When you look up into the sky and you see a jet flying overhead, what do you think? I guess it depends on your state of mind, your imagination, or even your view on the environment. Our conceptions of the little glimmering tube floating silently across the sky at 33,000 feet may vary, but anyone studying environmental sustainability cannot help but to notice the soft white streak trailing behind it, and the implications that that streak has on our environment. Although it is a clear fact that air travel has an immense carbon footprint, and that most of the developed world has some degree of access to it, most aircraft flying today have modern engines that are significantly cleaner than their older counterparts. As I would assume nearly everyone in our class is under the age of 40, I wonder how this jet travel looked like 50 years ago during the great acceleration…. Spoiler alert: It was bad…
If you fast forward past the shirtless ground crew and the long preparation process to about 5:50 in the video below, you will see what was once a common sight in the skies of America in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, enter the Convair CV-880. A flintstone era jetliner made for the likes of the American military complex, Delta, TWA, and Elvis Pressley (He had his own Convair). The 4 high-output engines of its era poured out an immense exhaust trail which would seriously concern any modern passenger, whether environmentalist or not. As someone who enjoys mechanics and old technology, I cannot say that I enjoy watching the Convair taking flight in any regard, but the following scene puts into context the amount of apathy American industry had to it environmental impacts during this era. The video below takes place in the early 1990’s as the aircraft was cleared to fly east to a scrapyard thousands of miles away. You can hear spectators commenting on the ground that they had to get a special permit in order to make this single flight to the scrapyard. It is both amazing and sad that although these aircraft are now long gone, their effects and even the effects of their cleaner counterparts still remain
The documentary Cowspiracy is about the the assertion that livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the transportation sector’s emissions. When it comes down to the earth warming, there is more to climate change than just fossil fuels. Livestock produce more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, boats, and planes combined. Cows produce a substantial amount of methane gas from their digestive system. Methane gas from livestock is 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide from vehicles. Livestock plays a major role in global warming, it is also the leading cause of resource consumption in environmental degradation that is destroying our planet today. Both co-producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn argue that our institutional and individual attention to selected environmental issues will not make a collective difference unless we also confront the realities of animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture’s environmental effects are so pervasive that apparent progress elsewhere cannot counter its destructive and growing impact. The film suggests that protecting expanded areas of the oceans will not protect oceans or ocean animals. This goes the same for growing food organically. If we start growing food organically, even on a commercial scale, this will still not protect the land from what has already been done to it. The same also goes for cutting down trees. Keeping lumber operations out of the Amazon will not save the rainforest. No matter what we do or how hard we try to come up with alternative ways to save our planet we have already put us in a deep enough hole that we may not be able to get out of. When looking at statistics, over 100 billion gallons of water is used in the United States but when compared to animal agriculture they consume more than 34 trillion gallons of water. They found that one hamburger is equivalent to 660 gallons of water. That one hamburger is equivalent to showering two entire months! Talk about a waste. We focus so much of our attention on the domestic use of water in American homes which comes down to only 5%. However, when you look at the amount of water animal agriculture uses, they use almost 55% of the water in the United States. That is 2,500 gallons of water for just 1 pound of beef. One thousand gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk. That is insane to me. This causes growing water shortages which makes animal agriculture unsustainable. Seventy billion animals are raised annually worldwide. Everyday over 144 million animals are killed for food. The U.S. farm alone produces 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. That is a lot of cow poop.
When looking at the amount of meat an average American consumes, we consume over 209 pounds of meat each year. Everyday, a person that eats a plant-bladed diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, all equivalent of just 20 pounds of CO2 and one animal’s life. In order to stop this we need to think about when we eat meat, dairy and eggs, we feed this growing catastrophe. Change will happen as quickly as we convince each other to change what we eat.