At last week's Oscars, Leonardo DiCaprio did what Florida's governor refuses to do: acknowledged the painful reality of climate change, an issue that's particularly relevant in Miami, where another inch or two of sea-level rise will leave the 305 underwater.
The award-winning actor wasn't just paying lip service; he put his money where his mouth is when he executive-produced Cowspiracy, a groundbreaking documentary that revealed a widespread conspiracy of silence around the world's leading cause of climate change: animal agriculture.
Janay Laing, founder of the New Omnivore, says the impact of animal farming has a direct impact on Miami. "Dozens of studies have found that meat production is one of the leading drivers of climate change, due to the huge amounts of greenhouse gases created by the feeding, growing, and transporting of farm animals," Laing explains. "Because air affects water, about 90 percent of added atmospheric heat is being transferred into our oceans. These warmed oceans are conveying large amounts of heat around the globe and are now causing ice sheets in polar regions (mostly the Arctic) to melt, leading to higher sea levels."
In Miami-Dade County, which has more residents living less than four feet above sea level than any U.S. state after Louisiana, this issue is particularly pressing. Not to mention: "We have more valuable real estate than any other low-lying coastal area in the world and continue to build expensive properties in the most flood-prone areas," she adds. "It doesn't help that our local government has been extremely slow to acknowledge this threat and take meaningful action."
Next Tuesday, March 8, Laing will host a lunch talk at the Center for Social Change (2103 Coral Way, Miami) on the realities of modern meat production — and why it's on track to drown Miami. The free talk runs from 12:20 to 1:30 p.m., and guests are invited to bring their own lunch.
The purpose of the New Omnivore is to promote cultured and plant-based meats as an alternative, sustainable food source. Despite the widespread belief that driving hybrid cars and taking shorter showers is the answer to our environmental woes, the facts point to cutting meat consumption as the real solution.
So what can the average Miamian do? According to Laing, one of the easiest ways to help is to alter eating habits.
"Taking action on climate change is a multifaceted issue, and there are many things people can do," she says. "But the single most powerful thing all of us can do is to change how we eat meat, since raising livestock on a large scale contributes so much to global warming."
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According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transportation sector. Livestock covers 45 percent of the planet's total land, and meat and dairy production is also the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
Hence the mission of the New Omnivore and what Laing will talk about at her event. This isn't about giving up meat, she says; it's about getting it from better, more humane, and more sustainable sources.
"By opening our minds to eating meat in a better way — without using animals — we can continue to enjoy our favorite foods without having such a huge impact on the environment."
The BYO lunch talk is free and runs from 12:20 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at the Center for Social Change, 2103 Coral Way, Miami. RSVP on Facebook.