The United Nations just released its latest report on climate change and the predictions are pretty grim. According to the headline at theguardian.com we have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. The article goes on to say:
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
For years, I have been trying to do my part. I recycle everything my community will accept, I use my own cloth bags at the grocery store, and I drive a fuel efficient car. I wish I could drive a hybrid or an electric car, but for a retiree the prices are prohibitive—at least for now. I realize that my “little bit” is about as effective as trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, but it makes me feel better, even though I’m not too optimistic about our chances. There are just too many climate deniers out there.
I did learn something in all of the recent reporting, something that has been known for years—just not by me. According to an article in fortune.com:
As the UN also reports, livestock production causes “an even larger contribution” to climate change “than the transportation sector worldwide.” That’s right: Factory farmed animals contribute more to climate change than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships combined.
Say what?! The article goes on to explain that a whopping 30% of Earth’s landmass goes to meat, dairy, and egg production and it suggests that if we reduced our chicken intake to just one meal a week, ”the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U. S. roads”. In addition to land use issues, the How Stuff Works website reports that belching cows emit massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas which, in terms of its contribution to global warming, is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The average dairy cow expels an amount of methane in a day that might be comparable to a day’s pollution from a single car.
I had no idea that I could help reduce climate change by simply eating more plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods. I’m going to talk to my wife about introducing a Mediterranean diet to our household. We already eat a lot of vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and spices. We hardly ever eat red meat but when we do eat meat, which I intend to do—at least on occasion—we can pay more attention its source and to the welfare of the animal that made the contribution. Consuming grass fed beef and free-range chickens from a local farm like White Oak Pastures might be a good start. They are located nearby and their products are available in local grocery stores. It might cost a little more, but it would be considerably less than buying an electric car. As for my milk, I could go with soy or almond milk, but why not support a local, sustainable dairy like Sparkman’s Cream Valley where I can get real milk from “happy”, pasture raised dairy cows. Perhaps one day I can go all the way to a vegan diet, but turning meatless-Wednesdays into an everyday event seems about as likely as my being able to afford that little red Tesla roadster I’ve had my eye on.