Could a change in dietary customs be a solution to climate change?

I think most people would agree that as time goes on, The effects of climate change are becoming more and more visible, and searching for solutions for climate change are becoming more and more critical.

The animal agriculture industry accounts for nearly 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists call for urgent changes in diets and food systems in order to slow down the progression of climate change. For this reason, I decided to focus my project on the changes that one could make in his/her diet and how that would affect the course of climate change.

One of the major factors contributing to climate change is the factory style production of beef. In countries like Brazil, where the beef industry is one of the main pillars of the economy, there are huge amounts of deforestation for the purposes of cattle ranching. Over 700,000 square kilometers of Brazilian forest land have been cut down since the 1970s, for that very reason. When trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide stored within them is released, and in Brazil this leads to over 2 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide being emitted each year.  Brazil is just one example of how much environmental damage is being done due to animal farming, and other countries such as Argentina, Canada, and the United States are on a similar path. Experts argue that “raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. It is a leading cause of rainforest destruction, species extinctions, ocean dead zones, and freshwater consumption”. It is clear that animal agriculture is highly destructive to the earth’s ecosystems, and is now playing a significant role in climate change.

However, modern food industries not only harm the environment but also damage human health.

Numerous studies all around the world have shown that illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancers are increasing in numbers. These studies also show that the food many of these sick people are consuming is, in fact, a large cause of their conditions. Investigator and producer of the documentary “What the Health”, Kip Andersen, emphasizes that processed meats such as sausages, bacon, and ham contain nitrate, heme iron, and other substances that are considered by scientists leading carcinogens, along with tobacco smoking, asbestos, and plutonium. Additionally, he reports that almost all fish contain various elements such as mercury and other dioxins, which are ultimately toxic to human beings. Dairy products are not much good for human health either, as they are almost entirely constituted of saturated fats, hormones, and preservatives, which link to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, ovarian cancer, and other diseases.

So,  with clear data that animal-based diets are harmful to our own health as well as to our planet, there is sufficient reason to stop eating animal products altogether.

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception around plant-based diets, as opposed to meat-based diets, that the former plant diet cannot provide humans enough protein, nutrients, and minerals. However, this has been proven to be completely untrue.  Numerous studies have been conducted around the topic, and show that people who have gone on plant-based diets have shown improved nutrition and health. A study by the Wellness Institute of Cleveland even found that 99.4% of people with cardiovascular diseases were able to avert major cardiovascular “events” by going plant-based. Other similar studies showed that individual subjects suffering from issues like osteoarthritis, also decided to try plant-based diets to see how it would affect them, and surely enough they too were able to come off most of their medication within only a few weeks.

People are often confused about how to make easy, quick and somewhat inexpensive changes to help avert climate change.  It has been predicted by Oxford researchers that if the entire world went vegetarian (which cuts out meat from the diet but still includes dairy and eggs), food-related greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 60% by 2050. The studies also showed that if the entire world went vegan (completely plant-based diet), greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by an additional 10%. This could ultimately reduce the world’s entire emissions by around 15%, which is a fundamental change. Of course, it is difficult to switch from an animal-based to a plant-based diet overnight, but subtle changes can be made.

Climate change is a fastly-approaching battle that we must all try to combat in our own way. Going vegan, or even adopting a more vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to do so, while getting health benefits as well!

Works Cited:

If you have any vegan recipes that you like, feel free to share in the comments below!

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  1. April 25, 2019 by Levith

    Hi Julie!
    I loved your solution focused approach to this topic. Your video makes it less intimidating or scary to your audience to adopt these kinds of diets (that they’re unfamiliar with) to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Your video, as well, makes your topic much more understandable and easier to visualize. Your presentation doesn’t leave me questioning what I could do, it instead, leaves me thinking about how I can follow your steps, and adapt them to fit my life, so that I can increase my efforts at mitigating climate change. I wonder how your project could evolve if you were to interview people who follow these kinds of diets to document their experience and share their wisdom with those of us who are trying to improve our conscious food consumption through these kinds of diets.
    Let me know what you think!

    • April 26, 2019 by Julie

      Hey Levith!
      Thank you so much for your positive feedback! I really appreciate it 🙂
      I originally did plan to even test the diet for a longer period of time myself but didn’t in the end, and you’re right, talking to people who have more experience with veganism would have been very helpful to my project!

  2. April 26, 2019 by bryent.takayama

    Hello Julie! I loved watching your video on how you made vegan meals for a day. The devastating effects of the agricultural industry on the environment is appalling; it was helpful that you pointed out how deforestation is often coupled with the already dreadful carbon emission consequences of cattle ranching. You recognize in your presentation how a global shift to veganism would prove to be revolutionary and help mitigate climate change substantially, but evidently, this conversion is unrealistic. What are the most simple steps that the average American (consuming an extraordinary amount of meat) can take to improve sustainability? Do you believe that, for example, here in the United States, a cultural transformation may be necessary?

  3. April 26, 2019 by Julie

    Hey Bryent! I’m glad you liked it, this is a subject that is really close to my heart, so I’m glad you understood the message! I would say that the average American should firstly try to cut down on animal products such as milk, that can be replaced with all sorts of vegan milk (hazelnut, almond, rice, etc.). Milk is also extremely dangerous for your health if it’s not organic, due to all the hormones and preservatives found in them. Additionally, I would suggest having one or two days a week where you don’t consume meat at all. It would be tough at first, but I’m sure you’d get used to it!
    I believe that a cultural transformation is definitely necessary, especially in the United States where the meat industry is so huge and so destructive. Statistics show that most Americans are unaware of the damage meat is doing to them and to the planet, which is obviously quite problematic!

  4. April 28, 2019 by Vivian.Fong

    Hi Julie! Amazing project and one that I’m really interested in as well. I went vegetarian 8 months ago because of animal ethics but through that I realized how much it affected our health and our planet! I really like the video as well, as it shows that vegetarian/vegan dishes aren’t that hard to make, and in some cases, can be even easier than animal-based dishes.
    Why do you think people are so unaware about what meat and animal-based products do to people and the planet? Maybe it’s because of a lack of education or part of a habit that people don’t want to change?

    • April 28, 2019 by Julie

      Hi Vivian!
      Thank you for all of the positive feedback, I really appreciate it 🙂
      Yes, I believe that there is a common misconception surrounding meat, that suggests that humans NEED it to survive. Of course, we do need protein but I think that most people don’t realize that protein always originates in plants, which we are made to eat! We also do need omega 3, healthy fats, and more, but all of these can be obtained without animal product consumption. I believe that if people were more educated on the things that meat can do to one’s body their eating choices may be very different, and if they were more educated on the effects it has on the environment they would be even more inclined to do so.

  5. April 28, 2019 by Luis Mendoza Perez

    Do you think more people would be willing to change their diet due to health benefits or climate benefits? I personally think people are inherently selfish so I’d assume it would be due to health reasons.

  6. April 28, 2019 by Erica

    Hi Julie! This presentation was so amazing! I definitely fell into the category of people that don’t understand and I had the exact misconceptions you listed. I was shocked and very convinced after reading about the stats and the various studies that have already been conducted. A lingering thought I had was I know there are different ‘versions’ or vegetarians so what ‘type’ would be the most beneficial to helping climate change? From what I got, meat (cow, pork, chicken) are the “worst”, but why are they in comparison to say seafood?

  7. April 29, 2019 by Georgia

    Hi Julie! I really enjoyed your webpage about the benefits of switching to a plant based diet. Your writing and arguments were very persuasive and were able to be direct and powerful without pushing shame onto anyone. I eat a pretty much plant based diet, mainly because of the animals, and I constantly hear people say it is impossible to get enough protein or nutrients, and I appreciate you debunking that. I thought that your video of vegan meal ideas at the end was such a great way to show people that you can still eat delicious food without eating meat or dairy. I wonder if people would be even more motivated to switch to a plant based diet if you gave some examples of vegan celebrities and their stories?

  8. April 30, 2019 by Sandeepa

    Hi Julie! I think this is such an amazing presentation, especially considering the fact that I can relate to this on a personal level. I really enjoyed your video, it looks just like one of those DIY vegan, “What I eat in a day” videos which I think is so cool. A question I have for you is why do you think people are ignorant and don’t want to change when they are told that going vegetarian, even a few days a week impacts the planet in a positive manner? Do you think there’s a better way for us to raise awareness on a topic like this, especially with populations that have a huge meat consumption record? Overall, this presentation was amazing Julie, keep up the good work!

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