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Thursday, July 31, 2014

DRY TIMES


In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California, which has seen many a dry day for three years running. He asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent.

Six months after the government mandate, a survey was released that showed the Golden State had actually used 1 percent MORE water in the month of May, than the previous three-year average for the same month. So much for heeding the governor's bidding. And thus California remains stuck in a historic shortage.

How bad is it? Reservoirs are dwindling and the Sierra Nevada is melting. Time magazine reports that the drought will cost the state more than $2 billion this year. What else do officials have up their sleeve to awaken in Californians the pressing urge to act? Curbs on lawn watering and other outdoor uses carry fines of up to $500 per day. Of course the fines' real value is less enforcement than awareness. And officials recognize that what is required is for people to have a change of heart, or else the next drought will devastate California.

It is time to recognize one huge and largely ignored source of water consumption. Namely the production of animal protein for food. Factory farming swallows a tremendous amount of water. John Robbins notes in several exceptional books that cutting back on meat consumption would save much more water than any other measure, given that the water required to produce just ten pounds of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year. Not only that, about 70% of the water used in the 11 western states is dedicated to the raising of animals for food. This is not taking into account the pollution that occurs from manure run-off, which renders clean water undrinkable and further reduces the amount to go around.

And just where do factory farms exist? Below is a map of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in America. The redder the areas the greater the concentration of animals, meaning the higher the water expenditure. Note that California has huge blocks of red areas.
usa_meat_map
 
Why isn't factory farming, and all the burgers, dogs, chicken wings, and turkey dinners implicated in the drought besieging our fine state? Could it be that the powers that be are diverting our attention? It can't be something so simple as an oversight, could it? But if so, let's open our eyes and face the music (that's a mixed metaphor we recognize, but the point stands).
 
And so, while it is certainly prudent to save water by reducing the time spent washing cars, by watering lawns at dusk or dawn rather than in the heat of day, and investing in a low flow shower head, cutting back on meat consumption is where the real money, and water, are at.
 
But until "officials" including our governor adopt dietary changes necessary to improve the environment, relying on the government who is under the sway of major lobbyists to see the elephant in the room is a lesson in frustration.  But you have the power. Consider that each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. The USGS water science school tells us that the largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and after that, to take showers and baths. Cutting down water usage by 20 percent would mean 20 less gallons used per day, or 10 fewer toilet flushes, or 5 fewer minutes in the shower assuming you used a water-saving device. But have you ever refrained from flushing the toilet after peeing? It stinks!
 
When you consider that a lb of beef requires 1800 gallons of water to produce, the biggest help you can be at the individual level is to forego the meat and instead eat your greens and sweets and beans and seeds. By substituting out the 5 oz of chicken breast you normally have for lunch and instead enjoy an equal amount of beans or a piece of tofu (chicken: 468 gallons of water per pound, soybeans 206 gallons per pound), you save 80 gallons of water. Just in one meal. No time spent shivering in the shower or browning your toilet rim, no parched plants or dirty cars involved. If everyone markedly reduced consumption of flesh foods and eggs and dairy or stopped eating them altogether, the 20 percent goal reduction would occur overnight. California would soon be an oasis! Just a simple substitution, which not only will save the state, but serve your health.

Do your part and beat the meat. Tell a friend.




2 comments:

  1. NC has more pigs than people, most in cafo farms. I'm doing my part!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are a stud CJ. Period. Rock on!

    ReplyDelete