Because we’re the flood and we’re the ark
My friend and I, we’re always fighting about the same thing. We’re fighting although we’re in the same boat — we’d like to eat less animal products. He’s doing it for health and fitness, me for the environment. He cuts me off when I’m trying to discuss an issue, and we’re fighting — for example as we did over my article ‘Is milk really bad for us’. To him I’m just an industry-brainwashed media believer, listening to what our parents and grandparents made us believe, ridiculously fighting for milk.
But I am not. I’m neither believer nor defender. I’m trying to be open to all beliefs and opinions — to start a conversation. Because what we’re headed for, is much bigger than anyone of us.
Hardly any other topic brings people to the barricades as much as nutrition. How many families and friendships, partnerships, and relationships have been torn apart by what should unite us all? Food.
So why does food have to be such a radical philosophy? The eagerness and enthusiasm of most vegans can be intimidating and even aggressive, as an ‘outsider’ you can’t get started, you can’t connect, especially if you’re not fully committed. But we’re together, all together in the same boat — and it’s sinking.
Why you should consider a plant-based lifestyle
I don’t specifically like the term ‘diet’, because whatever we decide to do regarding our eating behavior, it shouldn’t be a temporary diet, but a lifestyle change. In the beginning, you may stick to recipes or a meal plan, but once it’s implemented into your routine, it’ll become your life and before you know it, you’ve changed 360 degrees. That’s the kind of diet that works continuously. We have to admit that nobody really wants to change their behavior. It’s exhausting, it’s no fun and you maybe won’t even see an effect. But your children will.
They will look back and think ‘At least my parents did everything they could’. You may think that it’ll be too great a sacrifice to consume fewer animal products. But what are your children supposed to say, if your greatest sacrifice would’ve been to waive the steak once in a while or change from cow milk to oat milk, while they’ll be facing the greatest challenges of humankind?
Of course, you’ll be long gone by then, won’t you? Well, let me enlighten you a bit.
- They’ll never see Greenland, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Amazon rainforest.
- They’ll go to the zoo and say Wow, what an impressive animal, this polar bear must be— too bad, the sign says ‘extinct’.
- They’ll suffer from water shortages, heat waves, droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, floods.
- They’ll experience political displacement and refugee flows, may lose their home because metropolises like Dhaka, Karachi, and New York will no longer be habitable.
- They’ll witness wars, fierce power struggles for resources and habitat.
- They’ll see a world that you don’t dare to imagine — and they will have to cope with it.
It’s not a child’s responsibility to worry about their future. It should be the parents, protecting and comforting them — but we’re doing the opposite. We’re letting them down, letting them fight on their own for a future that is doomed, even worse — we’re fueling their enemies and working against them.
The production of meat and animal products accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions*.
Methane, which is emitted by livestock on a large scale, has a greenhouse effect 25-times greater than CO2. To keep these animals, forests are being cut down. Half of the earth’s habitable or cultivable surface has already become farmland, and barely a third is left covered by forest. 80% of this arable land is used to keep animals, only 20% is used for crops — still, those make up 80% of the calorie and 60% of the protein supply for the entire world (as plant-based diet). Imagine how much food we’d have if we’d switched those!
Every day more forest area is burned down in favor of livestock farming, the lungs of the earth, which are supposed to keep CO2 emissions in check. Moreover, trees are also made of carbon, which means that CO2 is released when they are burned. Cutting down forests is like opening all windows of a house on fire.
All the before-mentioned disasters will occur if we do not manage to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve the two-degree target of the Paris Climate Convention by 2050, individual CO2 emissions must not exceed 2.1 tons per year.
We have to talk
Communication doesn’t work by shouting, diminishing, or mocking, but by listening. So why don’t we try?
When talking about veganism, usually the first reaction is eye-rolling and mocking, especially when you’re going through the meat-eating part of society. I’ve experienced it first hand (although I don’t consider myself vegan), just by bringing some vegan products into our house and refusing to buy meat products. The first thing a friend of mine said when hearing about it was ‘Be careful, when you’re old you’ll get osteoporosis, just because you were following some trend’ (she’s a dietitian). But it is not just some trend. It’s an outbreak from learned behavior, existing rules and standards, which — in our time — are simply no longer sustainable.
It’s hard being vegan, it demands so much discipline and stamina, that all people who live like this permanently, have my deepest respect. I can’t go through with it 24/7, but that’s okay — it’s not what we’re going for here.
Which brings me to the other side of the coin. While the carnivores roll eyes at the vegans, those sit on their high thrones of tofu, looking down on us maggots and snub their hoity-toity noses.
But we mustn’t exclude those people for whom plant-based nutrition is new territory, who are interested and want to hop on the train, but don’t know how to. We simply can’t afford to lose them. If we keep shutting them out by our arrogant (yes, arrogant) attitude, considering ourselves to be so much better, just because we’ve already made it, we — will — lose — this — battle!
We must integrate every single person to work together, support and encourage each other. We have no choice but to talk about food, even though it is incriminating and exhausting. We should stop thinking in boxes, where there are only flower-scattering vegan hippies and meat-loving earth killers. We are more than just one thing, and so are others, and only together we have the strength to save our home — mother earth.
What you can do right now
Well, this one is easy and you can do it through your next decision.
What will you have for dinner?
If you decide now against an animal product and instead, look up a vegan recipe for spread, a rice pan, or noodles with vegetable sauce (which will only take you a few minutes, come on) — you are saving our ark!
And step by step you can manage to reduce your consumption of animal products. You don’t have to become vegan today (or ever), but you should be more aware of what you consume and what the real cost of your eating behavior is.
It’s time to stop focusing only on yourself. We’re one of almost 8 billion people here on earth and each of us has the responsibility to protect our common homeland as best we can.
I can heartily recommend you We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. For conclusion, I’d like to recite a small passage of it:
One question: What is the opposite of someone who leaves the lights on in unused rooms, buys power guzzlers and keeps the air conditioning running even when nobody is at home?
Someone who pays attention to their electricity consumption?
And what is the opposite of someone who always travels by car, no matter how long the distance is and no matter how well you could travel it by bus and train?
Someone who pays attention to how much he drives?
And what is the opposite of someone who eats lots of meat, dairy products and eggs?
Wrong. The opposite […] is someone who is moderate in his consumption of animal products.
*The FAO states that it is only 18% in their publication (Livestock’s Long Shadow, 2006), but the Worldwatch Institute contradicts (Livestock and Climate Change, 2009) and also publishes a further article as a reaction (Critical Comments and Responses, 2010). They go for the 51%.
Robert Goodland (author of the latter) explains the difference:
The key difference between the 18 percent and 51 percent figures is that the latter accounts for how exponential growth in livestock production […], accompanied by large scale deforestation and forest-burning, have caused a dramatic decline in the earth’s photosynthetic capacity, along with large and accelerating increases in volatilization of soil carbon.