Landmark Study Finds Exactly How Your Diet Affects the Planet
Scott Dance - Washington Post
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October 25, 2022

A New Social Contract for Global Climate Justice (Huma Yusuf • TED)

Eco-friendly eaters may know that almonds are a water-intensive crop, that fish farms pollute the water or that beef consumption drives deforestation. But a study released Monday goes far broader and deeper, offering a new guide to weighing total ecological consequences of crops, livestock and seafood.

Researchers amassed data on food production and its impacts on the Earth including disturbances to wild-animal habitats, water use and pollution, and contribution to planetary warming. Their findings reveal what types of food production have the greatest consequences, and where.

The study published in the journal Nature Sustainability — which examined nearly 99 percent of all food production on land and sea as reported to the United Nations in 2017 — offers a new way to evaluate what to eat and how to feed the world, according to its lead author, Ben Halpern, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

“We need to be thinking about the multiple ways that food affects the environment,” said Halpern, who directs UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. “The results we’ve presented show how you can use more information about these multiple stressors and the global scale of our food production consequences to influence your individual choice.”

The researchers left out food produced in home gardens and by hunters, as well as nonfood crops like coffee, tea and tobacco. But they assessed impacts including displacing ecosystems for cropland and destroying seafloor habitat with fishing equipment; water used by crops and livestock; nutrient pollution of waterways from fertilizer-tainted runoff and concentrated fecal matter; and greenhouse gas emissions from farming machinery and boat engines, production of fertilizers and pesticides, and livestock flatulence and manure.

Read the rest at Washington Post

Related: 4 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Cost of Food (Washington Post)

Related: 10 Steps You Can Take To Lower Your Carbon Footprint (Washington Post)

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