Climate change is threatening agricultural supply chains nearly everywhere in the world, disrupting harvests and slowing production, and causing food to disappear from grocery shelves. Approximately 85 percent of the world's population is experiencing the dangerous effects of climate change, and animal agriculture can be directly linked to this devastation. Philip Lymbery, chief executive for Compassion in World Farming, just released his new book, Sixty Harvest Left, which details how Big Agriculture is driving the planet toward irreversible climate damage.

Sixty Harvests Left explains how animal agriculture is contributing to soil pollution and climate change, which could result in zero viable soils left for farming worldwide within one lifetime. Despite its massive warnings, Lymbery's book aims to provide solutions and encouragement to adapt the food system to protect the planet. His new book emphasizes that these issues are currently avoidable.

“At the heart of sustainable change lies a recognition that all life on our planet is interconnected, and that our future depends on treating it with compassion and respect. In so doing, we can protect the world’s wildlife and soils as if our life depends on it –– because it does,” Lymbery said.

Lymbery's book details how animal agriculture directly relates to the worsening climate crisis, exploring how livestock wastes planetary resources. For example, meat and dairy products only provide 18 percent of the world's calories but production requires over 80 percent of viable farmland.

“In this beautifully written book Philip Lymbery describes how intensive agriculture harms the environment and inflicts suffering on sentient animals,” Dr. Jane Goodall, environmental activist, said in a statement. “But after visiting with and talking to those on the front line –– scientists, farmers, and food providers, he is able to show that there are sustainable alternatives. And that they are working. There is indeed hope for the future of our planet, and each one of us can play a part.”

Factory Farming and Climate Change

Lymbery introduces the issue by highlighting that food production is responsible for 37 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, he holds the meat sector accountable for its abundant waste and negative impacts on the environment. Within the 37 percent, approximately 61 percent of food-related emissions are attributed to the meat and dairy industries.

“Back on the factory farm, the presence of so many animals in close proximity creates a melting pot for disease, providing Big Ag with the opportunity to sell antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals to farmers,” Lymbery writes in the “Winter” chapter.

“It is no coincidence that 73 percent of the world’s stock of antibiotics goes to farmed animals, largely to ward off diseases associated with intensive farming. The biggest six drug companies rely on the animal farming sector for $9 billion of sales each year. These enormous numbers show how Big Ag thrives while animals and the countryside suffer, and ordinary farmers go to the wall.”

The book explains that without change, the food system will begin to break down after approximately sixty harvests, hence the title. However, Lymbery suggests that the world should adopt regenerative farming techniques to replace industrial food production. Beyond that, he claims that widespread rewilding is necessary to protect the planet's ecosystems and soil.

Eat Plant-Based to Save the Planet

The world's population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, and this is pushing food and agricultural giants to accelerate or intensify animal agriculture. However, a new study released this November revealed that while this intensification will result in temporary benefits, the long-term issues will worsen climate change and raise pandemic risks.

"As long as meat consumption continues to rise globally, both climate change, from deforestation and methane, and pandemics will likely continue to rise," Matthew Hayek, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Environmental Studies and the author of the analysis, said at the time.

The paper reveals that plant-centric agriculture is more likely to benefit the planet and the growing population. Currently, about 42 percent of consumers believe it is likely that plant-based food will replace meat by 2032 to help curb environmental pressures and public health concerns.

For more planetary happenings, visit The Beet's Environmental News articles. 

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