It’s been found that cat and dog food makes up 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States. Chew on that.
Nowadays, people tend to view their pets less as pets and more as part of the family, so they buy higher quality meat-based products that humans themselves can eat. Dogs and cats, however, are actually able to digest a lot more than humans can and it’s not very sustainable for them to munch on premium products when they would be absolutely fine with less sophisticated food. While they share our homes, they don't need to share our dinner plates.
Also, from an animal rights standpoint, how ethical is it to make our domestic pets as happy as possible whilst turning a blind eye to the millions of other animals being slaughtered to fill their food bowls?
UCLA geography professor Gregory Okin calculated that the meat-based pet food consumed by cats and dogs generates about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is equivalent to a year's worth of driving 13.6 million cars. This carbon pawprint is significant and, sadly, generally overlooked.
Could it be that pets making a switch to a vegan diet would be better for the environment? Guess so. But then what about their health?
The company Wild Earth think they have found a sustainable solution. Using biotechnology, they are able to turn a type of fungus called koji (found in Japanese foods like soy sauce and miso) into a high quality source of protein. Making this protein into pet food puts less strain on the environment and is free from animal cruelty; is it a no-brainer?
There is a lack of published research on the idea right now, but there is a lot of evidence suggesting that veganism for pets can work, and it’s something that companies like Wild Earth are certainly willing to explore. If plant-based food has been so successful for humans, why not for animals?
Experts suggest that dogs can more accurately be classified as omnivores than carnivores, so in theory they can also survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, just as with humans, it has to be carefully designed to ensure that they still get all of the right vitamins and nutrients.
In 2002, the collie Bramble lived to the ripe old age of 27 (189 dog years) on a purely vegan diet of rice, lentils, and vegetables, and held the Guinness World Record for oldest living dog at the time. Bramble’s story shows that dogs can not only survive on a vegan diet, they can thrive.
Cats on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, and meat is an essential part of their diet, although they can eat plant-based foods too. In response to this information, Ryan Bethencourt and his team at Wild Earth are working on a lab-grown cat food made from cultured mouse cells, which would both give cats the meat protein they need and reduce their environmental impact.
This approach has provoked worry in some corners though, with concerns that "the cat food is Bethencourt’s Trojan horse to introduce lab-grown meat for humans." The idea of "clean meat" is indeed being looked into as a sustainable food source, as growing meat directly from the animal cells skips the long process of factory farming and reduces the negative environmental impact.
Bethencourt says, "If I was asked: 'In 10 years’ time are we going have clean meat?' Without a doubt. In five years’ time, I’m hopeful."
For humans and pets alike, food sustainability is a serious issue that needs to be tackled and the introduction of a little plant-based kibble looks like a step in the right direction. Feeding your pets some more veggie alternatives won't do them, or the planet, any harm and in fact— it's more likely to do a whole load of good.
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America Adapts is produced and hosted by climate change adaptation expert Doug Parsons. In each episode, Parson’s talks to scientists, journalists, activist, policymakers and climate heroes about the challenges of adapting to climate change and they discuss approaches that they believe are already working.
The podcast is, as its name suggests, focused on the US and the nation's journey in dealing with climate change, but it's very informative and inspiring for everyone around the world.
Episode tip: #75 in which Doug Parsons attends a town hall meeting with women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of colour about fighting climate change. He goes to Africatown to learn about the relationship between racism and environmental collapse and talks to a protest community that also serves refugees fleeing from climate change-related disasters.
Great episode to hear from people who aren’t visible in mainstream media despite being on the frontlines of the battle against climate change.
Climate Cash is a three-episode long podcast series by the Australian branch of the World Wildlife Foundation. The Foundation’s Conservation Director Dr. Gilly Llewellyn talks to experts from the public and private sectors, community leaders, and government workers about the threats climate change poses to South East Asia and the Pacific region.
They also discuss what Australia can do to reverse the negative consequences of climate collapse.
Climate Conversations is a podcast produced by MIT Climate. MIT Climate is Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s hub for all the scientific work being done on climate change across the university. They describe it as “a place for worldwide discussion and learning”.
With MIT Climate, the institute aims to “to connect questions to answers, research to solutions, and knowledge to action.” If you’d like to know what’s happening from a scientific point of view, Climate Conversations makes climate science accessible and easy to understand even for science n00bz like me.
For concise and informative climate change stories NPR’s Climate Cast is the podcast to listen to. Depending on the day and on the guests, episodes go from five minutes to over an hour, so you’ve always got something to listen to, no matter if you’re just brushing your teeth in the morning or you’re on your long commute to work.
Across the pond, Costing the Earth is a BBC podcast about climate change. In their words, the podcast looks at “man's effect on the environment and how [the environment] reacts”. They cover a diverse range of topics from building golf courses on sand dunes to climate changes' effects on human and animal fertility.
My favourite thing about Costing the Earth is that they challenge widely accepted and popular climate change ‘trends’. In the episode ‘Plasticphobia’ for example, the host Tom Heap talks to experts about whether plastic is as bad as popular discourse makes it seem to be.
A personal favourite, Mothers of Invention celebrates feminists that are taking action against climate breakdown across the world.
Hosted by Ireland first female president Mary Robinson and comic Maeve Higgins, Mothers of Invention is funny, informative and inspiring. In each episode, they talk to badass climate heroes like Kenya’s former environment minister Judy Wakhungu and the amazing eco-feminist author, activist, scientific advisor, food sovereignty advocate and seed saver Vandana Shiva.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more of a personal touch, No Place Like Home is a podcast about personal choices people make in the face of future environmental catastrophe.
Host Ashley Ahearn travels across the US and interviews people about their experiences in fighting climate change. These choices cover a literal lifespan from deciding whether to have children or not to composting your body after death.
And if you don't like any of these podcasts, why not set up a podcast yourself? Find out how with our story about citizen audio journalism.
California is experiencing one of the most destructive wildfire seasons on record.
Among the many different factors that led to it, several experts agree that climate change also played a role. Moreover, a major climate assessment by the US government reports that "projected climate changes suggest that western forests in the United States will be increasingly affected by large and intense fires that will occur more frequently."
In other words, we need to act, and we need to act fast. As an editor, I don't have any scientific expertise to offer regarding possible solutions to the climate breakdown. I can just read as many reliable scientific reports as possible.
However, as a communication professional, I can suggest that we need to find new, more effective ways to communicate what's happening to our planet.
In this regard, I recently came across a 2017 column written for The Guardian by environmentalist writer George Monbiot. There, Monbiot argued that "language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world" and that finding better ways of describing nature and our relationships with it means finding better ways to defend it.
Doing some research, I then found out that the Facebook page Solarpunk Anarchist posted a visual summary of George Monbiot's list of alternative terms.
We decided to make a similar summary ourselves and to create some new visual material to support Monbiot's new vocabulary.
Here's our summary:
And here's some additional images:
If you live in a cold climate, "global warming" might even sound appealing. "Global heating" is a better reminder of the potential, destructive consequences that climate breakdown will trigger.
The term "stock" brings to mind a disposable commodity rather than a living population of animals.
As George Monbiot writes "the term 'extinction' conveys no sense of our role in the extermination, and mixes up this eradication with the natural turnover of species. It’s like calling murder "expiration".
If you want to know more terms of George Monbiot's new environmentalist vocabulary follow us on Instagram ❤️
The UN has reported the shocking statistic that 80 percent of people displaced by natural disasters are women. Surely the weather itself doesn’t discriminate, but climate change is more than just an environmental issue, it's a feminist one.
The odds are not in women's favour
Across the globe, women are generally the primary food, water, and fuel providers for their families and communities. More reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, and more tied down to their homes than men, women have limited physical and economic mobility during climate-related disasters.
An Oxfam report on the tsunami that devastated millions of lives in 2004 found that male survivors outnumbered women by almost three to one in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India. Since men are more likely to be able to swim and women lose precious evacuation time looking after children and other relatives, the odds are not in women's favour.
After the first wave of climate disaster, women are hit hardest by secondary impacts. As sources get more and more scarce, the already vulnerable position of women worsens.
Violent incidents against women, such as sexual assault and rape, increase in the wake of natural disasters. After disasters such as droughts, women are exposed to more dangers on the road as they need to walk further for water.
Economic implications of natural disasters are also worse women and girls. Following the Fiji floods in 2012, evidence suggested that girls were taken out of school to care for younger children or to make extra cash through sex work.
After these catastrophes, almost all of the available jobs are in industries such as rebuilding and construction, which are traditionally male-dominated. Thus, whilst men get the chance to rebuild their lives and communities, women struggle to find any stable source of income as their agricultural trade is wiped out unpredictably.
Women experience the consequences of climate change more severely than men, but they are excluded from climate politics and decision-making. The average representation of women in governments and organisations tackling climate change is below 30 percent.
However, the UN has recently recognised in the Paris Agreement that women’s empowerment is critical for effective climate policy and there is a new (overdue) focus on the increased participation of women in government at global, national, and local levels. Women’s voices need to be heard in order to achieve sustainable change. Climate change affects the whole population, we can’t neglect half of it.
These charitable organisations are aware of the problem and working to solve it:
- MicroLoan Foundation provides women in sub-Saharan Africa with the tools and skills they need to help ensure financial stability. Financial independence makes women less vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Out of the 150,000 women they worked with, 97 percent of the women have started saving money.
- International Women's Development Agency (IWDA) promote women's leadership and participation in political, economic, and social life to advance systemic change in gender equality. So far IWDA has helped 848 women assume leadership positions.