Last weekend my friends and I had a picnic up on Onion Mountain overlooking Grants Pass in the valley below, with snow-capped, 9495-ft Mt. McLoughlin 70 miles to the east rising majestically above the haze. Though the temperature in the valley stood in the high 90s, at 4000 feet the breezes were cool and fresh. Anita had fixed some wonderful dishes, all vegetarian, and it couldn't have tasted better or been more nutritious.

The conversation drifted into global warming and that brought up this thought: If everyone ate vegetarian, the global warming problem would be only a fraction of what it is today.

For, A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined. A report from the University of Chicago showed that going vegan is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off US roads. Eating one pound of animal flesh produced by usual farming and livestock industry methods requires the production of the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.

One reason all this is possible is that, in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere, methane gas is more than 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. The world's billions of farmed animals produce enormous amounts of methane, both during digestion of food (burping and farting) and from the acres of cesspools they fill with feces.

Even worse than methane, nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the UN, the meat, egg, and dairy industries produce 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

All these facts have been known for some time, yet hardly anyone thinks about them when they eat. A great political debate rages over carbon dioxide levels while methane and nitrous oxide hardly are mentioned. Moreover, who, thinking of these things and visualizing all the destruction and suffering global warming is causing and will cause in the future, chooses vegetarianism for ethical reasons?

How beautiful when a person makes the effort to learn things, and to take responsibility for his or her choices. How beautiful was our vegan picnic that day, the food so tasty and nourishing, and not a bit of it produced by non-human animals.

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