What is our most powerful tool for protecting biodiversity? A new report by the Chatham House, backed by the UN, indicates that widespread adoption of plant-based diets is one of the most crucial ways to protect endangered species.
Plant-based diets are environmentally beneficial because they have a lower carbon footprint and are less water-intensive, but they also help conserve precious wildlands for the species that rely on them. More than 80 percent of global farmland is used to raise animals, yet meat provides only 18 percent of calories eaten. Farming plants, especially regenerative farming, takes less space and resources, so a shift to a primarily plant-based diet would free up this land used for raising animals to be restored to support natural ecosystems.
The impact of this shift is even more stunning when we look at tangible product switches. For example, if consumers in the US switched from beef to beans, it would free up 42 percent of US agricultural land for restoration or regenerative farming initiatives. This change would offer a more feasible way to feed a growing population not supported by our current agricultural systems.
Switching to plant-based diets alone won’t perfect our food systems, although it would be a big step in the right direction. The perpetual quest to make food less expensive also encourages damaging practices like clear-cutting, overfertilization, and reduced crop diversity. As we transition to plant-based diets, we also must ensure that our agricultural systems implement sustainable practices like crop diversity, water conservation, and crop rotation.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to switch to a plant-based diet and ensure you’re still getting all the necessary nutrients. Alternative meats, vegan restaurants, nutritional resources, and growing popularity has made it easier than ever to ditch meat from your meals. And you’ll feel good knowing you’re helping protect biodiversity while you’re at it.