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Environment

Go Vegan – Save Water, Feed An Additional 1.8 Billion People

The following information (italics) comes from the recently published, “Diet Change – A Solution to Reduce Water Use?” an open access article.

Go Vegan, Save Water

We found that reducing animal product consumption would impact global green water use by reducing it up to 21%, while the effect on blue water use in food production would be slightly smaller, 14% at most. Our study considerably extends the current understanding of diet change impacts on water consumption on a global scale, as previous studies have been done at either the regional or national level (Vanham et al 2013, Renault and Wallender 2000, Ercin and Hoekstra 2014, Springer and Duchin 2014) or for only specific foodstuffs or diets (Baroni et al 2006, Marlow et al 2009, Reijnders and Soret 2003). Further, our findings provide complementary information on existing global estimates of diet change impacts on the global food supply (Foley et al 2011) and comparable information on, for example, food loss reduction on the global food supply (Kummu et al 2012).

river cc

Jim Jim River, Kakadu National Park, Australia, by Christopher Schoenbohm. Creative Commons.

FYI: The study defines “blue water” as freshwater in rivers and aquifers and “green water” as naturally infiltrated rain, attached to soil particles and accessible by roots.

Go Vegan, Feed 1.8 Billion People

Our results can also be compared with other suggested actions to increase food availability or to reduce the environmental burden of food production. By adjusting diets to the recommended energy intake and composition, total water footprints would be reduced from 2738 l/cap/day to 2682 l/cap/day, while a diet without meat, milk and eggs would reduce the global mean water footprint further to 2149 l/cap/day. The use of current volumes of water with a lower dietary water footprint would allow the production of more food to feed an additional 136 million people (RD scenario) or even 1.8 billion people (A0 scenario). This would, however, require that similar improvements of efficiencies are possible for other resources used in food production, as well the avoidance of improvements in water use and in the increased food supply, which would cause an additional environmental burden with regard to other resources (e.g., crop nutrients, land).

bean cc

Climbing bean plants in Rwanda, by Neil Palmer. Creative Commons.

 

Diet change — a solution to reduce water use?
M Jalava, M Kummu, M Porkka, S Siebert and O Varis
M Jalava et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 074016
doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074016
© 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd
Received 15 April 2014, accepted for publication 8 July 2014
Published 31 July 2014
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About The Paw Report

I graduated from St. John's University School of Law in 2012, and am admitted to practice law in New York State. I was a member of the New York City Bar Association's Animal Law Committee for three years. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, but moved to New Mexico when I was 18. After dabbling in film for two years, I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Anthropology. I've been living in New York City since 2008, and currently reside in Brooklyn with my boyfriend and our two cats. I am a former organizer with Direct Action Everywhere - New York City.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Go Vegan – Save Water, Feed An Additional 1.8 Billion People

  1. Hi Rae,

    There is no question that the footprint we create is exacerbated by the use of nonhumans as food. It is the price we pay for the abject cruelty inherent in these practices. Just generally, being vegan has helped me to understand the difference between a want and a need, So therefore, I seem to consume less, which is a good thing. And water!-what will we do without enough clean water?
    Many thanks,
    Anne

    Like

    Posted by Anne E. McGuigan | September 4, 2014, 6:17 pm
  2. In the short term, perhaps your conclusions are valid. But the longer course of history tells a very different story. Agriculture is the underpinning for population growth. Growing populations demand that more land be turned over to farming (forests felled, marshlands drained, etc.) and more water is subsequently diverted to water these crops (rivers siphoned off, aquifers drained, etc.). Meanwhile, as more ecosystems are destroyed in an absolutely unending and ultimately futile attempt to catch up with the demands of an overpopulated world, agricultural runoff is increasingly turning ocean estuaries, rivers and lakes into over-nutrified dead zones. And then there is the matter of the increased use of pesticides and their impact on insects and birds and everything that co-exists with insects and birds.
    We have great empathy for people who, for whatever health reasons, are compelled to restrict or modify their diets. But the idea that there is a magical technological solution to the environmental destruction brought about by a world overpopulated with humans, or that a personal dietary preference is any meaningful, longterm part of a “solution” seems to us to exemplify myopia.
    There are many examples of peoples who subsisted substantially on a meat-based diet for millennia and who had (and currently are having) far, far less impact on the Earth’s environment than is the case with agrarian cultures. When forests are cut down, marshes are drained and grasslands are put under the plow, animals lose their homes. In most cases, they don’t magically migrate to new habitat; they die. These animals are no less dead than those that are, say, shot or hit on the head with a hammer. The difference is, with their habitat permanently gone, it’s not just individual animals that die. Whole species are imperiled.

    Like

    Posted by Barbra & Jack Donachy | September 5, 2014, 10:21 pm
    • “Thank you for your comment.

      “In the short term, perhaps your conclusions are valid.”

      These are not “my conclusions,” this is the research from a study, and if you go to the article, you’ll see that its findings support other research, as well.

      “But the longer course of history tells a very different story. Agriculture is the underpinning for population growth. Growing populations demand that more land be turned over to farming (forests felled, marshlands drained, etc.) and more water is subsequently diverted to water these crops (rivers siphoned off, aquifers drained, etc.).”

      Please point to me in my post or in my study where it was stated that agriculture isn’t necessary or important. The study never once said that we need to stop farming altogether. Rather, it says that we can feed more people using land more efficiently, and the study found that the most efficient way to raise food was to reduce or outright eliminate animal agriculture.

      Please provide proof that more water is used for crops than animal agriculture. Also, remember that currently, we raise crops that are primarily being fed to livestock. If you are worried about water usage or efficiency, I’m not sure that raising crops to be fed to livestock is the argument you want to be making.

      “Meanwhile, as more ecosystems are destroyed in an absolutely unending and ultimately futile attempt to catch up with the demands of an overpopulated world, agricultural runoff is increasingly turning ocean estuaries, rivers and lakes into over-nutrified dead zones. And then there is the matter of the increased use of pesticides and their impact on insects and birds and everything that co-exists with insects and birds.”

      Again, if you are worried about destroying ecosystems, agricultural run-off, water pollution, then you should note that that eliminating animal agriculture would help alleviate those problems. For example, we are destroying rainforests at an impressive rate, merely to raise livestock. Animal agriculture is the #1 polluter of rivers and waters in the United States. Animal agriculture is the #1 contributor to ocean dead zones. Insects and birds are also impacted by animal agriculture, since it destroys biodiversity. If you are interested in learning more about this, please refer to the Center for Biological Diversity, which has a campaign calling for environmentally conscious folk to reduce their meat consumption.

      “We have great empathy for people who, for whatever health reasons, are compelled to restrict or modify their diets. But the idea that there is a magical technological solution to the environmental destruction brought about by a world overpopulated with humans, or that a personal dietary preference is any meaningful, longterm part of a “solution” seems to us to exemplify myopia.”

      So what is your solution? To ignore the findings of scientific research which indicate that a diet which predominantly consists of animal products is destroying the environment?

      Again, whole habits are disappearing so that cattle ranchers can raise livestock. If you are worried about the environment, please give me scientific reasons why continuing to eat animal products at our current rate makes sense.

      Like

      Posted by The Paw Report | September 6, 2014, 2:23 pm

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