Post-caucus, don’t forget climate change

NICOLE BAXTER, Opinion Columnist

With so much going on in our lives and around the world, it is easy to get distracted from what is really important. Since the political stoplight has been shifting from state to state, Iowans aren’t feeling as much pressure to be active in the government.

After the caucuses, there is no one calling you or knocking on your door soliciting support. Although at first, the break from political notifications was nice, we cannot forget about the issues we face, the most important being climate change.

In the big picture, nothing else matters if we don’t have a planet to live on. Many people think that because climate change is a slow process it means there is time to set it aside and deal with more timely matters.

Of course, there are other affairs that need to be tended to, the U.S. has no shortage of significant problems to deal with, but the environment has been set on the back burner for too long. This is not a trend that will come and go out of fashion, it is real and happening faster than most people think.

According to studies conducted by NASA, within just the past century the Earth’s post-Ice Age average recovery rate is nearly 10 times faster than previous centuries. This means that the planet is getting hotter faster than ever before.

NASA also projects that the rate of warming for the next century will be twenty times faster than the Earth has ever seen. This extreme change is not natural in the Earth’s history and we do not know how much time we have before huge changes occur in our environment.

It may be surprising, but numerous studies have proven that it is not factories, cars or water usage that make the biggest impact on our planet. All the things we have heard about taking shorter showers and driving less are practically futile. The real problem stems from what we eat. Meat!

Recent data shows that every day roughly 80,000 acres of rainforest are cut down. On average, 60 percent of that land is then used for cattle ranching. What does this mean?

It’s simple; when trees are cut down, they release CO2. Too much CO2 is bad for the atmosphere, but on top of that, ranchers are raising cattle on the newly cleared land.

What’s wrong with cows? Well, cows eat all day and in the process release methane. Methane, like CO2, is really bad for the environment in abundant amounts.

With all this CO2 and methane being released into the atmosphere, it is getting stuck in the ozone and instead of leaving the planet, it is adding to the heat and pollution problems.

On top of the unnatural amounts of CO2 and methane being added to our atmosphere, raising cattle and producing beef uses so much energy and water.

Up to 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce just one pound of beef. Imagine how much water could have been saved if meat were not such a substantial part of our diets.

You may think that it is ridiculous to blame a cow’s natural digestion process for our planet’s vulnerable state, but the facts do not lie. Of course, factories produce huge amounts of pollution that affect the process, but the main source is clearly cattle ranching.

The great number of cattle being raised for food is becoming unsustainable and the result of this booming meat business is climate change. Whether people are unaware of the correlation or just too comfortable with their diet to make a change, there is no doubt that eating meat aids in global warming.

Vegetarianism can seem like a scary thing to us Iowa folk, but it is proven to help the environment. I urge you all to take the next step in saving the planet by eating more plants!

Try meatless Mondays or start by cutting out just beef. Every little bit counts and the more people aware about the issue, the better off our planet will be. It’s cliché, but it is true, it starts with you! Become informed about climate change and tell your friends.

This is not an issue we can push aside any longer, it must be addressed now. Don’t go through life saying that it isn’t your problem because whether you see it or not, it is happening right now and it is only getting worse.