Our environment is facing increased threat from a wide variety of sources. The ecosystem risks being over-exploited. Livestock, flora and fauna are far from being spared. And the balance in the natural order continues to shift with devastating consequences. Humans are the agent provocateurs or the causal link warranting these changes. By 2050, the world’s population will need to up food levels by up to about 70% than it currently does to sustain itself. These will create difficulties. But they are stresses that we may be able to withstand or accommodate provided the ecosystem is managed more efficiently.
Currently, the single greatest source of threat to our shared environment comes from the loss of habitat. Livestock production is on a scale that mankind has never known due to increased sophistication in farming method. While rising demand and the impact linked to better distribution of wealth can be blamed, animal husbandry means large swathes of land are being lost to deforestation. Whether in Africa, middle and south-eastern Asia, per capita farm-related activity is becoming a new source of concern. Vegans are caught in the cross-fire.
But one defining feature of veganism is reliance on plant-based diet. This means vegans’ help in preserving the natural harmony between land and the various organisms around it is essential. Palm oil production, on a larger scale than in Nigeria where the Malaysians picked up or learnt the skill from, is destroying tropical rain-forests and endangering the survival of a whole range of herbivores while displacing smaller animals. This leads to land degradation.
Farming of cows, chickens, pigs and sheep has achieved an incredible craze due to fierce demand in not just tropical countries but also in temperate zones. This increase is a major driver in offsetting changes that are affecting biodiversity. The United Nations notes that 75 per cent of farming space is currently used for livestock production. In the USA, feeding and grazing areas account for more than 250 million acres. This data supports a steep rise in meat production. There are projections that meat production will reach 470 million tonnes by 2050, up from 229 million tonnes in 2001.
One of the side effects associated with livestock production is the increased use of pesticide. Pesticides pollute farm land and generate greenhouse emissions. These pollutant forces affect photosynthesis, soil fertility and account for the death of a whole range of species that enrich our natural habitat. Rise in the use of pesticide means waterways and streams are being contaminated since livestock production or farming itself depends on water for growth. These practices are unsafe and are concerning for vegans.
Increasing Plant Diversity
There are several ways in which the threat to our ecosystem, from pesticide or livestock production, can be mitigated. One way is to explore attitudinal shift that relies less on animal consumption and more on plant-based diet. Wildlife will no longer be displaced. The process will swell plant diversity for vegans and also increase insect diversity to carry out photosynthesis.
Reducing land modifications might help. More than 4,000 of assessed plants and species risk displacement through habitat modifications. Humans need to rely less on marine ecosystems and the produce from these sources such as fish. This is why vegans rely on plant-based diets. Already, marine systems around the world have been over-fished. This is insane and it is high time that humans fed less on beef and red-meat enriched diets. Be safe. Be healthy. Be vegan.