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The best perspective for your health

Ecology: Grassroots movements AND political action required

For Planet Earth to allow us humans to remain viable, we need a much more comprehensive ecology: grassroots movement AND political action required.

Having a secure future: We can only achieve this from below AND above. But how?© Bought from Black Salmon, Shutterstock

Introduction

In Political Science, the climate crisis is referred to as a "Wicked Problem" (Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, 1973). In addition to the consumption of unrenewable energy sources, factors contributing to climate change include poverty, inequality, war, food scarcity, etc. This means that is not possible to alleviate the crisis by pursuing only a few aspects of the problem, such as decarbonisation. No, we must break the negative cycle altogether. It is therefore a “Wicked Problem because it requires a collective effort against many interdependent variables. We must change this situation by tackling all of these problems in concert if we as humans want to survive. Movements from below are absolutely not enough. Instead, the majority of them must come “from above” in a target-oriented manner. Above all, education is also needed.

As a side note: The gobbling up of huge sums of money with the argument that we could inhabit other planets if we achieve more technological progress is detrimental for the whole attitude towards climate policy and the climate itself. Only a few people have the insight to recognize that the search for other planets, etc., is one hundred percent a dead-end simply because of the great distances involved outside of the solar system – and the large infrastructure that would be required to achieve it. The huge sums of money could rather be used for addressing climate change here, which is urgently needed.

Bottom-up Measures

A goal of grassroots movements is to massively diminish the negative interaction between nutrition and environmental pollution. Plant-based and sustainable nutrition is a personal decision that corresponds exactly to that. We can bring awareness to our eating habits by eating as close to nature as possible instead of looking for artificial products that simulate animal-based foods. Thus, we can start by consuming seasonal and local products. In this way we can change together environmentally harmful agricultural practices and contribute to our personal wellbeing.

A reduced demand for animal products and a greater preference for organic and locally grown products alone lowers the negative environmental impacts caused by land use and emissions. Less pollutants in our food and in the air mean healthier people. Therefore, the opportunity to break the cycle of climate change can start with our diet. We should encourage each other and eat vegan. The connection between health and nutrition and our current food system, you can find in Basic Knowledge.

Grassroots Movements

A plant-based diet has the potential to effectively improve the climate situation by steering customer demand away from products that fuel climate change. Grassroots movements are bottom-up measures that people in a community advance to promote social and political change. The decision of the individual to eat plant-based can trigger discussions about the topic in the community and lead a change in consumer preferences. In this way can we “disrupt” the supply chain from the bottom to effect change.

This is the case today in some regions of the world where people's eating habits have changed, resulting in an increase in animal alternative products in supermarkets. Additionally, a plant-based diet combined with a sustainable one, i.e. a diet that relies on local and organic produce, dsirupts the interactions between factory farming and environmental degradation. You can find out more about organic farming and the current food system in the main article, Basic Knowledge.

However, the fight against the climate crisis lies not only, nor should it, in the responsibility of the individual alone. Governments and companies who have all contributed to the current climate crisis are responsible to act on our behalf and ensure a liveable future. Therefore, when politicians fail to take into account the needs of their constituents, collective action is required to exert pressure on governments to regulate industry and meet climate commitments. Proof of this can be found in the book, "Salt Sugar Fat" by Michael Moss, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Here is a comprehensive book review.

EE: There is no way out of the fast food dilemma unless you do it yourself.
In fact, the vast majority of people from Western civilization cannot imagine switching to vegan because their sense of taste has completely changed. If you were to try it, it takes about three months for tastebuds to change back to normal - this is also a finding from this book from 2013.

Top-Down Measures

As important and effective grassroots movements and self-education are, ultimately, driving change should not lie in the sole responsibility of the public. Many people who work, have children, are financially strapped, etc. rarely have the time or the luxury to decide what foods are best for them or their family. Much more effective – and this is needed urgently and quickly – are the measures and actions that decision-makers take. They would have to financially promote natural foods and at the same time tax factory products to subsidize the costs of healthier alternatives. While, that is not considered liberal, it would be worse if dictatorships had to show us how to do it properly first so that we in the long-run can survive.

Regulation and Consumer Protection

It must also be the duty of the government to ensure that we cannot purchase products, which are manufactured in an unethical and toxic manner. This includes products, which contain chemicals that are harmful to human health or contribute to child labour and animal cruelty. Currently, the decision lies in the responsibility of the consumer, most of whom, do not have an adequate understanding of the situation. Products today also hide themselves behind "Greenwashing," further complicating the matter. According to SCS, a major accreditation body, Greenwashing [is the] assertion of claims or ecolabels that are misleading or unsubstantiated.3 This gives the consumer the impression that a product is environmentally friendly, even though it is not.

When it comes to human health and that of our planet, there is no time. Therefore, a top-down approach is critical. Harmful markettrends, which favour environmentally unfriendly consumption, must be quickly and effectively disrupted. The European Commission has through the restriction of some imports and the prohibition of harmful substances in foods made small steps towards achieving consumer protection.4

However, regulators and politicians can and must do much more for the common good. Particualrly, they can limit the power of industry, enforce emission restrictions, and provide the public the tools to make informed decisions.

Health before Profit

The roots of the problem lie in a system with too little regulation. Politicians and many of the wealthier classes of society are often not ready to give up their current comforts. Consequently, the solution to the climate crisis must be presented as maintaining economic profit through "Green-Growth". An economy that generates profits from sustainable processes experiences "Green-Growth" and its associated reputation. Sustainable processes that contribute to "Green-Growth" include the use of renewable energy sources in the production and the creation of new jobs to support a green supply chain.5

However, the idea of "Green-Growth" reinforces the notion that any response to the current crisis must focus on profit. Yet unlimited "growing" is neither sustainable nor possible. "Green-Growth" will inevitably hit a plateau on which we ideally create a sustainable system that is in balance with the earth. The currency we should then use is one of human health and the environment. It is more effective to impose higher taxes on products that have a harmful impact. As the vast majority of people are financially frugal, consumption habits can change relatively quickly through policy instruments, such as taxation.

Combatting Climate Denial

Classifying the climate crisis as a "Wicked Problem" is, in and of itself, a dilemma. It takes the burden off of the individual, as well as the government and corporations, to act accordingly. When one learns how complicated is the fight against climate change, it gives the impression that no matter what one does, nothing changes. This is overwhelming and discouraging, resulting in a preference to distance oneself rather than deal with the issue. Most governments concentrate rather on short-term goals that deliver quick results and secure votes. They leave the burden of climate change to industry and their citizens. However, in our profit-oriented economy, companies ultimately invest only in technological solutions that cover only a small part of the climate issue or they contribute to "Greenwashing". All in all, almost no one is working in way that effects change.1

EE explains: We will miss our climate target unless politicians and influential people get massively involved. Those who have power and wealth in society must learn that health takes precedence over profit in order to secure our existence on a habitable planet. Similar to the Titanic where the music played to drown out the reality of the looming catastrophe, those responsible have contented themselves with the material comforts of the modern world, becoming apathetic and ignorant to the impending doom. Although action from above is necessary, it is not the time for us to despair, but instead make small decisions in our lives, which, as a collective, can bring about greater change.

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