Took me awhile to find my groove with this one. But the more I read, the more I enjoyed it.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
Every day we "eat" a thousand times more water than we drink. Totaling it all up, it takes about 7,500 liters (nearly 2,000 gallons) of water a day to keep the average American lifestyle afloat. About half of that water is hidden in our diets. In part because Americans are quite carnivorous, and meat often (although not always, as we'll see later) takes a lot of water to produce (think about irrigating the grain to feed the cows), the typical American's water footprint is twice the global average.
There are 244,000 new people on the planet every day.
On average, fires in the US now consume twice as much are per year as three decades ago.
Today over half of the corn and 47% of the soybeans grown in the US come from the upper Mississippi River basin.
Almarai bought 15 square miles of farmland in AZ in order to grow alfalfa hay to ship back to the Middle East to feed Saudi dairy cows.
The world's soils hold about eight times as much water as all rivers combined. This soil reservoir is the principal water supply for forests, rangelands, and croplands; how much water it contains will dramatically influence our food security in the coming decades. On average our diets require about 1 liter of water per calorie. Plants life water from the soil and use it in the miraculous process of photosynthesis, whereby sunlight converts carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates and oxygen. Photosynthesis is the foundation not only global food production but also of terrestrial life - and without sufficient water in plants roots, it cannot occur.
Returning sols to healthier conditions could increase water by 500,000 liters per hectare.
Scientists estimate that since the start of tillage-based farming, most agricultural soils have lost 30 to 75% of their organic carbon contest, and that those losses accelerated with the expansion of industrial agriculture.
Look up South Dakota State University Extension "tighty whiteys" demonstration about soil health.
How we choose to manage cattle determines their environmental impact, not the animals themselves. Without cattle, goats, and other ruminants, the world's rangelands, which cover about 40% of the land on Earth (excluding Antarctica and Greenland), would contribute little to the global food supply.
In the US it takes 973 gallons of water to produce 2 pounds of boneless beef. That's 441 gallons per pound of beef, or about 110 gallons for a quarter-pounder. (factoring in green water use)
So, can a true environmentalist eat beef? As with so many questions of this sort, the answer starts with "It depends." But for those in search of an environmentally ethical meal, beef from range-raised and holistically managed cattle cuts the muster. That said, it's highly unlikely that ranchers could produce enough beef in this ecologically sound fashion to satisfy current demand. To be a sustainable part of our diets, beef might need to become, in the words of British farmer and author Simon Fairlie, "a benign extravagance."
Cover cropping involves planting noncash crops, such as clover, sunflower, hairy vetch, and cereal rye in between harvests of corn, soy, and other commodity crops, The roots of the cover crops penetrate deep into the soil and hold it in place, while also aerating it, sequestering carbon, and increasing it s capacity to hold water. With less soil erosion and water runoff, less nitrogen moves off the land. And with cover crops like clover and hairy vetch that add nitrogen to the soil, farmers can reduce their application of fertilizer, sometimes to zero.
Just as too much cholesterol or sugar in our bloodstream threatens our overall health, too much nitrogen coursing through the water cycle threatens the whole ecosystem.