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Plant-based Conservation

Thought Expiriment: 100 Americans Transition to Plant-Based


Image and sources from page 12 of the RAÍCES Institute Report

Agriculture is the perfect place to begin reducing inefficiencies because of its current impact on land usage. Today, agriculture occupies roughly 50% of all arable land around the world. Of the 51 million square kilometers used for agricultural production, 77% is for producing livestock, with the remainder occupied by crops grown for direct human consumption. In turn, the 37 million square kilometers used for meat and dairy production supplies a meager 18% of the global calorie supply, with the remaining 82% coming from plant-based sources.

In other words, less than 12% of habitable land supplies 82% of the global calorie supply. If we transitioned to entirely plant-based diets, we could conserve over 30% of all habitable land without reducing our ability to feed the world.

This shift equates to an area larger than the combined landmass of China, Australia, the European Union, and the continental United States.

This transition offers a dual benefit: complete emission reduction from livestock production and additional gains from carbon sequestration through rewilding and reforestation efforts. This strategy could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 30%, helping avert the ongoing global ecological crisis. These reductions are especially impressive when contrasted to studies exploring the differences between grain-based livestock systems and free-range systems, which conclude that although free-range systems can cut greenhouse emissions by up to 66%, they require 2.5 times more land, thus continuing to drive deforestation and large-scale land use changes.

To learn more about the connections between the food system and the environment, we recommend the books Regenesis by George Monbiot and Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won't Work by Richard Oppenlander.

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