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Given all the great mysteries of life you could ponder, have you ever wondered what would happen if we all ate a vegetarian diet?  Or, dare I say it, a vegan diet?

Messrs. Springmann, Godfray, Rayner, and Scarborough at the University of Oxford have  thought a lot about it.  Their recent study, “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (I’ve already worked up an appetite), concludes the planet would be better off if we all ate less meat and more vegetables.

It’s simple, really.  Less cows means less methane released into the atmosphere. Less greenhouse gases (methane) would hold global warming in check and create a healthier climate.  If we had less cows, we could grow less food to feed them and more food to feed us.

To throw some numbers around, the study predicts that switching to a vegetarian diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 63% by 2050.  If everyone jumped on the vegan bandwagon, we could decrease emissions by 70%.  If people would simply eat meat in accordance with global health guidelines, we would still knock emissions down by a third.

Even more impressive (or skeptical, depending on your opinion of research studies), 5-8 million deaths per year could be avoided by making the above changes and $31 trillion (total) could be saved.   I’m sure there must be a politician out there who could find something to do with an extra $31 trillion.

Numbers like these don’t impress everyone.  Especially if your name is Barry Carpenter, President and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.  Shortly after the release of the study, Mr. Carpenter issued his own statement.  “The notion that global veganism is a nutrition and environmental panacea is flawed at its core and dozens of recent studies bear this out,” he said.

I wasn’t inclined to read dozens of studies but thankfully Mr. Carpenter boiled it down for us.  Problems emanating from a vegan/vegetarian diet include, “eating disorders, mood and mental disorders, subclinical protein malnutrition, hyperhomocysteinemia, and the increased vulnerability of some vegetarians to cardiovascular diseases.”  Because everyone knows how carrots can clog up your arteries.

Imagining what life would be like if we were all vegans, to me, is just a fun thought provoking exercise like asking what would happen if we all rode our bicycles to work or if everyone stopped using soap. It’s not going to happen soon or maybe ever, but it gets us thinking.  You can apply the data to your own life and try some changes.  Or not.

You can even come up with your own theories.  Maybe eating a more vegan diet could make people more susceptible to the zika virus.  Maybe eating more meat would spur the growth of ISIS.  How?  Send some of that $31 trillion my way and I might be able to tell you.

Have you made efforts to reduce your carbon footprint?  Please leave a comment…