A couple of weeks ago David Attenborough released a new documentary on Netflix: A Life On Our Planet.
In it, he showed the devastating impact we humans have had on our planet. We know climate change is happening, that’s not up for debate or political opinion. It’s a fact.
We know that burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We know that we’re overfishing, overfarming and destroying habitats all over the planet for our short-term gain.
And that’s exactly the problem. Destroying rainforests and oceans like we are right now might provide fish, farmland and the wood for your new furniture right now. But it’s unsustainable. We can’t keep doing it forever. The planet we live on is one huge symbiotic organism. Everything feeds back into the system to allow it to keep going.
You know about Mufasa and the Circle of Life. We’ve broken the circle. If we carry on the way we are, the planet will become uninhabitable. Extreme weather will continue to get worse, homes will continue to be destroyed, oceans will run out of fish for us to eat and even farmland will become infertile due to overfarming.
But it’s not too late to fix it. We hear about these horror stories of the future and where we’re headed and find ourselves wondering what we can do about it. Just single, insignificant us. What can one person do?
One person can be part of a movement of many. One person can make a choice. One person can support the right kind of farming through what they choose to buy where they can.
We’re about to tell you three small changes you can make – just to your diet alone – that would help us correct the course we’re on.
Number 1 – Eat More Plants
You’ve probably got vegan friends on Facebook who post memes for days about how going vegan is what you should be doing.
When it comes to the planet, though, they’re right.
David Attenborough explains in the documentary:
“Large carnivores are rare in nature because it takes a lot of prey to support each of them. For every single predator on the Serengeti, there are more than 100 prey animals. Whenever we choose a piece of meat, we too are unwittingly demanding a huge expanse of space. The planet can’t support billions of large meat-eaters. There just isn’t the space. If we all had a largely plant-based diet, we’d need only half the land we use at the moment.”
Needing less farmland means cutting down fewer trees. Cutting down fewer trees means more trees to absorb carbon dioxide and provide us with oxygen – that thing we need to breathe. Cutting down fewer trees also means more wildlife continues to exist.
The other issue with animal consumption is that animals are gassy. When they fart, they release methane which is around 25x more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
By the way, did you know that around 25% of the drugs we use today were derived from rainforest plants?
Nature holds answers to our problems that we’re yet to discover. If we destroy it to make space for more avocados or palm oil trees, we’re losing those answers forever.
As another example, electric eels are being studied right now as the foundation for new battery technology? Nature worked out how to hold electricity in living cells long before Alessandro Volta invented the first modern battery.
And that brings us on to our second change.
Number 2 – Try A Mediterranean Diet
Think back to what David said for a second:
“If we all had a largely plant-based diet, we’d need only half the land we use at the moment.”
Studies show that a vegan diet would have the least impact on the planet. But in terms of emissions, a vegetarian diet isn’t too far off and a Mediterranean diet is a close third.
That means fish and poultry a few times a week, and red meat maybe once a month.
You don’t need to go vegan tomorrow. But easing your way towards a more plant-based diet definitely helps.
Just gradually edge towards it. Try a meat-free meal from the Nutri-iQ app next week or a recipe focused on fish. Turn that into a meat-free Monday once you find a few you like and keep going from there.
We’ve talked about how moving slowly towards that largely plant-based diet reduces the need for farmland, but what about the farming that doesn’t actually happen on land?
Number 3 – Choose Sustainably Sourced Fish
Overfishing is another big problem right now. The ocean plays a huge part in our battle to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
The ocean doesn’t just help us in the battle against climate change, it provides us with food, too.
If we overfish in a certain area, the bigger predators there die out. With no big predators for the tiny organisms to feed on when they die, that Circle of Life breaks too. Which means we run out of fish to catch, and no more food for us.
But, we can do better here, too. There are sustainable methods of fishing that help ocean diversity to grow. In Palau, a Pacific island nation, they restricted fishing practices and banning fishing completely in certain areas.
Fish populations in protected areas became so healthy that they began to spill over into the permitted fishing areas. As a result, fishermen are now able to catch more fish while allowing the marine life to recover at the same time.
If you’re in the UK, look for the blue “Certified Sustainable Seafood MSC” label when you’re buying fish.
And wherever you’re listening from in the world, do a quick Google to find out how you can tell if the fish you’re buying has been sustainably fished or responsibly farmed.
Bonus Option – Get A Chicken
Getting a chicken or two isn’t directly a change to your diet, but seeing as it lets you switch from caged to free-range, I’m going to say it counts.
Thinking back to how meat-eaters demand so much space, why not use some of your own space you already have?
Keeping chickens actually requires a lot less space than you’d expect – just 1-2 square metres per chicken is ideal. They provide you with food directly through laying eggs, but you can also use their poo for fertiliser if you decide to start growing your own veg, too.
Keeping 3-4 chickens if you can is great because they’re social animals and with enough space, you don’t have to worry about them fighting.
Most hens lay an egg every day, which means if you’ve got 3 hens, that can be more than enough for a few breakfasts for the family. Plus, eggs are a complete protein source. So if you’re concerned about getting enough protein intake by adopting a more plant-based diet – your chickens have got you covered.
Getting yourself a small coop of 4 chickens can cost around £750 up-front, then around £300 or so per year.
They’re great for kids, too. Hens that are handled as chicks grow up to be very tame, and keeping the chickens teaches kids to value where food comes from, encourage them to get started in the kitchen to use the eggs, help them learn to count, and they might even become local little business person selling excess eggs to neighbours!
All of these options – going more plant-based, choosing sustainable fish and keeping chickens – are small steps towards a better world. In fact, they’re steps towards any world at all for our children and grandchildren.
There’s tons more we can all do, too. Buying things made from recycled materials, upcycling furniture rather than buying everything new, getting a beehive to help your local environment flourish and loads more.
Share Your Story
What are your thoughts on small changes for a better world? Are you planning to adopt a more plant-based diet, keep an eye out for sustainably sourced fish or maybe even get yourself some chickens?
Send an email to email@example.com and use the subject line “podcast” or let us know in the comments below.