Vegetarianism and veganism . . . first of all . . . are touchy subjects. I say it is like religion. No one is going to let anyone take their meat away from them. But, it is one of the main solutions for the climate crisis . . . so we really need to look at it whether some people want to or not. In Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, “We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast,” he says veganism isn’t a silver bullet for the climate crisis but we can’t solve it without it.
I have been a vegetarian for about 15 years now and didn’t give up dairy until maybe 6 years ago. That came with a little prodding to say the least. A friend in our environmental group threw down the gauntlet and said that if anyone called themselves an environmentalist, then they would have to become a vegan. Well, he ruffled many a feather in our group . . . but, I knew he was right . . . and gave up dairy. Let me tell you . . . dairy is in everything.
Let me give you a little example of why it is an environmental issue. Yes, they will say the cows are giving off all of this methane by belching or farting. While that may be true, there are other reasons . . . mainly land.
Recently, I read the book, “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, which I highly recommend. He wrote it in 2004. So while climate change was happening, the climate crisis had not reared its ugly head yet. He doesn’t even really address climate change. It is all about resource depletion, which by the way, no one talks about. He highlights the societies that collapsed and the societies that didn’t and why.
Enter . . . Tikopia . . . one of the societies that made it. There are many reasons that societies make it or don’t. Tikopia is a prime example of how carrying capacity or managing your resources works and what you need to do to survive. It is an island that is approximately 1.8 square miles. With such a small living space, one needs to be very smart about how the resources are used. First of all, only about 1,200 people can live there so population control is at the top of the list of priorities. Next, they figured out that they could not raise pigs. So, no animals are allowed. There is the land issue. They eat a very, small variety of fish and turtles in the way of animal protein.
Let’s look at the energy used to raise cows for beef. I don’t have the stats for acreage used for corn and grain in the US but it is close to 85% or possibly more. That mother cow has to be fed and watered for 9 months before the calf is born. Then, the calf is fed and watered for a year or year and a half before it is used for hamburgers, etc. That is a lot of time . . . close to two years before you get anything out of your investment. Dairy isn’t quite as bad because you are just feeding and watering the cow, and you get the milk right away.
I don’t have anything against people eating meat. I have eaten a ton of it throughout my life. But, if we are going to make it on this planet . . . there are some compromises . . . and some things we are all going to have to give up in order to do so.
People may not realize what it takes to raise a cow . . . or any food or product we buy or consume. One day I was talking to my sister, and vegetarianism come up. In my mind, there are four main reasons to become a vegetarian or become vegan. Those reasons are: health, saving or not harming the animal, the environment, and it is cheaper. There may be others. She had no idea there was an environmental reason. There may be many other people that don’t realize that, too.
Right now, the Amazon is being deforested. It has been going on already. But because Jair Bolsonaro, the new President of Brazil, he is encouraging massive deforestation of the Amazon. Mind you, deforestation has been happening all around the globe forever . . . and happens to be one of the main reasons societies have collapsed, along with soil depletion and water scarcity.
Back to Tikopia. It is very small, and they don’t raise pigs. We live on a finite planet. It may not be 1.8 square miles like Tikopia . . . but you get the picture. We have 7.6 billion people here. Along with the land issue, millions of acres are tilled up releasing carbon into the air every spring to plant corn, soybeans, etc. by big machinery spewing CO2 from diesel into the air. Planting and harvesting with more big machinery then transporting it. That’s just the food side. Those animals need water, too. There is a lot more involved besides methane from belching and flatulence.
We only have so much land. Veganism is definitely one of the main solutions for the climate crisis.
Let’s be the humanity that makes it.