The following is a guest post by Leilani Münter a biology graduate turned professional race car driver and environmental activist. Discovery’s Planet Green named Leilani the #1 Eco Athlete in the world and Sports Illustrated named her one of the top ten female race car drivers in the world. She is a frequent contributing blogger on several blogs and maintains an ecosite Carbon Free Girl.

Photo by Craig Davidson

By Leilani Münter. Meat eaters, please pay attention. There are now over 7 billion people on the planet and we desperately need you to understand the following information. I’m just going to lay out the facts for you, and then you can make your own decision.

In November 2006 an interesting study was released by the United Nations that showed that more greenhouse gas emissions are produced by growing livestock for meat than all the planes, trains, ships, cars, trucks, and all forms of fossil fuel based transportation combined. Cattle produce nitrous oxide and methane, which is 23 times as heat trapping as carbon dioxide.

Livestock is also a major source of the degradation of our land and water. One third of the Earth’s land surface is now being used for livestock, most of it is permanent pasture but also includes 33% of the global arable land that is being used to produce feed for livestock. The land is becoming degraded due to overgrazing, erosion, inadequate livestock management, deforestation, forest fires and climate change. We now lose more than 20,000 square miles of fertile land to desertification worldwide every year.

Water pollution from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides make livestock one of the most damaging sectors to our earth’s scarce water sources. According to the World Heath Organization and NASA, water shortages are currently affecting 1.1 billion people and by 2050 will affect nearly half of the 10 billion that the UN estimates will be our total population at that time.

Do you know what meat is doing to our beautiful rainforests? It’s killing them. 70% of the rainforest that has been cut down is being used to graze livestock. And when we destroy the rainforest for hamburgers, we are losing so much more than trees.  Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms are at risk of extinction over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest alone and in addition to being the “Lungs of the Earth” rainforests may very well hold the key to the cures for many human diseases. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that are active against cancer cells – 70% of these plants are found in the rainforest. Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years. All in the name of cheap hamburgers.

One acre of land can produce 165 pounds of beef OR 20,000 pounds of potatoes. And it takes 23 gallons of water to produce a pound of tomatoes. By comparison, it takes over 5000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. Sit down and digest those facts for a while.

In addition to the health of the planet, there are also many human health benefits to a plant based diet. However, since my contribution to this book is limited to 800 words, instead of trying to summarize it in a couple paragraphs, I am just going to recommend you watch the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

I think Einstein was on to something. But you can decide for yourself.

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