We can all do our bit to tackle the climate crisis | Letters

Readers offer their views on how governments and citizens can help to reduce humans’ environmental impact

Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist, has tapped into a global passion for change from the outdated, exploitative system to a holistic and responsible one (Thunberg tells US Congress: ‘I want you to take real action on climate’, 19 September). The industrial paradigm separates materials from their histories. Forests may have been torn down, lakes polluted, people and animals displaced, but the consumer doesn’t know this. Society has taught us that it is essential to have the latest product and not to question where it came from or who was hurt in the process. The need for change has to be now.

Sometimes it is hard to know what to do. People have been led by consumerism for so long that it is difficult to see that there is another way, but there are many practical things we can do, such as: don’t fly unless absolutely necessary; eat less meat and dairy; plant a tree; create a garden with shrubs and flowers that will attract wildlife; line-dry clothes; unplug electronic devices; turn lights off when not needed; drive less; grow your own vegetables or eat local produce; don’t buy fast fashion; ask where products have come from.

Some of these will inevitably lead to a change in lifestyle, but if we do nothing our precious planet is at risk. We need to care for this planet like it is our own skin. It is time to look upwards into the sky and realise that there is nowhere else for us to go and to value this beautiful place we call home.
Diana Sanders
Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Conwy

• On 20 September, many people will strike to raise awareness of the climate crisis and encourage governments to take action to tackle it. While this is a worthwhile endeavour, there’s no need to wait for a special date to commit to saving the planet. If you truly want to combat climate change, you can start today by removing meat, eggs and dairy from your shopping list.

Each year, humans kill 60 billion land animals for food – that’s almost 7 million every hour. All these animals produce massive amounts of waste, which releases powerful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Animal agriculture is the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases that are, respectively, 25 and 300 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. A person who follows a vegan lifestyle produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide than a meat-eater and uses 1/11th of the oil, 1/13th of the water, and 1/18th of the land. That’s why the United Nations has stated that a global shift towards a vegan diet is essential to combat the worst effects of climate change, and research from the University of Oxford has found that going vegan is “the single biggest way” to reduce our environmental impact.

So by all means take part in the strike for the climate – but remember that change starts on your plate and choose planet- and animal-friendly vegan meals.
Sascha Camilli
Peta Foundation

• We cannot forget the rural poor in Africa as we tackle the climate crisis. Your recent article covering the Bloem report (Fighting climate crisis by avoiding meat ignores poor countries’ needs – report, 17 September) has confirmed what we have known for a long time: we need country- and community-specific solutions to address global nutrition and the climate crisis.

Meeting sustainable diets in rural Africa remains a challenge. With livestock traditionally playing a significant part, the crucial question is of how animals are managed going forwards. In holistic, integrated farm systems, livestock can play a part in sequestering carbon, as well as ensuring that children grow up free from the lifelong effects of stunting due to malnutrition.

With this in mind, the addition of livestock to small-holder farms in rural Africa cannot be tossed aside; it is still the sustainable solution they so desperately need. A dairy cow can, for example, regenerate tired soil through manure, and provide essential nutrition from milk. Without access to processed protein alternatives like tofu, eggs and milk are the most effective way for rural African communities to prevent stunting in children.

The difference between the industrial-scale cattle ranching that is destroying the Amazon and sustainable family farmers in Africa really cannot be stressed enough.
Richie Alford
Director of research and impact at the charity Send a Cow

• There are many of us who would agree with George Monbiot’s heartfelt plea to prevent wealth due to its irrevocable destruction of the planet (For the sake of life on Earth, we must put a limit on wealth, 19 September). It seems screamingly obvious to me too. But how do we bring about the change required to achieve this. No wealthy person is going to voluntarily give up reaping the rewards of wealth earned by their hard work. Their wealth is stashed away in financial havens all round the world. Have we got to recognise that the capitalist system is flawed? As a child playing Monopoly, it was clear that once the expensive properties had been acquired by one player the game was over. In real life the same rule applies: only other rich people can play a rich person’s game.

So, George, let us hear your suggestions of how we can stop people getting rich; how the capitalist system can be revised to share wealth more equally? How can we change the human mindset? The human race is very competitive and individualistic. That is why we are still here today. But if we do not find a way, I believe we could destroy ourselves and the planet. I see it as evolution turned on its head. We have to go in reverse.
Angela Finch
Sydenham, London

• The effects of the climate emergency are blindingly obvious. All around us, we can see the damage in gardens, allotments, parks and farms in south-east and eastern areas of England. Due to the record high temperatures and very low rainfall, many trees are in danger, vegetables and shrubs are collapsing or failing to flourish, and grass is turning brown. And the air quality is even worse than usual in many areas as a result, with consequent risks to health.

But you would be hard put to gather any of this from watching or listening to weather bulletins on mainstream TV and radio. Over and over again, weather presenters cheerfully welcome the high temperatures and dryness with barely a mention of the damage being caused. Any chance of rain is usually described as a risk, rather than something desperately needed. How do weather presenters think that plants, trees and wildlife grow and flourish?

It is especially worrying that the effects of the climate emergency are being normalised on mainstream TV and radio. The BBC and other broadcasters need to step up to the plate and properly inform and educate people about the effects of the climate emergency on our weather. Programmes about extreme weather or climate change don’t redress the balance when everyday weather bulletins normalise what is happening and ignore the extremely serious effects.
Linda Lennard
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Bill McKibben is so right (If the world ran on sun, it wouldn’t fight over oil, 18 September). A few years ago I wrote to the then Tory energy secretary suggesting that every new-build house be fitted with solar panels. The reply I received was that the cost to housebuyers would be excessive in an already inflated housing market. Yet an extra £7,000 on the mortgage for a £400,000 house is peanuts and would soon be recouped by energy cost savings. It would revitalise the solar industry, guarantee work in that sector for evermore, and help save our planet. Everyone I share this idea with supports it as being sensible and an easy part solution to the oncoming climate crisis – particularly if we continue to get such global warming and sunshine as we have seen these last couple of years. I cannot for the life of me think what objections governments can have to this in this day and age. I wish someone in authority would tell me.
Rob Parrish,
Starcross, Devon

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