In preparation for todays show these are a few of the questions I was struggling with.
Do we eat organic for our own health to avoid the pesticides and in doing so support factory farming as litter from large scale animal agriculture is the primary source of fertiliser in organic farming?
Or do we lead with compassion, return to conventional crops and hope a good washing and a splash of apple cider vinegar gets rid of those pesticides? It doesn’t.
Do we spend our days hunting down veganic farms to support as this is no doubt the future and the most compassionate, sustainable, healthy option and yet there’s not yet adequate supple because there’s not yet adequate demand.
Perhaps the solution is to grow our own food veganically?
I got myself worked into a little stress ball and then thankfully I got to chat with Greg.
For a little official bio: Greg Litus serves as Manager of the Western Colorado Research Center working to support the various research and public service programs that are initiated by resident and visiting scientists at each of the three research stations. He has B.Sc. degrees in both economics and geology from Oklahoma State University, a M.Sc. in plutonium geochemistry from the University of Colorado at Denver and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in horticulture from Colorado State University. That’s a mouthful right? So many qualifications and such a complicated subject.
I found Greg to be the perfect guide as we negotiated the complex subject:
What Is The Most Sustainable Way To Feed The World? (Veganic vs. Animal Agriculture)
In this interview we cover:
- Gregs vegan journey. (It’s been 27 years!)
- Common confusion / misconceptions about organic, veganic and stock free farming.
- We compare resource inputs and outputs in agricultural systems.
- We discuss Life Cycle Analysis, soil fertility and green house gas emissions.
- Can veganic agriculture scale?
- What can we do as individuals both in the products we demand / support and also in our own homes / gardens?
I learnt so much in this chat and importantly, I got my hope back!
Governments aren’t progressive, or visionary or even compassionate. Ok, that’s not the hopeful bit!
Social change comes from the grass roots. From individuals such as you and me.
It’s vital each of us don’t get caught up in the minutiae. We know there’s no such thing as a “perfect vegan” so rather it’s about doing the best we can according to the information we have available and the resources we have access to.
Plant based agriculture is vastly more efficient and sustainable than animal agriculture. Greg ran through the numbers for the US and they blew my mind. If currently 700 million acres (roughly) are committed to pasturing “food animals” and 408 million acres are cultivated / committed to growing crops ONLY 101 million of which are needed to grow food for human consumption (the other 307 million is committed to grow food for “food animal” consumption) that means even doubling that 101 million acres to improve soli quality via cover cropping equates to 202 million acres to grow food for human consumption including the necessary cover cropping.
So if the US went vegan there’s 206 million acres of land previously committed to growing crops that can be re-wilded.
PLUS the 700 million acres that no longer need to be committed to grazing animals.
To expand our view beyond the US, we are now using 45% of the Earth’s global surface to accommodate “livestock.” (International Livestock Research Institute). So if the world went vegan we could gradually return natural biodiversity and make room for the wild animal, insect and plant species that currently we’re literally wiping off the face of our planet.
More than a hundred plant, animal and insect species are lost every day from rampant rainforest destruction to make way for grazing. (I’m referring to an article in the Scientific America with this terrifying stat and I’ll link to it in the show notes)
Thats just talking land and food security. There’s still the considerations / vast savings of greenhouse gas emissions. Water use. Pesticide, antibiotic and hormone use. Lakes of livestock waste. All these horrifically detrimental inputs and outputs of animals agriculture. Again it could sound overwhelming.
And yet, as consumer demand for animal products decreases the plant based agriculture dependant on animal manure will transition to other alternatives.
It can all happen however will it happen soon enough? As Greg so wisely pointed out it’s not just about money and deeply entrenched systems.
It’s about what people want. If 97% of people still want, still demand meat and dairy – if the super vast majority of people are not making the change to adopt a vegan lifestyle then there is really no reason to scale up veganic agriculture.
Relying on the facts paints the depressing picture of as I think Greg put it a continued slow cultural change to vegainism.
I’m not down with slow. The situation is too dire. Enslaving, exploiting and slaughtering animals is an obviously outdated, grossly inefficient, and abhorrently cruel way to produce food.
The solution and the hopeful steps each of us can take?
One: Live vegan. Live proudly and loudly vegan. This is an opinion that I know I’ll get flack for however I can handle it. I believe fit, strong, happy, healthy, passionate and unapologetically vegan individuals need to be more visible.
The athlete, intellectual, mum, dad, creative, whoever (!) who is quietly plant based is doing the movement a disservice. Wearing your compassion on your sleeve is something to be proud of. It’s the only way vegan will become the norm. And a vegan world is the world I want to be a part of.
Two: Support the vegans, the animals rights activists, the vegan business’s and initiatives loudly and proudly. I understand not everyone wants to be an activist and equally there’s no ONE best way to advocate. However, quiet support is quite useless. Those courageous enough to be on the frontline need encouragement.
Change only happens because there are people willing to take risks and get uncomfortable. If that’s not you – I get it – I’m yet to attend a slaughter house vigil or risk the insanely crazy 400,000 fines The Australian government wants to enforce on activists merely trying to show the truth of animal agriculture. There is however always something you can do to support and grow the vegan movement.
Three: Stay focused on both the bigger picture – the Vision – the WHY and also stay focused on and grateful for the small things you can do each day.
This is perhaps my life philosophy and it’s the thing I rely to keep me at least somewhat sane in a world that can seem increasingly bananas.
In closing I want to echo Greg’s suggestion to do your own research. I’m going to link to some of the resources we mentioned in our chat like:
The documentary Cowspiracy.
Greg Litus: Comparisons of Agricultural Systems. (CowCon 2016) and his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, one of my favourite sites online: https://www.truthordrought.com/ which is a truly invaluable resource and the post / podcast it inspired me to create E542: Myths About Farming and The Drought.
That’s it for this week in Healthification. Next weeks interview is the perfect follow up to today and I found it surprisingly (yet excitingly) fascinating!
In E628: Algae, the most nutrient dense, sustainable food on the planet with Catharine Arnston from Energybits.
Huge thanks to YOU for sharing this week with me. You rock and I appreciate your support!
The Healthification podcast is proudly bought to you by my FREE ‘Easy Vegan’ plan. It took me 25 years to transition from a meat eater to a happy, healthy Vegan! You can do it in just 3 days with my simplified ‘easy vegan’ plan! Get the fit, strong, and healthy plant based body you deserve… while avoiding ALL the mistakes I made along the way!
Till next time, remember Creating a body and life you love is Freedom. (If this ex-carb queen, non genetically gifted, naturally uncoordinated vegan chick can do it – so can YOU!!!)
If you liked “Greg Litus and What Is The Most Sustainable Way To Feed The World? (Veganic vs. Animal Agriculture)” you’ll also like Stephanie Feldstein and The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World.
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