The conversation around the climate crisis is often centered on what we’re doing wrong and what we’re likely going to do wrong in the future. A necessary narrative, given that our consistent exploitation of natural resources has brought us, quite literally, to the verge of catastrophe. If nothing changes, we could soon pass the point of no return. But what if things do change? Could we come together to save the planet before it’s too late? If so, how?
An ‘Unprecedented’ Global Crisis
We are currently experiencing a global crisis. The coronavirus has made its way to more than 200 countries, infected more than 2.5 million people, and claimed more than 179,000 lives. Nobody knew that 2020 was going to be a year that humanity had to come together to tackle a pandemic. But we did know, or at least the scientists knew and tried to warn us, that a coronavirus-style outbreak was a very real threat. The climate crisis is a very real threat too.
Now, we’ll never underestimate the power of a sneaky germ that doesn’t discriminate. One that can travel around the world undetected via the medium of a global economy and a world that just. Doesn’t. Stop. Until now.
Many countries went into lockdown after the novel coronavirus had already started spreading rapidly. The wild animal meat market was banned in China after the outbreak had already exploded, despite past warnings. Humans don’t tend to react to a threat until it is already knocking on the door. For many, it doesn’t feel like the climate crisis is going to affect daily life. But it will, and that threat is coming up the garden path quickly. When the coronavirus crisis has vacated the building, we must learn from it: apathy will not protect us.
As one anonymous city worker-turned-environmental activist wrote for The Guardian, “right now, we are sleepwalking.”
“We [assume] that buying a house and putting money in our superannuation are appropriate ways to plan for the future. If we hear about the climate crisis, we tell ourselves, surely it can’t be that urgent if no-one is doing anything?” They continued, “we need to wake up, fast.”
The 3 Simplest Ways to Save the Planet
So how could we turn things around? Here are three simple ways to save the planet.
1. Listen to the Experts
To save the planet, we need to listen to what the science is telling us. In 2018, the United Nations Environment Programme revealed tackling meat consumption was the world’s most “urgent problem.” Two years have passed since then, and the meat industry is still unsustainable. And it’s still growing.
The raging Amazon fires of 2019 were linked to deforestation from beef producers. Fertilizer pollution from animal agriculture is linked to some of the biggest dead zones—areas of the ocean devoid of life—in the ocean. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 14.5 percent of global carbon emissions come from livestock.
It is simply no longer efficient to rely on animals for food. Scientists are pushing for taxes on meat and for a global shift to plant-based protein consumption. In 2018, the biggest-ever production analysis revealed going vegan is the single biggest thing a person can do to reduce their environmental impact.
It’s not just the meat industry that pollutes the earth.
The oil, fashion, and transportation industries have also caused significant environmental damage. In 2017, 27 percent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions came from transport. The fashion industry consumes more energy than the airline and shipping industry combined. Seventeen of the worst carbon emitters are oil companies.
2. Join the Conversation and Spread the Word
The science is a lot to take in on your own. Forcing huge corporations to change seems like an enormous task. And it is. But it’s one that can be accomplished if we come together.
Greta Thunberg has spearheaded an environmental movement that is completely unrivaled throughout history, but the 17-year-old isn’t doing it alone. It is the power of her voice, inspiring others to join her and speak up, that has even caused Big Oil to get nervous.
Last year, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Mohammed Barkindo, acknowledged that protesting children were starting to make a difference. He said that climate activism was starting to “dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry.”
He added that officials were starting to feel the pressure. “[Their children] are asking us about their future because… they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry,” he noted.
But we can’t leave it to the kids. So many adults care about the environment too. An Ipsos MORI survey from last year revealed that 85 percent of Brits are worried about global warming. Two-thirds of Americans believe the climate crisis needs to be addressed, according to a CBS News poll.
So we must keep talking. Keep the climate conversation going. Keep up the pressure. Sign petitions, encourage friends to sign petitions, join protests, donate to environmental organizations, and share climate news on social media. It all counts.
3. Change Consumer Behaviour
One of the most important votes? The one you use your wallet for. The vote you take every time you enter the store or shop online.
There are many brands out there eager and willing to cater to demand, from fashion to transport.
Stella McCartney, for example, is spearheading a move towards ethical fashion. Last year, the sustainable designer sent models down the runway at Paris Fashion Week wearing her sustainable designs, complete with tattoos on their necks, ear lobes, and fingers. The tattoos read messages such as “Earth Day every day” and “regenerate.”
The rest of the fashion world is changing. By 2025, the vegan leather market could be worth $89.6 billion. Designers are reaching for sustainable fruit skins, coffee beans, and even wine to make their designs.
In the car world, Volvo, Porsche, Tesla, Nissan, Skoda, and Ford have all launched vegan, electric vehicles in recent years.
Most of these products are high-end, no doubt. They’re not accessible to everyone (for the time being). So what is more accessible? Food. And now, grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains in the UK and the US are falling over themselves to provide customers with more vegan options.
Specialty plant-based products still aren’t accessible for every consumer, but the market is changing. Supermarkets like Iceland and Tesco offer affordable vegan versions of popular meals, like burgers and pizzas. As for the rest of the market, price parity with meat is not only necessary but inevitable.
Liz Specht p.h.D, a senior scientist at the nonprofit organization the Good Food Institute, says: “industrial animal agriculture has been operating and optimizing at a global scale for decades. Yet it is still inherently more efficient to make meat directly from plants.” She adds, “the plant-based meat industry will eventually be cost-competitive with conventional meat.”
Impossible Foods—a California-based plant-based meat company—recently dropped its prices. “It’s true that a conventional company would increase prices on a very hot commodity product, and we’re doing the opposite,” said the brand’s chief communications officer Rachel Konrad in a statement. “We’re not a conventional company.”
She continued, “our goal is to transition the global food chain away from animal-based agriculture and to do that you have to compete on price.”
We’re all helping change the future of food. A Mintel study from January 2020 revealed that 20 million Brits are cutting down on meat consumption. Research from February noted that nearly 25 percent of Americans are eating less meat than ever before. In the whole of Europe, there are now at least 75 million vegans.
Let’s keep up the pace, not just for the planet, but for humanity too. We’ve already faced one major global crisis in the 21st century, let’s do what we can to stop it from happening again.