During the 2019 Climate Strike in NYC, hundreds of students took to the streets to demand that world leaders reverse climate change, but the absence of posters and remarks about the impact of animal agriculture suggested that these students were largely unaware of one of leading causes. During the rally and the march, TheirTurn asked several student participants if they knew about the connection between eating animal products and climate change:
“The student activists aren’t addressing the leading cause of climate change, animal agriculture, and perhaps that is because the advocacy groups for the environment haven’t made it a priority,” said Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of the animal advocacy group NYCLASS. “If climate activists aren’t taking the most obvious step to curb climate change, which is adopting a plant-based diet, then how can they expect the mainstream public to take action?”
During the rally before the march, Birnkrant asked Jay Inslee, the presidential candidate running on a climate change platform, if he would promote the consumption of less meat. Inslee would not make that commitment. “I’m willing to promote making sure everybody understands this connection,” he said.
While most of the Climate Strike attendees were NYC students “on strike” to demand climate action, many adults participated, some of whom were eager to help the students make the connection between animal agriculture and climate change. Among them was Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who spoke to TheirTurn the impact of animal agriculture on the oceans:
“We’re overfishing the oceans. Forty percent of all the fish caught in the ocean is fed to pigs, chicken and domestic salmon. If we put an end to industrialized fishing, that would go a long way in allowing the ocean to repair itself. If the ocean repairs itself, we can solve this [climate change] problem because the oceans is the regulator of climate – single greatest absorption of CO2. Seventy percent of the production of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton, and we’ve diminished phytoplankton populations by about 40% since 1950. All of these issues should be addressed, but they’re not getting the attention they deserve.”
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old climate change activist whose activism inspired the global Climate Strikes on March 15th, is vegan. Ms. Birnkrant is hopeful that she will use her global platform to promote climate-friendly plant-based eating.