No, I’m not warning anyone. Yes, that means we’ve been warned a second time. Which, of course, implies that we were warned a first time.
On October 23, 2017, the Alliance of World Scientists released a paper entitled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” This is, well, a second notice to the 1992 paper entitled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.”
The first paper was a warning that the current ecological trajectory of the earth was unsustainable. Disaster would result. Unsurprisingly, the second paper is a warning that, despite our first warning, the situation is growing worse.
As might be expected of a scientific paper intended for the general public, details are somewhat lacking. However, the writers do provide a list of concrete actions that they believe may be able to save the situation. Or, at least, mitigate the consequences. Most of these actions would (will?) require high-level policy change to implement, but there are two suggestions that I would like to highlight.
1. Promoting Dietary Shifts Toward Mostly Plant-Based Foods
I rely much less heavily on food than I did six months ago. In part, my roommate decided to go semi-vegetarian for workout reasons, but I’ve gone along willingly because meat generally creates a lot of plastic waste. This is tangential to what the paper is suggesting, but it’s related.
The real reason that the Alliance of World Scientists wants you to give up steak and bacon is “the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from […] agricultural production— particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption.” Your steak makes a lot of pollution before it hits your plate.
Honestly, that’s a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. How can cows be so bad for the environment?
I’ll leave aside the morals of vegetarianism and the biblical precedent for eating meat, those are topics for another time. But the ecological impact of vegetarianism can’t be denied. Whether you want to reduce the number of ruminants currently destroying our ozone layer, or simply stop throwing sheets of Styrofoam in your garbage can, cutting meat is good for the environment.
2. Reducing Food Waste Through Education and Better Infrastructure
Look at that again. Reduce food waste through education and better infrastructure. Leaving aside the question of “what is a better infrastructure,” this is a valuable recommendation. It’s external validation that I’m not spouting nonsense about how using less plastic can save the world.
I’ve talked a lot about how zero-waste food can make a difference. My food waste has decreased drastically since I began working toward zero-waste. I still make less responsible choices occasionally, like the takeout food I had on Saturday night. Sometimes I forget my produce bags and have to use that ridiculous plastic garbage that they supply at grocery stores. That said, every positive action has a consequence, small though that consequence may be. In frequenting Bulk Barn every week for the past six months, I’ve used may five of their bags. The rest of the time, I’m using my own jars, all of which are glass and are in the Reuse step of the zero-waste cycle. That’s, ohhh, maybe seventy plastic bags that I haven’t used? That’s significant! At least, I like to think it is.
Reduce food waste through education and better infrastructure. It’s possible. Notice that it really does start at home. They don’t say, “reduce food waste.” The phrase is “reduce food waste through education.” Education happens when you notice that your neighbour doesn’t put out garbage bins on trash day. Education happens when you recommend a zero-waste grocery store or restaurant to your friend. Education happens when you follow a blog about a student trying to change his lifestyle one step at a time (wink wink). It starts at home, with each of us.