by Patti Breitman
In Never Too Late to Go Vegan, one of the things we wrote about is how going vegan can be an important part of your legacy. That is, it’s a way to leave behind something positive and beneficial. Or to leave the world a better place than how we found it. In particular, if we want to leave behind a planet that can support the lives of future generations, we really have no choice but to adopt a plant-based diet.
It’s something that has become painfully clear as California continues to face one of the worst droughts in history. Right now, California’s ranchers are facing a water shortage and a feed shortage. They are selling off cattle because there is not enough water to grow their animals’ food. Or they are forced to purchase very expensive hay because there is no grass growing in this record-breaking dry season. Food prices are expected to soar.
Many people are responding to the drought in California by cutting back on washing their cars, taking shorter showers, and letting the lawn go dry. Those are all good things to do, but they don’t have nearly the impact of a vegan diet.
Food choices are intricately tied to water use. Raising cows and food for cows are among the most extravagant uses of water that we humans have devised. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that it takes 990 liters of water to produce just one liter of cow’s milk. Most of this water isn’t fed directly to the cows; it’s used to irrigate crops that the cows eat. Huge amounts of water are also used to grow crops for animals raised for meat. The Worldwatch Institute reports that the heaviest water use on the planet is associated with producing meat for humans. In turn, fecal waste from the animals, along with fertilizers and pesticides used to grow their food contribute to water pollution, taking an even greater toll on the water supply.
So many things are beyond our control and we certainly can’t control the weather. But we can live in a way that uses resources like water far more efficiently and responsibly. We can control our personal food choices. Every vegan meal we consume is a vote for the careful and intelligent use of our limited, precious water supply. It’s a vote for protecting the planet and the future for our children.