As I wrote in a newsletter earlier this week, we recently received some truly sobering and devastating news. NASA scientists have announced that the first half of 2016 is the hottest half-year on record, handily topping the previous record set in 2015. There is a 99% chance that the entire 2016 will be the hottest year on record as well. It’s also projected to be the year of smallest polar ice cap; the previous low point was in 2012. In fact, NASA usually doesn’t make announcements after just 1/2 year, but had to make an exception, so alarming was the finding.
I was so emotionally distraught by this news because I can observe the effects of global warming first-hand. In NYC, the summer of 2015 was a scorcher, followed by the warmest winter I’ve ever experienced in 11 years on the East Coast. This year, people all talked about how short the spring was, and summer is shaping up to be incredibly hot.
Mt. Hood–How long will this gorgeous peak stay snowy?
On the phone, my parents tell me that the gorgeous Pacific Northwest summers I grew up with are now a thing of the past. Instead of a smattering of high temperatures in the 90s, they now experience days in the 100s. I remember driving on the highway and seeing the pristine image of snow-capped Mount Hood in the distance; my parents tell me it’s getting harder to see every year.
For me, these personal, visceral experiences of loss are enough reason to commit to a pro-environment lifestyle, if not downright activism. And yet many people who consider themselves to be liberal, well-educated, intelligent, and high-functioning members of society, still fail to embrace environmentalism where it counts the most. In NYC, for instance, it is particularly frustrating to see the proliferation of “conscious” start-ups that sell “organic, local” products along very niche verticals, all via delivery. I once ran across such a company that delivered…ready-to-blend smoothie ingredients, that’s kept frozen with a freeze pack. Though the company earnestly touted how every ingredient is organic and nutritionally outstanding, I couldn’t help but cringe at the waste of packaging and the carbon footprint. I just could not see the added value there.
What’s obvious is that we need to be honest about what we’re contributing and taking away from the common good. Buying a lot of organic and all-natural products isn’t the best–and certainly not the only–way to combat global warming, especially if it creates a lot of packaging waste and carbon footprint. Sure, it’s better than buying conventional products, and since we’re all going to consume things anyway, it’s better to choose some things over others. But if you truly care about the environment, there’s nothing with more immediate impact than becoming vegan.
Becoming vegan is no longer a matter of personal preference (“good if you do, but fine if you don’t”), but a question of whether you take responsibility as a member of humanity not to f*#& this up. (The only time I ever swore on PD!)
Throughout the 3-year history of PD, and my personal 10+ years as a vegan, I’ve always preferred to simply show the positive aspects of veganism rather than to preach. But how to be more firm, outspoken, and persuasive, while still being gentle and empathetic to other people’s philosophies and choices? Here are some suggestions and ideas, including new and compelling reasons to go vegan–so you have some ammo for having the talk with your friends, co-workers, family, etc.
1. Don’t make it just about *your* reason–give them all the different reasons!: My original reason for going vegan was animal rights, followed by the environment. But if your end goal is to win someone over to the V-side, you don’t have to try to convince with *your* reason. As long as one of the myriad reasons can give them incentive to try, that’s all that matters.
2. Vegan diet is the best way to lose weight: No vegan will be surprised by this fact, and I know that I personally will be at least 20 lbs heavier if I were not vegan, all other things being the same. But if you need science, just take a look at this new study of over 1,100 dieters, in which vegans on average lost 5.6 lbs more than omnivores, and vegetarians lost 3.3 lbs more than omnivores. Studies also show that vegans have lower BMIs, and smaller waists than non-vegans, even when they eat the same number of calories.
3. Livestock farming is the number one leading cause of global warming: this often hush-hushed fact simply has to come more to the fore. Most people believe that CO2 emissions are the biggest factor–after all, we always talk about “carbon footprint.” What’s not as well understood is that nitrous oxide and methane have 296 times and 23 times, respectively, the global warming factor (GWF) of CO2. While livestock farming contributes just 9% of global CO2 emissions, it is responsible for whopping 65% of nitrous oxide and 35% of methane emissions. These figures are taken from the impartial UN, not exactly a vegan activist site–so why is this such a non-widely accepted view? Of course, because it forces rational people to conclude that you have to be vegan if you care about the environment!
4. You get all the stylish benefits of being vegan: not only will you stay slim, veganism gives you an amazing glow, clear skin, and higher energy levels. Just check out Mary’s skin transformation story, for example. Or how Irena overcame serious digestive issues with gluten-free veganism.
5. Offer to be on-hand for their vegan experiences: Instead of being stern, package it up in a way that’s appealing! Offer to invite your friends to a vegan dinner–you’ll be cooking! Or, go out together to a vegan restaurant. Bring a batch of vegan baked goods to work. These positive overtures are sure to make them feel more open-minded.
6. Emphasize that there is a community here: Many people fear that they will lose all their friends, be shunned from parties, and will never be able to go out again to a regular restaurant. Or, they don’t actually believe those things but use them as an excuse. Show them the community aspect of being vegan. I, for instance, could talk about how I opened a whole new world of friendships with vegans on Peaceful Dumpling. My life wouldn’t be the same without them, especially our team members. My being vegan has never kept me from going where I wanted to go–if anything it’s made my social life more interesting than before, with a strong network of like-minded, super cool and caring friends I’d never have made otherwise. 😀
7. Tons of people are doing it: Another way to win over someone who isn’t your typical red-blooded animal lover, is to give examples of celebrities and leaders who tout the vegan lifestyle: Natalie Portman, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jessica Chastain, Liam Helmsworth (!! unexpected!!), Woody Harrelson (apparently, he convinced Liam to go V–I guess they were chatting on the set of Hunger Games or something!! <3 Woody), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion <3 forever), James Cameron, Kate Mara, Rooney Mara …geez. That’s just a handful.
“Every time we sit down to eat, we have a choice. By choosing more meat-free meals, we’re saying ‘yes’ to better health, ‘yes’ to a better environment, and ‘yes’ to better treatment of animals. Being vegan has been so good for me. I’ve never felt better … I was a meat eater for a long time, and I would have made different choices in my diet if I had known the facts about factory farming. I now feel it’s my moral obligation, and I’m very passionate about educating people on making better, more humane choices when it comes to the food we eat.” – Kate Mara (Couldn’t have said it better myself).
These ideas don’t have the typical appeals to animal rights because it’s time to get more creative with convincing people–who often automatically put up a wall if you start talking about animals. If you have more creative ideas or stories of how you convinced other people to try veganism, please share!
Related: Exclusive Interview: Nobel Prize Winner Alvin Roth on Future of Food
Climate Change Lesson from Pope Francis
Opinion: Why Some People Stop Being Vegan
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Photos: Thomas Shahan via Flickr, Pixabay