We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Hamish Hamilton | 2019 | 272 pages
This is one of those books which deals with a divisive subject (climate change) and then creates yet more discord amongst readers because of the author’s style and message. Jonathan Safran Foer delves into the overarching global dilemma of the modern era in a highly personal way, underscored by a message of extreme urgency. His theme is that the task of saving our planet involves a great reckoning with ourselves, with our typically selfish human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. The underlying issue is that we have turned our planet into a huge farm for growing animal products, with catastrophic consequences. Only collective action offers any hope for the future and it starts with what we eat and don’t eat for breakfast.
Foer states early in his book that 97% of climate scientists have reached the conclusion that the planet is warming because of human activities. He argues that popular ‘green’ actions such as recycling, tree planting and humming around in electric cars simply aren’t enough to make the amount of change needed to reduce our overall human impact on the global climate. The bottom line, he believes, is that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and we can save the planet only if we significantly reduce our consumption of animal products.
The dichotomy between those who accept the science of climate change and those who don’t, according to the author, is trivial. The only dichotomy that really matters is between “those who act” and “those who don’t“. It follows that if animal agriculture is the major driving force in climate change then we must change our diets and our associated use of animal products.
The book offers a way of taking action effectively, i.e. eating differently. Specifically it advocates against consumption of animal products before dinner. The author is not encouraging complete elimination of dietary animal products, but maintains rather that eating as close to vegan* as possible before dinner would have a high impact on reducing greenhouse gases caused by mass animal farming.
Foer explains why taking meaningful action to mitigate climate change is incredibly simple yet terribly difficult. He delves into the difference between understanding and believing, emphasising that only the latter can motivate meaningful action. Translated to dietary habits “we must either let some eating habits go or let the planet go”.
* abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet