This past November, I saw Do The Math in Boston with Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, and I was inspired to become an activist. I had known climate change was a big problem, but the immediacy of the problem became real to me, and though there are so many messed up things in this world that need to be addressed, I realized this was the battle that deserved my undivided attention, because what else matters if we don’t have a planet?
I left feeling invigorated, a little depressed, and scared, which is the mixture of emotions I suppose the speakers were expecting to invoke in the audience. But I also had another feeling: disappointment. While listening to these icons speak, unapologetically (and justifiably) vilifying the fossil fuel industry, I kept waiting for them to take a swing at another industry, one which most of us actively support, one which, according to a UN study, is actually the number one cause of climate change. But this industry, the meat production industry, wasn’t mentioned once.
Now, full disclosure: I’m vegan and I love animals. I don’t want them to suffer or be slaughtered for any reason, so the fact that raising and killing them for food is environmentally unfriendly is a convenient talking point for me as an animal rights activist (it isn’t so convenient for the planet I happen to live on that’s burning to death, but I guess I can’t have my vegan cake and eat it too). Yet although I now consider myself an animal rights activist and I’d say that’s my main reason for abstaining from feasting on their carcasses, the reason I initially went vegetarian was because I learned about the major environmental impact of meat production, and I realized I couldn’t be an environmentalist and a meat eater at the same time. It just doesn’t make any sense.