Veganism is the Hero/ine we Need to Smash Climate Breakdown

The climate is breaking down. It’s not just changing, it’s breaking down. The wheels are falling off big time, and there are no replacements to be found anywhere. When I recently heard George Monbiot refer to it as “climate breakdown” in a talk he gave even before Greta began sitting outside the Swedish parliament each Friday, I really got it. I mean really got it. I know what a breakdown of anything with interconnecting parts looks like, and it’s way different to things just changing. Although a breakdown can imply that whatever’s broken might be fixable, the climate machinery is breaking down faster than we can mend it. And the kids are getting very pissed off.

But they’re not talking about veganism. No-one wants to talk about veganism, except Vegans. Even Greta, who is a Vegan, seems to be too afraid to upset her followers by talking about veganism. Don’t get me wrong, Greta is amazing, and is shaping up to be an incredibly effective leader against the status-feckn-quo, and we’re desperate for that right now. She has no trouble giving those who have so far led us straight into this climate breakdown a right ol’ bollocking. The time for politeness and playing nice has gone. And people are listening to her. She’s a media darling, and that’s a powerful weapon to have on her side. Now, I do understand that Team Greta are probably strategising, because as soon as she says the ‘V’ word, everyone will turn their ears off, and the media will drop her like a hot potato. At the moment, anyway.

No-one wants the climate to break down. Nor do they want to stop eating meat and dairy. Reputable scientists say that the single biggest, feasible thing each of us can do right now to combat climate breakdown in the fastest way possible, is to stop eating meat and dairy. “Oh no,” say the omni climate protesters, “pasture-raised and free-range animals are the answer.” They agree that intensive farming isn’t good, so their solution is to turn all the animals out onto pasture. Then humans can still keep eating them and their by-products, but with a clearer conscience. Hang on, won’t someone have to miss out if we do that? There isn’t enough suitable land in the world to pasture-raise all the animals needed to meet the current rates of meat consumption. That means that there will be fewer animals available to eat. Which means that the price of meat and dairy will go up – as in sky-high up! They will become ‘food’ items only for those with plenty of money to buy them. If the price also factors in all the environmental costs that go into having cows and sheep and pigs and chooks on the land, the group of those with enough money to buy meat just got smaller. And yet, strangely enough, veganism has been criticised as being a first-world luxury.

Get rid of fossil fuels, others demand. Great idea – can’t argue with that. Let’s do something nasty to the oil barons and their cronies, too, while we’re at it. The ones who shut down any discussions thirty years ago about what their dirty, damaging fuels were doing to our world. I’m all for it. Just one small question: how will we transport ourselves and our goods around the world? Our whole economy is built on transport powered by fossil fuels. Battery power is the answer! Except that to fly an aeroplane, sail a ship, and drive a big truck by battery, the battery would need to be about as big as the vehicle its powering, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for people or goods.

Okay, so humans don’t want to stop eating meat and dairy, and we can’t do without fossil fuels right now. Hmmm…. tricky. I know – let’s plant trees to offset our carbon footprint. Trees are our friends, and they work hard at keeping our air clean. No doubt about it, trees are fab. Trouble is, we’d need to just about plant the whole world in trees to offset our carbon footprint. And it would take rather a long time to take effect, too. And where would the cows and sheep and pigs and chooks go that humans want to eat, if the land is covered in trees? Back into intensive farming lots?

Of course, if we live in a place where it’s possible and feasible, we could just go vegan. We could reduce all greenhouse gases, prevent loss of more species and bio-diversity, clean up our waterways and oceans, and use less fossil fuel – all in a much shorter time than any other solution.  And yes, there is enough arable land to feed the world a plant-based diet. Or we can keep dithering around, because we want things to change, but we don’t want to change.

When you’re talking to a passionate environmentalist, and you mention veganism, and they either go quiet or go ballistic, you know they still don’t get that they have to get personal with this. They’re still thinking that it’s all up to someone else to fix it. They look to the very institutions and people who created the problems to put things right. Seriously? And what are these institutions and people doing? They’re faffing around. There should be some accountability, that’s true, but to expect that with enough pressure they will fix it, is naïve.

Climate breakdown is a personal problem, like it or not. Veganism, where possible and practicable, is the fastest solution to mitigate it. Side-stepping that won’t make it any less true.


If you want to hear Dr Mike Joy say all this much better than me, here’s the link. It’s 53 minutes, long but an extremely educational 53 minutes 😊


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