Fighting Back Against Greenhouse Gas Emissions With Veganism
With the latest climate change outlook, many in my generation especially are both struggling with how to feel and reaching for a new sense of power to change things in the face of such disaster.
Having recognized that so much mismanagement of the world and power stems from capitalism rather than each other, we are naturally focusing our ire at this time on the abstract economic dynamics of the world, and are cautious about adopting individual solutions.
Carbon in Context
While all of the 'it's the corporations, not personal choices!' articles I've seen make great points about capitalism and fossil fuels, the few I've read are also focused solely on carbon pollution. According to the IPCC, methane and nitrous oxide emissions are also important to consider because of their destructive capability. When we look at these pollutants, livestock and animal agriculture become more clearly a contributor to global climate change. Livestock and stock-based manure, for instance, are responsible for up to 73% of all human-caused N2O emissions. Additionally, animal ag-related emissions are expected to increase 80% by 2050, while the energy sector is only expected to increase 20% by 2040.
Holistically though, animal agriculture is already responsible for 51% of ALL greenhouse gas emissions. We seem to miss this fact when we focus solely on who is producing fossil fuels rather than what industry is using them. While activists are correct to point out the prevalence of carbon in our atmosphere and its direct connection to the fossil fuel industry, animal agriculture is the middle man in this equation—the capitalist industry fueling pollution of our atmosphere along with ever-expanding and destructive growth over the wild. The ecological footprint of animal agriculture is so great that adopting a plant-based vegan diet would have a greater impact on curbing greenhouse gas emissions than even downsizing a car. Nine of the top ten foods with the greatest impact on climate change are animal products, with the tenth making the list as a result of food miles.
The land required for animal agriculture is also particularly important to consider, especially in light of the common misconception that 'grass-fed' or 'free range' livestock have a smaller ecological footprint. When we deforest wild areas to make room for livestock, we are destroying our natural capacity to respond to carbon emissions—the very thing many environmentalists are already focused on!
In addition to dramatically cutting our carbon emissions, we must take action to offset existing emissions by divesting from industrial agriculture and rewilding the land these industries occupy, using cover crops in our home and community gardens, restoring and protect our world's wetlands, and defending our world's remaining forests from development and destruction. These tasks are daunting and require commitment, but are also more tangible than buzzwords like ‘revolution’ or ‘dismantle capitalism.’
On a more individual level, by eliminating livestock from our diets, veganism offers us a way to more fully assault the dominion of all industrial agriculture through decreasing the aggregate demand for both animal products and animal feed for livestock. Over time, this can close factories, shut down entire operations, and dismantle factory farming of animals.
Veganism is an immediate and profound choice we can make as individuals to fight all sources of greenhouse gas emissions in both the short- and long-term. Importantly, as with addressing capitalism and the fossil fuel industry’s waste and power, it is also only the beginning of the regenerative Earth healing work our planet needs. Our strategies need not (and should not) segregate veganism from broader, more abstract changes in politics and economic models. Nor should our strategies rely solely on economic and political changes brought on through policy—as if we have the time to spare or even a competent and assertive governing body to enforce these changes—while ignoring the power we have as individual actors and consumers in the same system.
So advocate for policy changes whenever possible. But also think of your diet. Count your food miles. Think of the trees. Plant to sequester carbon. Plant like your native ecosystem depends on you. Plant like no government on Earth is going to do anything. Talk to your neighbors and learn to garden and forage together. Divest from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture as much as possible. Be the revolutionary land mammal Mother Earth needs right now.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to email@example.com