We’re pursuing three areas of interest on Zerocarbonista – energy, transport and food – the big three issues we have to deal with as we transition to a world post oil. As yet though we’ve not really got our teeth into the food issue (pls excuse the pun).
I first met Juliet (and came across Viva) a few months ago. It was a bit like meeting yourself in another reality. If Ecotricity was about food we’d be very much like Viva. I’ve a lot of admiration for what Viva does and stands for, and for what it’s achieved already.
Anyway, without further ado I’ll hand over to Juliet, who makes a compelling case for a change in diet and the way we ‘make’ our food.
Can you be a meathead and a treehugger?
This is like saying can you be an environmentalist while jetting across the world for years in an aeroplane! The simple, if inconvenient fact, is that no, you cannot have your cake (or should I say steak) and eat it.
Being environmentally-friendly is all about changing your lifestyle, from choosing a green energy supplier to using a bicycle. It affects the way we drive, how much we travel, what we use, re-use and recycle. But being green doesn’t stop there. The Achilles’ Heel of our carbon footprint is meat.
The meat industry is at the heart of the world’s environmental catastrophes from acid rain to desertification; loss of biodiversity to global warming. If you don’t believe me, check out the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s report Livestock’s Long Shadow – a massive blow to those eco warriors who like to chomp on a burger while pondering the wonders of carbon offsetting and eco balls. It reveals that the livestock industry is responsible for a whopping 18 per cent of harmful greenhouse gases, through animal flatulence, industrialised production methods and the release of carbon from sinks through deforestation and slash and burn policies, among other things.
Considering the fact that the entire world’s transport systems make up only 13.5 per cent, this is really saying something. It means that people can help the environment by simply changing what they eat! In fact, a vegan driving a four by four has less of an impact than a bike-riding meat-eater!
Talk about fuel efficiency, what about food efficiency? A plant-based diet is far more efficient in providing us with all the nutrients we need – and not just us in the western world but all people.
Imagine a piece of land ten hectares big (or five football pitches to you and me). This can provide enough meat to feed only two people. That same amount of land will feed ten people with maize, 24 people with grain and an impressive 61 people with soya. Land used for grazing and feeding cattle is destroying our rainforests, causing desertification, killing and displacing millions of wild animals, driving many species to the brink of extinction, as well as causing most of the world’s pollution and consuming most of our water. And that’s not even the end of it.
A worldwide plant-based diet would require less than a quarter of the present agricultural land and could feed the millions who currently live in starvation. What are we waiting for?! Meat consumption is set to double by 2050 meaning there has never been a more urgent time to reconsider our eating habits.
So, are your burgers and bangers worth this environmental catastrophe? You would have to be a meathead to think so!!
To find out more visit: www.viva.org.uk/hot