Eating less meat would benefit the nutrient cycle

Feb 18, 2013
Eating less meat would benefit the nutrient cycle

A new report suggests that halving our consumption of animal products could benefit the environment by improving nutrient cycles.

The report, commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), analysed the problems caused by human interference in the of nutrients like and phosphorus.

'Just like the is disturbed, the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles are also disturbed. Except these are disturbed even more. We've doubled the nitrogen going into the environment over the past 100 years,' says Professor Mark Sutton, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, lead author of the report.

Although our atmosphere is around 80 per cent nitrogen, it's unreactive and stabilises the atmosphere. But plants can't use this unreactive form, so in order to be useful to plants and animals it needs to be converted to compounds like nitrate and ammonia in a process that also creates the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Industrial processes convert atmospheric nitrogen into reactive nitrogen for making fertilisers. But there's also nitrogen we unintentially put into circulation; through electricity generation and car emissions. This converts some of the nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrous oxide, which although useful for plants also causes pollution in the form of ozone - a chemical that can actually reduce plant growth.

'This was great from the perspective that we needed to feed a growing population so the fertiliser had an incredible benefit,' says Sutton. 'But what we didn't plan was leaking nitrogen out into the environment.'

He explains that the more steps you have in the food chain the more opportunities you have for nutrients to be lost at each stage: from fertiliser to plant, plant to animal, a fraction of the nutrients leaks out each time. If people chose not to eat meat they would cut out one of these steps, and reduce the points in the food chain nutrients can be lost from.

Reducing personal meat consumption was just one of ten key actions the report suggested could reduce the amount of nitrogen going into the environment.

'If you analyse the numbers it's quite amazing that of the nitrogen taken up by plants, 80 per cent of the amount harvested goes to feed livestock. Only 20 per cent feeds people directly, showing the massive inefficiency.' Sutton urges, 'it's not about being vegetarian or not, but about how much meat you eat. It's about being demi-tarian.'

He explains that if you halve the amount of meat and dairy consumption, you are still a meat eater but you have reduced your impact on the environment by up to a half.

The report also showed that rapidly expanding countries like India and South-East Asia are currently raising their meat consumption as they increasingly adopt western diets. It's estimated there could be up to 50 per cent more pollution as consumption increases by 2050, and this will mostly be in developing countries. 'If Europe were to say 'hey we have a new relationship with , we're eating less meat' you potentially get a feedback between continents. You affect aspirations across cultures and you might get people to aspire to this new way of thinking about animal products.'

Europe and the UK can lead the way in this. We need to challenge society to find out that it's in its own best interests not to over consume products. 'If we as Europe go for optimum consumption, not always the most of everything, it's going to improve health, and benefit the environment. There's an optimum to be found between what's on your plate and helping the environment.'

The report supports a 20 per cent improvement in nitrogen efficiency by 2020, which would reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizer by 20 million tonnes per year. They term this global aspiration, '20:20 for 2020'.

It's seven years and ten months until the 2020 deadline, but Sutton promises there's a lot you can do in this time. The measures listed in the report include actions which are already available, and could all make substantial contributions to nutrient management. 'There's already a big difference between countries achieving better nitrogen efficiency than others, like Denmark, where they're taking action that we in the UK haven't yet, but in principle, from a technical perspective, we can do it,' he concludes.

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User comments : 15

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neversaidit
4.1 / 5 (9) Feb 18, 2013
how about we halve the population?
ahmedgnz
3 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
The cows in the illustration seem to be not meat cows, but milk cows.
Telekinetic
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2013
how about we halve the population?

But first we must expose those institutions that ban birth control for what they are- namely shills for the military who require a constant source of human cannon fodder, cheap(slave)labor for industrialists, an ever-growing mass of product consumers for the capitalist system to survive, and a steady turnover of young boys for its priests.
Telekinetic
3 / 5 (8) Feb 18, 2013
Pope Immunity: Vatican Will Protect Benedict From Sexual Abuse Prosecution
Reuters | By Philip Pullella
Posted: 02/17/2013 10:10 pm EST | Updated: 02/17/2013 10:54 pm EST
(Reuters) - Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.
"His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn't have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else," said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Noumenon
2.5 / 5 (13) Feb 18, 2013
how about we halve the population?


Which half of your family should we start with?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2013
how about we halve the population?

I'm sure you just volunteered to be part of the half that gets eradicated, didn't you? After all: it's your idea so you must be happy when it gets implemented.

Or did you have in mind that only 'others' should make sacrifices while you sit back and relax? How very noble of you.

The cows in the illustration seem to be not meat cows, but milk cows.

How can you tell? Seriously: I'm interested.
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2013
What do you think happens to cows that no longer produce milk?

"The cows in the illustration seem to be not meat cows, but milk cows." - FooFie
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2013
how about we halve the population?
Which half of your family should we start with?
The conservative half, please. Completely useless glass half-empty people. Mostly meat eaters as well
VendicarE
3.9 / 5 (7) Feb 19, 2013
NumenTard knows full well that halving the earth's population does not require killing half the population.

He wishes people to believe that because he is a chronic liar and an enemy of mankind.

"Which half of your family should we start with?" - NumenTard

A one child per family policy guarantees a falling population that within one human lifetime will produce a global population that is less than half of what it is today.

Conservatives like NumenTard live to lie.

Lying is his life.
Noumenon
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 19, 2013
A one child per family policy guarantees a falling population that within one human lifetime will produce a global population that is less than half of what it is today.


It is dishonest to propose such social engineering, because as you know, in can not be legally implemented in free societies, without fundamentally changing the form of government. Honesty would require dimwits like you to first explain to the populace that you aim to control their lives and decisions through the force of government.
Wild13bill
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2013
Europe I have never seen Black Angus here in Holland they think milk cows are beef and its old you can smell it when cooking and it turns green in the pan and it doesn't taste like beef Germany better quality meat products forget the "Beef"
Wild13bill
1 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2013
halve die population you get into world economic growth problem in smaller countries... see news have a baby or we open the immigration flood gates IT'S MY JOB TO FREEZE YOU... from Logans Run...
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2013
It is dishonest to propose such social engineering, because as you know, in can not be legally implemented in free societies, without fundamentally changing the form of government

There's already all sorts of legal mechanisms that work in that direction. Child benefits, tax breaks for married couples, daycare programs, etc.

If you modify any of these then you alter the basis on which people will make a choice for/against having children (not everyone - but some).
It works in China that way. Having more children than one isn't forbidden - but it's hugely expensive.
(There are other, obvious drawbacks to instituting such policies - but by sheer numbers it works)

So even in western societies you would not have to implement any new legal mechanisms. But in most western societies having too many children isn't a problem, anyways.
Telekinetic
5 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2013
Reducing the burgeoning population doesn't require draconian measures reactionaries imagine, like the belief that gun control means confiscating guns. It's simply about education, which is parceled out to the families of the ruling class while the poor are stuck with inferior schools and age-old wives' tales about producing souls for Jesus and dying for your country. Knowledge is as critical a commodity as food and shelter, otherwise it makes you vulnerable to army recruiters impatient for the newly baptized.
ka_
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2013
Reducing population does indeed not require killing anyone. Education is a major component - Europe has now an fertility rate of about 1.6. (http://epp.eurost...istics). This is largely due to education as women does not want to ruin their careers by having a child early. Another big reason is the pension systems - you no longer need several children to ensure some of them can take care of you as you reach retirement age.