A recent report shows that going vegan is one of the most vital choices you as an individual can make in the fight to save the environment. Instead of congratulating myself, I ask if being vegan is enough or just the beginning.
For me being vegan began as a way of saying ‘I do not approve of what you are doing and would like to remove myself from the means of production as far as possible, thank you’. Bonuses happened to be lower blood pressure, longer life expectancy, more frequent and better quality bowel movements (or so I have heard).
Recently the environmental benefits of our collective benevolence were brought further into the light and confirmed what we already felt – being vegan is a great way to save the planet. Research by University of Oxford researchers J. Poore and T. Nemecek cites a 73% reduction in each of our food-related carbon footprints (nebulous, but must be impressive), a reduction in land and water use as well as improved air quality. If everyone were to stop buying meat and dairy, 75% of the land currently used to grow grain to feed and raise animals for meat could be returned to nature, which might just save us all.
But can individuals going vegan alone solve the problems we face? That would be to accept the capitalist orthodoxy of individual power and spending our way out of the problem. Yes. Going vegan and starting to view your life informed by the values of veganism is a wonderful start in facing up to the enormity of the challenge ahead. Does it, however, go far enough in addressing the state of our climate, rising seas filled with plastic and the mass extinction of insects and animals?
The future of food production
The report ‘Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers’, published in the journal Science concludes that acheiving change will require producers meeting their own targets set by regulators. This combination of action will facilitate the necessary transparency to guide customers to make informed dietary choices and understand the impact of bringing meat and dairy products to the shelves.
While this is validating news for vegans, instead of residing in a smug bubble of mutual self-validation and outward condemnation, I question myself about complaceny as a vegan and think about how I can do more to bring about a verdant future. I used to think being vegan was enough to compensate for my portion of the blame and somehow felt I could excuse myself from the issues above because I was not contributing to the emissions of meat production. But what about the tofu packaging, the Tetra Pak oat milk, the shampoo container, the chia seeds packet? Although going vegan is the biggest single thing an individual can do for the environment, we cause problems as vegans, too.
Going vegan is certainly a start and an attitude shift that is necessary for the future, but, let’s take this as the starting point and build on the ethics we share to address other areas of concern related to the side affects of our consumption. And a reliance on plastics is next on the list of things to remove myself from.
Not sure where to start with plastic-free shopping? Try this: 🙂
To learn more about the masses of plastic circulating the planet and where it ends up, try Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd :
58. PLASTIC, PLASTIC EVERYWHERE: what do we do?