Battling climate change through personal change

By George Jacobs

The recent Paris climate change deal has been hailed as historic, but now that the hoopla has died down, many are wondering whether it will really lead to actions to slow global warming or whether the deal will only amount to more hot air.

The top item on most governments’ climate change action menu seems to be reducing fossil fuel use. However, climate change action must also include reducing another key climate change contributor – animal agriculture. A United Nations (UN) report estimated that production of meat, dairy, eggs and other animal-based foods accounts for a major share of human-produced greenhouse gases, even larger than the share accounted for by transportation.

Therefore, just as we can cut our fossil fuel use by setting the air conditioning at 25 or 26 degrees Celsius instead of at 23 or 24 degrees, so too can we set our eating plans to include more of the many plant-based options available at eateries and markets. So many eateries have plant-based options, such as Hans, Thai Express and Pasta Mania.

Similarly, just as we can usually take the MRT and buses, or even better walk or bicycle, and only travel by private car or taxi on special occasions, so too can we usually enjoy plant-based meals and only eat animal-based foods on special occasions.

Additionally, just as we can normally go paperless and only print when necessary and even then print double-sided, so too can we normally eat plant-based and even when we do eat foods from animals, we can eat less. For example, at an economy rice stall, we can have two veggies and only one meat.


Simple Steps to Solve Complicated Problems

By making these eco-friendly food changes, just as by walking or biking more, we are not sacrificing. Instead, we are boosting our health and opening ourselves to new experiences. For example, there are hundreds of delicious herbs, spices, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes, used in a wide array of cuisines and in thousands of recipes, all for us to explore.

While we are enjoying these healthy, bright green food options, we are, at the same time, showing kindness to our fellow animals such as the chickens, fishes, pigs, and cows, who (note: the use of ‘who’ to refer to animals is a deliberate, research-based choice) now live short, painful and unnatural lives.

Even technology is on the side of greening our diets. The best known example is Beyond Meat, a company in the US which uses advanced technology to create plant-based products with the taste and texture of meat. Such inventions have even attracted such high profile investors as Li Ka-shing and Bill Gates, and are already on sale in the US at popular stores like Whole Foods Market and Walmart, and even at Green Common in Hong Kong. Singapore can get in on this technology-driven green food easily by tapping on the research capabilities of A*STAR which already does research on Nutrition and Food Science.

Global warming is far too important a matter to be left only to international conferences. We must all “walk the talk” by taking powerful actions at the individual, family, workplace, school and community levels – actions which benefit the environment at the same time these actions benefit our health and our fellow animals.

Dr George Jacobs is the President of the Vegetarian Society (Singapore) which strongly advocates reduction in meat consumption among the general population through initiatives such as Veggie Thursday.