Environmental blind spots



Environmental writer and research associate for the Optimum Population Trust, David Nicholson-Lord wrote an interesting article in The Guardian claiming that environment and development organisations aren't doing enough, and in many cases nothing at all, on the continued growth of the world's human population.

Although popualtion isn't the only factor influencing both environmental sustainability and quality of life it is a factor and I think he's broadly right to expose the negligence of both environmental and development organisations on the issue of population.

But that's not the only issue that both the green and global justice movements have wrongly turned a blind eye to.

In the past 50 years, worldwide meat production has increased fivefold and consumption has soared in rapidly industrialising countries, such as China. As a result, at any one time we share the planet with nearly 1bn pigs, 1.3bn cattle, 1.8bn sheep and goats and 15.4bn chickens: twice as many as there humans to eat them.

This unsustainably large livestock population is having a devastating impact on the environment. At 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent, the livestock industry is the single biggest driver of climate change.

Livestock production is also a leading cause of water pollution, land degradation and deforestation. Finally, rather than adding to our capacity to feed people, the growth in meat production is a serious threat to food security. Growing plants to feed animals, rather than humans, uses more land and water to produce less protein than growing plants for direct human consumption.

Both environmental sustainability and social justice demand that green and development organisations begin to address the massive impact that the livestock industry is having on the planet and its people.

Just in case this sounds vaguely familiar, its actually pasted from a letter I sent to The Guardian in response to the Nicholson-Lord article. My letter was published both in the paper and on-line last week.

More on 'Feed the Planet' later!