Want to Take a Bite Out of Climate Change? Eat Plants

Plant-Powered Planet Protectors Coalition marching for change at the RISE Climate March in September 2018. Photo Credit: Compassion Over Killing

A Congressionally-mandated report issued last week by the Trump administration paints an alarming scene: global warming is happening, its impact will continue to be catastrophic, and human activities are largely to blame.

According to POLITICO, this report is “the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.”

And, in what seems like an attempt to bury the story, the administration officially released it on one of the slowest news days of the year: Black Friday. Yet the content reveals dire threats that can hardly be ignored or scoffed at. It’s a 1,600-page scientific warning that our planet is on the brink of devastation that includes worsening weather extremes and severe storms, disease outbreaks, altered coastlines, and more. This will in turn have severely negative consequences on human health, particularly those in impoverished or marginalized communities.

If elected officials aren’t moved by this frightening forecast for our future, perhaps what might rattle them into action is how all of this, as outlined in the report, will damage our economy.

One of the scientists who worked on the report stated in an interview: “There is essentially no sector of the economy that will not suffer if we don’t get a handle on [climate change].”

As alarming as the message is, however, it’s not new. There’s been scientific consensus on this topic for years, if not decades, with environmental advocates and other activists waving red flags the whole time.

Though the report falls short of offering policy recommendations, one obvious response is the need to call upon our federal leaders to urgently implement policy changes — or, at the very least, stop reversing those already in place.

But there’s something more immediate and tangible we the people can do right now that will have a lasting collective impact in guarding against the threats of climate change: eat plants.

Research and scientific consensus are clear: raising animals for food is a leading cause of pollution and resource depletion. One of the most important actions each of us can take to reduce our environmental impact is to choose plant-based foods.

For example, did you know it takes 420 gallons of water to produce just one pound of grain-fed chicken? And the amount of manure produced on factory farms is three times greater than the amount of waste produced by humans? And the production of animal feed, including pastures, takes up almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land resources?

Making matters worse, hidden cameras are routinely capturing the immense suffering forced upon billion of animals each year behind the closed doors of the meat, egg, and dairy industries.

Imagine how much more efficient and sustainable our food system could be if we ate plants directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals. A recent report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put a number on it: the production of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy is two- to 20-fold more nutritionally efficient per unit of cropland than our current resource-intensive animal-based system.

Furthermore, according to the United Nations, “livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” noting that the animal agriculture sector produces an estimated 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Some reports suggest that the UN is underestimating animal agriculture’s role in GHG emissions, stating this number is closer to 51%.

The German Institute for Ecological Economy Research reports even if all animal agriculture operations were optimized to reduce their effects on the environment, the ideal dietary approach to protecting the planet would still be to reduce overall meat consumption.

And earlier this year, a lead researcher on a report published in Science summed it up in The Guardian by concluding: “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth … it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

As we continue to work towards ending these concentrated animal feeding operations through policy and hold the offending corporations accountable, we can also take matters into our own hands by choosing to deny them our monetary support. By refusing to purchase animal products, we can reduce demand for animal- and climate-killing products rather than sitting on the sidelines, hoping lawmakers will take necessary actions.

And yet, the herbivorous elephant in the room remains largely ignored in discussions about how to fight climate change. The answer is right in front of us: use our forks.

The tide, however, might be turning as more people are recognizing the environmental benefits of vegan eating, including former Vice President Al Gore who is hosting a live television broadcast “24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves” on December 3 featuring two vegan celebrities: Moby & Jaden Smith.

Even the United Nations has declared that “A substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”

Without a doubt, our food choices matter. Every time we sit down to eat, each of us can stand up for the planet, our health, and animals simply by choosing plant-based foods. We can start today at TryVeg.com.