Could going vegan combat climate change?

The concern for climate change is likely something that everyone has seen displayed over social media platforms, in conversations with friends or family or even on billboard ads. This concern is due to the significant increase in warning signs that the planet is nearing critical condition: extreme weather such as wildfires and hurricanes plague us, bioindicators like bees and frogs struggle to survive and melting ice caps and glaciers threaten to raise sea levels and decimate communities on the shore.

The increasing global temperature is one symptom of climate change, perhaps the most obvious, and has become increasingly concerning. Since 1910, our environment has been on a steady temperature increase and it doesn’t appear to be decreasing anytime soon. Since 2001, the earth has experienced 18 of its 19 warmest years; an alarming statistic that poses the question: how do we stop this?

In the past 10 years, the number of individuals choosing to go vegan has increased by 160 per cent. An increase in vegan consumers means an increased supply of vegan friendly food and it is important to ask ourselves: where does this food come from? Canada is not able to produce fruit and vegetables year round. If every individual were to go vegan, Canada would be in need of a constant supply of these foods.

Two examples of popular vegan food include avocado and quinoa. Due to the increased demand of these foods in Western culture, the prices have skyrocketed for those in their country of origins, making them unaffordable commodities. Desire for agave as a substitute for honey, coupled with growing demand for tequila (which uses agave as an ingredient) has pushed growers to clone agave rather than relying on the bats that naturally pollinate the stalks. Two species of bats who pollinate agave are endangered, and further reducing their food source could push them to extinction. Additionally, the environmental impact of importing these foods using existing, often less-than-sustainable transport methods is not to be ignored.

Before going vegan, it is important for individuals to educate themselves on the benefits but also the harmful aspects. Veganism can help eliminate health concerns associated with the consumption of meat, particularly beef. It can also contribute to decreased levels of iron if those pursuing the dietary changes do not monitor their vitamin consumption.

Similarly, the environmental impact of veganism is complex. While going vegan may be one way you think can help end the growing concern for climate change it is important to start gradually. Tips on helping reduce the concern for climate change include walking to work or school, turning off electronics and lights not being used, consuming less waste, eating local and recycling.