Tuesday, September 10, 2019

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: One and Only Solution to Climate Change?

Image result for indian food plate

I have absolutely no problem with people wanting to go vegan or whatever other food preferences they want for themselves, based on any moral, ethical or whatever reasons of their own. 

I have serious concerns about promoting 'veganism'  (or any single lifestyle change for that matter) as THE ULTIMATE and UNIVERSAL solution of climate change. 

The earth and its atmosphere is a complex system - both scientifically and socio-economically. Climate change is a complex problem - both scientifically and socio-economically. Every human culture is playing a different role in this complexity, some aspects of which are positive and some are negative. Recognition of climate change as a universal problem to be tackled by everyone is one thing. Demanding that everyone should address the problem using the same and single strategy is an entirely different thing. We need an array of actions to tackle this complex problem. Moderation in access to all sorts of resources, including food, is indeed a common thread in most solutions, but the specifics of that moderation required of different cultures will obviously have to be different.

We generally develop simplified models to understand the complex geological-biological world around us. Often analysis of data based on simplified models suggests one thing, but reality is much more complex. Total abstinence and bans have never solved any social or environmental problem in the past. On the other hand, there are many instances of unexpected disasters caused by such measures. From that perspective too, I have serious reservations against any measure that talks about total exclusion of something or total ban on anything. 

There is also another aspect to this. Even in the Western world, where veganism and curbs on industrial agriculture (which includes animal husbandry) will indeed have a significant positive impact in terms of climate change, I think that the fashion of projecting veganism as THE ultimate climate change solution has potentially dangerous consequences. It is interesting that most vocal supporters of veganism in the West are the rich and famous who otherwise live a very energy intensive lifestyle. So are they going vegan to eliminate the feeling of guilt about their mansions and yachts and private jets? Will going vegan then justify ramping up everyone's personal use of fossil energy?

I repeat, the same problem exists with any single action being projected as the ONE and ONLY solution of climate change. For example, going totally off fossil fuelled transport can be a personal choice, but it becomes problematic if that is recommended as the one and only prescription for the entire world to address the problem of climate change! Will it then be ok if I went everywhere on a bicycle but lived in an airconditioned mansion and ate nothing but meat??

It is admirable and good to feel passionate about a cause and to promote it with enthusiasm. However, I sincerely request my vegan friends to not fall into the trap of finding 'the single ultimate truth'! Truth is always relative and comes in hundred shades of grey! Same is the case with solutions to climate change. 

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com 


Subir Bhaduri said...

I know who triggered this post ;) I agree, as a solution veganism, or vegetarianism for that matter wont work. The problem is simplicity catches on, but as Einstein warned: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Even the moral dominance vegan's project onto others is counter-productive i guess, because that creates conflicts instead of open mutually accommodating dialog.

Ajay Phatak said...

This can be one of the important lever nonetheless, considering both water and energy footprint of meat... I am saying this even while I am not even a strict vegetarian.

Samuchit Enviro Tech said...

Ajay - No doubt about that, but I think the stridency of the promotion of veganism (and vegetarianism too) in India is totally out of proportion considering the Indian food habits. The Indian non-vegetarian typically eats a meat/fish/egg based side dish in a mostly vegetarian meal once or twice a week! Yes, we do use a lot of milk, but the large milk suppliers in the country are co-operatives. That means they don't have industrial scale cattle sheds, they are collecting milk from small farmers and only processing it on an industrial scale. On the other hand, consider the economic and nutritional benefits. Reducing meat consumption in Western diets and moving away from the massive energy intensive meat and dairy production systems in the West is most certainly a very important lever. How significant is it in the context of Indian's food consumption patterns?? The climate change mitigation efforts in India need to focus much more on how we are expanding our energy infrastructure - both supply and demand side, according to me. - Priyadarshini Karve

Unknown said...

Very well said. Remembering your reaction when I said I planning to go off dairy n switch to soya milk.... :-) :-)