So when it's all said and done, and the hours of sifting through science journals is finished, what do we eventually find out?
Well, based on all of this information, I was forced to change my beliefs and accept that in the strict sense of climate change, a plant-based lifestyle does have a greater positive effect on climate change then a car-free lifestyle. In fact animal agriculture creates more climate-changing gases then all of the world’s transportation combined, mainly from cattle. Even when air travel is considered, the total is only 9 gigatons for all sources. Meanwhile, the shear number of livestock throughout the world creates over 22 gigatons. (link)
After all of this analysis, does this mean people who eat a vegan diet but drive are now off the hook? Does this mean that I’m going to run out and get a drivers license? Of course not. As I will be repeating throughout this essay, the climate crisis is affecting much more then just the Earth’s temperature and we are going to have to use every tool available in order to reduce the harm of human lifestyles. Changing our relationship with the climate is going to become more and more challenging the longer we delay. At the risk of sounding too negative, it cannot be ignored that humanity has already passed the point where mild shifts can save us. As Naomi Klein states, “there are no non-radical options left before us.” (link) We’re not just looking at a changing climate, we’re looking at a changing ......everything.
There is a vast territory between what we’re trying to leave behind, and where we want to go - and we don’t have any maps for that territory.”
If you will indulge me, I hope to expand the scope of this essay to include other sources of impact beyond climate change. For those of you who are already vegan, you may regularly enjoy the recent plethora of ‘fake meat’ products such as Tofurkey. Unfortunately, these require so much in terms of water and energy to create, that they cause a noticeable reduction in the environmental gains of a vegan diet. There are even some fake meat products which are produced using the neurotoxin hexane.
Additionally, unhealthy vegan foods such as white rice and bleached flour can actually increase the risk diabetes and other diseases. (link)
People may decide to change their diet for any number of reasons. However if you decide to go vegan for the health benefits, then please make informed purchases. There are a great number of processed vegan products which offer a smaller health benefit then might be expected.
If you are transitioning to a lower meat or dairy menu and having trouble, then these foods are a great way to help you eat lower on the food chain. On the other hand, if you already feel comfortable with animal-free food, then bulk veggies and grains are the best way to go. The added plastic packaging in prepared foods puts a big strain on our climate, so much in fact that Rob Greenfeild suggests that the strain on our ecology can be larger then from eating animals. The most compassionate food choice always comes from using whole foods in their natural forms. (link) I welcome you to explore the many resources that can help you to ditch plastic and eat naturally. (link)
Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say are in harmony.”
For some of you, this will be convincing enough to help you
make changes to your lifestyle. Others may feel that this is all
too overwhelming. Both of these reactions are perfectly okay.
For those in the latter crowd, I welcome you to take small steps. Go to a tree planting event, participate in ‘meatless Mondays,’ or ride a bike to the store. Every step that we collectively take to reduce climate changing emissions is unquestionably helpful for the well-being of humans, animals, and our planetary ecosystems.
What I hope to impress on you with this essay, is that personal choices based on a single area of impact are merely one chapter in a larger and more beautiful novel. If you take in the full breadth of issues affecting the world and consider how interconnected everything is, that will help you develop a broader and richer level of awareness. You might already be a passionate activist, protester, or social justice advocate. You may believe that where you are right now is good enough. But that’s not the end of the story. While most of us think about being earth-friendly in single-issue terms; being vegan, political campaigning, ditching plastic, etc. The truth is that there are many choices that we make every day, and all of them have an impact either positive or not.
As you read on, I will share with you other issues surrounding both livestock and motorized transport beyond their effects on climate-change alone. The effects of both decisions are wide-ranging and often less obvious then we would expect. This is why I support you in continuously pushing yourself to live more in line with our host planet. I hope that you will use this essay as a source of inspiration to follow in such a path. Support cruelty-free products, lower your heat and wear sweaters, or ride a bike to the store for small items. Every step is a higher evolution for our own health, the animals, and our collective planet.