If you’ve ever considered being vegetarian but just couldn’t cut it, you’re not alone. I myself have struggled with going completely meat-free. However, a new report is sending a strong warning that may force us all in that direction.
Findings from water scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SWIW) suggest that if the world’s population neglects to adopt a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years, we may face a global food and water shortage crisis.
Although U.S. meat consumption has reportedly seen declines – estimated to down more than 12 percent by the end of this year since 2007 – that amount still equates to about 165.5 pounds per person per year; or around one half pound per day.
As reported by the Huffington Post, the SIWI suggests that around 20 percent of the protein in our diets comes from animal-based sources. Additionally, unless that drops 5 percent by 2050, there may not be enough food to feed the additional 2 billion people estimated to be alive by that time.
The surprising solution to this global issue? Water supply. All of these warnings stem from the world’s water supply, which is rapidly declining. At the annual world water conference in Stockholm, Sweden, the UN predicted that “we must increase food production by 70 percent by mid-century” to feed the world’s growing population, which will place additional stress on our already-low water supply.
In a statement issued by Torgny Holgren, executive director of the SIWI, the heightened need to conserve our water is becoming all-the-more urgent. “More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain,” he said. “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook.”
The SIWI contends that a vegetarian diet will help alleviate some of the strain on our water supply since animal-rich protein consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. In fact, an article from Guardian reported that one-third of the world’s dry land is currently used to grow crops that feed animals.
In addition to reducing the amount of meat we consume, the SIWI also recommends making a concerted effort to save water by reducing food waste, plant breeding, waste water recycling, and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in short supply.
For those unfamiliar with alternative protein sources, plant-based proteins include foods like quinoa, edamame, black beans, nuts and seeds. For information on how much protein our bodies need as well as how many grams of protein plant-based sources provide, check out this all inclusive vegetarian protein guide. It’s amazing to think that making small changes in our diet now could have such a huge impact on future generations’ food and water supply.