1.1 Ruminants

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population map

overweight   |    hungry

Our population is still growing. The UN expects that there will be 9,7 billion people in 2050.

Drag the number of people onto the right continent

By how much will we have to increase our food production to feed everyone?

Why are those extra people so hungry? They're not.

At the moment, only rich countries are eating lots of meat. But as developing countries are becoming wealthier they also want more meat. Since it takes so much grain to produce extra meat, our food production has to increase much faster than the population.

That would be enough of a challenge, if there wasn't a nasty thing called climate change.


Higher temperatures and C02 decreases the amount of protein in wheat and causes lower yields.


An extreme hail storm destroys India's bananas, which make up 1/3 of the world's supply.


The dying coral reefs in Senegal have taken away the fishermen's last hope. Thousands travel to Europe to escape starvation.


More and more of Zimbabwe's maize fields are drying out, causing a hunger crisis.

1 in 8 doesn't get enough food

We need to feed a growing population

We need to double our food production as people get richer and want more meat

food growth summary copy

Climate change makes food production more difficult

On the previous page we asked whether there is enough energy to feed all humans.

These facts show us that the answer is 'No'. On our current path we don't have enough energy.

There is not one solution that will fix this massive problem, but let's look at some options.

- New technology has found ways to make cows more efficient.
- Gene manipulation has created maize that can deal better with drought.

All these can improve the situation a little, but one look at the food chain shows that it can never be as efficient as eating the plants directly.

food web humans cows 3

In the same way that the Alps can't support millions of eagles, the Earth can't support billions of meat-eating humans.

"Let them starve, I want my meat."

What if you didn't care about other people. Could you keep eating meat if the rest of the world stays hungry? Maybe, but it would take a lot of effort.

The EU and US both rely on importing feed in the form of soy. Continuing to eat the same way is only possible if developing countries keep sending us their soy beans to feed our cows. Of course they won't be likely to do so if they want to eat more meat and feed more mouths.

And you would also have to force the rest of the world to keep sending us their spices, fruits, coffee and chocolate. You might say that the only way to maintain our current way of eating while the rest of the world wants to eat more meat as well, is to use military power to enslave them.

tThis is what it means when you read somewhere that a European lifestyle would take 3 planets if everyone would live that way.

The most logical conclusion is to stop wasting energy by feeding human food to animals. This alone won't end world hunger, but eating less meat is one of the best ways to solve our food problem. And as we will see, it directly reduces global heating.


In the fight for a better world, eating less meat is one of the individual actions that can really make a difference.


The best way to start eating less meat is to focus on cows because they are especially inefficient. There are two reasons for this: methane and land use.

To discover the role of methane, let's visit the deserts of Egypt in 1827.