Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come if drastic measures are not taken

June 16, 2022  |  Tobias Lechner

Sometimes, the most rational thing to do is to s**t your pants. If you were not scared of falling rocks, deadly viruses, and even your next exam, then your chances of survival and prosperity would decrease drastically. One thing that should at least give you nightmares is the present climate crisis involving beautiful things such as groundwater running out, more fires and storms or simply sea levels which literally sink islands. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come if drastic measures are not taken. While some counter measures involve heavy changes in our lifestyle, others such as transitioning to a plant-based agriculture are rather simple. According to leading scientists (yes not just your local angry vegan group), drastically reducing our dairy and meat consumption by transitioning to a plant-based agriculture can have a massive impact on countering the climate crisis.[1] Yes, it also has some nice health and animal welfare side effects. If you are scared that a plant-based agriculture is a too heavy change in our lifestyle, then you should be sweating tears of anxiety, when thinking about which lifestyle changes the changes in climate will cause you to endure. Countering the climate crisis is more comfortable than climate changes themselves.

This rational anxiety has led students – whether from Exeter, UCL, Warwick, or Cambridge – of currently 20 UK universities (with around 20 more in the pipeline) to push their universities to implement a fully plant-based kitchen by the 2023/24 academic year. In recent years, many UK universities themselves have adopted sustainability as a goal of theirs. We are happy to give the administration a lift on the road to reaching their own goals. Universities are a crucial institution in our democracy, and bear a responsibility for the outcomes and values they reflect. We believe that to combat the climate crisis by transitioning to a plant-based agriculture, we need to address institutions rather than individuals. The campaign’s aim is not to blame individual students for what they consume but to push and assist the university as an institution to adopt necessary changes; allowing us to have a future that is worth studying for.

I have been part of the campaign at King’s College London (KCL). We have just reached the required support from 50 KCL students to become a campaign that is officially supported by the KCL’s student union. Great success. It being rational to be scared about the climate crisis, only indicates that the only feasible way of responding to the anxiety is by tackling its root, the crisis itself. Your fear of a fallen rock right above you is more than appropriate. And sitting down and contemplating about what could possibly be done by someone at some point, wondering whether the rock is real, or simply denying that you might be harmed by it falling on you is no long-term solution to your fear. In this case, moving to the side will not only eliminate the fear but also spare you of harm. Our fear of the climate crisis can only be met by taking measures against it. A crucially effective measure is transforming to a plant-based agriculture. We campaign for universities to endorse this necessary step. 

Tobias Lechner, MA Philosophy Student at King’s College London.

[1] Poore/Nemeck (2018): Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. SCIENCE, Vol 360, Issue 6392, p. 987-992.