Loving the clean air of this lockdown era? Change your diet so it stays this way!
Currently, one-third of the world’s population is living under lockdown or self-quarantine. The types may differ, but the result is the same. Everyone is stuck inside their homes, which means there are almost no cars on the road, no planes in the sky, and little to no industrial pollution. This unique situation has brought about an unexpected but most pleasant change: the skies are clearer than ever.
But what happens once the lockdown is over? Are we doomed to a smoggy future? Well, not necessarily. If, and only if, everyone does their part, we might just have a shot at enjoying these clear skies post lockdown too.
So what can you do? To be honest, you can actually do a lot, and make real contributions to the cause. But for that, you will have to make some major changes in what you eat. Yes, that’s right! Changing your diet is one of the best ways you can make an impact on the environment.
Several studies suggest that after fossil fuels, the food industry, and in particular, the meat and dairy sector, is one of the largest contributors to human-made GHG emissions, deforestation, water pollution (according to Water Resources and Industry, animal agriculture uses nearly 1/3 of drinking water available on the planet), air pollution, and climate change.
According to a report from the UN, meat production makes more greenhouse gases than all the planes, trains, and cars in the world combined. Diets that are heavy on meat have the largest carbon footprint (2.5 times that of a plant-based diet).
Fun Fact: If cattle were their own nation, after the US and China, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
A 2018 University of Oxford study showed that even the lowest impact meat and dairy products cause more environmental damage than the highest impact vegetable and cereal products. For example, low-impact beef uses 36 times more land than peas. Additionally, the air surrounding factory farms often contains above-average levels of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, endotoxins, carbon dioxide, and methane.
Factory farms spray liquid manure into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind. 300+ million tons of manure produced globally are also responsible for producing ammonia, the most potent form of nitrogen that kills fish, causes algae blooms, and contributes to smog.
These problems, which seem too large to tackle, can easily be avoided with a plant-based diet. The most recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) also emphasised that a shift towards plant-based diets is a major opportunity to limit greenhouse gas emissions (by up to 35-50%, according to Scientific Reports, 2019 or up to 60% (EPIC-Oxford study, 2018).
Switching to a diet that consists of whole grains, fruits and vegetables reduces water and land use, lowers pollution, slows deforestation, and reduces the destruction of topsoil. And if you think doing something individually won’t make much of an impact, you’re wrong. Social scientists have found that when one person makes a healthy decision, other people do too. One change made by us as individuals, or families, can have a significant ripple effect throughout society.
So take the first step, and as the father of our nation rightly said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”