WATER: THE WELLSPRING OF LIFE
Legend has it that the Buddha stopped a war between two kings who were quarreling over rights to the Rohini River by asking them, "Which is more precious, blood or water?"1
Sadly, experts opine that war over water rights seems imminent.2 A 2015 UN Report projected that the world will likely suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water by 2030 unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource.3 And water stresses have already begun.
2.7 billion people “find water scarce for at least one month of the year."4
Even Nestle, the world’s largest food company, made dire predictions as revealed in WikiLeaks. Their 2015 report estimated that one-third of the world’s population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025.5 They summed it up best with these words:
“A calorie of meat requires 10 times as much water to produce as a calorie of food crops. As the world's growing middle classes eat more meat, the earth's water resources will be dangerously squeezed.”
But it's more nuanced than that. Factory farms are like giant overflowing toilets, where good clean water goes down the tube and massive amounts of waste spill into waterways.
- Down the tube:
- 1,000 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk 7-8
- 2,500 gallons of water to make one pound of beef.9-10
- Overflow of toxins / waste:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that 46% of U.S. rivers and streams are impaired, and the leading cause of pollution was agriculture.11-12 Regrettably, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers trickle into waterways. Considering livestock consumes about 50% of the grain on Earth13 and carnism requires 10 times the resources than veganism,14-15 we can significantly reduce toxin runoff by going vegan; even better if we go organic too.
- In the U.S., 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food every minute.16-17 The excrement pours into lagoons, which are prone to leaking into waterways.
Therein lies the rub. Since people cannot access clean freshwater, inadequate sanitation afflicts 2.4 billion people. Consequently, diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and trachoma multiply. Trachoma is a bacterial infection that has caused blindness or visual impairment in nearly two million people.18 Even worse, two million people (mostly children) die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.19
In this context, the veganism movement begs the question, “Aren’t blood and water both precious?”
- Carriere, Rolf and Nagler, Michael, “Fight violence with nonviolence: Unarmed civilian peacekeepers are saving lives today”. The Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 2008.
- “Will The Next War Be Fought Over Water?” January 3, 2010 (NPR reported that the book “makes a convincing case that many 21st century conflicts will be fought over water".)
- “UN Report: World Faces 40% Water Shortfall by 2030”. Associated Press. March 22, 2015.
- Overview of Water Scarcity, World Wildlife Fund.
- “Tour D’Horizon with Nestle: Forget the Financial Crisis, the World is Running Out of Water.” WikiLeaks, March 24, 2009.
- Mekonnen, M.M. & Hoekstra, A.Y. Ecosystems (2012) 15: 401.
- MekonnenWater for Food. Hoekstra, Arjen Y. "The water footprint of food".
- Robbins, John. " 2,500 gallons all wet?“ Earth Save. Healthy Planet, Healthy People.
- "Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues". BioScience (2004) 54 (10): 909-918.
- “The Gross Way Water Pollution From Livestock Affects You”
- 2000 National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress.
- Sansoucy, R., “Livestock – a driving force for food security and sustainable development“, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
- Rifkin, J. “The World’s Problems on a Plate,” The Guardian, May 17, 2002.
- "Animal Manure Management". USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service. RCA Issue Brief #7. December 1995
- "Agricultural Waste Characteristics". Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook. USDA. Chapter 4 .
- Haine, Cornelia “The Animals Die First.”
- World Wildlife Fund