Western civilization suffers from the delusion of replacing peasants and traditional culture with industrialized farmers. This goes hand-to-hand with another hazardous practice: privatizing and ruthlessly exploiting the natural world.
This hubris has been infecting more than private corporate executives and governments, which, after all, have the models of nineteenth-century robber barons in mind. Scientists eat from this fruit of ignorance, too. They and their engineering colleagues modernized the infrastructure of exploitation. They made it “science based.”
Chemistry, for example, developed petrochemicals and plastics and thousands of other deleterious substances that now threaten the entire life of the world with deforms, extinction, nay death.
Agricultural scientists and engineers also justified the violent system of industrialized farming and food production that, in irrigating crops alone, uses about 70 percent of the world’s drinking water, about 19 percent of fossil fuel energy , and emits considerable amounts of the global warming gases.
According to “Livestock’s long shadow,” a 2006 report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalent; 37 percent of methane (which is 23 times more lasting than carbon dioxide); 65 percent of nitrous oxide (which is 296 times more potent than carbon dioxide); and 64 percent of ammonia (which contributes to acid rain).
FAO says that the ecological impact of livestock is very substantial: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” Animal farms have been severely damaging the environment “on a massive scale.” They contribute to global warming, air pollution, and land, soil and water degradation. Animal agriculture, says the UN report, is also responsible for reducing biodiversity in the world.
Farm animals (primarily chicken, hogs, and cattle) are now separate from the growing of crops. They spend their short lives very close to each other in concrete bunkers and factories eating largely genetically engineered soybeans and corn grown in massive plantations in Argentina, the Amazon of Brazil, Paraguay and the United States. Their grain food is laced with pesticides and antibiotic drugs. Their food may also include the flesh and bones of other animals. Their urine and feces fill huge lagoons that contaminate streams and rivers and, eventually, leak into groundwater. The Natural Resources Defense Council, America’s premier environmental organization, concluded in 2001 that, “Animal waste from large factory farms is threatening our health, the water we drink and swim in, and the future of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams."