UN scientists have reported that switching to a diet which is plant, rather than animal, based can help to fight climate change. Can you as an individual really help to save our planet?
We all know how tasty a good Maccies’ double cheeseburger, or piece of fried chicken can be, but this high Western consumption of meat and dairy is actually a primary factor causing global warming. It isn’t necessary to go completely vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry, but even a slight reduction could be beneficial!
If people cut down on meat, much land used for grazing could be saved, and instead used for dense, CO2-hungry forests, which can store tons of the carbon that humans are pumping into the atmosphere.
Land use is greatly reduced when growing plants, since they can be packed closely together. Animals require lots of space for their own living, in which they will move around and damage the soils (desertification), making them infertile. In addition, they require huge amounts of vegetation for their feeding, which takes up more space too. The energy transfer from plant to animal is so inefficient (due to losses in faecal matter and heat) that excessive amounts of vegetation are needed for producing meats, compared to if we just ate plant material ourselves. On top of this, some animals like cattle produce deadly gases like methane themselves, contributing further to the climate problem.
So our choices on the weekly supermarket trip can really impact the environment and state of the planet. It is often demotivating that their own actions have such little effect on climate change in comparison to large industries and governmental decisions. However, in this case, consumer demand has the power, and individuals can make a difference. It has been estimated that if the whole of the USA stopped eating meat, it would be equivalent to taking 60 million cars off the road.
Yes, maybe eating ‘rabbit food’ 24/7 is slightly off-putting, but the possibilities are growing. Have you tried the Greggs vegan sausage roll yet, for example? Plant-based diets, according to a BBC report on the environmental effects, are now able to be nutritionally equivalent to the meat ones, so you won’t be missing out on the vital protein source your body needs. In the future, we could be looking at laboratory grown meat, which doesn’t require the land space of a herd of animals. You don’t need to restrict yourself to bowls of salad in order to help the planet.
So, can you make a change? Maybe switch from that bacon-and-eggs breakfast once in a while. Huge changes are difficult, so you could just make conscious decisions each day to try and reduce how much meat and dairy you purchase.