I’m Mike and today we’re going to take a critical look at global food distribution, food inequality, and how some dietary shift could change the game for hungry people around the world. In order to understand the current food distribution inequality on Earth, I want to hop right into a philosophical thought experiment, which was brought to my attention by its creator: Ian Harper. It is his master’s of philosophy thesis, and he calls it Microcosm Island. It is simply a representation of our planet today, distilled into an island of just 100 people. As he stated in his thesis: In other words if earth was distilled onto an island of just a hundred people it would be Microcosm Island, and here it is. I have modeled it in 3D in a sort of simple floating island there are the 100 people. Looking at wealth the richest single person owns 50% of all of the island’s wealth. Half of the wealth on the island: complete inequality. And in terms of diet at least 86 out of the 100 people eat meat. At most 14 of them are vegetarian, and probably less than 1, but about 1, will say is vegan. but most disconcerting of all? Well there are 21 overweight people, there are 16 people who are malnourished or starving. To add insult to injury on Microcosm Island, they are raising, feeding, and killing 1,000 land animals per year. That’s 10 animals for every person. In order to support these farm animals, and allow them to produce eggs and milk, the island feeds them 1/3 to 1/2 of all of their grain, uses 30% of their limited land supply, and about 1/3 of all of their fresh water. But in terms of wild animals, there are only about 12 humans worth of wild land animal biomass on the entire island. Another crazy fact: this island of 100 people actually produces enough food to feed 130 people but instead of feeding the 16 malnourished or hungry people, they have fed it to animals. Idiots. And the vast majority of the calories fed to animals are thrown away as they were funneled down into a less efficient source of calories, instead of just being fed directly to humans. And no, animals are not perpetual protein machines. If you trace back all the protein and animals, it came from plants. And according to the world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we too can get all our protein from plants. For athletes, pregnancy, etc, So to summarize, Microcosm Island is really dumb, not fair, and could use some major help. And again, this is us. We are that dumb island. And a quick note, all of those statistics and facts I just mentioned are from actual Earth and will be linked in the description below. Yes, while the richest populations on Earth are eating animal products and over-consuming often to the point of death, 16% of the world remains hungry, and we are feeding 70 billion land animals a year. Now I will say this: as a vegan I wouldn’t expect the widespread adoption of a vegan diet to fix every single system on earth and feed every single hungry person, but it would make a massive difference in the feasibility of feeding as many hungry people as we can. From Cornell, we have known for 20 years that we can feed every hungry person on earth with the grain fed to animals in the United States alone. And in terms of shifting to a vegan diet as this study estimated a vegan diet uses 1/8 as much land as the baseline diet. In terms of Earth currently, from the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], of the 13.4 billion hectares of total land on Earth, about 1.5 billion hectares is used for crops, well there’s another 2.7 billion hectares that is suitable for crop production. Where is that land? Well, from the University of Wisconsin, satellite estimates 3.4 billion hectares is currently used for grazing livestock. We can take this ridiculously large amount of grazing land that currently exists, and shift it to crop production, and that would result in a ridiculous amount of food that some credible organization has yet to calculate. But for fun, lets calculate it anyway. We are currently growing enough food for 10 billion people, and using the FAO’s estimates for a total suitable cropland, we could be growing enough food for 25 to 30 billion people in a vegan system. Now you might be thinking: even if we had all this extra food that doesn’t mean it would make it into the mouths of hungry people. But it seems that everybody accepts the proposition from large agricultural companies like Monsanto that growing more food, producing more, having more food is the solution. Well by just not feeding it to animals, we have more food. So if you buy their argument, that more food is better, then you can’t really deny the vegan argument that freeing up more food is better. And in terms of geographically getting this extra food to hungry people as Richard Oppenlander highlighted in his book, so in most cases the food already is next door, it’s just a matter of letting the people who need to eat it, eat it. And that brings me to supply and demand, and that is one often used criticism of why a vegan diet couldn’t feed the world, simply that it doesn’t follow the rules of supply and demand. You know that the people who are growing the crops and feeding them to animals are only doing it because of the money, and that no matter how much extra food we free up by not feeding into animals, poor people still won’t be able to afford it, but one economic question worth asking here, is what would happen to land prices if we all of a sudden needed to grow half as much grain? As the FAO mentioned, we use so that would be almost 1/3 more crop land. And remember that 1/3 of freshwater that we use on livestock, so I would argue that a massive decrease in demand for land and water would drive the prices of farming way down. It would make it cheaper for people in poverty to buy or rent land and then water their crops to grow their own food because a lot of food inequality has to do with a lack of access to farmland and high costs of fresh water. And another point to add, a lot of wars in developing nations are over these very same resources: land and water. So how would all of these resources being freed up affect the rates of war? So, to sum it up, obviously feeding the world presents a lot of challenges in terms of inequality and politics, but whatever those challenges are: having more land, and more grain, and more water, by shifting to a vegan diet would make those challenges easier to overcome. It would take a massive amount of strain off in terms of resources, potentially free up cheaper farmland for people that need it, possibly prevent some resource wars, and really just increase our chances of feeding as many people as possible. Because we can’t simply make more land emit more CO2, and use more resources to feed everyone meat. From Ian Harper’s master thesis, he concludes: Finally if you are interested in further action on this subject, feel free to check out the non-profit: a well-fed world, and get involved with them. They are actively involved in trying to feed the world with plants. For example, they provide five Ethiopian schools with vegan food, these schools had vegan menus anyway, and also highlighting projects like getting seeds to people in food insecure areas. Alright that’s it for today, thank you for watching. Go vegan, help feed the world. 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