We Require A Significant Collective Dietary Change to Start Living Sustainably
Our diets are a reflection of how much we care about the planet.
It takes 60 liters of water to produce a single glass of almond milk.
It takes 140 liters of water to produce a cup of coffee.
Producing a Kilogram of rice takes 2,800 liters of water.
Producing a Kilo of wheat takes around 1,500 liters of water.
And to finally arrive at one kilogram of Chicken, you would have already used 4,300 liters of water as input.
There’s no need to talk about other crops or to further elaborate on this. This is a terrible state of affairs. We cannot go on emptying the world's fresh water aquifers and groundwater table like this.
As the world’s population swells and grows exponentially, all of our existing water woes will not only be further compounded, but exacerbated by the anthropogenic activities caused by the presence of all these additional humans. While making the shift towards drought resistant crops, we must simultaneously aim to reduce our numbers and our overall impact on the planet. Solely focussing on food and consumption patterns will not be enough in getting us out of this dilemma.
A multipronged approach must be taken to solve the problem.
The indiscriminate use of the planet's resources to feed and sustain ourselves will not only further denude the land of clean air, water, and soil, but also strip us of our collective consciousness. The more we bathe ourselves in comfort and luxury, the lesser the need to feel connected to the planet and the ways and mechanisms in which it provides for us.
Only when we’re faced with extreme weather events and life-threatening scenarios, do we feel the need to sit up, take notice, and make impactful changes to our lifestyles. Else, we just go on with business as usual and act as if what we’re doing isn’t destroying our one and only home.
Here are 5 intersectional solutions to make the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle:
Following a plant-based diet
The reason I didn't use the term ‘Vegan’ is because it is absolutist and quite frankly, incredibly hard to follow. Even in today’s day and age with all the innovation in the plant-based space and the availability of alternatives almost everywhere, veganism is yet to become accessible and mainstream the way the meat based diet is.
Hence, it would be much more prudent (and less of a headache) to follow a plant-based diet, rather than following an all-or-nothing approach such as veganism.
Following a plant-based diet falls on the intersection between animal rights, human rights, and environmental protection. Following a militant approach like veganism that demonizes meat and dairy producers will get us nowhere in solving the climate crisis. We must appreciate the contributions that have been made by small scale dairy and poultry farmers over the last century, while at the same time help them transition towards producing more environmentally sustainable foods that come only from plants.
A knee-jerk reaction like veganism will come with a lot of side effects like temporary job losses, disruptions to industry and livelihoods, along with social isolation of those sections of the society who have been producing these collective needs for decades together. Like most things, the transition towards a planet that doesn’t depend on animal products for survival, will be slow, painful, and, fraught with a lot of hardships on the way.
“The term “plant-based” can be perceived as a more inclusive and appealing term. It aligns with the societal discourse of following lifestyles that reduce animal-based products but do not necessarily eliminate them completely from the diet”
Hence, it would be more prudent to follow a plant-based diet as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction such as veganism in our transition towards diets that are kinder to the animals, fellow humans, and the planet.
Treading the plant-based path will simultaneously help with three things:
- Firstly, it will help in dismantling the stronghold that big dairy and meat have in metropolitan cities where there already exists a significant number of plant-based options.
- Secondly, it will provide a boost to small-scale rural farmers who have already invested their life savings into dairy, poultry, and meat production operations, and don’t have the necessary financial flexibility to make sudden changes to their setup. This ensures that the public image of veganism isn’t tarnished, and that farmers dependent on meat based products for their livelihoods don’t look at vegans as villains.
- And third, it will incentivize those dairy, poultry, and meat farmers who do possess the necessary resources, financial or infrastructure wise, to make the transition towards plant-based produce to diversify into those lines of business on a small scale in parallel with their already existing meat/dairy/poultry based businesses.
“The more we bathe ourselves in comfort and luxury, the lesser the need to feel connected to the planet and the ways and mechanisms in which it provides for us.”
Flexitarianism rose in popularity along with the rise in vegan and vegetarian diets. Globally, there are more flexitarians than there are vegans or vegetarians.
flexitarian consumers — people who are actively restricting animal-based products but have not fully eliminated these from their diet — who now make up 42% of the market.
The main appeal of Flexitarianism is well — you guessed it — its flexibility.
The Flexitarian Diet is a style of eating that encourages eating mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.
Apart from reducing their meat intake, flexitarians also aim to reduce their sugar consumption, focus on whole foods, and eat the least processed most natural forms of foods.
Flexitarianism falls somewhere on the intersection between veganism, sustainability, health, and a large scale shift to a more natural way of living.
Our oceans are being depleted at an alarming rate. An increasing number of species are going extinct every day, and many marine ecosystems around the world are on the verge of collapse or have already collapsed.
Did you know?
For every sea creature that has been caught and killed for our sensory pleasure, a dozen others were simply discarded as by-catch.
‘Bycatch’, as the term suggests, includes anything that was not intended to be caught by the fishing trawler or fisherman, where it is technically known as ‘Non-target species’. Globally, 10% of fish caught (10 million metric tons) are discarded as by-catch.
It is this frightening reality and these scary statistics that have encouraged thousands of consumers to take seafood off their plates for good.
Antipescatarians do not consume any sea animals or creatures that have been caught from the ocean.
While pescatarians consume only sea creatures apart from food that is naturally vegan, anti-pescatarians consume only land animals along with other plant foods.
“Fishing fleets dump about 10 percent of the fish they catch back into the ocean in an “enormous waste” of low-value fish despite some progress in limiting discards in recent years, scientists said on Monday.”
The most chilling aspect of bycatch is not its numbers, but the kind of animals that are caught as “bycatch” and discarded back into the ocean. Most often, these happen to be critically endangered species such as dolphins, seabirds, sea lions, seals, sea turtles and other marine mammals that are on the verge of extinction.
This makes Antipescatarinism one of the most appealing solutions on this list in the fight against climate change and environmental destruction.
Antipescatarianism falls on the intersection between Animal Rights, human rights, and environmental protection; where not consuming anything from the sea leads to the restoration of underwater ecosystems, improving the oceans' ability to act as a marine sink and halt global warming, saving the lives of countless marine creatures, as well as saving millions of humans from the misfortune of being employed with the vicious and bloodthirsty fishing industry.
“The most chilling aspect of bycatch is not its numbers but the kind of animals that are caught as “bycatch” and discarded back into the ocean. Most often, these happen to be critically endangered species such as dolphins, sea birds, sea lions, seals, sea turtles and other marine mammals that are on the verge of extinction.”
Consuming only foods that have a low water footprint
In today's warming world, we desperately need a major shift towards less water intensive crops to take place en-masse.
For people residing in hot climes, consuming only alkaline food rich in water and nutrition will not only be good for their local environment, but also in cooling their bodies and providing relief from the scorching summer heat.
Consuming crops that aren’t water intensive to grow falls on the intersection between environmental health, human health, human rights, and sustainability.
Eating only local and traditional
In most cultures, you’d find that the traditional and local crops that people consume happen to be the very same ones that are good for the environment, the land, for water security, and for human health. No surprise there. What is good for humans, is good for the planet, animals, and everything else. We’re all connected in some way or another.
Since there were no ways to artificially prolong the shelf life of food or grow them unseasonably, our agrarian ancestors consumed only food that came from crops which were local and in season. This seemed to be a blessing in disguise since it meant less sick days and more energy to work, that ultimately led to more innovation and groundbreaking research, which allows us to live comfortable lives today.
Moreover, you’d also discover that these foods most often happen to be plant-based, are light on the land, and require very less human input to grow. Hence, this diet falls on the intersections of environmental health, sustainability, human health, tradition and culture. By actively eschewing imported food crops and monocrops and only sticking to traditional fare, you negatively contribute to food miles, help in restoring the top soil of the farms in your region, help in reviving local water bodies and forests that were once destroyed to grow monocrops, and save the culture and heritage of a city, preventing it from being lost to the ravages of cosmopolitanism and the epidemic of unhealthy fast food.
As we’re all well aware, an absolutist all-or-nothing approach seldom works in getting people to change their habits.
If anything, it does more harm than good. It’s the reason why I’ve spoken only about transitional methods of change instead of actions that are rigid, conventional, and set in stone.
That level of change requires a collective shift in consciousness, something that most people aren’t ready for. When we ask people to make such phenomenal changes to their lifestyles, we risk losing a whole audience base and alienating the ones who are making small but significant changes.
We don’t require a few people making monumental changes to their lives and then failing at it. We just require everyone taking small steps in whatever direction they can to reduce their burden on the planet, and to eventually transition to a sustainable and earth friendly lifestyle.