Yes, you can start to have an impact just by changing your diet. Sure, driving a more fuel-efficient car and using less energy in general are both big steps we can all take. But the easiest step is to simply gravitate—all at once or gradually—toward a plant-based diet.
Climate change has long been linked to animal agriculture, particularly meat and dairy production. If you ask people what the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are, most will probably say transportation, fossil-fuel-generated electric power, or heating, while only a few folks might mention meat and dairy production, and likely as an afterthought. But the truth is animal agriculture is a major driver of climate change. Estimates vary as to the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions that can be attributed to animal agriculture, but there’s no question it’s significant.
Last March, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, who served for four years as President Obama’s energy secretary, outlined the impact of animal agriculture on climate change during a lecture at the University of Chicago.
“If cattle and dairy cows were a country, they would have more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire EU 28,” Chu noted. In an article on Chu’s address, Forbes contributor Jeff McMahon wrote, “Chu is not the first to suggest that experts underestimate the climate impact of animal agriculture. Experts typically attribute about 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions to livestock, but the Worldwatch Institute audited that number in 2009 and found uncounted emissions that bring the livestock contribution to 51 percent.”
Whether the real number is 15% or 51%, or something in between, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s big.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Going vegan seems so radical—and so hard. That’s the second myth I’d like to dispel. It’s really, really, really not hard to follow a plant-based diet.
Trust me, I asked the same questions you’re probably asking yourself now when I first went vegetarian in the early ’90s, and then vegan 10 years ago. What will I eat? How can I ever give up bacon? Or Thanksgiving turkey? What’s the point of living if I can’t scarf down the contents of a fully stocked fromagerie at least thrice a fortnight? But in the end, going meat- and then dairy-free was a cinch for me, far easier than you could ever imagine. And now, with the emergence of Beyond Meat, the Impossible Burger, and other meat substitutes—including, perhaps soon, commercially available lab-grown meat (i.e., environmentally friendly, cruelty-free real meat that doesn’t come from an animal)—it’s even easier.
The adjustment period was shorter than I thought it would be, too. Less than a month after going vegetarian, I stopped thinking about meat at all—unless someone else brought it up, which, frankly, happened a lot. I can honestly say I haven’t pined for a cheeseburger or sausage pizza in nearly three decades. There’s so much great vegetarian and vegan food available these days, both in grocery stores and restaurants, that making the switch is easier than ever. In fact, you’ll probably discover all sorts of new dishes and cuisines you might never have tried if you’d just stuck with meat and potatoes. Twenty-eight years ago, when I bumbled into vegetarianism blind (or at least severely nearsighted), veggie-specific restaurants and faux-meat entrees were rare, and the internet wasn’t really a thing yet. Today, you can find a wealth of information on how to go vegan or reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat.
Now, I have lots of meat-eating friends and family, and I don’t look down on them. (Unless they voted for Trump, of course.) I ate meat for roughly half my life, and even after getting “enlightened” I continued to consume other animal products for years beyond that. So I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou. All I ask is that people consider making a change. Though I know that if you can consider it, you can try it. And if you try it for a week, maybe you can hold out for a month. If you still crave a cheeseburger, have a cheeseburger. But think about cutting down on your meat and dairy consumption for the future of the planet and the sake of all animals, including the millions caught in Australia’s wildfires and the billions trapped on factory farms.
If you’ve shed a single tear for Australia’s (admittedly cute) native fauna—or for the deer, squirrels, foxes, and housepets affected by wildfires here in the U.S.—you can save one more tear for the farm animals that suffer every single day to put food on our tables. And know that all of that suffering—whether brought about by climate change or factory farming—is ultimately preventable. But if going 100% vegan seems like too steep a hill to climb right now, take baby steps. When it comes to combating climate change and making more compassionate choices, anything helps.
To paraphrase an old saw (okay, okay—Stalin said it, but it fits), the deaths of 1 billion koalas, kangaroos, and other wild Australian animals are a tragedy; the killing of 9 billion chickens raised on cruel factory farms and slaughtered for their meat every year is a statistic. And that, I’d argue, is a tragedy in itself.
If you still don’t believe me, take it from Time’s Person of the Year (and dedicated vegan) Greta Thunberg, who, in a recent interview, shared what it took to convince her parents to try a vegan diet: “Quite much. In the beginning, they were like everyone else. They were like, ‘don’t worry, someone will invent something in the future—people have this under control.’ … But then I made them feel so guilty … I kept telling them that they were stealing our future and that you cannot stand up for human rights while living that lifestyle, and then they decided to do those changes.”
You can make those changes, too. Believe me. And if you don’t? Hey, don’t make me come over there. My robot dance is brutal.
Source: Daily Kos NewsColony: Politics