Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Why Aren’t Youth Climate Leaders Addressing Meat Consumption?

October 17, 2019 by Leave a Comment

The News

On September 21, youth climate leaders from around the world converged at the United Nations in New York to participate in the Youth Climate Summit. During the summit, TheirTurn asked them why the youth climate movement isn’t using its platform to encourage grass roots climate activists and the mainstream public to make lifestyle changes to reduce their own carbon emissions.

One day earlier, tens of thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom were students, took to the streets of downtown Manhattan to participate in a youth climate strike with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Neither their posters nor the information they distributed focused on what individuals can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. Frustrated by the fact that youth climate leaders are not proactively encouraging the public to take steps to reduce their own emissions, a contingent of several dozen adult activists joined the climate strike to promote plant-based diets.

Adult climate strikers promote plant-based diets as a strategy to reduce carbon and methane emissions

“Eating animals is the elephant in the room of the climate change movement,” said Nathan Semmel, an attorney and activist who participated in the climate strike. “How can youth climate leaders expect world leaders to take action on the climate crisis if they aren’t encouraging their own constituents to stop engaging in environmentally destructive activity that can be easily avoided?

Ranchers are deforesting the Amazon in order to graze their cattle and grow cattle feed (photo: National Geographic)

During the interviews with TheirTurn, every youth climate leader mentioned meat reduction or elimination when asked what steps individuals can take.  None of them, however, indicated that they are proactively conveying this message to their constituents. They are instead pressuring global leaders to make systemic change.

“It’s not an either/or,” said journalist and climate advocate Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnChained. “Youth climate leaders can demand accountability from our leaders and ask their constituents to reduce their own carbon footprint by making the switch to a plant-based diet.”

Waste lagoon at a cattle ranch (taken from above)

Unlike youth climate leaders, who understand the impact of animal agriculture on the climate and are reducing or eliminating their own consumption of animal products, grass roots participants in the youth climate strike were largely unaware. When asked what steps they can take to reduce their own carbon emissions, most recommended reducing single-use plastic and recycling.

Youth climate leaders speak about their advocacy at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Donny Moss says:

    Most of us liked eating meat, but we made the switch to plant-based alternatives because animal agriculture is destroying the planet.

  2. Jack Mehoff says:

    Maybe they like eating meat? Ever thought of that?

  3. Tess says:

    When I get e-mails from climate change “activists”, that only mention limiting carbon emissions, I take the opportunity to reply to the e-mail and say that I won’t support an agenda that does not address factory farming as a cause of climate change. They might ignore my one e-mail, but if they start getting a lot of these replies, maybe they’ll take notice.

  4. Jonas says:

    The short answer to your question is that climate activists in general recognize that comprehensive solutions aimed at meeting the IPCC targets must be implemented by our leaders. So, generally speaking, our focus is on demanding that our leaders take bold actions, like the GND, which includes the need to transform how we grow food and raise livestock, and even what we eat. It’s also why we tend to avoid debates about climate change which climate delayers use to distract from the need for leaders to act QUICKLY!

  5. Mark says:

    “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future – deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice,the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.”– The World Watch Institute

  6. Zizi says:

    EVERY individual has a part to play…and the most important and significant personal change we can make is to end our own contribution to global warming by going vegan and eliminating all animal products from our daily lives. Animal agriculture is responsible for one of the primary factors in climate change:the production of methane gas…and contributes many other destructive factors to our planet’s degradation…as well as to the daily lives of most people. Do the right thing! Good for our planet and environment, the animals and our own hearts and souls!

  7. Terry says:

    Just as we have to keep pressure on elected leaders to address issues that are important to us, we also need to keep the pressure on climate activists who do not want to address the effect that factory farming and meat production is having on climate change. In the end, you can’t have it both ways. If you only want to talk about carbon emissions, while eating a hot dog, then you are not saving the planet. We need to keep reminding young people of that. BTW, when I was that age, I wasn’t aware, or didn’t think about the meat I was eating, but over time, hearing from others, I became very involved and am now a vegan. So just keep repeating the message, more and more people, especially young people, will catch on.

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