The fix suggested to this growing crisis is a cultural shift towards plant-based diets, followed by increasing technological advancements in crop and protein production. With one third of calories and over half of the protein from grain and pulse production rerouted into livestock, the dairy and meat industry is alarmingly economically inefficient. Combine this with a growing consumption rate (accelerating faster than the population rate due to escalating demands for milk, meat and dairy), the moral quandary of financing an industry that revolves around slaughter and the massive environmental footprint of agriculture (in terms of both pollutants and habitat destruction), and there is a recipe for disaster. The carbon emissions produced for 3kg of lamb protein alone are equivalent to a flight to New York, yet Monbiot argues that this overconsumption is deliberately overlooked by governance in favour of curbing population growth, as this absolves the West from moral responsibility. However, he reinforced the notion that what we eat on a daily basis should be something of great responsibility and a considered decision that has implications.
A plant-based diet would greatly reduce the per capita land and water footprint; if we globally switch, the increase in efficiency would mean the planet’s carrying capacity would extent to feed another 4 million people. Further to this, the resultant greenhouse gas emissions from eating soya protein in place of beef would be 150 times lower. Economically, the cost curve with ‘clean’ or artificial meat has the potential to undercut animal products drastically, and growing demand for plant-based meals will be the behavioral trigger to this technological revolution. Monbiot quotes Jeremy Kent’s 3.5% population vanguard for establishing a cultural shift, and with 500,000 vegans already in the UK, this is a movement that may trigger an unconscious shift for the whole population.
George Monbiot ended this talk claiming that it will be a small number of people who change the world, and that they may well be in this room. He argues that a more environmentally conscious future can be achieved through normalizing veganism and making good vegan food, changing the words we use to talk about climate change and ecosystem services to re-engage people with the natural world and encouraging government action through removing meat subsidies increasing a tax. This is a Carnage-esque vision for the future, an equality-based utopia (probably with wolves) where people consume consciously, but Monbiot makes it seem as achievable as simply buying a Sainsbury’s vegan ready meal.
For more thoughts on the climate breakdown and how to stop it; http://www.monbiot.com