The Vegan Campus
By Laura Perry, Photos by Dwight Eschliman
Published Jul 1, 2012 8:00 AM
Eating Your Spinach Can Help Save the Planet
Daniel Blumstein, professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a professor in the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability writes a well-read blog called Eating Our Way to Civility that is focused on the environment and sustainability. "Livestock production produces a healthy percentage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas," he says. "If you are concerned about climate change—you should eat less meat." According to sources such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the websites greenlivingideas.com and switch2veggies.com, the cattle industry produces methane that contributes to the global warming effect about 23 times faster than CO2 from cars. Although trading in your gas guzzler for a Toyota Prius is great for reducing our carbon footprint, switching to a vegetarian diet actually has an even greater impact. It takes 11 times more fuel to produce a calorie of food from cattle for a meat-based diet than it does to produce a calorie of food for a vegetarian diet.
Victoria McBride's Warm Lentil and Kale Salad
- 1 cup of Lentils, dried
- 1 bunch of Organic Kale
- 1 Cucumber, chopped
- 1 Avocado, cut into chunks
- 1 Orange, cut into chunks
- 3-4 sprigs of Parsley, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- Handful of Almonds
- 1 Shallot, chopped
- Olive Oil
- 1-2 Tbsp. Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
- 1.5 tsp Dijon Mustard
- Salt and Pepper
Mix shallot and mustard in a small mixing bowl. Add vinegar and dash of salt and pepper. Add 3-4 tbsp of olive oil. Adjust to taste.
Rinse lentils, put in sauce pan, and cover liberally with water. Bring water to boil and simmer over medium heat until cooked (about 20 min). Wash kale, remove stalks and chop, combine with cucumber, avocado, and orange in a big salad bowl. Toss lentils with parsley and salt, add to the salad. Add dressing and toss. Toast almonds and sprinkle on top.
The livestock industry takes up 26 percent of the real estate on this planet, and that includes the removal of entire forests for cattle space expansion and farmland for crops to feed the livestock. Furthermore, the pesticides used to raise crops at an accelerated rate for cattle feed leads to more chemicals in our soil. In turn, since there is no grass in this topsoil to hold it down, more of the pesticides and wastes run into our water. Since vegetarians don't eat the animals that graze on the land, vegetarians don't contribute to deforestation of new areas that will be used for grazing.
And then there's the malign consequence of catching all those fish that going vegan could ameliorate. Overfishing is a global problem—National Geographic reports that "a study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue apace, all the world's fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048."
On his blog, Blumstein writes that "by eating fish, you're also creating a huge ecological crisis—we're eating our way down the food chains in the ocean. Think you can solve the wild-caught fish problem by growing them? Aquaculture creates large-scale marine and estuarine pollution. And, when you're growing carnivorous fish, you're catching wild fish to feed your captive fish. Now, that doesn't make much sense. However, fish eating will be self-limiting as we fish down the seas (got any good jellyfish recipes to share?) and as fish-eaters poison themselves with mercury and other toxins. As long as it remains ethical to poison yourself, it's ethical to eat fish." Another way that vegetarians help the earth is by conserving the water supply. Forty percent of the water used in the U.S. is for agriculture, and again, since vegetarians don't eat meat, they are conserving water that would have been used to produce more water-intensive meat products.
"There is a whole other issue that usually isn't even discussed, and that is the true cost of meat," offers Blumstein. "Because of subsidies provided by the government, consumers don't actually see the true cost of the meat they are eating. Until that happens, there isn't a real economic incentive to change eating habits. At my dinner parties and in conversation with colleagues and students, I always caution, 'Be aware of your food decisions, because they do make a difference.'"
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