Students learning in the face of a climate crisis are posed with the awkward situation of being informed of impending doom and possibly feeling helpless to do anything about it. It is not uncommon to feel climate anxiety. So often it can feel like too little is being done too late. With UN Climate reports literally calling out red alerts it’s hard not to direct your anxiety somewhere. Personally? I’ve been fostering a growing hatred for cows.
The beef and dairy industries have a reputation for high carbon output and environmental degradation. With a convenience based society that thrives on overconsumption it is easy to see how. When you begin to look at cattle as a reminder of greenhouse gas emissions you might start to feel resentful. I mean sure, they are cute, but at what cost?
To a spiteful vegetarian it can be frustrating to see the accessibility of beef and the inaccessibility of more eco-friendly diets. Picking up a menu and looking for a veggie-friendly meal is like a dismal game of Where’s Waldo.
Many Americans don’t have access to produce due to food deserts, areas of intersection between low accessibility and low income. For many that live in food deserts, beef is the easiest and most affordable meal. Long term health issues and inefficient proteins are easy to obtain in Anytown, USA.
To put it frankly, it’s cows that are pushing us over the edge, a cow tipping point if you will. Their greenhouse gas hoofprint does not just account for methane production. It also involves the grain produced to feed cattle, processing, and transportation of beef products. Cattle also require a great deal of land. I can’t think of a road trip I have been on without seeing cows, cow fields, and feedlots.
I do not hate cows or have an actual vendetta against them, I am just a young person grappling with a climate crisis that creates an uncertain future. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the climate crisis. Individual action will not solve the climate crisis, but it helps me cope.
Cutting meat out of my diet and having a vendetta against cows themselves makes me feel a little better about the situation. I do not even wish to see an end to beef and dairy industries, I understand that my diet is not for everyone. All I wish for is more ethical and conscious consumption.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining. Here in Humboldt we have access to local beef farms, with sustainably sourced and ethically raised cattle. Solutions like changing livestock diets to reduce emissions within livestock lives can also help.
Yes, this means fewer cow farts and less methane emissions. According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing meat consumption in any capacity, will help to reduce negative environmental impacts overall.
“Decreasing meat consumption, primarily of ruminants, and reducing wastes further reduces water use, soil degradation, pressure on forests and land used for feed potentially freeing up land for mitigation. Additionally, consumption of locally produced food, shortening the supply chain, can in some cases minimise food loss, contribute to food security and reduce GHG emissions associated with energy consumption and food loss.” (IPCC, 2019)
There is still hope and fewer reasons to hate cows, especially here in Humboldt. Holding our systems accountable and consuming mindfully can help us mitigate our climate crisis.
It is time we reevaluate our beef consumption and sources. If we are to make it through the climate crisis we need to become more aware and hold our system accountable.
I hope that maybe you hate cows a little more after reading this, just enough to go meatless for at least one day a week, or to check out our local farmers’ market on Saturday and pick up some better beef.