Humans do not treat the Earth kindly, and now we have even more evidence. Google just updated the Google Earth Engine to include four years of additional imagery, petabytes of new data, and generally a much clearer view of any location on Earth from 1984 to 2016. The best part: You can watch any area on Earth in a time lapse video.
There’s no point trying to fight climate change – we’ll all be dead in the next decade and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, a visiting scientist claims. Guy McPherson, a biology professor at the University of Arizona, says the human destruction of our own habitat is leading towards the world’s sixth mass extinction. Instead of fighting, he says we should just embrace it and live life while we can. “It’s locked down, it’s been locked in for a long time – we’re in the midst of our sixth mass extinction,” he told Paul Henry on Thursday. But Professor James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University, says people should not use his words more as an excuse to give up. Govt appoints experts to tackle NZ’s climate change problems While he agrees that climate change is possibly the “biggest issue humanity has ever faced”, he says “giving up is not really helpful”. Instead, Prof Renwick says he hopes Prof McPherson’s 10-year claim will encourage people to take action. “This is a really big issue and the consequences could be catastrophic,” Prof Renwick says. “Though certainly [humans won’t all die off] in 10 years or even 1000 years.” The effects of climate change were first noticed 30 years ago and Prof Renwick says the sooner we get onto working against it, the less there will be to do. “I’d love to see [people] take it on board as it is a very serious issue.” Prof McPherson’s comments come just days after Climate Change Issues Minister Paula Bennett appointed a 10-strong team to advise the Government on how New Zealand can adapt to climate change. National Geographic exhibition displays global climate change But if the visiting professor is right, it could all be a waste of time. “I can’t imagine there will be a human on the planet in 10 years,” he says. “We don’t have 10 years. The problem is when I give a number like that, people think it’s going to be business as usual until nine years [and] 364 days.” He says part of the reason he’s given up while other scientists fight on is because they’re looking at individual parts, such as methane emissions and the melting ice in the Arctic, instead of the entire picture. “We’re heading for a temperature within that span that is at or near the highest temperature experienced on Earth in the last 2 billion years.” Instead of trying to fix the climate, Prof McPherson says we should focus on living while we can. “I think hope is a horrible idea. Hope is wishful thinking. Hope is a bad idea – let’s abandon that and get on with reality instead. Let’s get on with living instead of wishing for the future that never comes. NZ takes home ‘Fossil of the Day’ awards at Marrakech climate conference “I encourage people to pursue excellence, to pursue love, to pursue what they love to do. I don’t think these are crazy ideas, actually – and I also encourage people to remain calm because nothing is under control, certainly not under our control anyway.” New Zealand has been criticised by the international community for not doing enough to fight climate change – this month being awarded two Fossil of the Day awards at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech. The awards are for the country’s failure to live up to climate promises and the continued use of “dodgy” carbon credits. Newshub.
Male dairy calves killed for veal are confined to lonely stalls and slaughtered at just a few months of age.
Consider the following 10 dairy facts, most of which are common to all forms of dairy farming:
1. 21,000,000 dairy calves are slaughtered for veal or cheap beef every year globally. (1)
2. Like all mammals, cows must give birth in order to make milk. Like human mothers, they carry their babies for nine months, then begin to lactate for the sole purpose of nourishing their young.
3. Due to extensive genetic manipulation, today’s dairy cows produce up to 12 times more milk than they would naturally produce to feed a calf. (2)
4. Even so, virtually all dairy calves are stolen from their mothers within hours of birth in order to maximize profit. 97% of newborn dairy calves are forcibly removed from their mothers within the first 12 hours. (3) The rest are removed in a matter of days. On so-called humane dairy farms, cows are often taken within the first hour of birth as separation of mother and calf is considered less stressful when they have not been allowed to bond (see video clip below).
6. Some female calves will join the milking herd. They typically spend the first 2 to 3 months of life confined in lonely hutches, fed a diet of milk replacer while humans drink the milk intended for them. (4)
7. Whether on factory farms, “family” farms, or small, humane certified farms, male calves and surplus females are sold to beslaughtered for veal or cheap beef. The veal industry would not exist without the dairy industry. The following “high welfare” slaughter of “humanely raised, pastured” dairy calves was openly filmed for public television.
8. Over 90% of U.S. dairy cows are confined in primarily indoor operations, with more than 60% tethered by the neck inside barren stalls, unable to perform the most basic behaviors essential to their wellbeing. (5)
9. Trapped in a cycle of forced impregnation, perpetual lactation and near constant confinement, dairy cows’ overworked bodies begin producing less milk at 4 to 5 years of age, at which point they are slaughtered. (6) In natural conditions, cows can live 20 to 25 years. (7)
10. Of the 9 million dairy cows in the U.S., 3 million are slaughtered each year at only a fraction of their natural lifespan. (8) Their worn out bodies become ground beef and restaurant hamburgers. (9)
What You Can Do
Don’t buy the humane myth. Feel-good dairy labels, like all humane labels, are merely so much window dressing. Eliminating dairy from your diet doesn’t have to be difficult; in fact, it can be downright delicious. Check out our Guide to Going Dairy Free for tips and recommendations on remarkable plant-based milks,cheeses, creams, yogurts and more. And please remember: all dairy farming depends on the exploitation and destruction of motherhood. To learn more about the injustices perpetrated even on small and so-called humane dairy farms, see our feature: The Spiked Nose Ring: A Symbol for All Dairy Cruelty. Educate others by sharing information about dairy production with them.
(1) “Calf Slaughter by Country in 1,000 Head,” Index Mundi: Animal Numbers. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?commodity=cattle&graph=calf-slaughter
(2) Lyons DT, Freeman AE and Kuck AL. 1991. Genetics of health traits in Holstein cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 74 (3): 1092-100
(3) “Colostrum Feeding and Management on U.S. Dairy Operations, 1991-2007,” USDA, Feb. 2009. Accessed 7/21/2014 from:http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/dairy/downloads/dairy07/Dairy07_is_ReprodPrac.pdf
(4) “Ag 101: Dairy Lifecycle Production Phases,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 7/21/2014 from:http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/dairyphases.html
(5) “The Welfare of Cows in the Dairy Industry,” Humane Society of the United States. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-cows-in-the-dairy-industry.pdf
(6) Albert DeVries, “Cow longevity economics – the cost benefit of keeping the cow in the herd,” delaval.com. Accessed 7/21/2014 from:http://www.delaval.com/en/-/Dairy-knowledge-and-advice/Cow-Longevity/Scientists-view-on-cow-longevity/Cow-longevity-economics—the-cost-benefit-of-keeping-the-cow-in-the-herd/
(7) Nowak RM. 1997. Walker’s Mammals of the World 5.1. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.
(8) “Livestock Slaughter 2013 Summary,” USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2014. Accessed 7/21/2014 from: http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/lsan0414.pdf
(9) “A Value Chain Analysis of the U.S. Beef and Dairy Industries,” Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness, Feb. 2009. Accessed 7/21/2014 from:http://www.cggc.duke.edu/environment/valuechainanalysis/CGGC_BeefDairyReport_2-16-09.pdf
This post is part of the Environmental Law Review Syndicate, a multi-school online forum run by student editors from the nation’s leading environmental law reviews. Click here to see the original post and leave a comment.
Climate change. Ocean dead zones. Fisheries depletion. Species extinction. Deforestation. World hunger. Food safety. Heart disease. Obesity. Diabetes. The list goes on. There is one issue at the heart of all these global problems that is too often overlooked by private individuals and policy makers alike—our demand for and reliance on animal products. We can take a substantial step towards addressing all these problems simultaneously through reducing or eliminating our reliance on meat and dairy products. This begs the question — what are the United States’ major governmental environmental policy enforcers doing to address animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change, if anything? This piece briefly highlights two things: animal agriculture is a leading cause of many major environmental problems we face globally and domestically—most importantly, climate change; and animal agriculture is too often left out of the policy discussion.
First, the interconnectedness of animal agriculture and the environment.
A multitude of environmental problems our planet faces share a common instigator: animal agriculture and our reliance on meat and dairy products. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), global agriculture—dominated by livestock production and the grains grown to support it—accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. A 2006 study by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finds that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions is directly attributable to livestock production, which is more than the emissions attributable to the entire transportation sector. Whichever number is relied upon, agricultural emissions are only going to increase as rising incomes and urbanization drive a global dietary transition towards increased consumption of meat and dairy products. The growing demand for animal agriculture is expected to be a major contributor to a roughly 80% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. This means that animal agriculture must be a central element of our efforts to mitigate climate change.
In addition to being a major contributor to climate change, animal agriculture is also one of the leading causes of many other environmental issues, including overfishing, destruction of wildlife, deforestation, and depletion of freshwater resources to hydrate livestock or irrigate fodder. According the FAO approximately 75% of the world’s fisheries are either exploited or depleted due to fishing, which will likely lead to the complete depletion of currently fished fish stocks by 2048. As to wildlife, in order to protect the interests of primarily the livestock industry, the USDA and Bureau of Land Management sponsor programs to kill or entrap wildlife that threaten the industry’s bottom line.[ This has led to the decimation of wolf populations in the Pacific Northwest and the mass round up of wild horses in the Midwest, which compete with cattle and sheep to graze on public lands. With regard to deforestation, the World Bank has found that animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 90% of the razing of the Brazilian Amazon. Lastly, but likely most critically, animal agriculture is the number one consumer of fresh water by a significant margin. Animal agriculture consumes on average 55 trillion gallons of water annually—more than 520 times the water used in hydraulic fracturing. On a micro level, it takes roughly 5,000 gallons of water to produce 1lb. of beef.
Second, the policies . . . or lack thereof.
Animal agriculture is a significant contributor, arguably the most significant, to a variety of pressing environmental issues. Despite the magnitude of the problem, relatively few global and national policies addressing the environmental effects of animal agriculture exist, and those that do exist are grossly inadequate. Federal agencies, specifically, have neglected their statutory authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture industry.
- The agency primarily responsible for regulating animal agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, fails to adequately address animal agriculture in its climate plan.
On April 23rd, 2015, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unveiled the Agency’s “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry” plan. The plan is primarily designed to “help farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners respond to climate change. The USDA draws its authority to address climate change from the recent enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the “Farm Bill.” Interestingly, the only reference to climate change in any provision of the most recent Farm Bill is in its reauthorization of the Office of International Forestry under Section 2405(d) of the Global Climate Change Prevention Act of 1990.
USDA’s strategic climate plan, which grants that “[t]he dominant drivers of land use emissions of carbon are the conversion of forest and grassland to cropland and pasture” for animal agriculture, fails to establish concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. The climate plan instead relies on voluntary conservation programs that provide technical assistance for resource management to encourage the animal agriculture industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One building block of the plan recommends the deployment of anaerobic digesters, lagoon covers, composting, and solids separators to reduce emissions from livestock—the equivalent of telling the industry to voluntarilychange their light bulbs and to recycle more. Another building block encourages rotational grazing management of livestock even though it has been shown that grazing makes less sense than Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in terms of accounting for emissions and overall sustainability. These voluntary measures inadequately address animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change.
The two primary remedial measures the USDA identifies to curtail greenhouse gas emissions—improved agricultural management practices and nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) sequestration—do not go far enough. Although USDA notes that improved agricultural management practices can have a potentially significant role in addressing the atmospheric build-up of greenhouse gas emissions, it admits that these benefits will be realized over the next century. This is an essential step, but additional measures must be taken that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Of particular concern is animal production’s contribution to N2O (nitrous oxide) and CH4 (methane) emissions. With both eyes on the economic wellbeing of the animal agriculture industry and ensuring that current levels of production are maintained, USDA looks to “technological advancement” as the pathway for reducing NO2 and CH4 emissions. The USDA identifies sequestration capabilities as the key to reducing NO2and CH4 emissions. The Agency, however, alleges that it does not know enough to specify any concrete practices to mitigate climate change, focusing on unknown economic consequences sequestration methods may have on the producer. The USDA emphasizes that GHG mitigation is one of a number of conservation issues facing land management. “Soil and water quality, wildlife resilience and sustainability, air quality,” among others are noted, and tradeoffs must be identified and evaluated in order to design effective programs that address climate change. In other words, USDA evades imposing concrete measures to curtail N2O and CH4 emissions until it has a better understanding of whether such mitigation will have a negative impact on the industry’s economic viability as well as on attempts to address other conservation issues.
- Likewise, the Obama Administration fails to adequately address animal agriculture in the Climate Action Plan.
The Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan narrowly focuses on energy production with no mention of animal agriculture except as it may relate to “agricultural activities” in the release of nitrous oxide. What the Climate Action Plan fails to tell us is that livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of N20, which has 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Moreover, though carbon dioxide comprises a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, the Plan fails to explain that a substantial portion of those emissions are directly tied to the production life cycle of meat and dairy products. These climate plans are simply lacking in generating sound policies that include strategies to reduce animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change.
Efforts to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels are certainly vital to addressing climate change. The administration’s policy picture, however, fails to address one of the leading causes of human-related greenhouse gas emissions by not directly curtailing emissions from animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is hardly mentioned by the agencies charged with developing policies and regulations to mitigate the negative impacts of not only climate change, but also other environmental and public health issues.
Concrete policies addressing animal agriculture’s environmental effects need to be created and implemented. The administration has several tools at its disposal to address this issue. First, the Obama Administration can pressure the USDA to redraft and implement a more sophisticated plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, much in the way the Environmental Protection Agency was charged in generating the Clean Power Plan in targeting fossil fuel emissions from power plants.
Second, eliminate all subsidies to animal agriculture and impose a meat tax. In his book, Meatonomics, David Simon spells out how eliminating subsidies and reforming taxes can force us to pay the true cost of meat and dairy products as well as put more money back into the taxpayers’ pockets. In the United States, taxpayers support upwards of $38.4 billion a year in subsidies to animal food production and assume over $400 billion of externalized costs associated with animal food production including subsidies, healthcare costs, environmental costs, animal cruelty, and fish production. Eliminating subsidies would rid our food system of market distortions and allow the market principles of free trade—the principles that govern our economy—to readjust our consumption patterns towards healthier and environmentally aligned products.
All in all, if we want to make serious gains in minimizing harms to the environment and public health, we need concrete policies that take a serious stance on minimizing animal agriculture.
GLOBAL – TRIBAL – UTOPIA ?
We are not going to make it to that place called Utopia, folks. It’s not going to happen. The reality is that for all of our ego, which seems to me colossally large, our life span and the space we occupy are incredibly small, and the distance between here and Utopia is insurmountable.
Human cultures have an enormous capacity to reframe things. Part of the problem in Western culture has to do with how it has reframed nature. Cultures that are nature based have reframed nature in ways that have given it life and color and energy and excitement. I went to visit a particular group of Natives living on what you might call a gravel pit. No trees, no grass. Why don’t they plant some grass? The place is a desert as far as the eye can see. You’d look at that landscape and think to yourself, Oh my, this is one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been; it never rains, it’s always so dry. Then you talk with the Peoples, and they bring that place to life for you. The place is full of things you can’t see. Live with them for a little while; their world is full of spirits that come in from the sky, from the ground. Almost every few days they would perform a ritual of one kind or another to acknowledge the spirits of their place. And what a wonderful world they have.
I also visited a tribe on the northern Great Plains. I was just sitting there with members of the tribe. I looked around and thought, No trees. But they have something else: a culture, built by the creative internal aspects of human society, that establishes a beneficial relationship between the society and nature. Not between the individual and nature. An individual can’t practice Lakota culture or Hopi culture. You need a whole group of people for that. When that culture exists, it has a sort of magic. You can find people who are part of it and who don’t have very much money, but they are living more happily than the people living in California’s affluent Marin County. Of course, the people in Marin County are trying to find that happiness; they’re trying to find that connectedness, that essence which makes your lived human experience truly lived and human. It exists among Buddhist communities throughout the world, it exists among the Australian aborigines, it exists among Indians in the deep rainforest. These are happy, adjusted people who are not destroying their lands, who are in fact celebrating their environment because they aren’t engaged in utopian thinking. They’re reliving a cycle instead. BUT as we all may know this is not alway the case in contemporary times, with the invasion of corporation that exploit the resources, affect the indigenous peoples on all levels of thier existence – Unfortunately most of these people today have been coerced, through political, economic and institutionalized methods, into consuming meat products that contribute to planetary degradation, and who are also denying there part of the damaged caused, collectively, as we have all been assimilated and are part of this industrial society!
To have a utopian vision you must believe that time is linear, that someday life will be better than it is here and now, and you have to sacrifice others in order to make it happen. I think this has been, if I may say so, the history of the West, a series of competing ideas about how we are going to get there. When we get there, we’ll all be happy. And where is there? It may be heaven or a hell on earth, for example, or it may be a machine paradise.
The actual trend over the centuries has been toward a politics of conquest and plundering. And we have rationalized our behavior in the context of that conquest and plunder. Most of us don’t ask ourselves, when we make choices about what we’re going to buy, How does this purchase implicate me in the plunder? Most of us don’t talk to people who are from Indonesia before we go and buy our Reeboks. Instead, we listen to Michael Jordan saying, I wear these shoes, and he’s a great basketball player, so they must be good. Most of us don’t ask ourselves, What’s behind my purchase? Could there be military dictatorship behind it, exploitation of people,animals, destruction of nature, towns and villages, pollution?
In choice after choice that people make, they tend to buy things that come from places which create social orders they’d prefer not to support, but in fact they do choose those products because they can claim innocence of the underlying conditions. So people commonly will buy things in the grocery store that were grown 3000 or 4000 miles away. Most people I know can’t tell me where the clothes they wear were manufactured, who manufactured them, or what the conditions were under which they were manufactured. We’re all like the television star Kathie Lee Gifford, who started her own line of clothing, which is produced in the Third World; we don’t know anything about it.
I wanted to emphasize the connection between ecology and social history. Once we recognize this connection, we are led to obvious choices. I don’t believe it’s necessary to cut down the rain forests to satisfy consumer demand for cheap lumber. I don’t believe it’s necessary to create conditions that kill 40,000 children every day in order to maintain the world market economy, which in my opinion shouldn’t be retained in its current form. If you believe that’s necessary, then you can support the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But I personally don’t believe we have to take steps to starve people in the Third World in order to drive down the price of labor. I don’t believe it was necessary to murder all those Indians in the Caribbean. We should step back and ask ourselves some serious questions: Just how much of that world market economy do we really need? What costs are we paying for what we get?
Our civilized life styles is an exploitation of innocent sentient beings that we share this planet with, animals, earth and nature based peoples living on the fringes of our civil progress, as fast as it moves is as fast as many lose, development and progress severed from the Natural Reality – The food… The clothing… The housing.. The medication..etc, etc. The jobs and now that progress a nice word for cultivating the DEATH of Nature!