Climate, Cows, and Cars

Climate, Cows, & Cars


Land consumption is another troubling issue, since it removes space that would otherwise be left as untouched wildlife. The damage is more pronounced for ‘free range’ livestock then conventional because the latter are housed in more ‘efficient’ [crowded] conditions.
In the U.S. 788 million acres of land are used for grazing livestock. Additionally about 200 million acres are used for animal feed. In South America, 70% of formerly native forests are being clearcut in order to provide grazing land for cattle. Trees are felled at an incredible rate to satisfy the growing market for animal meat.

Imagine if trees gave off wifi signals, we would be planting so many trees...and we’d probably save the planet. Too bad they only produce the oxygen that we breathe.”

Transportation as well has a similarly massive impact on the health of our land. In the United States, 158,000 square km. (61,000 sq. mi.) of land is devoted to roads and parking lots. This results in paved areas consuming between 30% and 60% of the total land surface in North American cities. (link) However the cumulative effects of what is called the ‘road-effect zone’ are much greater. Noise and pollution spread quite far from the road, as far as 1 1/2 miles farther. Harvard researcher Richard Forman estimates that 1/5 of all land in the U.S. is ecologically impacted by roads. This impact includes human health, animal migration, and water movement. (link)
This high demand for space means that other users get squeezed out. With such large swaths of land being negatively affected, it’s easy to see why so many environmental groups are pushing for more ‘roadless areas.’

Outa Space

But why is it, that we devote so much physical space to transportation? The reason is partly due to the size of the cars themselves and partly the result of travel speed. A travelling car creates a large space around it (mainly in front) that would be dangerous for anyone else to use. This space can be 1000 sq. ft. for a car travelling in town to several thousand square feet for a car on the highway. (link) This means that the average car, travelling at highway speed can consume as much space as a small house! (link)

Of course, if our climate crisis continues with business as usual, there will be less land available for either highways OR livestock.

Life Cycle of Manufacture