As I watched Leonardo DiCaprio stand before a crowd in a park in NYC this year, speaking about an urgent need for action against Climate Change, by reducing the amount of meat intake in our diet, I must admit, my sarcasm took hold. I kind of said to myself, yeah well, I heard this all before… so what’s new?
Maybe it is just that a younger, more popular celebrity, is taking up the cause. But, if you actually read the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the main causes for climate change has remained the same all these years: energy, transportation, and a very big part of it because of our insatiable appetite to consume meat.
The only difference between the latest IPCC report and the one before that is that time is now running out.
So, I felt depressed, much like the price of palm oil now…
A few days later, I saw a clip featuring a 16-year-old girl from Sweden speak about the environment and demand change. She was not an actress, nor came from a royal family, nor is the daughter of any celebrity of note. She did not beg nor implore people to change but she managed to effectively shame the adults to change.
So, for Greta Thunberg and for my own children, I thought I would write about something that could give us hope.
What if… after all this talk… we began to change?
What if that change emanated from something as simple as China being able to contain its voracious desire for meat? Maybe because swine fever laid waste to the population of pigs reared for consumption, or because a trade war with America is forcing prices of soybeans to go up in China, and consequently prompted the Chinese government to realize that it had to change the diet of their countrymen to rein in imported inflation.
Soy meal, derived from crushed soybeans, is the main source of feed for livestock, whether it be meat for poultry, cattle or swine. Ever so clever, the Chinese may then realize that they do not actually need to hold so many stocks of soybeans as a strategic food reserve, since the commodity was not that strategic after all if they had to depend on imports for soybeans.
What if instead, they devoted their resources to plant sustainable healthy food and encouraged their countrymen to reduce meat in their diet as they had done hundreds of years ago.
What if Americans, led by a very shrewd President, realize they could not keep giving out billions of dollars in cash to their unemployed soybean farmers and instead encourage them to replace their soybean with more sustainable healthy foods. They could also export this healthy foodstuff to many not-so-well-off countries which do not have the technology nor the resources to grow such food.
At the same time, the raging forest fires in Siberia, Brazil, Indonesia and Alaska are making people realize that as humans, we have not only burned the candle at both ends but we have also started burning the earth from its four corners.
What is important is that people must make a special effort.
Consumers in the west could stop the disinformation around edible oils grown in third-world countries, including palm oil. Instead, they should work with them to ensure an end to deforestation and help encourage sustainable production.
Palm oil, for example, is much misunderstood and reviled, but the fact remains, it is the most efficient oil-producing crop, able to produce the same amount of oil as other crops, including soybean, at a fraction of the land needed. And if grown sustainably, it could easily meet the world’s high demand for vegetable oil and fats.
Perhaps changes could take place if people decide to reduce their intake of meat and dairy products. Less livestock means less needs for feedstock, and thus, less soy meals. This would not only reduce the cultivation of soybeans but also result in a proportionate reduction in global vegetable oil & fats supplied by Soy Oil. Which in turn will require Palm Oil and other more productive and sustainable vegetable oils to fill that supply vacuum.
What if governments in countries where soybean substitutes are grown, took the bold step of ruthlessly enforcing their moratorium on land clearing, encourage sustainable production methods and decree fairer employment & labor laws for people working in these industries.
What if these governments, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, mandated all industries to have a significant amount of biofuel or renewable energy used in all forms of transportation — cars, trains, trucks and ships. What if large international energy companies embraced this move towards renewable energy and made it their business to produce and deliver renewable energy in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Just what if?
My youngest child will be 4 years old in December. In 2080 she would be 65 years old, and Greta Thunberg will be 77.
If my daughter has children perhaps she will sit with them in a picnic atop a nice green hill filled with beautiful Cherry Blossom trees and tell them about their grandfather, who along with many other more important people, made an effort to change the way the world did things and made it possible for them to breathe fresh, clean crisp air in the year of 2080.
Because of Greta Thunberg and millions of other children who will no doubt be inspired by her, I now have hope that that will happen.
I shared that hope for the environment, as I have hope for the future of palm oil.