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Our Diet: Leading to a Sustainable Future or Killing the Planet - Part 5

Transcript for the following video on changing our diet to save our planet:

Contrary to most people’s perception, climate change does not mean a gradual rise in temperature – climate change means an increase in the frequency of extreme events. Severe and unpredictable weather-related catastrophes are already happening in many countries – remember the devastating hurricane in Myanmar, remember the snowstorms affecting 100 million people in temperate southern China, the flooding in Bangladesh killing over 130,000 people. According to the United Nations, 9 out of 10 recorded disasters are climate-related.

We are in no position to believe that we are safe from the effects of climate change, in our country.

The message from environmental scientists is loud and clear: The Earth is in crisis, and we are rapidly reaching the point of no return. it is not only the 11th hour for our planet, according to the film “11th hour”, it is now 11.59.

And according to experts such as Dr James Hansen of NASA, we have only a few years to act, in order to avoid reaching the tipping point, beyond which we will not be able to avoid catastrophic climate change.

If we are to safeguard our planet’s future and our own survival, we have to act quickly.

What can we do, as individuals?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the need to make lifestyle changes

is urgent –

In stressing this, the Head of IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri said: ‘this is something that the IPCC was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it.”

Guess what he said? He said:  “Please eat less meat – meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity”.

This is a  very significant statement on meat eating, for the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be making publicly

And reducing , or even better, eliminating meat consumption, is indeed a powerful way to reduce our carbon footprint.

According to this study from the University of Chicago –

If we switch to driving a hybrid car, we can save 1 ton CO2 per year. That’s a great reduction, if we are able to do this. But if we switch to a plant-based diet, we save even more– every person who eliminates animal produce from their diet reduces their individual carbon footprint by one and a half tons of CO2 per year.

Not everyone can afford to buy a new car, but everyone can make a choice about the food they consume.

And according to this study, whilst cars are still significant producers of greenhouse gases, in terms of reducing our personal carbon footprint,  what we eat is actually more important than what we drive.

What on earth does the plate of food in front of us have to do with world hunger?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, there are over 900 million hungry people in the world and almost 11 million deaths every year in children under the age of 5 – with most of those deaths being associated with malnutrition. That is a very sad fact.

But even sadder than that, is the fact that a significant proportion of the world’s grain  goes not to feeding starving children, but to feeding animals. With the recent global food crisis, many people were angered and concerned about the amount of foodcrops used to produce biofuels, which amounts to 100 million tonnes feed per year. But what we seldom hear is that a staggering 760 million tonnes feed per year are diverted from the mouths of starving people into billions of farmed animals – that’s nearly half the world’s grain supply.

Not only is much of the grain from developed countries fed to animals, but even countries whose own people are starving are using their land to grow grain for export to feed animals in more affluent countries.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme;

“Taking the energy value of the meat produced into consideration, the loss of calories by feeding the cereals to animals instead of using the cereals directly as human food represents the annual calorie need for more than 3.5billion people”

Now I know there are many reasons for world hunger, but just considering the fact that animal-based foods are the least cost-effective foods to produce, in that it takes vast areas of  land, huge amounts of  water, and many kilos of grain or other feed to produce just kilo of meat, this seems to be a huge energy loss to human society which we can ill afford. In fact, we have enough food for everyone on earth right now, if only we did not use so many resources and so much food to feed farmed animals. Every year, over 50 billion farmed animals are being watered, fed, fattened and maintained whilst millions of humans, mainly children, starve to death

So the question I had to ask myself was this: In a world in which a child dies of starvation every few seconds, how can I ethically support a system which favours the fattening of  animals, instead of the feeding of starving humans?

If everyone in the world consumes a meat and dairy-based diet, the Earth would only be able to sustain  about 2 billion people. Clearly, with our population growing to nearly 7 billion people, we need to find another way to feed everyone. This can be achieved bydiverting the food and the resources we now use to feed farmed animals, back for human use. If we don’t want to contribute to the starving of millions of children, we have to say ‘NO’ to meat.


Dr Aryan practices as a Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine in the Hutt Valley, New Zealand.  Dr Aryan is also interested in the many-fold and far-reaching effects of our diets, and particularly how our diet affects the environment. She has written and spoken widely about this topic and has presented her talk, Our Diet: Leading to a Sustainable Future or Killing Our Planet? in many venues around New Zealand. She has been interviewed about the link between diet and climate change by both local and national radio and newspapers.

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