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Cut Beef Consumption in Half to Help Save the Earth, Says New Study
The world's population will hit 10 billion in just 30 years and all of those people need to eat. To feed that many humans with the resources Earth has, we will have to cut down the amount of beef we eat, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute.
The report makes several concrete recommendations, including cutting beef consumption. To feed a growing world, Americans will need to eat about 40 percent less beef and Europeans need to cut their consumption by 22 percent. That averages out to a burger and a half per week, as CNN reported.
This calculation is part of a 565-page report that looks at ways humans can optimize production of natural resources to sustain a growing population and navigate agriculture through the climate crisis. Titled Creating a Sustainable Food Future, the report released Wednesday identified the gaps in food production and global demand that need to be filled in order to prevent a catastrophe, according to CNN.
Right now, Americans consume an equivalent of three hamburgers per week, but beef only provides 3 percent of the calories Americans consume while it is responsible for nearly half of the agricultural land and greenhouse gas emissions associated with U.S. diets.
"This is a huge global challenge," said Tim Searchinger, the report's lead author, as USA Today reported. He suggests that consumers should shift from cattle, sheep and goats to chicken, pork and vegetable-based alternatives.
Providing a healthy diet for a population of 10 billion will require a massive overhaul to farming, which already swallows up 90 percent of all the water humans use and coughs up one-fourth of the annual global emissions that cause global warming. Yet, despite our intensive agriculture, more than 820 million people still experience chronic hunger, according to the UN, as EcoWatch reported this week.
"There is a pathway to achieve this but the challenge is even bigger than any of us thought," said Richard Waite of the World Resources Institute and a co-author of the report, as National Geographic reported.
While the report has many recommendations for dealing with the world's impending food crisis, the authors suggest that the most impactful way to keep the climate crisis at bay and to feed the world is to simply cut back on ruminant meat, according to CNN. This is especially true as more money flows into the developing world and the demand for food outpaces population growth. The demand for meat and dairy is expected to rise nearly 70 percent, while the global demand for beef, sheep and goat, is expected rise even faster to 88 percent.
"We have to produce 30 percent more food on the same land area, stop deforestation, [and] cut carbon emissions for food production by two-thirds," said Waite, as National Geographic reported.
The report says that beef, goat, and sheep farming takes up 20 times more land than farming for beans, chickpeas, and lentils per gram of protein. It also generates 20 times as much greenhouse gas emissions, according to CNN.
Besides insisting that high-meat consumers move toward more plant-based diets, the report also calls for strategies to reduce the one-third of food that is lost or wasted, use technology to boost crop yields, and improve the management of wild fisheries and aquaculture farms, according to National Geographic.
Correction: This post has been updated to correct a typo.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.