Climate change. Global warming. Mother nature getting pissed. We're all concerned about it. Whether your a holier then thou eco-maniac, or just a regular farmer. Everybody wonders, is this stuff gonna be a problem in the country I live in?' 'Is this gonna affect me?' or even, 'Is this gonna hurt my kids?' The answer to all of these of course is - absolutely.
An effective response to climate change must involve every single person on Earth.
Luke Daunivalu Fiji chief negotiator
So the next question ends up being, "what can we do about it, and is it too late?"
That's where I come in.
For my whole adult life I've been living a low-impact, carfree life. Up until 2014, I thought this would be more then enough to feel
holier then thou virtuous.
But then a life-changing thought was thrown my way by a local potluck group one thanksgiving. The question was:
If we were all to make one change in our lives in order to live in harmony with the Earth, would it be better to not use cars, or to eat plant-based?
At first it seemed silly. What did cows have to do with global warming? The question became so interesting though, that it led to several years of study and a whole thesis paper. What I learned, is that there's much more to the issue then
meets the eye.
(Spoiler alert: they both have a really big impact on our health and the climate.) I welcome you to join me in this deep dive so that you too, can make choices that will ease your conscience and allow you to live a healthier, happier life.
The question of which behavior gives the most benefit was raised in 2006 when the UN published a report, titled ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow.’ The report claimed that raising animals for food was a bigger contributor to global warming then all the world’s transportation combined.
Well, a claim like this was, pretty tough to swallow. How could animals that've lived on the earth for thousands of years be causing so much harm? A little digging found one of the few outspoken critics of the report, Dr. Frank Mitloehner. Interestingly, he's been supported by a $26,000 grant from the Beef Checkoff Program which finances consumer education in the U.S.
On the other side, criticism from Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang claimed that the report
didn't go far enough. So you can imagine
confused I was with such different opinions. I wondered, could even such esteemed international scientists as those at FAO, be wrong?
With every human being’s (and animal’s) lives at stake, this controversy was far too important of an issue to leave unanswered.
One way or another, I was going to get to the bottom of things.
But without funding, a giant laboratory, or a travel budget how could little me bring more clarity then an international group of scientists? I was going to need a lot of resources to draw from in order to figure out this incredibly complicated issue.
Thanks to the magic of the internet (and my hoard of devoted minions), there are in fact millions of documents and many kind researchers willing to help out. It took months of delving into untold number of scientific papers to at last get some solid numbers. But don’t worry, I'll stick to the main points with links that will allow you to explore at your own pace.