Plant-based for the Planet 1: Thoughts on Making a Difference

Despite considering myself an environmentalist (most people do, actually), I have to admit that I had very little knowledge about the environmental impact of my food choices. Would it have made me change sooner? Possibly. But I suspect had I not had the understanding that eating only plant-based foods was actually better for how I was going to look and feel than having the dairy, fish, and eggs I was having at that point, I may have decided to be somewhat satisfied with doing what I was doing already. In my mind at least it would have seemed a little like the difference from changing from a Prius to a Tesla. Realising that dairy, fish, and eggs were no good for my health AS WELL AS no good for the planet would have made all the difference, and indeed it’s now one of the things about eating whole foods and plant-based that I feel best about.

It makes me feel great to be, either when I’m conscious about it, or especially when others are talking about climate change, knowing that I’m taking action three times a day on minimising my impact on the planet. It’s a similar kind of feel good I’ve always got from putting stuff in the recycling instead of the rubbish, or from taking a reusable shopping bag instead of having another plastic one. Probably a bit better actually because in the grand scheme of things eating plant-based is exponentially more important than either of those things, and I’d say is the number one thing we can do personally to improve our world and combat climate change.

It’s very easy to start feeling helpless and powerless to change the direction that things are moving in the world. Recent events in the US haven’t helped. Personally the way I deal with this is forgetting about this for the most part and focussing on my own circle of influence, and most importantly changing myself first. No-one can stop you from taking the actions that you are able to take personally for the world, who’s trying to make money from doing stuff that’s bad for the planet or who’s in parliament (much less the White House) does nothing to change this fact. If you’re upset about the dairy industry in New Zealand destroying our waterways then the first logical and most powerful step to take, before you start getting all political on it is to stop buying their products. It might sound like a little thing, but lets suppose others in your actual circle of influence (e.g. your friends, family, and workmates) follow suit and do the same within theirs… This will be making a big impact already, and it’s only a matter of time before you reach someone who has a circle of influence much greater than yours.

What also seems to be a big issue at the moment for some people is a kind of inertia that seems to be caused by so many different actions that can be taken on the environment. Where to start? What about organic, local, and the zero waste movement? Should I be buying an electric car, cycling everywhere, and how much of that stuff is really recycled anyway? The best thing to do with all of these questions is not to care about them too much, do your best with any of those you’re able to, but focus your efforts firmly on adopting a way of eating that is based on whole plant-based foods. Food miles and waste pale in comparison as considerations when you’re looking at the difference between the standard way of eating and plant-based. There’s no gold star for your health or the environment for eating locally produced and package free beef versus imported canned beets.

If you look at the numbers food choices are a huge issue, likely even THE issue. The greenhouse gas emissions attributed to animal agriculture range from between 14.5% (more than the entire transportation sector combined) to 51% (well more than anything else!) of all human-induced emissions. That’s quite a range, so what is it exactly? Well, we could argue all day about that number and some people no doubt will do just that. Again I’d say who really cares? It’s at the very least more damaging than us driving our cars around and most of us are already feeling pretty guilty for that or doing something proactive about it. Realistically we do need to get from place to place efficiently though, and some of us can’t afford Teslas just yet. But we DON’T at all need to eat a single animal product, and in fact we look better and feel better when we decide not to. Plus, in New Zealand a staggering 47% of emissions are due to agriculture, so going plant-based is potentially even more important for us.

The other really cool thing about this is that this action, whatever the precise impact of it (but all indicators suggest it will be HUGE, in more aspects than just greenhouse gas emissions for the planet), is the absolute best thing you can be doing for your health, and it will even save you mad cash. So maybe one day you actually will be able to afford that Tesla. We can do plant-based RIGHT NOW, we don’t need anyone to invent a better car or a install solar panels or pass legislation or sign accords. And it’s that huge that it could essentially solve the climate change issue in one small personal but collectively massive action. Even if not it’s likely to buy us huge amounts of time while these other developments in the energy and transportation areas are happening and being implemented (certainly until certain politicians come to the end of their terms). Next, because I need to do another post today anyhow (I thought I’d do this all at once, like how they did Lord of the Rings, or the new Avatar movies, plus I’m a day behind), I’m going to start to explain some of the reasons how plant-based can help.

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