This article first appeared in the March 2022 edition of Birdwatching Magazine
I’ve not eaten meat for around thirty-five years. My decision was not sentimental, although animals should be treated well even when they are walking meals. I knew it was a healthy choice and that if fewer people ate meat, more people in the world could eat.
I wish I could claim that I foresaw global warming and decreasing bio-diversity. I’d read ‘Death of Grass’ of course, and railed against the indiscriminate use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals. I’d also read Brian Aldiss’s ‘Hothouse’, a dystopian future where the world was a humid jungle.
But, back then, most of us were unaware just how close climate disaster was becoming. But like movies made to scare us we can see Armageddon rapidly approaching while self-interested politicians are sweet on lobbying mega-corps. Those turkeys are not only refusing to vote for Christmas, but deny it even exists. The lickspittle politicos vomit greenwash while giving the thumbs up to more flights, new coalmines and fewer taxes on polluters.
If we wait for them to act in our interests, hell will have frozen over, or more likely have been washed away, spread fire to our forests or choked on plastic.
This means we have to act to make the changes ourselves. The collective action of many millions of us could turn the tide. If we demand different products, capitalism will jump to fulfil those demands. Legislation always lags behind public will, and public will is often a decade or two behind the science. ‘Follow the science’, is just another aphorism mouthed by many, but absorbed by few. If we followed the science we would all be super fit, T-total, non-smokers, riding bikes beside endless fields of wildflowers to tree-lined streets where carbon-neutral shops sold locally produced organic veg!
There are green shoots pushing up through the unforgiving asphalt and concrete. As individuals we now re-cycle as a matter of course. It’s just a shame that our composting, bio-waste and recycled plastic is evidence of our continuing over use of plastic packaging and throwing away 20% of the food we buy. The better off can afford to shop locally in old fashioned greengrocers, bakers, butchers and farmer’s markets. The majority simply cannot afford to shun the over packaged, over processed supermarket fodder… or, maybe they can.
If we all went for the ‘5-2 diet’, we would make massive in-roads into the reduction of greenhouse gasses and it can be done on a tight budget. On our two non-meat days we can have porridge for breakfast, especially as oat or potato milk is dropping in price as the market grows. We can lunch on soup made from yesterday’s leftover vegetables combined with whatever is close to its ‘use-by’ date. Non-meat meals do NOT have to be over-priced and over processed. Baked spuds are cheap, hearty and healthy when served with reduced-sugar baked beans. Given oil, peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic and chilli you can produced a very tasty Mediterranean type stew or pasta sauce. Even if lack of time and money forces one into using pre-packaged stuff there are many low-priced vegetable-based options.
There is a movement in agriculture away from meat and dairy to high-protein crops that can be processed into healthy meal options, but that movement needs our support to be sustained.
There are many steps each of us can take to try and save us from feet-dragging politicians and lemming-like commerce. We can recycle, use more public transport, fly less, walk more, insulate our homes and avoid out of season foods just for a start. Our kids and grandkids need us to act now!