Just heard this factoid on "The Leonard Lopate Show." The guest was Mark Bittman, talking about the environmental impact of the meat we Americans eat. (The rest of the world can prolly go to sleep right now, unless you want to know more about the stupidity of our agro-business/food culture. Wait, I was wrong. Unfortunately, cattle are being raised like this in Latin America, too. Thank you, McDonalds.)
Bittman read a UN report which made him change his eating habits. The report cited data showing that 18% of greenhouse gas is produced by cattle.
As Bittman points, what we can do immediately, as individuals (he did, lost a lot of weight as well and improved his health, btw), to reduce this output, is EAT LESS FACTORY-FARMED MEAT. (Sorry, again, I'm excited.) You don't even need to quit eating meat; just make sure it's raised humanely, fed on grass or whatever it was naturally meant to eat. Because that's a more expensive way to raise animals, there are fewer of them, causing less greenhouse gas emission. Plus you could eat meat less often. (As someone pointed out recently, most of the world is effectively vegetarian, compared with the West. Meat is a condiment there, not something you eat big chunks of three times a day.)
If every American did this, demand would be less, fewer farm animals would have miserable lives on feed lots (living on their own manure), and, by the way, the resultant waste, full of hormones and antibiotics, wouldn't pollute our fresh water and contribute to the growth of dead zones in the ocean.
Also, you'd be healthier, most likely. Because you wouldn't be filling your body with unnecessary hormones and antibiotics.
From the point of view of this blogger, you'd also be slowing ocean acidification.
Win, win, win.
The UN report was published in November 2006. But I'm betting I'm not the only person who heard about for the first time today.
Mark Bittman has written a number of cookbooks, has a New York Times column, "The Minimalist," and has just published Food Matters, in which he expands on how he's changed his eating so that it's better for him and the planet.