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Something to chew on Food could make or break our world Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop Executive Director, World Preservation Foundation Lefkothea Pavlidis Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation

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Ecological footprint

Something to chew on Food could make or break our worldGerard Wedderburn-BisshopExecutive Director, World Preservation Foundation gerard@worldpreservationfoundation.orgLefkothea PavlidisSenior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation

Ecological footprint
Ecological Footprint

The earth now needs 1.5 years to generate what we use in a year (WWF Living Planet Report, 2011)

Food the problem and the solution
Food: the problem and the solution

Planetary boundaries
Planetary Boundaries

Already Exceeded:

Biodiversity loss

Climate change

Nitrogen cycle imbalance

(Copenhagen Resilience Centre)

Biodiversity loss
Biodiversity Loss

NEAA, 2010

Biodiversity loss1
Biodiversity Loss

A "No Meat Diet" would have the single greatest benefit, preventing over 60 percent of biodiversity loss. (NEAA, 2010)

Nitrogen pollution

Vitousek (1994)

Nitrogen Pollution

  • 65% of N2O from animal agriculture

  • Reactive nitrogen a strong polluter – leads to dead zones

Planetary boundaries2
Planetary Boundaries

Climate Change

Climate chaos
Climate Chaos

No need to model

  • Hotter, drier droughts

  • More evaporation (4% more water vapour)

  • More extreme weather

  • 1 million climate refugees

Ecological footprint

Livestock & Climate Change

30.6% of Australia’s greenhouse emissions is from livestock production

CSIRO/Uni of Sydney Balancing Act, 2005

Climate change
Climate Change

  • BZE Land Use Plan

  • Agriculture 41-54% of Australian emissions

  • Animal agriculture 37-52% of Australian emissions

Climate change1
Climate Change

  • Animal agriculture the greatest source of

    • Methane

    • Nitrous oxide

    • Carbon monoxide

    • NMVOCs

Ecological footprint

Short lived climate forcers

  • 3-4oC warming will happen, even if CO2 emissions cease

  • Warming can be <2oC by 2050 if short-lived emissions are reduced (UNEP & WMO, 2011).

Ecological footprint

Short Lived Climate Forcers

Black Carbon

Methane (CH4)

Ground Level Ozone (O3)

Warming: 20% of that of CO2

GWP20 of BC : 1600

GWP20 of CH4 : 72

(International Council on Clean Transportation, June 2009)

(IPCC 4th Assessment Report Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis)

(Wallack and Ramanathan, Sep/Oct 2009)

Black carbon
Black Carbon

  • 40% of Black Carbon – from pasture fires and bushfires.

  • 90% of open fires deliberately lit

NASA 10-day Global Fire Map: 10-19 May 2012


Human caused Methane emissions

Ground level ozone
Ground level Ozone

Ground level ozone warms 20% of CO2

O3 best controlled by reducing methane

(Wallack and Ramanathan 2009), (Harvard University, the Argonne National Laboratory, and EPA (USA), 2002)

Image Source: NASA - Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer

Lowest cost climate fix
Lowest Cost Climate Fix

Trees, grass & soil

not technology

Lowest cost climate fix1
Lowest Cost Climate Fix

  • Netherlands EIA Mitigation report 2009

    • Low meat diet – 50% saving

    • Animal free (vegan) diet – 80% saving

  • Retire all grazing lands and feed crops (30% of land surface)

Lowest cost climate fix2
Lowest Cost Climate Fix

  • 51% of Africa is high rainfall savannah (>780mm)

  • Would return to forest if burning stopped (Sankaran et al, 2005)

Planetary boundaries3
Planetary Boundaries



- 13 million ha/year (24 ha/minute)

- >90% for agriculture (80% for pasture/feed crops)

- 25-30% of global GHGs

(UNFAO, 2006)

Graphs Source: Rhett A. Butler / from F AOSTATS


- Opportunity to convert a major emission source into a major sink, particularly in the tropics and sub-tropics through natural re-growth

Deforestation in brazil
Deforestation in Brazil

  • Brazil has 27% of global deforestation

  • 65-70% for cattle ranching

  • 5-10% for large scale crops (mostly soy for feedlots)

70% of global agricultural land is used for livestock (UNFAO, 2006) – much of the trees cleared and feed crops for livestock have undergone repeated burning

Ecological footprint

Deforestation and Fire

Fire is used to retard tree re-growth & encourage pasture growth

MODIS fire map 08/19/2010 to 08/28/2010

MODIS fire map 11/17/2010 to 11/26/2010

Land degradation
Land Degradation

“A substantial reduction of [climate/environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

UNEP 2010

Crunch time
Crunch time

  • Population crisis

  • Climate crisis

  • Biodiversity crisis

  • Soil/nutrient crisis

  • Water crisis

  • Peak oil

  • Peak land

    “The coming famine is a planetary emergency.”

Crunch time1
Crunch time

“The traditional cookbook is a hymnal to an age of indulgence that is costing us the earth.”

“..the western diet kills more than half its consumers through heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes should be sufficient warning of its inherent risks.”

“The twenty-first century diet will be more healthful all round”

Feeding 64 billion
Feeding 64 Billion

  • 7 billion people

  • 64 billion livestock each year

  • Western diet – 2,000 animals, 100,000 eggs eaten in a lifetime

  • Livestock outweigh wildlife by 18:1

Water lost
Water lost

6x more water to grow a kilogram of protein from animal sources

20x more water to grow calories from beef than from grain or potatoes

Protein lost
Protein Lost

  • 75% - 95% of protein is lost by eating meat

  • 70% is lost by eating eggs

    (Smil, 2002)

Land lost
Land lost

  • Beef protein takes 200 times more land than plant protein

  • Milk protein takes 3 times more land

    (Lobell, 1981)

Feeding 64 billion2
Feeding 64 Billion

Without livestock to feed, we would have a 50% surplus of food (FAO, 2006)

Organic farming
Organic Farming

  • Organic yields match conventional

  • Organic yields greater in drought years

  • Organic builds soil organic matter - more sustainable

  • Organic 45% less energy

  • Organic 40% less greenhouse gases

  • Organic more profitable in USA

Ecological footprint


“It is time to tell the truth. Family history and genetic background do not cause this illness. Genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

“a switch to a diet free of meat and dairy products will dramatically reduce … obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

Vegan nutrition1
Vegan Nutrition

“…vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

ADA, 2010

Ecological footprint

Future Food

“A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

UNEP 2010

Animal cruelty
Animal cruelty?

"Every age has its massive moral blind spots.

We might not see them, but our children will." 

- Bono

Ecological footprint

The end

Ecological footprint


ACF (2010). Land Clearing Versus Bushland Re-planting in Australia: Statements, statistics and references Australian Conservation Foundation. Retrieved from: articles/news.asp?news_id=356

ACLUMP (2009). Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Practices Land Use Summary Australia – October 2009. Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program. Retrieved from:

Adams, P. (2009, Nov/Dec). From Dirt Farming to Green Farming. Organic Gardener, pp. 49-54

ANZECC (2001). Implications of Salinity for Biodiversity Conservation and Management Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. Retrieved from:

Brough, D.M. (2007). Salinity. State of the Environment Queensland 2007. Retrieved from:

DAFF (2009). Meat, Wool and Dairy. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Retrieved from:

DCC (2009). National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2008. Department of Climate Change. Retrieved from

Deo, R. C., Syktus, J. S., McAlpine, C. A., Lawrence, P. J., McGowan, H. A., and Phinn, S. R. (2009A). Impact of historical land cover change on daily indices of climate extremes including droughts in eastern Australia. Geophysical Research Letters (in press)

Ecological footprint


Deo, R. C., Syktus, J. S., McAlpine, C. A., and Wong, K.K. (2009B). The simulated impact of land cover change on climate extremes in eastern Australia. 18th World IMACS / MODSIM Congress, Cairns, Australia 13-17 July 2009. Retrieved from:

DERM (2009). Land cover change in Queensland 2007–08: a Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) Report, Oct, 2009. Queensland Department of Environment and Resources Management. Retrieved from:

DEWHA (2009) Assessment of Australia's Terrestrial Biodiversity 2008

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2009, Retrieved from:

FAO (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow (2006) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

FAO (2008). FAOSTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from:

Foran, B., Lenzen, M., and Dey, C., (2005). Balancing Act: A triple bottom line analysis of the 135 sectors of the Australian economy, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Ecological footprint


Gold, M., (2004). The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat. New Delhi: Navodanya in collaboration with Compassion in World Farming Trust

McAlpine, C. A., Syktus, J., Deo, R. C., Ryan, J. G., McKeon, G. M., McGowan, H. A. and Phinn, S. R. (2009A). A continent under stress: interactions, feedbacks and risks associated with Impact of Modified Land Cover on Australia’s Climate, Global Change Biology (in press).

McAlpine, C.A., Etter, B., Fearnside, P.M. and Laurance, W.F. (2009B). Increasing world consumption of beef as a driver of regional and global change: A call for policy action based on Evidence from Queensland (Australia), Colombia and Brazil. Global Change Biology (in press).

McKeon, G.M., Hall, W.B., Henry, W.K., Stone, G.S., Watson, I.W. (2004). Pasture Degradation and Recovery in Australia’s Rangelands: Learning from History. Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Brisbane.

NRM (2010). Caring for our Country Business Plan 2010-11, Commonwealth of Australia Natural Resources Management. Retrieved from:

Russell, G. (2009). CSIRO Perfidy. Fremantle, WA: Vivid Publishing

Syktus, J.I., Deo, R.C., McAlpine, C.A., McGowan, H.A. and Phinn, S.R. (2007). Impact of land cover change on regional climate and El Niño in Australia. In Proc: Oxley, L. and Kulasiri, D. (eds) MODSIM 2007 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 2007, ISBN: 978-0-9758400-4-7, pp 611-618.

Ecological footprint


UNEP (2010). Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials. United Nations Environmental Programme. Retrieved from:

WHO (2002). Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements. World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from:

WWF (2008). Living Planet Report. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from:

Ecological footprint

If all non-veg people of the world switched from eating one beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking 632 billion avg family cars off the road for an entire year. (Khoo, H. H., 2010)

Ecological footprint

Livestock & Climate Change beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions.

WorldWatch Magazine Livestock and Climate Change, 2009

Meat and dairy contributes 18% of GHG

UNFAO Livestock’s Long Shadow, 2006

30.6% of Australia’s greenhouse emissions in the 1990’s came from livestock production

CSIRO/Uni of Sydney Balancing Act, 2005

Future climate
Future Climate beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

  • 4-60C hotter – “beyond dangerous” (PTRS)

  • Last time as much CO2, methane 15M years ago

    • 60C warmer

    • Sea level 50m higher

Lowest cost climate fix3
Lowest Cost Climate Fix beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

Lowest cost climate fix = vegan diet

Deforestation and fire
Deforestation and Fire beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

Global Open Fires

  • Open fire emits 7.34 Gt CO2-e /year (24% of global fossil fuel emissions)(Carbon Project 2010)

  • 80-90% of fires are deliberately lit (Lauke & Erb 2009)

  • Anthropogenic fires release ~6 Gt CO2-e (~15% of global emissions)(van der Werf et al 2009)

(van der Werf et al 2010)

Vegan climate benefits
Vegan Climate Benefits beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

  • Deforestation (25% of global emissions) reduced >60%

  • Biodiversity loss, extinctions reduce >60%

  • Nitrogen pollution, dead ocean zones – greatest source

  • Soil degradation, salinity, loss

  • 18% - 52% of greenhouse emissions reduced

  • Open fires (15% of global emissions) would sharply reduce

  • Largest source of short lived climate forcers

Crunch time2
Crunch Time beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking

Agricultural land needed by 2050

Livestock and food security
Livestock and food security beef burger a day to one soy burger a day over an entire year = taking