• Marcus Baxby

Eating the Climate Change Elephant

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Watch the video version of this on YouTube here

When you face a big problem, what do you do?

Let’s say you’re trying to eat an elephant.

This is an old proverb, so many of you know where this is leading.

But the only way to eat an elephant

Is to take the first bite. Then the second. And so on.

It will take a while, probably weeks or months.

But keep taking small bites, and you will get there.

It would take much less time if you had a few mates helping you.

The more mates you had, the quicker it would take.

You would definitely need some co-ordination between yourselves

People starting with different body parts, and systematically working together, taking their own small bites, to eventually finish the elephant.

(this reminds me of going on safari in Sri Lanka, and seeing exactly which body parts are biggest. Especially the males.)

Photograph of a female elephant for parental advisory reasons

So common themes emerge with large scale problems.

Let’s take climate change.

The problem is so huge, and so global, that it can often feel like we, as individuals, are helpless.

That our actions will make no difference.

But there are things we can do as individuals.

Sure, the global nature of the problem means that nations and policy-makers around the world have to co-operate

(rather than splitting themselves off from the rest of their continent or saying ‘my country first’ which has become popular… *cough* Brexit *cough* Trump)

Global problems need global solutions.

But fundamentally, there are still actions that we can take as individuals,

and the more people that take those actions,

the more likely we are to be able to eat the climate change elephant.

Your diet is one of those things

You are in control of what you eat.

This, by the way, is still only a small part of the overall picture.

Food is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Which is not insignificant

But the other 75% is energy used in transport, electricity production, industrial processes etc.

Source: Poore and Nemeneck (2018)

So food is a relatively small part of the overall climate change ‘elephant’

(one leg of the elephant maybe? … OK I’ll stop this analogy now)

but it’s the one that I’m most interested in as a nutritionist.

We can, for example, reduce our meat consumption.

We don’t have to go vegan necessarily – it’s not sustainable for everyone for a start.

But there are things we can do.

So the same approach applies to other problems.

If you’ve got 30kg to lose,

Start with losing the first kilo.

Concentrate fully on that, before you move on.

Got a book to write? Start with writing one page.


And so on.

PS. The Healthy Planet Project is about improving your health, losing fat, or gaining muscle, in an environmentally sustainable way. Try the 14 Day Free Challenge here

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PPS. We want nutrition to have an impact around the world. Unfortunately, there are lots of children around the world without adequate access to food. We can make a difference. Click the link to Feed A Child.

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