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  • Chances are you or someone you know is a vegetarian, so we thought we’d try a thought experiment.

  • What would happen if everyone in the world was suddenly a vegetarian?

  • What effect would it have on our lives and the planet?

  • Before we begin, full disclosure: None of us at AsapSCIENCE are vegetarians.

  • And the worldwide rate of vegetarianism is fairly low, ranging from about 4-5% in the US and Canada to a little over 30% in India.

  • As a result, there are currently about 20 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, over a billion sheep and nearly a billion pigs in the world.

  • Without any meat-eating humans to provide a market, whole herds of domestic animals would disappear.

  • And this would free up vast quantities of land.

  • About 33 million square kilometres of land are used for pasture - an area about the size of Africa.

  • And that’s not even counting the land used to grow crops exclusively for animal feed.

  • Some of it would be needed for the increased amount of vegetable crops, but much of the land currently used as pasture is actually too dry to grow crops.

  • Without humans adding artificial nutrients, this land could turn to desert,

  • but if properly managed, it’s possible that some farmland would return to its natural state of grassland or forests, which could help counteract global climate change.

  • After all, the loss of CO2-absorbing trees cleared for agriculture is a major reason why global levels of CO2 are going up.

  • Cows and other grazers also affect our climate through large amounts of methane production, which has 25 times more potential planet-warming power than CO2.

  • Combined with the loss of forests and other effects, livestock production is responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions,

  • which is more than all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles put together.

  • In fact, many scientists believe that reducing meat consumption may be one of the best strategies for managing climate change.

  • A vegetarian diet would also greatly reduce water consumption; around 70% of global freshwater consumption is used in agriculture.

  • It takes 15,000 litres to make a kilogram of beef, 6,000 L for pork and 4,000 L for chicken - Compare this with 1,600 L for cereal crops, 900 L for fruit and 300 L for garden vegetables.

  • Of course, a kilogram of meat packs many more calories than the equivalent weight of fruit,

  • but even if you compare the ratio of water per calorie of available food energy,

  • beef is still 5 times more water intensive than fruit, 7 times more than veggies and 20 times more than cereal.

  • So are there any downsides to a vegetarian diet?

  • Well, we’d be left without a cheap source for many byproducts of livestock, like leather from animal hides, or animal fats which are used in cosmetics, candles and detergents.

  • And while vegetable based alternatives do exist, their production would need to increase, meaning more land dedicated to growing crops and less restored to its natural state.

  • A more complicated fact is that raising and processing animals is a full-time job for more than 1 billion people - most of whom are small-scale farmers in the developing world.

  • While some may be able to move to producing milk or eggs, or even growing vegetable crops, many would be faced with their way of life becoming obsolete.

  • Of course, any increase in vegetarianism is likely to be a gradual process rather than a sudden cut-off.

  • And, surprisingly, the trends are actually in the opposite direction.

  • In places like India and China, people are becoming wealthier, and as a result, consuming more meat which effectively cancels out the declines we see in other countries.

  • So, we actually tried to go vegetarian for 21 days straight as an experiment in our new AsapTHOUGHT episode.

  • Check out the video if you want to see how it went, what we learned in the process and how we felt about it both mentally and physically!

  • And subscribe for more weekly science videos!

Chances are you or someone you know is a vegetarian, so we thought we’d try a thought experiment.

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What If The World Went Vegetarian?

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    王健安 posted on 2020/12/06
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