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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Why Veganism is Much Better for the Climate than Recycling

Originally posted on PCPJ.

What is the most effective thing you can do as an individual to counteract climate change? According to a new opinion poll from Kantar Public, most westerners don’t know the true answer. Not only that – they believe the exact opposite of what is true.

According to residents of ten western countries, including the United States, Germany, and Sweden, recycling is the most common answer to what is “very important” for improving the climate, while reduced consumption and reduced meat consumption are the least common answers. Even reduced car use and flying were rarely described as very important by the respondents.

This is almost as if most people would walk around thinking that the most effective thing they can do to cross the Atlantic Ocean is to travel with a bamboo raft.

Four years ago, a study was published at Lund University that showed which individual life choices lead to the greatest reduction in one’s greenhouse gas emissions. It states that a year’s plant-free diet free of animal products is four times more efficient than recycling, refraining from a single transatlantic flight is eight times more efficient and living car-free for a year is eleven times more efficient.

Recycling may be useful, but it can certainly not be classified as the most important climate measure. Why then do most westerners claim that this is the case? Lobbying from the meat, car and aerospace industries is, of course, a culprit in the drama, as is the political rhetoric that, for fear of losing votes, often unscientifically insists that we maintain our food and transport habits.

But the study from Kantar also showed that an important factor is convenience. 74 percent of those surveyed said they were “proud” of what they are already doing for the climate—which I guess includes a lot of recycling. Instead of finding out what actually saves lives, you tell yourself and others that what you are already doing is the best possible.

We often assume that people first become convinced of things on an intellectual level, and then adapt their lifestyle accordingly. Sometimes it is so – I myself became an environmental activist after I had read about the state of the world in books – but it is at least as common that our opinions are adapted to how we live and what social contexts we belong to.

No wonder Jesus insisted that his disciples follow him, rather than just believing on a theoretical level.

Of course, opinion formation still has an important role to play, especially when it is now so clear that even many who are not climate threat deniers believe in ill-founded myths. But people need to be doers of the word, not just hearers, to quote the letter of James.

What is needed are communities where plant-based diets and car-free lives are as common and natural as recycling cardboard packaging. Research shows that people find it much easier to change their lifestyle when they do it in groups.

Here, the churches have a fantastic opportunity to step forward as such norm-changing communities. Just imagine what would happen if the world’s two billion Christians decided to live sustainably tomorrow.

Climate change would literally be over in just a day. So what are we waiting for?

The Hunger Argument for Veganism

avocado

When people hear veganism, they think about animal rights activists or people who care for the environment. It is less known that skipping meat and dairy also is the single most effective thing one can do to fight global hunger.

My fiancée Sarah and I recently talked about this in MennoNerds video (above), and last month, Sarah contributed to PCPJ with an article on the hunger argument for veganism:

I have discovered that few things are so controversial among Christians and met with such incomprehension (and ignorance) as veganism. “Do you eat only salad?” is a question I often get, or “you don’t eat wheat flour, right?” Not to mention all the extremely hilarious meat jokes (sarcasm intended). But I have discovered that most times people have preconceptions about what it means to be vegan and the reasons behind it.

When I tell people that I’m vegan, most assume that it is due to the animal ethics. And to be honest, it was probably how it started. Twelve years ago, I became a vegetarian because I loved animals, and felt like a hypocrite towards them when I ate meat. But over time I began to think about whether this really was a sufficient reason. As a Christian, I believed that humans have been appointed to manage creation and that we have a higher value than animals. If an animal’s death would be the prerequisite for human life, it would be a morally acceptable thing to do (as it turns out this is not the case today, as I will explain below). (more…)

Why I as a Christian Don’t Eat Meat

image

My friend Agnes with some vegetarian food

Five years ago I became a vegetarian. I had read about how extremely bad meat is for the climate and global environment: meat and diary production accounts for 1.5% of global GDP but 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the United Nations Environmental Programme recommends a transition to more vegetarian and vegan diets in order to prevent huge environmental disasters. I also knew that producing meat requires much more resources than it takes to produce other foods – instead of eating crops ourselves we have to give it to animals for several years and then eat them – and since God had called me to live simply and help the poor by fighting global hunger, it was easy for me to become a vegetarian.

I have several Christian brothers and sisters who have made the same decision, but as you probably can tell yourself most Christians are meat-eaters. Which in one way isn’t very strange – even though Adam and Eve were vegans and the prophets tell us about how animals and men will live in peaceful harmony in Heaven, there is no clear-cut command to be a vegetarian in the New Testament. Peter was told to “kill and eat” in Acts 10:13, and Paul says “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Rom 14:2) Most vegetarian Christians have heard these Bible verses a few times, I reckon.

I believe that meat-eating Christians are fully correct when they point out that Jesus ate meat and that the apostles didn’t teach that you have to be a vegetarian to be a Christian. However, I would like them to reflect on how much meat Jesus and the apostles eat, how much we eat today and whether meat was the environmental disaster then as it is today. Seriously, in Sweden where I live, most Christians and non-Christians alike eat meat three times a day, all year round. I’ve been to a couple of Christian conferences this summer and boy, it wasn’t easy to be a vegetarian. There was some massive meat-eating going on there.

(more…)