Changing the habits of a lifetime

January 28th, 2022

This week I will mainly be talking about meat….. (to paraphrase the Fast Show?!)

I’ll start with quoting a Guardian ‘Down to Earth’ journalist, at length because he explores the ‘agriculture question’ so clearly:

“It’s unlikely we’ll end the climate crisis without tackling the vast environmental hoof print of livestock. And, according to new research, the climate benefit of cutting meat consumption could be double what we thought.

“We already knew that cattle and other livestock use 83% of the world’s farmland for pasture and fodder, while producing just 18% of protein. In rich countries, 70% of food-related emissions come from livestock.

“What the new study shows is that if people in developed nations adopted a healthy, low-meat diet, a huge amount of carbon dioxide could be sucked out of the air by letting farmland revert back to natural forests and grasslands.

Paul Behrens, from Leiden University in the Netherlands who led the study said: “It’s a remarkable opportunity for climate mitigation, but it would also have massive benefits for water quality, biodiversity, air pollution, and access to nature, to name just a few.”

There are of course many ‘habits of a lifetime’ to overcome. Diehard carnivores could be accommodated, it seems! The study did not assume everyone in the 54 nations analysed all went vegan. Instead, the ‘planetary health diet’ used allowed a beef burger and two servings of fish a week, plus some dairy products every day… Compromise does seem to be the only way to realistically change anything, perhaps….

And the other important question to address is ‘what about farmers?’

Behrens says: “It will be vital that we redirect agricultural subsidies to farmers for biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration. We must look after farming communities to enable a just food transition.”

It is an extraordinary fact that almost 90% of the $540bn in global subsidies given to farmers every year lead to ‘harmful’ outcomes, according to the UN.

At the moment in the UK I expect you’ve noticed, as I have, the increase in food being produced to ‘imitate’ meat – such as ‘No Meat Big Eat’ plant-based burgers, vegan chick’n nuggets and vegan bacon (vacon or facon!).

These are sometimes criticised as being over-processed fast food; but if that’s what so many people want/are used to, it’s probably the most likely ‘way to go’ in order to relegate the intensive livestock farming model to history.

The tension between ideals and actuality – principles and practice….

Sustain and the Soil Association in this country; and soil regeneration projects such as the Soil Food Web School in the US are doing good work towards reconnecting with farming in harmony with Nature.

And at home we can do our own farming – with worms!

A Nottingham-based social enterprise, the Urban Worm Community Interest Company (UWC) is on a mission to ‘worm up’ the UK by kickstarting an urban worm farming movement that can create high-grade fertiliser.

UWC has received a grant from the national lottery to send out packs of composting tiger worms to households.

Anna de la Vega, UWC’s managing director, said: “Using worms to manage organic household waste is happening at scale all over the world, except in the UK.

“The reality of climate change, natural resource depletion and mass urbanisation presents unprecedented threats to global food security and the survival of humanity.”

Now, an uplifting story about an individual – 73 year old park ranger from Cheshire, England, Ian Coppack is inspiring many new conservationists with his TikTok ‘channel’. He educates his viewers on everything from the 900-year life cycle of oak trees and the history of the red squirrel to the mating habits of moles. Check out @IanCoppack.

Also focussing on young people, under-30s are being urged to sign up to help preserve some of the UK’s richest landscapes, our national parks.

It emerged recently that the average age of volunteers at some national parks is 63….

Mary-Jane Alexander, youth engagement officer at the North York Moors national park authority, said: “There are many aspects of national park policy that impact directly on young people, not least how we address the escalating climate emergency, a lack of affordable housing and declining local services.” She added that it is  “absolutely right that young people have a say in these matters.”

And finally, I am not keen to ‘advertise’ in my work; but I am impressed by the positive attitude of Aviva Investors – it has put the directors of 1,500 companies on notice that it is willing to seek their removal if they fail to show enough urgency in tackling issues including the climate crisis and human rights…. connected injustices, of course….  

Aviva is helping build a more sustainable future too, with its Community Fund promoting climate action this year – sorry, the deadline for applications is February 1st, a bit soon…

Take care until next time.

2 thoughts on “Changing the habits of a lifetime

  1. Thanks Emily, always interested to read
    About the farm land changing – I would have envisaged land being put into alternate food production to some degree, otherwise we’ll just increase the carbon footprint by using plant protein from far away- some pulses etc could grow well here I think
    The worm thing is good, on my list to make the wormery from the excellent instructions the link offers. I do recall hearing that the worms give off an amount of methane, trees however can also do this so perhaps we just have to go with it. Research is beginning to suggest planting trees in places that aren’t too wet to minimise this. So research is also very important
    Heyho, hope this finds you well
    Louise xx


    1. Yes, Louise, research & reading around to learn the truth/facts is always crucial, about everything!
      There seems to be something (in ‘human nature?) that makes us focus on the obstacles in the way of change, sadly…
      Have fun with your wormery!
      Tiger worms 🪱 and trees 🌳 give off far less methane than intensively farmed animals, after all!
      Good to know I’ve got at least one reader anyway- thank you!


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