Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How Can a Vegan Diet Save the Planet?

My book is known as Vegan in 30 Days but its official title is, Vegan in 30 Days: Get Healthy.  Save the World.  In a recent interview, I was asked, “How can the vegan diet save the world?”  This is my favorite question I’ve ever been asked!  It made me think of a recent conversation that I had with my husband, Mark, and our friend Mike while we were hiking.  The question was posed, “If you were president of the US and could make one unilateral law that the whole country would immediately have to abide by, what would it be?  Here was my answer…

 “I know it sounds like I’m on my vegan bandwagon, but I would make the whole country go vegan, and here’s why:  Our country is facing a major health epidemic, almost all of it due to obesity and bad food choices.  The obvious things like heart disease and diabetes are astronomically expensive because so many people have them, and they can lead to complicated and expensive surgeries, blindness and amputation.  Many cancers are also heavily linked to diet, and although most people don’t realize it, doctors like Joel Fuhrman are finding that a huge number of auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis can be treated extremely effectively with diet.  So, it has been estimated that 80% of our nation’s health problems could be fixed through diet – specifically a healthy plant-based diet.  Therefore a healthy vegan diet would take care of our nation’s health care crisis, and probably eradicate a lot of depression at the same time, as people with serious health problems also get depressed.

Secondly, global warming is a massive problem, and the US is at the heart of it.  Although we only represent 5% of the world’s population, we contribute about 25% of the pollution.  Because factory farming causes more problems to the air quality than automobiles do, switching to a vegan diet will help tremendously with our environmental problems.  According to the 2006 UN report, a person who switches from the standard American diet to a vegan/vegetarian diet will help the planet more than a person who switches from driving a Hummer to driving a Prius.  Also, many places (like Australia) are having a huge water shortage and have to ration it very carefully.  It takes somewhere between 2,500 – 6,500 gallons of water to get a pound of steak to your table, as compared with 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes, or 108 gallons for a pound of wheat.  So, moving to a vegan diet would save a lot of our precious water resources.

And that’s not all!  It’s so much more efficient to produce crops than animals, and many have estimated that if the world went vegan, we could wipe out world hunger with all the extra grains, beans and produce we could produce.

The cruelty that occurs in factory farming operations is horrific. It is terribly, terribly sad to see footage of the animals being dragged, beaten, and stuffed into cages where they spend their entire lives.  Imagine being stuffed into an elevator for your entire life, sitting in your own excrement, not ever seeing sunlight, and crying out in pain from standing all day, or sitting on a wire floor.  But even if you don’t care about the animals, these practices affect our nation – studies have shown that when boys in a juvenile detention center are unknowingly switched to a vegetarian diet, fighting within the center decreases by almost 40%.  It is hypothesized that the adrenaline and other chemicals that course through the body when it is in “fight or flight” mode (as happens to animals when they are about to be slaughtered) ends up in high levels in the flesh of the animals when they are killed.  When we subsequently eat that flesh, it makes us more aggressive.  In fact, many, many vegans report feeling surprisingly more peaceful after adopting a vegan diet.”

So, I truly do believe the vegan diet could save the world.  Imagine if everyone went vegan!  We could conceivably come very close to eradicating most health problems, our nation’s health care crisis would go away, the environment would have a chance to restore itself, we would have fewer issues with water shortage, there would likely be less crime, and no animals or fish would be harmed along the way.  Switching to a vegan diet seems so obvious that I stand in awe that the whole world doesn’t know about this information, or think it’s crazy.   But I suppose that at one time, people thought Galileo was crazy for announcing that the world is round.  I like to hope it’s just a matter of time until eating meat seems just as ridiculous as a flat earth.

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