food / travel

Veganism And Climate Change, Quest Of A Curious Meat Eater

Steak or avocado, which is worse for the environment? And other pressing questions for an omnivore flirting with a flip to the vegan life.

Ripe for discussion
Ripe for discussion
Barbara Vorsamer


BERLIN â€" I’m about to eat a beef sandwich. Should I not, I wonder, considering the effect of consuming beef on the environment?

Factory farming is responsible for 15% of carbon emissions, which is more than planes, cars and trains put together. Meat production sucks up 70% of fresh water around the world. The logical conclusion? Meat is evil!

The German agriculture ministry recently advised citizens to abstain from meat for the sake of the environment. The council of experts advocated a “shift toward the consumption of a climate-friendly diet”.

But that’s where things get complicated. What exactly is climate-friendly? Instead of salami, should I put avocado slices on my sandwich? Personally, I’d consider this a delicious alternative. But is it really more eco-friendly? Avocados grow halfway around the world; pine forests are cleared and artificial fertilizers, pesticides and vast quantities of fresh water are used for their cultivation.

Eating eco-friendly is tricky â€" even before ethical concerns come into play, which are also valid concerns. There are many reasons people might avoid meat or animal products. Some people don’t like the taste of it. Others think a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier, even when there’s no scientific evidence confirming or disproving this theory. Most vegetarians care about animals and think it’s immoral, a crime in fact, to kill other living beings for food. Vegans even renounce livestock that are bred for their milk, eggs, hair or skin.

If scientists consider a vegetarian diet the most effective way to counter climate change, there’s some bad news â€" the wealthier a country gets, the more meat it consumes. But I can do my bit. Each steak I refuse to eat is one steak less that has to be produced. But if I’m trying to forgo animal products, I quickly run out of ideas. Pasta without parmesan? A curry with canned coconut milk that’s imported even though that is problematic in its own way?

Supermarkets in Germany have solutions. Shelves and shelves stocked with tofu, soy, and wheat gluten steaks. But these offerings also raise questions. If you’re consuming a lot of soy-based products, you cannot ignore that its cultivation is responsible for the destruction of certain rainforests. Furthermore, the majority of soy cultivated worldwide is used as feed in factory farms. As for the taste for of my soy Bolognese â€" it’s okay but a bit strange.

Say it with flowers â€" Photo: Helen Alfvegren

In the U.S., it grew harder to go without meat. I was living on carbonated water, pretzels and whole-grain bread.

I think replacing meat is easier when it’s not the main ingredient, just a part of it. Pizza is still good without ham, as is lasagna or kebab with wheat gluten or a curry with tofu and vegetables. But roast venison is not quite the same without venison.

But even with these changes I’ve accepted that it’s impossible to completely avoid carbon emissions from food production. The blogger Felix Olschewski says that factory farming is just as bad as conventional plant production. According to him, the solution is to simply accept that eating involves denying another animal food. “If you eat the blueberry, the bird can’t have it. You take the salad, the bunny has to starve. If you cultivate fields, you destroy the ecosystem and animals’ natural habitat.”

There are different ways of reacting to this dilemma. One is to have an “I don’t give a damn” attitude, eating as many avocados, steaks and environmentally-unfriendly sushi boxes as possible, flushing it all down with coffee that comes from capsules and is for take-away in plastic cups. Or, you can question your own behavior. Do I have to eat steak every single day? Is it the season for strawberries? Where does the milk I buy come from?

There are no clear rules for sustainable consumption because everyone has a different definition. Is it about water consumption, carbon emissions, the wellbeing of animals or chemicals in the food? What’s relatively undisputed is that it makes sense ecologically to eat little meat and to focus on regional and seasonal products.

I still haven’t become a vegan. To be honest, not even a vegetarian. But I try to eat as little meat as possible and to not stuff myself with meat burgers. Nor avocados, by the way.

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The Olympic torch is lit at the Archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Asham!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.

[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]


• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.

• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.

• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.

• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.

• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease

• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."


The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.


Jashn-e Riwaaz

Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.


Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.

🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.

🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.

💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.

➡️


I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.

— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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