Whatever terms you want to use, this shift is one of the most powerful you can make to cut greenhouse gases and help the climate. Food contributes at least ¼ of human-made GHGs – and the majority of those come from production of meat and dairy. Seriously. That’s despite the fact that, for health and sustainability, meat and dairy should be --- at most --- a small fraction of our diets.
Yesterday I had the honour to present online to a Drawdown BC group, outlining some of the ways any of us can help promote this essential climate action. Drawdown, an international science-based climate solutions movement, calculated in its major 2017 report that of the 100 most potent climate solutions already in existence, plant-rich diets are one of the top most powerful. That means fewer livestock on the planet and less meat on our plates beats out every other food-and-agriculture solution -- except for 'wasting less food.'
That's why I say the two most powerful food-related steps are: Waste Less Food, and Eat Less Meat.
With thanks to Will Grant and his Four Levels of Action (the 10+ minute Youtube video is worth the watch) I now rely on this model to help me think about my own activism. As Will Grant says, we can spark social action: (I) in our own lives, (II) among friends and family, (III) in the community, and (IV) at higher levels for policy change.
Here are some options for acting on the livestock/meat problem at whichever level excites you:
If you haven’t already had an ‘aha’ moment about the meat problem, now’s a good time. No need to completely stop eating meat, dairy, and fish if you don’t want to. But you might consider having no animal-source foods for breakfast or lunch, then go ahead and eat whatever's on hand for dinner.
Once you understand the seriousness of the issue and shift toward plant-based meals, you may occasionally be asked why. Believe me, you’ll be tempted to give lectures. Resist! Instead, respond briefly and positively, such as: “Plant-based is better for climate.” If family or friends want more detail, they’ll ask. I also like to make plant-based meals and even individual dishes for family members to try.
Your local school or community centre. The corner coffee shop or restaurant. Your fitness centre, if it has a café attached. Local governments or agencies that serve meals. Any of these are options for you to approach with suggestions for more plant-based, and less animal-based, snacks and meals.
Health Canada recently produced a revised Food Guide that is one of the most sustainable and healthy in the world. It relegates meat to a small part of the ‘protein’ corner, and advises consumers to eat mostly plant-based proteins. The publication of this revision was a major win for environment, achieved partly because of letters and submissions from ordinary citizens who were tired of seeing our official Food Guide dominated by climate-unfriendly meat and dairy.
Also on policy / legislative / big-picture fronts are two burgeoning international campaigns that are exciting for me -- moves to ban factory farming, and actions to convince major institutional investors to stop putting their money into the most unsustainable practices in animal agriculture.
I urge you to think about acting at any of these levels, and please do share your experiences. Write to me or subscribe to my newsletter (which will keep you in the loop for my soon-to-be published book) for more ideas and suggestions on how to proceed.