Diet and climate change – Is it time to listen to our children?

With millions of students protesting around the world and hundreds of school children marching through Bristol city centre last week on the latest of seven climate strike protests this year, it is hardly surprising that many of my clients are being encouraged by their children to change their diets to help the environment.

Whilst there are many areas that need urgent attention to support the climate, my teenage daughter and the majority of young people I work with, feel that one of the significant ways they can play a part is by changing how they eat. In the past year many of my clients have expressed their children’s concerns, and many families have reduced or in some cases completely cut out red meat from their diets alongside other considerations.

In 2018, the journal Science published the largest study to date on the environmental impact on food, including data on nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries. The authors concluded that livestock is responsible for 57% of water pollution, 56% of air pollution and uses a third of the worlds fresh water. Analysis by The Environmental Working Group reported that the foods that produce the most greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of food, were lamb and beef.

With plant based diets constantly on social media and new plant based recipe books coming out, there is definitely a trend towards not only reducing the carbon footprint, but a much needed change in mindset to reducing many illnesses and deaths that are often associated with diets that are high in meat and diary.

My daughter hasn’t actually said ‘can we eat more greens please mum’ but her stand to cut out red meat has left more room on the plate and in my purse for other options.

As our teenagers begin to learn about the link between animal agriculture and deforestation in their geography lessons, they are more than aware of how a lack of action may impact their future. A report from The Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, says ‘livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity’

Is it time and only fair to listen to our children and make some adjustments to the way we eat, even if it is just reducing those high impact foods?