If you could save the planet, would you?
You would not need to have super powers. It would not cost you anything. You would not need to leave your loved ones. If you just could save the Earth, would you?
Imagine that you could change your consumption patterns and a lot would get right from day one. You would help restore the nature of our planet and with that you would restore several human values.
Climate change is a fact. It is a change that does not benefit the humans, animals or plants of the earth. I guess we all have experienced it fully around the end of the year. From floods in India, to a 10 to 15 degrees warmer December than usually in Scandinavia or New York.
There is an ecological disaster going on in front of our eyes. But are we really looking at it?
There are more and more dead zones in the oceans, global temperature is rising, glaciers are melting; there are more and more floods and at the same time more and more droughts. More people are forced to migrate because they cannot grow their food anymore. That leads to conflicts, which challenge various leaderships and governments and we witness wars.
It is not news to anyone that environmental problems are human made and human driven. We know it is our own daily behavior that is behind it and more and more people are committed to reversing the trend. We learn (and try) to spend less electricity, less water, less fuels… We replace plastic bags with fabric bags. We recycle more. We choose a trip by train instead of plane when possible. We take a shower instead of bath. We use public transport. Those who can afford it, buy electric cars. Companies and organizations are developing policies to reduce their environmental footprint.
We do all that and yet, we are missing one powerful measure that could help avert the disaster. Reducing the impact of animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is responsible for:
- 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions (while all transport combined causes 13%)
- 91% of Amazon forest destruction (1-2 acres of rain forest are wiped out every second)
- 1/3 of land is desertified due to livestock
That is unfortunately all our doing, due to our meat and dairy consumption.
Simply put, we are wrecking the planet with what we choose to put in our mouths…
Our planet is not big enough for all the fields we need for grains to grow, to feed animals that we are eventually going to eat and it is not big enough to accommodate all the animals we breed to end up on our plates. We are around 7 billion people on Earth and there are 70 billion animals raised for our food. That is lots of methane, lots of space and lots of waste (yes from the excrement) that goes right into oceans and creates dead zones there in the place where all the life came from.
That is not sustainable whatsoever. So what to do?
The answer is simple. Our way of consumption needs to change. We need to change what we put into our mouths and we need to change the environments – including the corporate interests behind – that influence our consumption patterns and behaviour.
- Around 1100 liters of water are needed for the production of 1 liter of milk.
- One liter of beer (made from barley) costs 300 liters of water, not including the water costs of the other ingredients in beer.
- One liter of wine costs 870 liters of water. It means that one glass of wine (125ml) costs 110 liters of water.
- And for a hamburger you need 3000 liters of water. That is the equivalent of showering 2 months without taking a break.
Those four facts are alarming on their own. But what’s even worse is, that we eat meat and dairy products and consume alcohol products at the expense of someone else.
82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals in livestock systems that are killed and eaten by more well-off individuals in the ‘developed’ countries such as US and Europe.”
(Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Environmental researcher, author: “Comfortably unaware”).
The system of consumption that humans have built, does simply not serve humanity. We live in a world of gigantic multinational corporations
- produce engineered products to make us addicted;
- use brain science to effectively promote these products and persuade humans to consume them;
- buy science to “prove” the benefit of their products;
- aggressively lobby our politicians to stifle efforts to regulate the industries and their harmful products and
- work to shape the environments we live in to boost their profits, not human or planetary health.
The alcohol industry is targeting children with their marketing practices, for example using sports. The fast food industry does the same. The alcohol industry (beer, wine, liquor producers) spent almost $19 million in 2015 on lobbying the US government and congress. The meat and dairy industry spent at least a combined $8.6 million in 2015 on lobbying.
What they don’t want you to know – and do
All those practices I enumerate above are essentially about two things:
- To drive for ever more profits for the executives and shareholders of the gigantic corporations;
- To leave consumer in the dark about the nature of those products and healthier, better alternatives.
Evidence – that too few people are currently aware of – shows that we can produce on average 15 times more protein from plant-based sources than from meat, on any given area of land.
Well – that sounds promising. And here we are coming back to my question. Would you choose to save this planet if you could?
Would you reduce your intake of animal products if you knew your are making a huge difference?
I definitely would.
Environments and behaviour matters
I like simple solutions to our so called complex problems. And I simply can’t enjoy life that I know is detrimental to other people, to nature, to the earth.
But what can one person do? I am not even a drop in the ocean. ‘What kind of impact can I have’ you would say.
1100 gallons of water (4163 l)
45 lbs grain (20kg)
30 sqft forest (9 m2)
10 lbs CO2 (4,5 kg)
1 animal’s life (1 animal’s life)
We know from Framingham Heart Study that behavior of one individual has impact on the lifestyle of others in the social network they live, work, spend their leisure time in and thereby influence the entire community.
And the best thing about it all is that you would not be alone. You would not be the only trying to make a difference. There are already many people who choose plant-based diet. That leads to appearance of more and more vegan products and that leads to more and more people consuming plant-based food.
This blog is inspired by the movie “Cowspiracy” I saw a month ago. I have seen it thanks to an IOGT-NTO club in Stockholm called Vildvuxen that arranges awesome activities such us stand up comedy evenings, graffiti mornings, pizza and movie. Through those activities Vildvuxen challenges the current norms – our daily diet being one of them. The event was just amazing – it combined tasting of alcohol free drinks, socialising with people, eating vegan pizza (extremely tasty) and watching the movie that opened my eyes and gave me concrete solutions to take home with me.
I have been sober my whole life, vegetarian for more than a decade and now I go vegan. And believe me…it is not about taking something away. It is about finding something new and better – for everyone.
Beyond behaviour as consumers – like choosing alcohol-free drinks and animal-free foods – what will bring change is our behaviour as citizens. We need to become aware not just of what we put into our shopping carts (and ultimately into our mouths), but also of the actions our politicians are taking or not taking and the influence that corporations are exerting on them. We need to become heart-driven citizens demanding change – to save our planet, for a better present and brighter future.
For further reading:
For the references taken from Cowspiracy, follow the link
Maik’s blog: Drinking water or using alcohol