My growing awareness of our diets’ impact on the environment

Last fall, I switched to a vegan diet briefly, before settling on pescatarian (a vegetarian diet, plus fish).  While I did this out of health concerns, this process has begun to open my eyes to the impact that animal-based foods have on our environment.  I’m still trying to figure out if there can be a balance, but do think it’d be better if I can get to a full vegan lifestyle.  Yeah…lifestyle.  Not just diet.  But that’s a ways off still.

So, what issues have been on my mind lately?  Well first, there was a great article in Outside Magazine about OR4, a wolf that played a large part in that species reintroduction into the wilds of Oregon.  The only real controversy regards the occasional wolf killing of livestock, sheep and cattle.  It’s rare, and farmers are financially compensated, but still, the bulk of objection to wolf reintroduction anywhere comes from that group.  It’s already been shown that wolves are beneficial to the health of the ecosystem in Yellowstone.  By having a meat-based diet and using animal products (wool), we’re indirectly having a negative impact on the health of the ecosystems we live in.

Another thing I’ve learned was just today, reading that over half (60%) of the lakes in New Zealand are deemed unsafe for humans to swim in…due to pollution from dairy farming.  Wow.  I have to assume that dairy production in the US has at least some similar effect, but I haven’t read anything about that yet, I need to learn more.

Of course, there’s the issue of methane produced by cows and its effect on global warming, too!

I’m realizing that to achieve my goal of protecting the environment to the greatest extent possible, I need to further reconsider my diet and not support industries that are directly harming it.  However, I don’t have a good sense right now of to what extent the production of plant-based foods negatively impacts the environment.  I know there are concerns about water usage (almonds, especially) and destruction of native habitat, but are there other issues I need to be more aware of?  The quest for knowledge continues.