Two years is an awfully long time. Really, it is! Do you remember what you were doing two years ago today? Normally I would struggle answering that question myself, but on this occasion I know exactly what I was doing. Two years ago today I was sitting in a cottage in the Lake District preparing to give a Key Note lecture entitled 'Climate Change Through the Eyes of a Polar Explorer' at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
That moment is more poignant than just a quaint memory, for what was happening outside of the cottage was phenomenal and so fitting. We were in the midst of one of the wettest winters the North of England had faced in a century. The flooding that had ensued destroyed thousands of homes and livelihoods. Bridges and roads had been swept away isolating communities and lives were lost.
With so much devastation it appeared that the UK was finally waking up the tremendous impact that climate change will be having on all our lives. This along with the recent Paris Climate Accord being signed on the 12th December 2015 to limit the warming of the planet to within 2 degrees Celsius I felt, despite the devastation afflicted, warmly optimistic about the future and that was central to the talk I gave in Saudi Arabia to a 700 packed audience.
But two years is a long time... since then, the floods of 2015 are a distant memory for all but the worst affected, and for the rest of us, we've had BREXIT and we have Donald Trump dominating our airwaves and every waking thought. Climate change has been relegated to pages 3-4 in our news feeds and broadsheets, so you'd be forgiven for thinking it was being 'solved', but unfortunately no one told that to 'Climate Change'.
In the background, the Paris Climate Accord has fallen short of unanimous agreement with the biggest contributor, the USA, pulling out. But even so, the super human efforts required by all the countries of the world to achieve the 2 deg. C target agreed upon has barely even started. Whilst we deliberate and procrastinate, the climate continues to warm at an alarming pace making it even harder to enact a real change: The Arctic sea ice continues to disappear in a death spiral, the ocean's are acidifying and the polar bear is still on track for extinction.
I agree, this is pretty depressing stuff. But it need not be entirely so: As I collated the latest research on climate change for the key note lecture I realised that the biggest contributor to climate change second to power generation is animal agriculture (14.5% of green house gases). I was shocked to discover there is a greater portion of the world's surface designated as livestock farming as to what is designated as 'wild'. It became clear to me that the Earth cannot support the world's population on a Western meat and dairy centric diet. Overnight I became vegan as the single biggest change I could make.
Two years later and despite all the aforementioned headaches I'm still vegan, The point I'm trying to make is that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to make a change. Real change doesn't come from the top. It is grass root movements that make changes, a mass shift in public opinion and perception. To make that happen all it requires is for each one of us to question what we are doing and why we are doing it. Food consumption is more than a personal choice and has extreme implications. Of course there are other contributing factors to climate change that we must all reduce our contribution to, including transportation and general consumption but if we are to start somewhere - start with the food on your plate.
This is not to diminish the massive national and international responsibilities that are needed but with all grass root movements, the saying holds 'look after the pennies and pounds will look after themselves'.