My decision was prompted by a science report that brought me to tears. It wasn’t that the consensus statement was particularly new or noteworthy—we all know by now that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced as a civilization—but that, for the first time, I realized that my daily actions were powerful enough to make a meaningful change.
Folks, we are in trouble if a scientist just now realizes that his daily actions are powerful enough to impact climate change. And chooses to quit flying instead of digging deep enough to discover that if he really wants to make an impact he should also have quit meat.
He comes to many of the right conclusions:
What the math behind climate science is asking for is nothing less than a revolution. Anderson thinks scientists like him should lead by example. “I think we have to start to actually act accordingly with our own analysis. That lends credibility to our work.” This holds true for nonscientist advocates, too, he believes. “Al Gore’s probably got an emission footprint similar to a small African country, and he’s wandering about the planet telling other people that they should reduce their carbon emissions.”
Still, Anderson admits that it’s a big ask to broaden the efforts from a few passionate scientists to broader society. But without that, the chances of maintaining a stable climate are slim. Still, Anderson remains about as optimistic as his research permits him to be.
“I think we will fail, but I don’t know we will fail. There’s a very big difference between those two.” Anderson continued, “It’s likely we will die trying. But if we don’t try, then we will definitely not succeed. I work in this area because I still think there’s a thin thread of hope.”
Well, maybe less than a thread if a dude can write an article about how we need a revolution, how personal choices have an impact, notes what incredible climate hogs Americans tend to be, and somehow misses the most carbon intensive choice he makes every day that he reaches for a bacon burger.
We all need to make changes. And, sure, reducing air travel can make a difference (you should have seen my wife’s face when I told her I thought we should fly only once a year, and explore the area around DC instead of immediately hopping on planes whenever we wanted to go somewhere).
But the most important and impactful first step in this personal revolution, apparently missed by both these scientists, is simple: stop eating meat. (Do that, and you might even be able to fly a little!)
And if everyone did the same, and scientists who wrote articles about climate change followed the numbers wherever they went, then we might have a little more than a “thread of hope.”
Forget the floating pigs (I know you are eager to forget the floating pigs). Perhaps the most compelling planet-saving rationale for giving up meat is the massive carbon footprint generated by the global meat industry. When people think about reducing their personal carbon footprint (if they think about it), they usually turn their thermostats down, buy fuel-efficient cars, and shut off lights when they are not using them. All good things to do.
But a choice that people don’t usually think about–and that has an outsized impact on their personal carbon footprint–is meat-eating. Numbers are inherently slippery, but one recent study concluded that the contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to global warming contributed by a vegan are about 40% less than the GHG contributions of a meat-lover:
So in some ways, choosing to eat meat is like choosing to have a few Hummers in your garage, cranking your heat and AC up, and leaving all your lights on. Most environmentally conscious people would be appalled by a neighbor that lived like that. But somehow meat doesn’t enter into the carbon equation when people are thinking about their personal impact on the planet. And it should because it is such a major factor.
So think about getting rid of those Hummers on your plate. And if you are worried that your friends and family will scorn you for going vegetarian or vegan, I’ve got good news for you. America, despite it’s meat-celebrating culture, is warming up to the meatless:
About half of American voters view vegetarians favorably, and less than a quarter view them unfavorably. Vegans are viewed less positively, but still have significantly more than a third of American voters seeing them favorably. Generally, women, Democrats, and younger respondents have a more positive opinion of vegetarians and vegans. These are among the results of a poll of 500 registered American voters conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina-based firm, from February 21st to 24th. The survey asked what respondents like to eat, what they think of fast-food, which chain restaurants they like most, and a number of other food-related issues, as well as key demographic information.
So you can be healthy, planet-friendly, AND popular (though apparently you’ll need to go easy on the vegan righteousness). And there will be fewer dead pigs floating in the rivers.
Yo! Any countries having trouble imagining how to reduce greenhouse emissions (which I guess is just about all of you), listen up!
Inspire your lazy-ass public to ride bikes like the Danes and you will take a big chunk out of climate change, or so says this study:
If all Europeans bicycled as much as the people of Denmark, the European Union could achieve up to one-quarter of its target for carbon emissions reductionsin the transportation sector by 2050, a new report says. According to the European Cyclists’ Federation, the average Dane cycles about 2.6 kilometers a day. If that rate were achieved across the EU, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55 million to 120 million tons annually, or 5 to 11 percent of the EU’s overall emissions target, by 2020.
Wondering why that sort of logic has trouble in the land of the Big Mac (apart from the fact that our “leaders” scorn Europe)? The explanation is here.