One week ago, the World stopped to look at the mountain of paper the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) had put together to explain to us one thing… things are getting extremely Hot!
Not only that, the IPCC were dragging our collective attention to some inconvenient truths, in particular, the role our own diets play in what’s happening in our atmosphere. The IPCC noted the role the increased prevalence of animal products has in our diet on our climate, for example through methane emissions, nitrogen fertiliser use and the destruction of forests for grazing land.
In Chapter 4 of this heavy read, they went on to say:
“There is increasing agreement that overall emissions from food systems could be reduced by targeting the demand for meat and other livestock products, particularly where consumption is higher than suggested by human health guidelines. Adjusting diets to meet nutritional targets could bring large co-benefits, through GHG mitigation and improvements in the overall efficiency of food systems (Erb et al., 2009; Tukker et al., 2011; Tilman and Clark, 2014; van Dooren et al., 2014; Ranganathan et al., 2016). Dietary shifts could contribute one-fifth of the mitigation needed to hold warming below 2°C, with one-quarter of low-cost options (Griscom et al., 2017).”
But what does that mean for us on the Isle of Man? Only on the same day of the Report’s release was Geoffrey Boot, Minister for the Environment, identifying the trouble droughts and extreme weather conditions was having for Isle of Man farmers! Let’s not forget the infamous ‘salad famine’ of February 2017, when Tesco was bare because of the weather in Spain and some were rationed to two lettuce per person! And, what will the Isle of Man look like if we see a metre rise in sea levels by 2100..?! Look for the light blue areas on the map! (Map courtesy of topographic-map.com).
There are still nuanced debates in the scientific community as to the focus on animal products to resolve a climate catastrophe, such as the half-life of Methane in the atmosphere and the longer term implications of prioritising reducing emissions of it vis a vis Carbon Dioxide.
The Lancet, the leading health publication, in its volume 373 of May 2009 noted that climate change represents the “biggest global health threat of 21st century”. Just two years later the United Nations General Assembly identified that non-communicable diseases (such as cardiac arrest, stroke, diabetes) now account for over 63% of deaths in the world annually.
But what if there was some way to combat both global climate change and our global health epidemic at the same time; a non-zero-sum-game if you will?
Spinach In, Spam Out.
When we ride a bike to work, we not only burn calories, improve our muscle insulin sensitivity, and assist our mental well being but we also avoid the release of carbon into the atmosphere from driving a car.
Could we have an even greater impact by changing our diet? Yes, we can.
We now know that the foods that are generating the most greenhouse gases appear to be the same foods that are contributing to many of our chronic diseases.
Hold-back the meat, eggs and milk, and tuck-in to some Isle of Man grown organic fruits, vegetables instead.
Will Lettuce Help?
The European Commission’s 2012 Behavioural Climate Change Mitigation report on what individuals can do to mitigate climate change identified that “Shift to a vegetarian diet” came out top for immediate impact, with “Shift to a healthy diet” coming second (considered to be consuming fewer animal products and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption).
Buying a Tesla was only in third place, so keep that in mind when you’re cruising past McDonald’s fully charged with your windows down and your system up.
Forks Over Knives.
Climate change may appear to the individual to be an overwhelming, complex problem, far departed from daily life. However, if we as citizens of a shared Isle of Man and a shared World make small changes like starting a Meat Free Monday and using a fork more often than a knife, our actions will not only help our planet but also our waistlines and health.
So, if you’re looking for a positive change with huge consequences, think about trying to buy more locally sourced, fruits and vegetables (organic for added boost), and cut down on your animal product intake, even try going free one day a week.
Whilst you’re chowing down on your carrots and hummus, make sure your bicycle tyres are pumped and download the Bus Man app so you don’t miss the bus or can’t ride your bike, forcing you to take your car!
It’s a win / win for our health and our planet.
If you’re interested in learning about the Isle of Man Green Party, find us on Facebook here or drop us an email at [email protected].