Veganism helps adapt to climate change
- By Amarjargal Munkhbat -
- Aug 28,2023
Climate change in the world is drastically affecting our lives, especially in Mongolia, since we live a nomadic life and our livelihoods are only based on nature. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Mongolia is seriously affected by unfavorable climatic changes including considerable increases in temperature which contributed to an increase of evapotranspiration and depletion of water resources. In addition, there is increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather events, notably droughts and dzud, affecting the most disadvantaged population employed in agriculture. In determining the balance between nutritional needs, health hazards, economic viability and sustainability of food production in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to take into consideration Mongolia’s pastoral culture. Other linkages between climate change and nutrition are barely studied, given growing awareness about the link between climate change and food security in particular its direct effects on agriculture yields, associated higher food prices or increased costs for healthy diets leading to a higher incidence of malnutrition. Therefore, there are three overlapping epidemics in Mongolia: climate change, obesity and malnutrition.
As for Mongolia, one of the disasters caused by climate change with significant damage to the society and economy is dzud. For example, in provincial areas of Mongolia, more or less large scale dzud has occurred in the last 60 years, and according to statistical research, an average of 1.3 million livestock are killed annually due to droughts and dzud. Previously in 1950, 3.5 million livestock were killed, but from 2009 to 2010, 9.7 million livestock were killed because of the increasing extreme climate.
To fight this world-crisis and to help decrease the intensity of the problem, the Mongolian Organic Green Food Association NGO organized a Vegan Festival on August 26 and 27 at the park named after renowned poet B.Yavuukhulan. The festival was organized for the second year under the slogan “Vegan is the solution”. This year’s Vegan Festival was celebrated under the slogan “World Day for the End of Speciesism”. A vegan diet is based on plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits) and foods made from plants. Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
The purpose of the Vegan Festival is to raise awareness on today’s global warming crisis, animal rights, healthy eating habits and reducing environmental footprints, prevention of noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and digestive system diseases which are leading causes of mortality in Mongolia.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land, published at the global meeting in 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, a major policy action against the warming crisis must be immediate reductions of consumption of meat and dairy products. The report found that veganism has the best effect on carbon dioxide reduction, thanks to a panel of more than 107 top scientists from around the world who studied over 7,000 scientific studies. Also, the 2021 Climate & Clean Air Coalition and United Nations Environment Program reports identified the immediate need to reduce meat and dairy consumption to reduce human-caused methane emissions.
However, more than 200 scientists in this year’s IPCC sixth Assessment Report warned that global warming of this century may increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times and concluded climate action by countries is insufficient. According to the Climate Central Organization, just this July, 6.5 billion people or 81 percent of the global population, experienced at least one day at Climate Shift Index (CSI) three or higher, and 50 percent experienced at least ten days at this level. On each of the 31 days in July, at least two billion people felt a very strong influence of climate change (CSI level 3 or higher). Global exposure peaked on July 10, 2023, when 3.5 billion people worldwide experienced dry hot weather that happened at least three times more likely due to human-caused climate change.
Furthermore, it was empathized that it will be difficult for us to limit the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, to ensure a sustainable and livable future for all, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by nearly 50 percent over the next 10 years through rapid and wide scale transitions across all sectors and systems. This includes vegan food products such as legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, and it is again emphasized that it is important and highly beneficial for public health and biodiversity conservation.
In recent years, at a time when the frequency of natural disasters caused by climate changehas increased in every country of the world, the vegan movement, which aims to mitigate climate change, protect animal rights and public health, has gained more and more strength. In Mongolia, there is an unofficial statistic of over 30,000 vegans and vegetarians based on the number of people visiting vegan restaurants.
This year’s Vegan Festival’s scope is expanding year by year and it was organized by vegan industries of food, products, beauty, trade and service providers, the environment protection organizations, organic farming, animal rights, yoga. More than 30 organizations and enterprises, including organizations in the field of physical sports and health, as well as organizations from consulting services, jointly organized the festival. For more information regarding the festival, it can be found on Vegan Festival Mongolia page, where they have detailed information of the companies that produce vegan products.
At the festival, there were informative discussions of vegan lifestyle on Animal rights, Environment, Health, Organic Agriculture, and Beauty, with suggestions on Vegan diet. As for entertainment, they also had vegan fashion show, questionnaires, food show, and fun competitions.
There were many companies participating at the festival, such as Foody, Monfood and Loving Hut, which is known more by the community. They had their own products which were made in Mongolia. It was encouraging to see how much companies were stepping into the vegan business as there is people in need of the products.
It was also more exciting to see shampoos, hair conditioner and skincare products made in Mongolia which were all vegan and cruelty-free. For example, the Khalgai shampoo, which has been in the industry for a while, was at the festival. It was made from all natural ingredients and was being sold at its factory price. Another company that produces vegan cosmetics is Crystal Vegan. They have variety of skin care products such as face cleanser, serum, body wash, and bath salts. They are all vegan and cruelty-free. In addition to the domestic companies, foreign beauty brands such as Ruby Rose and Vegantology were participating.
It was a bit promising, as more and more peo- ple came to visit the festival and the long lines to purchase the healthy food choices even for their children, and more companies participating in the event to serve the rising number of vegans.
WHY IS VEGANISM THE SOLUTION?
A 2021 report by the United Nations Environment Program on Climate, Clean Air and Environment recommends reducing methane emissions by 45 percent by 2030, focusing on fossil fuel use, landfills, wastewater and livestock to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, it is possible to avoid 26 million tons of crop loss, 255,000 premature deaths, and 775,000 asthma-related medical events annually. More importantly, behavioral changes, including adopting a plant-based diet, could reduce methane emissions by 65 to 80 million tons per year over the next few decades.
Almost 75 percent of global deforestation is caused by livestock farming, which produces large amounts of the heat-emitting methane gas. However, it was pointed out that a plant-based diet could free up millions of square kilometers of land for carbon sequestering forests and reduce carbon emissions by eight gigatons per year by 2050.
In addition, in 2022, the incidence of diseases in the population of Mongolia reached 3.6 million (in duplicate number), which has increased by 1.5 million from 2013. Considering the registered disease cases by category, 16.5 percent of noncommunicable diseases in the country in 2022 are diseases of the digestive system, and 12.2 percent are diseases of the cardiovascular system. According to WHO statistics, in 2020, more than 19.2 million people were diagnosed with cancer and 9.9 million people died of cancer-related causes. Mongolia leads the world in terms of cancer deaths and liver cancer incidence. In 2022, 6,885 new cases of cancer were registered among the population, and the predominant cases of cancer incidence structure was liver cancer by 33.2 percent, stomach cancer by 17.2 percent, lung cancer by 7.6 percent, esophagus by five percent, and cervical cancer by 4.6 percent.
The 2021 WHO report urged for a plant-based diet, as climate change is the greatest threat to human health. Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the close and delicate connection among people, animals and the environment. The same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people.” The report includes ten top recommendations, including adopting a healthy, mostly plant-based diet to reduce methane emissions over the next decade to urgently address the crisis. The study highlighted how the 600 billion USD in annual government subsidies to the agricultural sector distorts the true cost of harmful foods like meat, and called for these incentives to be directed toward supporting healthy and sustainable food systems.
Moreover, in 2021, the United Nations emphasized the vital role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition and food security, as well as the importance of achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of eradicating hunger and poverty and protecting our planet.
The impact veganism has on your skin is also important. While the food going to the stomach is filtered through before entering the bloodstream, everything applied to your skin is directly transferred to your blood without any filters. So, the beauty industry is also going in a trend of clean beauty as it refuses using animal derived ingredients. Also, if the product has cruelty-free sign, it means the products had the absence of testing on animals. Therefore, not only is it friendly for your skin, the animals can benefit from it too.
Lastly, you should realize that even if you don’t completely change your diet to vegetarianism or veganism, it is important to implement this diet at least a few times a month in small ways for you and your future because doing so is your way to fight against climate change.