You

Mothers, you can save our planet!

You
By Mariam Khan
Tue, 11, 21

If we decide to make our meals in a socially responsible manner, our future generations will be thankful for the opportunity to live healthier and happier lives on the planet. You! takes a look…

Mothers, you can save our planet!

earth

In a lot of households, mothers have the secret power to modify diet patterns of the entire families. While some moms follow a weekly meal plan, others ask their children or spouses for their food preference every day. A lot of children these days are picky eaters and instinctively, mothers want to see their children eat something rather than nothing at all. Ignoring this temptation is important and we should plan our meals that are healthy not only for humans but also for our planet. Experts suggest that production of red meat has harmful effects for the environment and we should shift towards plant-based diets. Introducing children to a plant-based diet might seem like a herculean task but you can make it into a fun activity by thinking slightly out of the box. Some ideas for children include barbecued cauliflower bites, pasta with broccoli, dairy-free cheese sandwich made with vegetables, fruit salad with yoghurt and so on.

Our little thoughtfulness can go a long way and we can make a huge difference by acting collectively to save our planet. If we decide to make our meals in a socially responsible manner, our future generations will be thankful for the opportunity to live healthier and happier lives in a planet which would be kinder to them. A few key principles for planning meals in a sustainable and environment friendly manner include lowering consumption of meat and dairy, avoiding processed foods with high sugar and fat content, using seasonal fruits and vegetables, incorporating beans and lentils in your menu, and not wasting food.

In a welcome development recently, Pakistan officially joined more than 80 nations who signed up for the US-led global methane pledge at the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26) this year. They agreed to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by the end of this decade in an effort to tackle climate change. This is a significant step towards achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of preventing a temperature rise of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

However, one has to be cautiously optimistic regarding this pledge when Russia, China and India, who are major emitters of methane, are not part of this plan. When some world leaders disappoint us, as responsible citizens of this planet, our mothers can commit to be cognizant of our methane footprint and make an effort to reduce it. Generally, carbon dioxide receives a lot of attention as a greenhouse gas but very few people talk about methane, which is also a major greenhouse gas. Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. According to an estimate, nearly 60 per cent of all methane emissions in the world come from human activities, which present an opportunity for us to take action against global warming. Managing methane emissions can be an important part of our strategy to fight climate change in the short-term to have immediate benefits for our planet.

The main sources of human-activity related methane emissions are agriculture and livestock, oil and gas industries, landfills, wastewater treatment, and emissions from coal-mines. Methane is produced by livestock such as cow, sheep, and goats as part of their normal digestive process. Humans engage in farming of these animals for food and other products, leading to increasing methane emissions because of these human-related activities. The emissions from beef and milk production represent 35 and 30 per cent of the livestock sector emissions, globally. With growing population and increasing demand of meat and dairy products, methane emissions are rising in our environment.

Our atmosphere naturally deals with methane by destroying it as it reaches the stratosphere. Soil also acts as a natural sink for methane where it is processed by bacteria. The problem arises when methane is produced faster than it can be destroyed. Since humans are responsible for excessive production of methane, it is also our responsibility to help our planet by reducing the methane emissions. Possible ways to achieve this include alternative feeds for cattle that inhibit or reduce methane emissions, reducing meat and dairy production, and reducing wasting of food. Another way to mitigate the problem is using biogas systems by transforming waste from livestock and food into energy. Biogas, instead of releasing methane into the atmosphere as a harmful greenhouse gas, converts it into clean and renewable energy source.

In countries that have agriculture-dependent economies like India and Pakistan, discussions on cutting agriculture and livestock related methane emissions becomes a sensitive topic. However, these conversations are important because we cannot reach the desired goal of reducing greenhouse gases in our environment if we do not have support of the major methane-emitters. A recent study published last year quoted India as the third-largest source of methane emissions. India may not be consuming a lot of beef but it has a significant population of cattle which emits methane. A huge challenge for countries will be to implement policies to re-organise their agricultural models and convince millions of farmers to adopt the new ways that are friendly to our environment.

A special report on climate change and land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from August 2019 includes a policy recommendation to reduce meat consumption and mentions plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating climate change. If industries are not bound to manage their methane emissions, then the citizens and consumers will have to take responsibility. One of the ways to reduce our methane footprint is to cut down on meat consumption, especially red meat. Eating less beef is beneficial for both, human health and our planet’s health.

Moms, you can take steps now to rescue us! You cannot only help to reduce our existing methane footprint but also the potential future one by raising kids who learn to eat in a climate friendly and socially responsible manner. Perhaps we can start with baby-steps and commit to incorporate one key principle for sustainable meals, which is reducing our red meat intake.