In an emergency meeting in Ottawa last month, following the release of the latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, federal leader of the Green Party of Canada Elizabeth May made an impassioned plea for action to her colleagues in the House.
She led with the following quote: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only, to global nuclear war.” Those words, May explained, were the opening sentence of the consensus scientific report from the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in June of 1988. “The warnings from science were clear then,” she added, “and they remain crystal clear now.”
It is certainly fair to say that the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. In 1992 the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, signed by around 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists, reiterated the message that, “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” Governments were well-apprised of the consequences to be expected from not taking that wake-up call seriously enough. As May has suggested, short term memory must be our downfall. Twenty-five years later The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: Second Notice (2017) revealed that we have essentially failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and halt the trend of collapsing biodiversity. The only information that’s really new in the most recent IPCC report is the twelve year window estimated as all the time we have left to reverse our current trajectory and avoid an intolerable global temperature rise over 1.5 C. That, and the fact that another two billion people have joined us on the planet over the past quarter of a century.
Finally, however, the crucial role dietary choices and agricultural practices must play in reducing GHG emissions can no longer be overshadowed by the need to eliminate fossil fuel dependency. The new IPCC report underscores the urgency with which we must also improve farming practices and “limit demand for greenhouse gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets.” Ten billion people are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050. According to the World Resources Institute, “even when accounting for future improvements in agriculture and reductions in food waste, shifting the diets of higher-income consumers toward plant-based foods will remain essential for meeting climate targets.” Without a major reduction in foods with “out-sized climate impacts” (such as meat and dairy), researchers predict agriculture alone could eat up the majority of our limited emissions budget.
With no more time to waste, where is the political will? Within a week of the IPCC report’s release, for example, UK climate minister Claire Perry told BBC News that it’s not the government’s job to advise people on a climate-friendly diet. Unwilling to risk offending local livestock farmers, she wouldn’t even say publicly whether or not she herself would eat less meat. Friends of the Earth called out Perry for “dereliction of duty.” The government could launch information campaigns, change diets in schools and hospitals, or offer financial incentives, suggested a spokesperson for the group. Indeed, what is needed more than ever is the kind of bold leadership more in alignment with the likes of former Irish president Mary Robinson. Now operating a climate justice foundation in her name, Robinson was backlashed after the Youth Summit she addressed in Ottawa two years ago where she suggested that we must think more about what we eat, consume less meat and even consider adopting a plant-based diet. She refused to comply with a formal request from farmers on her local council in County Mayo to redact her statement. “The point is we do have to take a stand and make our voices heard”, she told attendees at the One Young World summit in the Hague last month. Robinson believes that when people take action themselves they are “more likely to use their vote and their power to change what government policies are doing.”
Easy and Delicious: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie!
– 8-10 potatoes peeled
– 2 medium onions
– 2 large carrots
– 10 button mushrooms (or equivalent)
– 4 stalks of celery
– 2 garlic cloves
– 200 g brown or green lentils (dry)
– 2 T. fresh parsley
– 1 big tsp. of mixed herbs (use more if you wish)
– ½ – 1 tsp. of cinnamon
– 1 T. plain flour
– 1 T. soya butter
– 1 T. tomato puree
– 1 T. vegetable bouillon paste
– 1 T. balsamic vinegar
– 500 ml boiling water
– salt and pepper
1) Soak lentils for 2 to 3 hours. 2) Peel, wash and boil potatoes. 3) Finely dice onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms. 4) Crush garlic. 5) Melt vegan butter in casserole pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic till soft. 6) Add remaining veggies and stir for about 10 minutes. 7) Add flour to coat. 8) Stir in salt, pepper, cinnamon, mixed herbs, parsley. 9) In a separate pot make 500 ml of stock using water and bouillon paste. 10) Mix in the tomato puree. 11) Add stock to veggie mix in stages, stirring until slightly thickened each time. 12) Drain lentils and add to the casserole. Dilute with additional water as necessary. Add more bouillon paste if required. 13) Set to simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes on low heat to avoid burning on the bottom. Check and stir often. 14) Stir in one T. of balsamic vinegar at the end of the cooking process. 15) Transfer the finished lentil/veggie mixture into a greased baking dish. 16) Mash potatoes with vegan butter and a bit of dairy-free milk. Spread them over top of the lentil mix and smooth with a fork. 17) Sprinkle with vegan cheese shreds (optional). Bake in a hot oven until the potatoes brown (approx. 20-30 minutes). 18) Top finished dish with chopped parsley and serve. Slainte!