cultivator trying to open up the ground and seeing the corn crop up close and personal. The scope of the loss is now slightly clearer.
  • The corn stand is better than I thought. The condition is worse. Much will come out of it, I think, but my current figure for overall yield is 80% trendline corn; 75% beans.
  • I think the hay market will be chaotic. What little got baled around here is umm, crap. Rank, overgrown, nasty stuff. Livestock, and especially horse owners just added another challenge.

Heard on the ecostreet…and we aren’t in Kansas anymore

I just heard a brief NPR report concerning Barack Obama’s new media campaign to reintroduce himself to the American public. They played an excerpt commenting on his upbringing in Kansas. I found myself reflecting on my childhood in Kentucky…playing by woods and fields, splashing in creeks and streams (while avoiding the feared copperheads), and running through the most amazing and vast farmlands. I built forts in hayfields, chased down horses (the slow ones), and basically loved the outdoors.

My home was often uncomfortable (no need for the details), so I made ‘spaces’ for my life in nature.

I’m sitting here many years later…. on a week where I’ve hardly seen any nature. Meetings and writing with the computer have consumed my week. My wife just picked up a package of seeds…and it relaxed my mind.

I’m certain it’s hard for Mr. Obama (and Mr. McCain)…we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Some notes from the week.

Heard from USDA that they will soon be moving forward with the 2008 Farm Bill ecosystem services initiatives…assessment protocols, etc. I initially thought there would be other priorities…but this is going to get immediate attention.

There will be some interesting changes in NRCS programs in the new rulemaking…and some improvements in how they handle operating (and other) funds. This should be helpful to our local NRCS folks…who work hard at sometime confusing tasks. I’m glad for them.

John Phipps got his last 300 acres of beans planted. He’s very lucky…I listened to the crop analyst today at lunch and we’re in for some serious trouble.

Dinner is ready…more next week.