The climate revolution is happening. The publicity garnered by activists like Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement, together with the troubling images of the catastrophic effects of climate change, are causing our society to be conscious about its environmental impact and willing to make an effort to change things.
Volunteering in a charity shop, I have noticed that the number of people bringing their own bags is rapidly increasing, as are our sales of reusable products. However, there is always more to be done and these things perhaps aren’t as simple as some may have us believe.
It has been widely reported that animal agriculture is a larger contributor to climate change than the whole of the transportation industry. Animal agriculture causes 58 per cent of total water pollution, 56 per cent of air pollution and 83 per cent of land use. Research shows without meat and dairy consumption global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75 per cent.
So when animal agriculture is such a leading cause of climate issues, is it possible to continue to support this industry and still be an advocate against climate change?
Greta Thunberg is a vegan who has persuaded her parents to join her. She argues that the refusal to switch to veganism is depriving her generation of a future.
Joseph Poore, an Oxford University environmental researcher, states that: ‘a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet earth’.
So perhaps the question becomes, how willing are we to change for climate change? A Vox poll showed that 72 per cent of Americans believe climate change to be a threat, but only around 5 per cent are vegetarian and 3 per cent vegan. Therefore, are we only willing to pledge our support towards the battle against climate change but without actually taking any meaningful steps to prevent it?
The issue is such that the precedence of climate change activism is making it fashionable to pledge one’s support. People will share Instagram posts about the issue, they will perhaps read topical articles or take a water bottle; but only because these things will not affect their lives. To fully take responsibility for climate change and try to relieve the situation, surely we should be making some sacrifices?
Emmeline Pankhurst’s 1903 motto seems to permeate societal rhetoric even today. ‘Deeds not words’. We may be willing to talk about climate change, to debate it, even to write articles on it, but are we willing to make sacrifices to make that all-important difference?
To be an environmentalist is to be concerned about the environment. Concern needs to lead to action. Stopping climate change isn’t supposed to be easy. The whole point is that detrimental behaviour has permeated our zeitgeist and we need to make a conscious effort to reverse this.
And does going without the convenience or the pleasure of the taste of animal products seriously outweigh the protection of our planet for future generations? Maybe it does … for too many of us.