It is time for Blog Action Day again. This year’s topic is an easy one for a vegan: Climate Change.
A couple years ago I read “With Speed And Violence” by Fred Pearce, a book that did a great job explaining what “global climate” means. It explained what wasn’t known, various theories about what the linchpin of the global climate actually is, and why no one knows yet which theory might be right. It explained the significance, in terms of carbon and the impact on climate, the melting of the ice caps and the razing of the rain forest. A lot more than this list besides. It was exactly the kind of detailed but not-overwhelmingly-technical look at this huge phenomenon known as “climate” that I wish everyone (especially journalists and politicians) would read.
That book might be a couple years out of date already, but I think the majority of the information it contains has not changed, and it remains the best resource I can point people to who have an interest in understanding how dust storms in Chad add to the fertility of the North American Breadbasket, and why shifting weather patterns could eliminate that source of fertility that we unknowingly depend on. These are the types of things that can’t be explained in soundbites, and which illuminate in garish neon why talking about “global warming” is destructively simplistic. Because let’s get real: we’re not talking about “global warming”, we are talking about “climate change”. That’s a lot bigger, and a lot badder, and whether or not you think that humans are a contributor, it is something that should make you sit up and pay attention, because it is happening whether or not you want your political opponents to score points.
My own education in Biology helped me make other connections. I understand rain forest ecology on a high level; enough to know that the rain forest resources are held in the canopy, not in the topsoil, and what that means when rainforests are cleared for farming. (i.e., a big fail) And the rainforests are being cleared at an alarming rate. For cattle ranching, for palm oil plantations, for coffee.
Maybe the doubters are right, and the shifting climate is within normal for the history of the earth, and isn’t accelerated by human-added pollutants and human-caused alterations. What the doubters should try to understand is that the majority of human history has occurred in a period of remarkable climate stability, and signs are pointing to that stability ending. We all need to understand that sustainability and survival are going to require us to change, and that in the end it probably doesn’t matter what caused it or whether there has been an acceleration. If the author of “With Speed And Violence” is right about there being a tipping point, I think it is hugely unlikely that we, humans, will change our behavior quickly or significantly enough to not sail right past that tipping point.
We still need to protect what we have. Protect the water, air and soil quality from our human-added poisons. We face enough environmental pressures without self-destructing in such a direct way. We need to think about sustainability, not just in so-called “third world” countries, but everywhere. We need Food Not Lawns, we need to think about the Story of Stuff before we consume ourselves to death.
It is clear that climate change is happening:
That’s just the start.
And if you’d like a peek at what we have to look forward to, there is a list of 100 effects of global warming.
There are so many changes we can all make. Reduce the paper products we consume: get cloth napkins, cloth handkerchiefs, cloth utility towels instead of rolls of paper towels. Reduce the disposable plastic products we consume: get To-Go Ware or similar solutions, carry real silverware with you so you’re never caught without, use your non-disposable refillable water bottle instead of purchasing water in plastic bottles. Shop in your closet or from second hand stores instead of purchasing new. Bike or walk if you can; otherwise try public transportation or ride-sharing, and if all else fails with those options, figure out how you can minimize your driving by planning out your errands.
And the big one: go vegan.
I was listening to some Animal Voices podcasts this past weekend as I drove up to Vermont, bringing some former fighting roosters up to Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary to be rehabilitated. One of the shows was an interview with the author of “Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly”, which challenges some of the assumptions of the locavore movement. He had a lot of great information to share, some perspectives I hadn’t thought of before, but one of the most powerful moments to me was when he explained that in his research for the book, he came to understand that the most powerful action you could take was to go vegetarian. His pithy statement:
“If you want to make a statement, ride your bike to the farmers market. If you want to make a difference, go vegetarian.”
I’m going to assume he means vegan, because I don’t see how dairy and egg farms aren’t contributing as much if not more to the entire issue as the beef and broiler farms are.
It was his own research that caused him to decide to change his consumption habits. He started writing the book as an omni. That’s a pretty powerful statement to me. We have heard from many sources about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, but I know that many if not most omnis assume that vegans have an agenda and therefore dismiss anything we might have to say, facts be damned. But here is someone who did not start out writing his book as a veg. His transformation came about because his research showed him what we’ve been saying all along: meat consumption is hell on the environment.
The Animal Voices radio show is an hour long, but it is definitely worth making the time to listen. It might just change the way you think about the impact of your food choices on the environment.
Going vegan is a positive step from every direction. Less harm to the environment. Less harm to the animals. Less harm to ourselves. And it opens up a whole new world of food brimming with deliciousness and fun.