Don't take my absence the wrong way....I'm still plant-strong, just really busy!  In lieu of my words of "wisdom," please enjoy this informative guest post by our friend, Jessi.  -Jonny O

Hello all!  My name is Jessi Dodson and I’ve been lucky enough to work for the Ostroff family for about a year now.  I signed on to work in their home, three days a week, helping with the daily routine of a busy life.  Jon, head of the household, was just about to embark on the vegan wagon journey.  From the first time meeting the family, I remember feeling so inspired and lucky to have met them and heard their story.  Fast forward to today and they’ve continued to regularly inspire me.  Whether it is through their journeys to South Africa in support of the “Love to Langa” project (helping with AIDS-affected in Cape Town) or just everyday tips and recipes to eat cleaner and healthier on a strict plant based diet.  The Ostroffs are a perfect example of good people giving their best effort to live better, every day.

I’ve been a vegetarian for about 6 years now.  However, I chose to look deeper into why and how I’ve made this life choice.  The many important reasons pile higher every time I count.  I stumbled about this nice quote by Albert Einstein.  He said the following.

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

For some reason, this quote really resonated inside me.  Granted, I’m certainly not saying Albert Einstein was prophesying the meat industry’s declining standards through our lifetimes or how environmental ethics would take hold in the 21st century.   However, the sentiment can be seen as right in many ways – many, many ways.

My main goal here is to spread the awareness on the issue.  The meat industry is harmful to our chance of survival on Earth.  The counter-effects of this industry are affecting our future from several different angles.  Our farmlands are overgrazed, our rainforests being cut down, and our drinking water is being both polluted and wasted.  No matter what your belief is on dieting, burgers and brats versus spinach and celery, the focus towards the detrimental harm to our environment is the key issue.  If continued, there won’t be a future for anybody.

For those looking for some bullet points, a tablet of contents, to what this research is focused on:

1.     Overgrazing

2.     Rainforests

3.     Fresh Water Pollutions

4.     Preserving Fresh Water

Overgrazing occurs when land is used by too many animals for grazing.  As a result, the soil can be compacted, decreasing its ability to absorb water.  In the western United States, approximately 70% of our land is used for grazing live stock.  When heavy rain falls, the top soil is carried away, ruining the land for any further vegetation.  For general use, at least six inches of top soil is generally needed to grow healthy crops.  However, once the land is overgrazed, it takes around 3,000 years for nature to reproduce that same amount of top soil.  At the rate Americans alone consume animal bi-products, it is estimated that, if the current rates and trends continue, there may be only 45 more years of farmable soil left on the entire planet.  Because overgrazing has the risk of making land in America unusable for raising live-stock, it is necessary to find usable land elsewhere.

While the rainforests seem like some distant concern from a faraway land, these eco-systems are critical for our well-being.  The rainforests are important because they are like the respiratory lungs for the oxygen supply on our planet.  It houses countless plants, trees, and animals – all which absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and provide us with oxygen.  This is a fairly easy concept to grasp.  For nature enthusiasts who care outside of basic oxygen supplies, the rainforests also house approximately half of the world’s plant life and animal species.  According to the Rain Forest Action Network, approximately two-thirds of the rainforests in Central America have been cleared for the primary purpose of raising cheap beef to ship to America’s burger joints and waffle houses.  To put that in an easily readable statistic, it is estimated that every fast food burger which is made in a cleared out rainforest, 55 square feet of tropical rainforest had to been cleared out to make that burger.

The rain forests are also essential in providing us with clean water.  The role of rainforests in the water cycle is to add water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration.  Defined, transpiration occurs when plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis.  This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds.  When forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines.  This is how droughts can occur.  Not thinking this is your drought?  Well, moisture generated by rainforests travels around the world.  Scientists have discovered that rainfall in America’s Midwest is directly affected by rainforests in the Congo.  You still think we should cut those trees down?

Another issue is that animal agriculture demands tremendous amounts of fresh water.  While only 1% of the water on Earth can actually be used for consumption, this should loudly highlight the need for the preservation of this fresh water.  Unfortunately, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), upwards of 50% of all fresh water consumed in the United States is used for raising livestock.  Thats not even the worst of it.  Not only are these animals drinking up half of our drinkable water, they are simultaneously poisoning the same wells that they’re drinking from!  Livestock feeding operations (or ‘feed lots’) cause much of this water pollution.  Under traditional or smaller farms, manure is used as fertilizer to enrich the soil.  Most understand this traditional setting for the replenishment of soil.  However, in larger situations, the farms and located too far away from the ‘feed lots’ to justify the cost of transportation for the ‘free’ fertilizer.  Therefore, the manure (or fertilizer) is sometimes simply dumped into the fresh water, poisoning rivers and estuaries.  According to the EPA, animal agriculture is, in fact, the largest polluter of America’s consumable water systems.  It is responsible for 70% of waterway pollution.  Livestock waste is a breeding ground for very dangerous pathogens such as E-Coli, which can cause a range of symptoms from sickness to death.

For those interested, this is a video on the effects.  Here in Philadelphia, this is fairly local to both me and the Ostroffs.

If you’re reading this – and you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or taking steps to a plant based diet – you should be fairly proud that you don’t contribute to this disaster.  Every meal eaten which doesn’t contain any type of meat is helping to save this planet in small, nutritious doses.  Bit by bit, this is something to feel good about.  However, no matter what we’re doing in our diets, the best we can do for ourselves as a society is to educate ourselves and truly understand where our food comes from.  If we don’t demand something different, we will continually be fed in all of the same ways.

Not just understanding the contents of our food, we need to examine the content of what is already inside of us and where we’re going as a species.  In the end, as our food teaches us, we are all only a small swimming piece of larger organism.  And like a human missing a lung, this planet will breathe harder and suffer a shorter life without her most basic respiratory functions.  We should be careful of how culture speaks to common sense.If our actions become our habits, our habits will eventually mold our character.  And be careful of your character, as when your character stretches out over a long enough period of time, your character becomes your legacy.  If our culture of caring for this planet is based on a legacy of waste, filth, and self-serving interests – What does that say for our character and, more specifically, our actions?  It says our culture has become corrupted.  And we need to change the way we think.

Next time we sit for a meal, let’s discuss how we’re making the world a better place and how we will certainly be remembered for our unforgotten legacy.