Swami Dayananda Saraswati
[Published in the Indian Express]
The Himalayan glaciers have been the perennial source of water for the rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna,Brahmaputra and, Sindhu. Now the disturbing news is that the glaciers are receding due to global warming. This problem of increase in global temperature is real and in India it will cause irredeemable damage in more than one way if it is not addressed. One will find it difficult to believe the contention of some ecologists that the river Ganga would cease to be perennial in six to forty years of time, that the other rivers of Himalayan origin would suffer the same fate.
As a human being I have a custodial relationship to the Mother Earth. Global warming testifies how indifferent and careless we have been in discharging our care-taking responsibilities. Now that we see the seriousness of this problem we need to take certain ameliorating measures. A report from the United Nations in the year 2006 reveals the surprising fact that “raising animals for food generates more green house gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.” Tens of billions of animals farmed for food release gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon-dioxide through their massive amounts of manure. Animals such as cows and sheep, being ruminant, emit huge amount of methane due to flatulence and burping. “The released methane”, the report says, “has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2.” It is very alarming to note that the livestock industry alone is responsible for 37% of human induced methane emissions. To make room for these animals to graze, virgin forests are cleared. The livestock industry also needs vast stretches of land to raise mono crops to feed the animals. The CO2 that the trees and plants store escapes back into the air when they are destroyed.
Growing fodder for farmed animals implies heavy use of synthetic fertilizers produced with fossil fuels. While this process emits a huge amount of CO2, fertilizer itself releases nitrous oxide (3) = a green house gas that is 296 times more potent than CO2. Alarming though these facts are I see in them a reason for hope. All that the people all the world over have to do is to avoid meat eating. In the absence of demand for meat there is no more need for breeding millions of animals for daily slaughter. The reversal of global warming is a certainty.
The meat lobby cannot do anything if the change is from the individuals. A single individual by simply not consuming meat prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tons CO2 emissions in a year. This is more than the one ton of CO2 emissions prevented by switching from a large sedan to a small car. One needs to have an honest commitment to save the mother earth who has been relentlessly patient and magnanimous since she began bearing life. There are a number of reasons for one to be a vegetarian. People given to meat eating think that a pure vegetarian diet is optional. But now they have no choice if they are alive to what is happening to this life-bearing planet. There is no justification whatsoever for one to continue to be a non-vegetarian knowing the devastating consequences of meat eating.
Promotion of vegetarianism does not require any legislation from the State. It does require a change of heart on the part of meat eating individuals anywhere on this planet. I cannot appeal to the tigers and wolves. They are programmed to be-what they are. Being endowed with free will only a human being can make a difference by exercising responsibly his or her choice.
The threatening inundation from the melting icebergs in the North Pole is avoidable and the perennial flow of the holy Ganga and Yamuna would continue if only there is a change of heart on the part of every meat eater. If it is too much for one to switch to be a total vegetarian one needs to give up at least red-meat eating. This is the only option one has.