Simply adjusting our diets can have long-lasting, potentially climate-saving effects
Growing up, your mother and grandmother probably insisted that you drink a glass of milk every night before bed, citing your need for calcium. Or they pleaded with you to eat some mutton: you need the iron.
It is undeniable that meat and dairy offer useful nutrients, but at what cost?
The climate crisis is looming. If we continue our current practices, by 2100, heat waves, wildfires, and droughts will be the norm. Billions will live in areas where water is scarce. Ice and glaciers will become a rare sight. Humanity will never be the same. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), meat and dairy production are responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, roughly the same as the emissions combined from all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world. We have always been taught that vehicles are bad for the environment. Why have we been ignoring such a key contributor to climate change?
In Pakistan, where most desi dishes contain meat and dairy, reducing our intake of them might seem like a difficult task. Yet, there is a plethora of affordable plant-based alternatives widely available. Lentils, for instance, are a good source of protein and fiber, with a fraction of the carbon footprint of beef. Plus, legumes are also a lot cheaper than beef. What is stopping us from reducing our meat and dairy intake? Are we just scared of change? Or do we live in a secluded bubble that allows us to forget about climate change, assuming that it won’t affect us?
What is stopping us from reducing our meat and dairy intake? Are we just scared of change? Or do we live in a secluded bubble that allows us to forget about climate change, assuming that it won’t affect us directly?
The truth is that climate change is directly affecting us, or at least those around us. Women, especially in developing countries, are disproportionately harmed by climate change. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, Pakistan has one of the largest economic gender gaps. These women, particularly if they run the household, are the ones who have to mitigate the damages caused by extreme floods, hurricanes and droughts. They are the ones who most often have to walk long distances in order to acquire water, food and energy. We may not realise the impact of the climate crisis on us directly, but at the very least, we can empathise with these women and pop our bubbles.
We have been procrastinating taking action against the climate crisis for far too long, and it’s catching up with us. Simply adjusting our diets can have long-lasting, potentially climate-saving effects. We must not diminish our actions and leave it to the governments to act: it is our responsibility as humans, the cause behind environmental degradation, to help planet Earth fight back. Even if we switch from eating red meat to other meat, our carbon footprint will see a massive reduction, and our future generations will thank us for it. Let your diet become a vote for change, a vote for our future, and a vote to start undoing all the damage we have caused.
The writer is a student based in Lahore