Many of us are aware that our dietary patterns have immense impacts on the environment. In particular, the excessive reliance on meat and dairy products to 'complete' our meals means that we're putting unnecessary strain on the environment through land usage, resource usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, it would be a simple solution if we could all reduce or stop eating meat altogether, for that matter. But there's a delicate balance between being optimistic and being realistic.
For example, going full-time vegan or vegetarian can feel extreme or impossible, especially for those who value cultural celebrations involving meat or have simply grown up with parents that cook delicious meals using those ingredients. Food isn't just about the physicality of what we consume – instead, it often has many emotions and fond memories associated.
As Joe Biden's climate policies are beginning to be put in place, it's interesting to note the approaches being taken in the realm of building sustainable food systems and eating habits. We all probably know someone in our lives who think that reducing meat is a silly idea or they simply can't be bothered. So, imagine if Biden's team made even a meagre suggestion of the same idea. It could generate huge backlash from certain groups, potentially undermining his entire climate policy agenda.
Food isn't just about the physicality of what we consume – instead, it often has many emotions and fond memories associated.
That's why the focus appears to be on policies that add rather than subtract. For example, instead of telling people to eat less meat, there's a lot of movement urging Congress to increase investment in R&D for alternative meat products or programs to provide monetary rewards for sustainable farming techniques. Indeed, the right way forward may be to give people something better than what they currently have, rather than to try and remove what has already been in place for decades; as Buckminster Fuller said, '"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
All of this reminded me of a friend of mine who has always loved to eat meat and thought the idea of being vegetarian was impossible. But when I got him to try PizzaExpress' Beyond Teriyaki pizza (vegan), he thought it was delicious and said that if there were more meat alternatives that tasted good and were affordable, he wouldn't mind switching to it. I'm sure there are many others like him.
Changing dietary patterns appears to be more about where we place our focus on - access to delicious meat alternatives - rather than the act of eating less meat: a subtle shift, but a necessary one for large-scale, lasting change.