Beans For Beef: The Climate Change Initiative That Anyone Can Do (#GreenSunday)

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Editor’s Note: Upon special requests to bend the focus of CleanTechnica a little bit, on this Sunday (#GreenSunday) we’re publishing some green-focused stories that … aren’t exactly related to cleantech. Clearly, the idea of cleantech is largely to cut global warming emissions and other types of pollution in order to protect human health and safety — for this generation and generations to come. However, we need more than cleantech in order to do that effectively. Below is another important piece of the puzzle.

This article comes our way via Planetsave.

Our #FakePresident has removed the United States from the Paris climate accords, leading some Americans to experience ecoanxiety. That’s a relatively new term that the American Psychological Association has used to describe the feelings of dread and helplessness that follow from “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations.” As it turns out, there is something any one of us can do and it involves no marches on Washington or angry letters to elected officials. All we have to do is eat beans instead of beef.

Beans, Not Beef

That’s the conclusion of a team of researchers from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University. They say that if every American simply substituted beans for beef in their diet, the US could come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas emission goals pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009. Even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed — and even if people kept eating chicken, pork, eggs, and cheese — this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46% and 74% of the reductions needed to meet the target.

Of course, if people elected to reduce or eliminate their intake of chicken, pork, eggs, and cheese, that would be all the better and would allow the country to come close to hitting 100% of the goals set by Obama.

Eat Beans, Fight Climate Change

“I think there’s genuinely a lack of awareness about how much impact this sort of change can have,” Harwatt tells reporter James Hamblin of The Atlantic. She says this relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact — more than downsizing one’s car, switching to LED light bulbs, or taking fewer showers. In the new book Drawdown, eating a plant-rich diet is #4 on the list of 100 things humanity can do to slow or reverse global warming. Electric cars are #49.

According to the United Nations, 26% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products. Clearcutting of forests for grazing or growing crops is a major source of carbon emissions.

According to a new study by climate advocacy group Mighty Earth, the pollution from the fertilizers used to grow crops to feed animals and the effluent from those animals are responsible for enormous dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, and Chesapeake Bay. Dead zones are places where algae blooms suck up all dissolved oxygen in the water, suffocating all other marine life.

Personal Empowerment

Switching from beef to beans would open up 43% of US crop lands for other purposes. “The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy driven,” says Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”

“I think it’s such an easy-to-grasp concept that it could be less challenging than a whole dietary shift,” she says. The words “vegetarian” and “vegan” scare some people and make it hard for them to think about what it means to eat well and to consume responsibly. The beans for beef idea is the dietary equivalent of effective altruism — focusing on personal choices that will have the greatest benefit. “It’s kind of a worst first approach,” says Harwatt. “It’s looking at the hottest spot in the food system in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and what could that be substituted with without losing protein and calories in the food system. And at the same time, gaining health benefits.”

Don’t Suffer With Ecoanxiety. Take Action!

Suffering from ecoanxiety? Don’t fret. Now you can empower yourself to take action. Substitute one plant-based item for a hamburger or T-bone steak this week. Do it twice next week, and so on until you have eliminated most if not all beef from your diet. Then go after the chicken, pork, eggs, and cheese. You don’t need permission from Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan to do it. It’s a personal decision anyone can make. Empower yourself. It’s a great way to conquer anxiety. Watch the video below to learn more.

Source: The Atlantic

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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