As you must have already heard, humans have set fire to the Amazon rain forest in an attempt to clear out land for cattle grazing. Outraged onlookers are blaming Brazil’s (Brazil is the largest exporter and second-largest consumer of beef in the world) far-right president and climate science denier Jair Bolsonaro for actively dismantling the policies put in place to stop deforestation and cattle farming in the Amazon. Bolsonaro also recently fired physicist Ricardo Galvão, the head of the National Institute of Space research, for releasing data showing almost 300 percent jump in deforestation since last year. Trump-etting his anti-environmental rhetoric, Bolsonaro has also threatened to leave the Paris climate accord.
We know that cattle ranching is the biggest culprit of deforestation and climate change. But, unfortunately, our global treasures and the security of this planet lie “at the mercy of the smallest, dullest, pettiest of men” who put businesses and the human greed for meat before the lives of our babies, both human and animal. Therefore, it’s up to us caregivers now to protect the future of this planet.
If you have been alarmed by the recent ravaging of Amazonia and have despaired that you cannot do anything to reduce animal suffering and save the planet from the meat industry, here’s a terrific website on the role that ‘reducetarians’ (people who try to eat less meat, without going fully vegetarian) play in the overall battle against manmade climate change.
“It’s pretty simple: the less meat we eat, the more animals we save.” If someone who eats 200lbs of meat cuts back 20 percent that’s better than a person who eats 5lbs cutting back 100 percent. Reducing, not completely eliminating, consumption of meat, dairy, and fish could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions significantly. So it appears that we can actually do a lot with conscious food choices. Irrespective of whether we “believe” in global warming, we all agree that this is a cruel and inhumane practice and we must do everything we can to reduce our meat consumption.
How to cut down on meat?
I think it is unreasonable to expect that people will go from being carnivorous to vegan overnight. Instead, if we can create meal plans and recipes that use less meat without compromising the “non-vegetarian” taste, we can minimize our carbon footprint.
There are countries and cultures that already follow a low meat diet. Bangladesh ranks as the most vegetarian country in the world, with just 4 kgs of meat per person compared to 97 kgs per person in the US! That difference is striking. What’s most interesting is that Bangaladesi food is not considered vegetarian at all, if you ask people who are familiar with their food. What’s different about Bangladesi food is that meat is not the sole focus of any meal, but only an enhancer, an accompaniment to a vegetable, lentil, grain, and local sustainable fish-rich diet. The same is true for India. India ranks second only after Bangladesh.
So if we could follow the Bangladesi and Indian models of cooking and eating, perhaps we could reduce our meat consumption? All we need to do is follow the household food conservation model followed during the world wars. Adding vegetables and lentils to meat dishes, incorporating more vegetables and grains in our diets, reducing the use of dairy, eating organic meats, reducing food waste by using every scrap of a vegetable, saving on fuel through fast cooking methods (like using a pressure cooker) can create climate-friendly recipes. Basically, acting like World War III is here and our resources are scarce because they are!