Professor Anamarija Frankic, director of the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBH) at the Center for Governance and Sustainability, reports she is coming back from Durban once more a vegetarian. She is likely not alone. From a five course banquet in the conference proper, to vegan chefs on the Durban beach (see photo), a switch to a primarily plant-based diet is on the menu for many conference attendees, as well as for those gathered outside.
Organic farming and related land management practices, coupled with meat-free diets, may be one climate mitigation strategy that can be implemented in the short term. The switch in diet directly reduces energy use for food production. Animal protein production can require more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein; beef production requires up to 16 times as much.
Vegan diets may also reduce deforestation and its resulting climate impacts. In the Amazon, for example, as much as 90% of forest clearing is for grazing cattle or for growing livestock feed.
Vegan diets have other potential ecological and human benefits. Plant-based diets require significantly less water, reducing threats of water scarcity. Plant-based diets may also reduce hunger globally, as grain currently grown for cattle production could be shifted to human consumption.
A vegan diet may not work for every individual or community culturally or ecologically. And while it may be part of the climate mitigation picture, other causes of climate change, in particular fossil fuel use for energy production, will still need to be addressed in the long term.
But for now, Frankic is on the Durban beach, giving an interview to a group that cooks, provides vegan food, and dances. When asked why they look happy, they said that they know and are acting on the solution.
(Based on reports from Durban from GBH Director Anamarija Frankic)