Viewpoint: Animal agriculture impacts climate change

As the advocate of our local Meatless Monday initiative, I was inspired to write in response to the recent viewpoint [“Meatless Monday an odd choice for funds,” February 15] in the Peak.

I may be biased but I would like to counter the opinion that this project is a waste of time and resources. I have worked on awareness-raising projects and campaigns throughout my career, and I know that when done well, they can have tremendous influence.’

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I applaud Climate Action Powell River for seeking out opportunities to raise awareness that are not mainstream but, perhaps because of that, even more important. And I admire the courage of mayor and council in supporting this initiative, which many people may view as cutting edge.

While most people who are concerned about climate change are aware of contributing factors such as transportation, fossil fuels and fracking, many people are not aware of the massive impact of animal agriculture. There are many facts that could be cited here but perhaps one of the most pertinent, since we are focusing on trying to measure a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with this project, is that (according to Livestock’s Long Shadow, a UN report published in 2006) animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Furthermore, emissions from agriculture are projected to increase 80 per cent by the year 2050 if our dietary trends continue on their current path (“Global Diets link environmental sustainability and human health” Nature, 2014).

Reducing the consumption of animal products is one of the most powerful and effective ways people who care about the environment can take action. I applaud those who are already taking steps to include meatless meals, but many people are not yet aware of the impact this can have. Until very recently the link between animal agriculture and the environment was not acknowledged by major environmental organizations, and it certainly wasn’t in the forefront of conversations around environmental action.

The purpose of this project is to raise awareness around these issues locally. We will be measuring the impact of everyone who makes a pledge, illustrating the power the simple action that eating less meat can have. Since the dietary footprint of a vegetarian is about half that of a carnivore (according carbon calculators such as shrinkthatfootprint.com), if just 10 per cent of people in the City of Powell River go meatless for one day a week over the period of a year we will reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions by 149 tonnes. That would be roughly equivalent to taking 32 vehicles (driving 585,000 kilometres) off the road for that year.

Imagine the impact if more people were inspired to do more. As Mr. Wilkinson emphasized in his viewpoint, vegetarian – and even vegan meals (which have an even greater reduction impact)  – are delicious, so this can be a culinary adventure, rather than a sacrifice.

I hope all Powell Riverites embrace this initiative, and I encourage everyone who is already enjoying one or more meatless days a week to join the campaign and log their impact, which they can do at meatlessmondaypr.com.

Emma Levez Larocque is a registered holistic nutritionist and certified plant-based chef based in Powell River.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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