Date: 24 May 2020
Author: The Vegan Society Aotearoa
The incredible global response to the pandemic shows us that we can act, if we need to, to suddenly mobilise and ensure that people are safe. There is provision being made for people who have lost income. Our eyes have been forced open to a lot of revelations. What jobs we really need in our society. Who are the people that keep humanity together?
One thing this pandemic has given us all is time to think. We have all seen amazing responses to the lack of human activity in cleaner air, birds and animals returning to areas previously lost to them. We have had time to reflect on how we can do better.
We’re focused on flattening the virus curve – we also need to flatten the climate curve.
So far our response to the climate crisis has been poor, to say the least. People worldwide are desperate for governments to act to mitigate this equally horrific crisis that threatens all of humanity. We have been managing to carry on as normal but that time has ended. We cannot keep our current lifestyle in the West, to do so requires 3 – 5 planet’s worth of resources, and we only have this one, it causes huge damage to borrow from future Earth.
Studies have shown that New Zealand has suffered hugely in biodiversity loss from all the usual suspects of habitat loss, pollution, pests and human activity. It is time that each country re-evaluates what it considers to be important. It is clear that we cannot live without the planet, that our survival is inextricably entwined with the rest of the species that live here. We have pushed our Earth out of balance and we need to redress that very quickly. We have about 10 years in which to do so. There are many solutions to the problems we face from climate change. The problem has never been not knowing what to do, the problem has been too much investment in the big corporates, especially big oil, which has been pumping money into climate change denial for decades.
The World Economic Forum has called for a green reboot after Covid, in Europe the EU have called for a green deal in response to the pandemic, whilst here in New Zealand, The Green Party has called for a $1billion recovery plan and Greenpeace are getting it’s supporters behind a green Covid response. It’s clear that many people and organisations are wanting a new way of living. We have discovered that we do not need the latest flashy gimmicks, that our friends and family love us even if we aren’t wearing our best clothes, that many of us can, in fact, work from home, that we do not need to use the car so much, that we enjoy daily exercise and many more things. Perhaps our busy lives have been slowed down to allow us to assess what is really important. Will we want to give up those clear skies? That fresh air? The new birds?
What this virus has shown most of us is that there needs to be, and has to be better ways of living. How do we forge a new future?
The good news is that we already have the solutions to pandemics, climate change, deforestation and ocean dead zones. They are simple solutions – we just have to face up to them. One is the inconvenient truth that animal agriculture is a huge driver of all of these. The Covid virus famously developed in a wet market, strewn with live animals and a multitude of fresh animal carcasses. Even in New Zealand, conditions in slaughterhouses and meatworks are ripe for a similar pandemic to emerge.
Deforestation often clears land to grow crops to feed animals. We could leave out the middleman. Eating a plant-based diet will drop at least 1 tonne of CO2per person per annum compared to the average meat-based diet. We could use the current arable land for growing plants to feed and clothe humans. Reforest the lands unsuitable for horticulture, allow wildlife their habitat back.
The human body was never designed to eat the copious quantities of meat that we averagely consume. During our evolution, we would be lucky to eat 5 kg per annum; now we consume on average 76 kg per annum! The resource costof raising 70 billion land animals to feed less than 6 billion people, delivering only 18% of their calorific needs is completely unsustainable. We have only 10 years to make the required changes to turn climate change around. It CAN be done, we all must take the time to think about what we can do to reduce our climate impacts. Now that most of us are in lockdown, we have the chance to really do it. Already our lack of travel has improved air quality all over the world. The lack of human population has allowed animals into cities and towns all over. Birds are returning to trees, turtles to beaches, we have to accept that we have driven them out but they could be encouraged back, given sanctuaries and reserves.
Oxford University has worked out that we can reduce our carbon footprint by up to 73% by reducing our meat intake, ideally to zero. To help prevent future pandemics we really must stop using animals. It’s that simple. Many doubt that the world can support a plant-based culture, but the truth is that it cannot support an animal-based one. The resources used are too great. The land can more easily and efficiently feed people directly by growing plants than by raising animals. The Green Protein Report is an essential blueprint to help restore the balance and transition New Zealand to the more profitable and resource-wise, plant-based farming. This is an opportunity for farmers to embrace the future-proofing of their land.
Spending money on experiences rather than things; spending time with loved ones, rather than at work. After this lockdown many of us will re-evaluate what is important. We will realise what we really value. How much do we need things? Do we need them to be brand new? Second hand and used items are ideal ways to reduce unnecessary consumption. How much more do we need our relationships?
As we spend time in nature, we can feel the healing energies of fresh air rejuvenating us and filling our minds with the stillness of the bush. We look up at the trees, hear the birdsong and feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Being in nature fills our soul in a way that buying stuff from Amazon doesn’t.
What is really required is a change of consciousness. We need a more compassionate world, where we consider the needs of others. When we act to be of service to others, we gain more respect for ourselves. When we see people as individuals, not workers, when we see animals as sentient beings, not livestock or units, we create an environment of well being. When that happens, we all win, the planet, the animals and us.