Marco Springmann is from Germany’s Ruhr region, a largely working-class region that he likens to the American Rust Belt. His father made his living from power generators for coal-fired power plants.
“It’s a very practical proletarian region to which I belong, and I think the diet I grew up in was a lot of the region,” said the Oxford researcher. “Lots of sausage.”
Germany happens to be one of the largest consumers of sausages in the world and produces more than 1.5 metric tons of it every year.
But Springman’s tastes began to change when he moved to the United States for graduate studies… Or rather, his thinking began to change.
Springman was studying to become a physicist when he began learning about the health concerns associated with meat. Therefore, he began to remove it from his diet. As he continued to study, he switched to an all-vegetarian diet. He has also shifted his field of research from physics to atmospheric sciences and climate change. At a crossroads between his main interests – health and climate – Springman’s research shows how his plant-based diet reduces carbon emissions.
“My initial thought was, ‘If I know it’s healthier and more environmentally sustainable (not eating animal products), why shouldn’t I do it?'” ”
As the meat-eating days wind down, dive deeper into the relationship between diet and the environment — specifically, how eating fewer animal products can help slow the climate crisis. It’s a topic that he said hasn’t gotten much attention in 15-20 years.
“At the time, most of the climate change research was actually sort of on the production side — power plants and how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The link between climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and diet was really in childhood.”
Springmann is now a senior researcher in environment and health at the Institute for Environmental Change at the University of Oxford. Now based in the UK, his research has been shared worldwide on “a very small chance of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change” without a shift in eating habits towards more plant-based diets.
According to Springmann, if everyone adopted a plant-based diet by 2050, it would save about “eight gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions”.
8 . savings [gigatons] It will be the second largest emitter. That’s after China’s emissions, but more than a quarter of emissions in the US and double those in Europe.”
One reason for this is that “beef is more than 100 times more emissions-dense as legumes,” Springmann reported in a 2019 CNN article.
Besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reduced meat production will save energy, water, and land use around the world. Eating less meat also reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health problems.
But Springman didn’t shy away from people eating steak, and insisted he wouldn’t tell anyone to become a vegetarian. “I often include a vegan scenario in my research, but only among a wide range of other scenarios such as flex, vegan, vegan, etc.”
So there is no need to knot your stomach worrying about making major drastic changes to your diet; There is no need to give up meat completely.
“Our main scenario was this elastic scenario,” Springman says. This included red meat with no more than one serving per week, poultry no more than two servings per week, fish no more than two servings per week, and dairy products no more than one serving per day. So, if you take it all in, this diet is like a vegetarian or vegan diet for up to two days a week.”
Springmann’s parents, still living in Germany, gradually began to cook more vegetarian meals, opening their dishes to new foods and experimentation in the kitchen.
“Last Christmas,” he said, “I tried making a vegan Beef Wellington that was fun.” “Everyone loved it, and that was great.”
He has also begun to notice a sweeping change in attitudes and diets across his homeland.
According to a 2020 report from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 55% of those surveyed They consider themselves flexible. He believes that these shifts in diet are occurring because many Germans are concerned about the climate crisis and are open to discussing the effects of their behaviors on it.
“The discussion has really moved a lot and helped talk about the scientific foundations of diets and climate change. Whereas in the United States, it has become more polarized.”
Many Americans may have a hard time getting rid of hamburgers because of the climate crisis, but at the rate of global population growth, meat production won’t be able to keep up. A 2019 world resources institute The report found that “Americans will need to reduce their average beef consumption by about 40%” in order to keep up with the food supply. But the good news is that it’s now easier than ever to find alternatives to meat and plant-based foods almost anywhere you go.
Springmann hopes that growing concerns about the climate crisis could one day unite us in a global food movement because everyone will need a seat at the table in order to make a difference.
“The many challenges we face cannot be addressed, and will continue to face, only if we can work together across divisions, and I hope we can do so.”
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