Livestock and Wildlife

We humans are omnivores. We eat and digest almost anything. This ability enabled us to be a very successful species. Now, as we continue to usurp control of the Earth’s ecosystem, we adapt more and more land toward our food production. We change grasslands into pastures and forests into orchards and cropland. This is because we’re choosing what we want to eat even though we are omnivores.

As our population grows and we refine our diets, we’re adapting more and more land for agriculture. By using the GCAM Earth System Model inputted with median expectations and with a population that aligns with our current 8 billion people, we can estimate the amount of change. From it, we expect by the year 2100 there will be a 200% increase in the amount of livestock together with a 50% increase in cropland. Further, there will be a 50% increase in our usage of forests whether for logging or biomass (e.g. firewood). This scenario of the future shows the impact of our growing population and its diet.

We need to think about these increases. Already our livestock accounts to over 4% of all of Earth’s biomass while wild life amounts to 0.3%, a ratio of more than 10 to 1. If, in the future, we double our livestock and expand the land we use for agriculture then we’d expect a ratio of well over 40 to 1 of livestock to wildlife. Not so long ago, no livestock existed within the Earth’s ecosystem. This is worth thinking about.

This negative impact on wildlife is just one way that our species impacts the Earth’s ecosystem. The ongoing loss of wild lands will cause a mass extinction of wildlife. No amount of energy will bring species back from extinction. Is a future without wildlife really what we want?
Marmot in fog