Cars decorated with stickers such as “Save the bees,” “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and “Protect the Planet,” are plentiful throughout Eugene. The prevalence of eco-friendly campaigns and their advocates would suggests an abundance of people that care about the environment and reversing global warming. While recycling and composting help, they aren’t going to save the Earth. Many studies show that veganism is “the single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact. While environmental advocates are often quick to tell people they recycle, reuse or compost, only 3.2% of the US follows a strict vegetarian diet, and only .5% are vegan.
The average US citizen consumed a record 222.8 pounds of meat in 2018. In an article published in The Guardianin 2018, it was reported that “while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.” In addition, 100g of beef uses 105 kg of greenhouse gases, while tofu produces less than 3.5 kg. It comes down to the simple fact that the production of meat on this scale uses and pollutes an extraordinary amount of our fresh water, destroys forests and contributes greatly to global warming.
I believe that many people in the US and the rest of the world, particularly environmentally conscious individuals, realize that factory farming and the large-scale production of meat is bad for the environment. People don’t go into Taco Bell or McDonald’s naively. But the problem is that while they realize that it’s bad for the environment, they don’t really believe that their actions as individuals have a significant impact — or what is known as the prisoner’s dilemma. The majority of Americans continue to eat 222.8 lbs of meat because they believe their immediate satisfaction outweighs the effects it will have on the distant future. But years of thinking like this has led to the day of reckoning — which is no longer in the distant future.
In October of 2018, the United Nations’ scientific panel shocked the world with a report stating that there is a strong risk of an environmental crisis by 2040. This means that in our lifetimes, we will most likely experience an environmental catastrophe. The New York Times wrote that “if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.”
The solutions to global warming and long-term climate change are expensive and technologically complex, but they are feasible. However, the real obstacles to reversing a crisis are the social and political barriers, not the technological ones. Researchers at the University of Oxford discovered that by just cutting out meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73 percent.
I have no illusion that everyone, or anyone, that reads this article will go vegan. Giving up meat and dairy is by no means an easy task. However, this small price holds no comparison to the consequences we will have to pay later if we don’t make these sacrifices now.
While your intentions may be good, recycling your cans and plastic isn’t going to save the earth. Eliminating styrofoam isn’t going to save the earth. Turning off the sink while you brush your teeth isn’t going to save the earth. Cutting meat from your diet is the difficult, but necessary, decision that will save the earth. Individual actions create movements that alter the demand, which in turn, changes the supply. We are all a part of the demand, and we are all responsible for forcing governments and corporations to change before it’s too late.