The Collison Newsletter July 2008


                              The IMPACT of DIET



Our daily food choices clearly affect our health. But they also have a profound effect on climate change, on our responsible use of the world’s resources of land and water, on the rate of increase in antibiotic resistance bugs, and on our ability to produce sufficient food for all people.

Global Warming, Methane and Diet 

The big focus at the present time, worldwide, is global warming. The most prominent cause, talked about and discussed at all levels, from politicians to environmentalists to individuals, is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 


Carbon dioxide is the most important of the greenhouse gasses, and the universal focus is on how to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide throughout the world, especially in the developed western countries. Carbon emission trading is currently in the news everyday.


Much less well-known is that methane is the second most important greenhouse gas. Just how crucial is it?


The warming effect of carbon dioxide is due to the fact that each molecule traps heat in the atmosphere.


While methane is released each year at a level only 1/200th the level of carbon dioxide, each molecule of methane is 50 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. This 50 fold effect per molecule is why methane becomes a critical factor in climate change. Indeed, methane is estimated to be responsible for no less than 18% of the global warming phenomenon.


And what is the origin of the majority of methane released on the planet each year? Cows, the animals used to produce milk and meat. World-wide, there are an estimated 1.3 billion cows.


Cows have a different type of stomach to humans. They are ruminants, ie the food in their stomach is broken down by bacteria by fermentation. During this process methane is produced. The methane is released from the cow’s body by burping and flatulence.


It is estimated that the total methane currently released by cows into the atmosphere over a year is in the order of about 100 million tons. Because methane is so potent a greenhouse gas, this is equivalent to 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide.


Thus the eating of beef and dairy products significantly contributes to global warming.

Land Stress and Diet 

There is an enormous difference in the amount of land required to feed a person, depending on their diet.


On average, the land required to feed a person for a year is as follows:

·        a meat-eater - 3¼ acres

·        a vegetarian - ½ acre

·        a vegan - 1/6 acre


Hence, on average, a meat-and-dairy eater requires some 20 times the acreage of a vegan (who eats no animal products) to be fed.


In recent times, concern has been raised about the loss of land for food production to growth for bio-fuels. Each person who moves to a vegetarian or vegan way of life is helping not just their own health, but also helping fight the increasing problem of global land stress.

Water Stress and Diet

There is also an enormous difference in the amount of water required to feed a person, depending on their diet.

On average each year, to produce the food for a meat-and-dairy eater requires 100 times the fresh water required to produce the food for a vegan. This is because of the amount of water needed to raise the livestock, and grow the grain that feeds the livestock.


Following are some examples of the amount of water required to produce different foods:

·        1 kg beef - 16,000 litres water

·        1 kg milk - 6,200 litres water

·        1 kg cheese - 5,000 litres water

·        1 kg eggs - 3,300 litres water

·        1 kg barley - 1,300 litres water

·        1 kg wheat - 1,000 litres water

·        1 kg potatoes - 540 litres water


As we go from vegetables to dairy foods to animal foods we use up larger and larger amounts of fresh water.


Fruits take far less water than other types of foods to produce. For example:

·        1 apple - about 70 litres of water    

·        1 L orange juice - about 22 litres of water


At present, many parts of the planet, especially Australia, are experiencing severe water stress, a situation that is only destined to become more severe as global warming intensifies.


The importance of a dominantly alkali forming diet (all animal products are acid forming in the body) of mainly fruit and vegetables has been set out in my September 2005 newsletter ‘Acid Alkali Balance’. A vegan, as well as caring for their own health, is making a personal contribution to reducing fresh water stress on the planet.

Antibiotics and Diet 

The ‘tight-confinement’ methods of industrial farming make the animals very sick, especially, for example, in the chicken industry. Intense antibiotic regimes are needed, or the animals would die long before they were ready for market. Two-thirds of all antibiotics used in the United States are now given to livestock for this reason. This over-use of antibiotics is helping to generate new classes of “superbugs” that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.


Eating a vegan diet, therefore, also helps to preserve the efficacy of our range of valuable antibiotics.


The world’s cows consume enough calories/kilojoules to feed nine billion people, almost 50% more than the current world’s population. If America consumers reduced their meat consumption by just 10% it would free up enough food to feed all 60 million of the people who will starve to death on earth this year and every year.


The above statistics have been extracted from ‘A Global Vision. General Principles for a Sustainable Planet’ by Jim Sloman. He is a deeply insightful thinker, scholar and philosopher and an internationally acclaimed writer and teacher.


His book, written in an easy to read and understand style, is an excellent in-depth overview of our world in crisis. It concludes with ten general principles for a sustainable planet. It can be purchased via his website

Jim Sloman says:

In my opinion we humans will sooner or later become primarily vegan in our daily diets not only from increasing necessity, but also from a genuine love of the planet’s animals, water, farmland, climate and ecology and, not least, our fellow human beings.”


* Copyright 2008: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer:  All material on the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.


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