Heart-centered writing on spirituality, politics and life

One step we can take right now to help with climate change

Climate change is happening now, and all reports indicate that it is only going to get worse. I know most of us would like to be part of the solution, but are often left asking the question: how do we help? The thought that healing our planet will require deep, systemic changes to our entire civilization feels daunting and overwhelming (to me at least). What can one person do, right?

Well, we can each make a big difference if we start eating beans instead of beef.

Why? Cows fart, a lot, producing methane—a greenhouse gas exponentially more powerful than carbon dioxide. In addition, the ranching industry is constantly cutting down forests (which soak up carbon dioxide) to get new land to graze their herds on. In other words, eating beef both puts a ton of greenhouse gases in the air and goes after one of the best ways to clean those gases up.

I’m certainly no expert on any of this, but there are some pretty intense numbers out there put together by people who are. If you’re like me, though, and your eyes glaze over at any mention of math, here’s a two sentence breakdown: food production creates a massive amount of greenhouse gases. Raising cows for beef makes up the gassiest chunk of that—half of all American agricultural emissions. Growing beans, well, doesn’t.

Neither do any other proteins, for that matter. However, plant proteins like beans tend to be the most gentle on the planet.

It’s fascinating to notice the interconnection at work. We see that most cows are raised in brutal living conditions, that working conditions in slaughterhouses are often not much better and that eating lots of red meat tends to make us sick. But that harm also multiplies to affect the whole planet on a large scale. The small stuff always adds up—and that means we can each make a difference, too.

Really, the more vegan we get, the more pressure we take off the earth. I’m not vegan yet myself, but each move in that direction does count. We can have fun with it too—make it a daily practice. The first step to work with? Putting down the burger and picking up the burrito.

Ian Cooper