Plant-Based Pause No 39: Your Decisions Affect Every Other Being on the Planet

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘The maps of the world will have to be redrawn’ – Sir David King, UK science advisor

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I don’t have a problem with omnivores, I have a problem with ignorant omnivores. If you know where your food comes from and how it impacts the planet, and you’re still comfortable eating it, then go ahead. However, most people have no clue about the truth behind what’s on their plate and how it got there. I used to be guilty of this myself. Even when I was a regular vegetarian, I ate milk, eggs and cheese believing that I was genuinely hurting no-one through my actions. Now I know just how wrong I was. Every choice we make impacts the planet and other humans, and now is the time to end the ignorance.

This quote from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth explains the issue far better than I ever could:

‘One reason climate change doesn’t consistently demand our attention can be illustrated by the classic story about an old science experiment involving a frog that jumps into a pot of boiling water and immediately jumps out again because it instantly recognises the danger. The same frog, finding itself in a pot of lukewarm water that is slowly brought to the boil, will simply stay in the water, in spite of the danger. Our collective ‘nervous system’ through which we recognise an impending danger to our survival is similar to the frog’s. If we experience a significant change in our circumstances gradually and slowly, we are capable of sitting and failing to recognise the seriousness of what is happening to us until it’s too late. Sometimes, like the frog, we only react to a sudden jolt, a dramatic and speedy change in our circumstances that sets off our alarm bells. ‘

A report by leading water scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) found that about 20% of protein in human diets is animal-based. Unless that drops to 5% by 2050 there won’t be enough food to nourish the additional 2 billion people estimated to be alive by 2050. If America alone reduced their intake of meat by 10%, 100 million more people could be adequately fed by the land freed. Most of the grain grown in the world goes towards animal feed. Cows consume 10 times more food than they produce, and we only get a third of the food back from chickens that we put into them. If we all lived plant-based, we could free up enough land and return enough nutrients to the soil to end famine within a couple of generations.

Some people question ‘What’s the point?’. As a species, we easily get defeatist. The damage we have done to the planet seems so overwhelming that you can be forgiven for thinking maybe we have gone past the point of no return. History has shown us that we do have the ability to change, and the ability to make a difference. In 1987, 27 nations signed the Montreal Protocol, the first global environmental agreement to regulate CFCs. Since then, the levels of the most critical CFCs and related compounds have stabilised or declined. At the time, the thought of even stabilising the hole in the ozone layer seemed insurmountable. I can remember consumers looking at the new, strangely shaped light bulbs in the shops and stating that they would never catch on. People complained that they didn’t shed enough light, there was no possible way they could live under those conditions. Conventional incandescent light bulbs are now no longer sold in the UK. The same people who complained about the new, energy saving bulbs now use them without thinking. On the odd occasion that I walk into a room lit by an old bulb, the brightness is so uncomfortable I wonder how we didn’t all suffer from sight problems back then.

Thanks to the wonders of the modern world and the internet, help is just a click away. There are lots of resources to help you make simple changes and improve your carbon footprint. Chasing Ice is a good place to start.

As humans, we are privileged on this planet to have a certain amount of control. We have free will, the ability to make decisions and the ability to question. Don’t just give up this freedom by accepting what’s on your plate.

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