US rivers and lakes are shrinking for a surprising reason: cows

by Troy Farah, The Guardian


  • Growing crops in order to feed cows has been identified as a major cause of water shortages, according to a new analysis in Nature
  • Cattle fed crops used for beef and dairy account for 23% of all water consumption while agriculture accounts for 92% of freshwater use globally
  • It takes nearly 450 gallons of water per quarter pound of beef
  • Major metropolitan cities on the U.S. West Coast consume the most water-intensive beef and dairy products 
  • The U.S. experiences an increased risk of fish extinction due to draining water tables and toxic runoff into rivers and dried up streams
  • Brian Richter, the study’s lead author, proposed letting farmland sit idle, also known as fallowing, in order to save water 
  • Straying away from water-intensive beef and dairy operations can play a role in saving water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Platform includes carbon sequestration through building healthy soils by working with nature using climate-friendly management and restoration practices in agricultural soils. These practices provide many benefits including helping to conserve water. 

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One thing you can do: Think dairy

by Tik Root, NY Times

We’ve known for a while that many animal products have an outsize environmental footprint. But which ones have the most impact?

It might not be news to you that the world’s beef production creates the most planet-warming emissions over all. But the next item on the list, according to one study, may be more surprising: dairy products.

“So much of the discourse around environmental impact of food is around meat,” said Helen Harwatt, a policy fellow at the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School, who published a study last year in the journal Climate Policy.

She had expected pork or chicken to be second to beef. But by her calculations, the production of dairy products — including milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt — contributes about 3.6 percent of global planet-warming emissions each year. Her research focused on how policies can encourage shifts to plant proteins from animal proteins.

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