Veganism: Can this diet save us from climate catastrophe?

21 Nov

Swapping beef for beans, cheese for nutritional yeast and cows milk for soy milk doesn’t seem too drastic. But if the research is accurate, widespread veganism could drastically impact our climate.

By Zoe DeYoung

When Kyle Luzynski was a child, the remnants of a winter’s snowfall seemed to last for days. 

Kyle Luzynski at his home in Eureka, MO

He could overturn logs in his wooded backyard of Pacific, MO and find Spotted Salamanders squirming from his grasp. The toad population was so vast that he kept his eyes glued to his feet, lest he step on a frog.

Upon returning to his childhood home nearly a decade later, he noticed no Spotted Salamanders, and he no longer had to watch out for toads. These minute details sounded the alarm for Luzynski that climate change was on the move.

“Things are warming up, and it’s only a matter of time before that warming becomes catastrophic,” said Luzynski. “Study after study has shown even relatively small changes can have a profound impact, and we are rapidly approaching tipping points at which we will experience catastrophic runaway climate change.”

Luzynski is the executive director of Project Animal Freedom (PAF), an animal rights organization with a mission to build a “fully vegan Midwest by 2056.” To reach this, they utilize vegan outreach initiatives like movie screenings, community building events like potlucks, and ‘peaceful demonstrations.’ Much of their growth relies on donations and recruitment. 

“We cannot bring about large-scale, systemic change without a mass movement behind us. That’s why we need to recruit as many leaders as possible and secure as many financial resources as possible,” Luzynski said. 

He believes donations will profoundly impact PAF’s level of influence. Luzynski notes that PAF is currently unable to financially support additional chapters beyond their one active chapter in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“We simply don’t have the funding, the fuel necessary to power these engines for social progress as much as we need it to. So a major component of our mission is trying to overcome this massive deficit,” Luzynski said. 

The fervor Luzynski has towards the animal rights movement is tangible. But, the research varies on whether an individual’s veganism can make a large-scale impact on climate.

“I’ve come to the point where I’ve had to realize you have to choose your battles wisely, and try to create systemic change. Veganism is an endeavor, [and] largely an individual action,” Luzynski said. “But if you want a comprehensive environmental solution, you need to fundamentally change systems. And you can only get so far trying to change one person at a time.”

 

In an article by Sarah Marsh for The Guardian, we hear from Frank Mitloehner, professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. He shares similar viewpoints with Luzynski, acknowledging that a broad impact by veganism rests on the shoulders of lawmakers.

“If we really want to make a difference in carbon emissions we need to change policy,” Mitloehner said for The Guardian. “We need to incentivise those who can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to do so.”

Studies show that there is little environmental impact made by an individual’s choice to go vegan in comparison to what could be achieved by reducing emissions generated by fossil fuels. Nonetheless, Luzynski is confident that, ‘it is the most comprehensive action you can take.’

“It addresses issues of water security, of water pollution, of land use and degradation, of climate change, particularly with respect to the emissions of nitrous oxide, and methane, which are many times more potent greenhouse gases than co2,” Luzynski said.

Luzynski is confident in PAF’s ability to comprehend their mission of widespread veganism. He feels that to his contemporaries, it is a naive hope.

“I believe we can build a fully vegan world where as many of my contemporaries, especially those who have been in the animal rights movement longer than I, have become rather cynical about our chances of success,” Luzynski said. “They call me young, naive and ambitious. Those probably all apply to me. But I firmly believe that it’s within our power. If it’s within our power to cause these problems. It’s also within our power to stop causing those problems and start repairing the damage.”

Cara Moon Schloss at her business, Seedz Provisions

One Response to “Veganism: Can this diet save us from climate catastrophe?”

  1. Zoe DeYoung November 21, 2021 at 7:54 pm #

    Voice track: On a quiet street corner in Central West end sits seedz cafe one of the few St. Louis restaurants with a fully vegan menu.

    Icing covered vegan pop tarts are one of the many creations thought up by owner Cara Moon Schloss.

    Her cafe’s sustainability efforts span far wider than just the menu.

    Cara: We use compostable or recyclable products, or we use our own dishes, glasses and plates. We compost everything. All of our food scraps get donated by total organics and then they put it back to the earth.

    Voice track: “Saving the animals” is the worlds leading motivation for going vegan, or at-least it was in 2019.

    Animal rights activist Kyle Luzynski thinks veganism’s ideals could save the planet, too.

    Kyle: Going vegan is one of the top three to five actions that anyone socially and economically privileged enough, I.e the vast majority of the U.S population, can take to reduce environmental harm.

    Voice track: Luzynski can rattle off a list of impacts he believes a person can make if they choose to go vegan.

    Kyle: You can cut your carbon footprint from your diet in half. You can save two or three tons of Co2 from going into the atmosphere every year, just by eating a plant based diet.

    Voice track: Conversation is an important part of Cara Schloss’ activism.

    Cara: Its interesting when you really think about it, when the conversation gets going, you can see the anger, and the frustration, and the ideas.

    Voice track: With Cara’s advice, I had a conversation with a group sitting next to me. Mallorie Emig, in the grey hoodie, continues her veganism, in part, for its environmental impact.

    Mallorie: I watched a documentary and then realized, or learned, how much cattle farming increases greenhouse gases, and how much water has to go into raising farm animals, and then the amount of crop we have to grow just to feed the animals, and then how much of that animal ends up going to waste in the end, like the amount of food waste we create. All of it just disturbed me enough that I didn’t really want to eat meat after that.

    Voice track: Vegan or non-vegan, a quick conversation with Cara Schloss will leave you wondering if veganism is the climate solution.

    Cara: Be open to the conversations, be open to trying alternative ways to save the planet, save the animals, and save your health.

    For Advocates For Action, I’m Zoe DeYoung.

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