The Washington Post reports that the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is now larger than ever — the size of New Jersey, dwarfing the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
Dead zones — where no aquatic life survives — are created by agricultural runoff from Midwestern factory farms, which is dumped into the Gulf by the Mississippi River. Nitrogen and phosphorus from animal waste and animal feed crop fertilizer, cause explosive growth of microscopic algae. Dead algae are consumed by bacteria that suck out all the dissolved oxygen, leading to widespread extinction of all sea life, and destroying fishery operations and recreational activities.
A temporary solution, recommended by agricultural experts, is crop rotation, selective applications of fertilizer, wastewater treatment, and sediment and storm water controls.
The ultimate solution is to convert wasteful production of cows, pigs, chickens, and the corn and soybeans that feed them to more eco-friendly raising of grains, vegetables, and other crops for direct human consumption.
Each of us can accelerate this process by switching our personal consumption of animal flesh, dairy, and eggs into the many delicious, convenient, healthy plant-based meats, cheeses, and ice creams available in our local grocery store.