\ Featured Image Credit: NOAA
By Laura O’Brien
There is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s growing. This year the dead zone overwhelmed 8,700 square miles, which is now the largest it has ever been recorded. The ominously named area is a part of the gulf where the oxygen has been depleted from the water, and the living organisms inside are doomed to die. The oxygen was taken from the water due to an extreme overabundance of plankton. When the plankton die and decompose, the process steals oxygen from the surrounding water.
The reason that there is such an overabundance of plankton that a huge piece of the gulf has become uninhabitable is quite alarming. Human activities have caused runoff which creates an excess of the types of nutrients that plankton need. So, when huge amounts of these nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorous) are swept into the gulf, it causes an unnatural population boom for plankton that completely destroys ecosystems. Similar effects of runoff are felt in freshwater, where algal blooms choke out all other types of life by robbing the ecosystem of oxygen and sunlight.
The runoff contains highly elevated amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous (as well as a slew of other chemicals) because our fertilizers and pesticides and other waste are carried into waterways. The Mississippi River carries gigantic amounts of pollution into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ website, 41% of the lower 48 states are drained through the Mississippi. This water contains the fertilizer and insecticide that you put on your lawn; and much more seriously, it carries the runoff from factory farms.
Industrial agriculture has completely changed the process through which we get meat. Livestock are now mass-produced in ways that are extremely detrimental to human health and the environment. Gigantic portions of land in the US are used solely to produce livestock feed. Soybeans and corn are saturated with fertilizer, pesticides, and chemicals in order to maximize the yield which will be fed to the livestock without regard to their health or yours. These chemicals are swept away with water and belched into the Mississippi River. Animals who are victims of industrial farming are kept in areas so densely packed with livestock that they are pumped full of drugs to prevent them from succumbing to their bacteria ridden environment. Their drug-filled blood, urine, stool, pus, and anything else they excrete is washed into the Mississippi and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
So each year as ice melts and water begins to make its way to the Mississippi, it brings its annual kiss of death to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi Delta used to be called the “fertile crescent”, but it has been destroyed due to these disgusting agricultural practices. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is not alone. There are 550 dead zones around the world, and industrial /agricultural pollution are to blame for the vast majority. Current industrial production of livestock is killing our planet, and dead zones like the one in the Gulf of Mexico are just the tip of the iceberg.
Now you know why so many people are going vegan.