Coconuts Versus The Climate

Our government could make huge and rapid reductions to society’s environmental footprint that would dwarf the impact of whether you eat cow or oat milk.

Happy Friday!

And welcome to edition 292 (isn’t that a lot?). For those of you who are new around these parts, my name is David Charles and I’m a UK-based comedy writer, outdoor instructor and bike botherer.

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Coconuts Versus The Climate

I know that people get fed up with soapboxers banging on about their diets, so this is very much an optional read this week.

However…

As an eater of a primarily vegan diet, and with COP26 in the news, I thought it was time to address a challenge that is occasionally thrown down in my direction:

Does the impact of imported vegan alternatives outweigh the environmental benefits of not eating meat?

Does that sound like your sort of thing? Read the rest on my website.

Bear in mind, while reading this piece, the following comment from Joseph Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford who studies the environmental impacts of food, speaking to the BBC in February:

Nothing really compares to beef, lamb, pork, and dairy – these products are in a league of their own in the level of damage they typically do to the environment, on almost every environmental issue we track.


The Bigger Question

I don’t address this in the article, but the bigger question about veganism — and indeed any personal choices to limit your environmental impact — is:

DOES THE SIZE OF MY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT EVEN MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN OUR INDUSTRIES AND GOVERNMENTS ARE WRECKING THE PLANET?

This actually boils down to being a question about political strategy because the short answer is no, not really.

One government, even acting alone, could make huge and rapid reductions to a society’s environmental footprint that would dwarf the impact of whether you eat cow or oat milk.

Indeed, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben and others have suggested that oil companies created the whole concept of the ‘carbon footprint’ to foist the responsibility for climate chaos onto individual lifestyle choices in much the same way that convenience food companies created the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign to blame consumers for discarded packaging.

Worrying about the size of our measly personal carbon footprints means that we don’t have any spare time to bring down oil companies and the governments they fund.

But — and this is where political strategy comes in — planet-wrecking industries and governments (especially our government) won’t make any significant changes unless they feel an unstoppable movement from below.

That’s where our choices come in. We can create demand for the right thing through the lifestyles we choose. A vegan diet is a respectable lifestyle choice in a way that it simply wasn’t thirty years ago.

The end of coal is near future.

(Yep: every word in that sentence links to a recent story about our coal-free future.)

So, coming around full circle, I do think there is value in learning about and experimenting with low-carbon lifestyles, whether that’s by going flight free, getting on your bicycle more, or by eating a lot less meat and dairy.

But that shouldn’t — it must not — stop us from storming the Bastille.


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It’s bedtime now, but I’m glad I finished this email for you. I’m looking forward to spending the bulk of my tomorrow reading.

Thighs of Steel are going on a bike ride in London on Sunday. Reply to this email if you want to join us!

Big love,
dc: