I’ve decided to change the way that I eat and eat a plant-based diet, and I want to talk about my reasons why. I’ll do my best to do this without sounding like a holier-than-thou yuppie.
I’m giving up meat for a different reason than you might assume – climate change. I am terrified of climate change. Ever since I was 14 and my science teacher played An Inconvenient Truth for my class, I’ve had this feeling like ants creeping up my spine that it’s a much bigger problem than we want to admit or address and it will come back to bite us – hence, it being an inconvenient truth.
So I’ve been looking up what we can do to help fight climate change, because although I’m a pessimist by nature, I want to be optimistic about this issue because I know that there are things that I can do to help, even just a little bit. Bronson and I have switched our light bulbs to LEDs to reduce our energy usage, we’re taking shorter showers to reduce our water usage, hoarding all of our recyclables to take down to the recycling center to reduce our waste, figuring out how to compost within an apartment and, we’ve given up meat.
One of the biggest contributors to climate change is the meat industry and 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock. Cows belch methane gas as they digest, which is 84x more potent than CO2, which is what everyone is usually worried about with climate change. Aside from that, 26% of land around the world is used for grazing livestock and 33% is used just to grow crops for the livestock to eat, so that we can eat them. Smaller land animals like chicken, turkeys and pigs aren’t as large of contributors to climate change as cattle, but they still play a role. The giant facilities used to raise the animals have a huge carbon footprint from the energy that they require and amount of land used for them. And yes, I started to feel sad for the animals and the way that they’re treated.
Even if you don’t want to give up all meat for good, cutting down your consumption of it can make a difference. I gave up beef in November and then my stomach started to react negatively to pork (probably a separate issue, but I’m not about to pick a fight with my stomach), so I had to give that one up. When I told Bronson that I was considering going full vegetarian to reduce my contribution to climate change – really just considering it, I hadn’t committed myself to anything yet – he took the idea and ran. He’s been more gung-ho about it than me! We stopped cooking meat at home, but I considered going pescatarian on my own. I just hopped on the sushi bandwagon a few years ago, I wasn’t ready to give it up yet! But then I started reading about the effects of overfishing, I was pretty done. So after I sufficiently stuffed myself full of fish sushi, I gave up seafood as well. Peace out, meat.
In all of this thinking about my fears of climate change and wanting to live differently, I feel like I finally understand Ghandi’s quote – “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. The idea always seemed so ambiguous to me, because I only thought of it in terms of my behavior toward other people, like being kind to a stranger (which is fucking hard for a level 10 introvert!) to put some positivity into the ether. But now, I get it. If I want the world to get better, I have to start with myself. That’s the only thing that I can control in this situation.
I’m afraid of a problem that is so out of my control – I can’t make Trump turn the White House website’s page on climate change back on, I can’t shut down the fossil fuel industry and slap Rex Tillerson in the face, I can’t convince everyone to give up meat or make anyone believe anything that they don’t want to – but I can live my life in the way that I would like to see the rest of the world change. I know that I’m trying my hardest to help our little green planet. So I’m working on reducing my waste, I’m cutting my water consumption, and I’m eating a plant-based diet.