New Zealand talks plant-based nutrition in school
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New Zealand school systems are now advising students to eat less meat and dairy in order to combat climate change.
The new curriculum launched in January, according to Reuters. It uses research to show secondary school students how climate change impacts the planet.
It also teaches students how consuming meat and dairy products can increase global temperatures. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
According to New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment, the country’s gross GHGs have increased by 24 percent from 1990 to 2018. In 2018, New Zealand emitted 78.9 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The Ministry states that the agriculture sector was one of the largest contributors of the country’s GHGs, representing 48 percent of total emissions. The energy sector came in second, emitting 41 percent of emissions.
The animal agriculture industry is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis. In September 2018, the UN Environment Programme called meat the “world’s most urgent problem.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apparently agreed. Earlier this year, she launched sweeping reforms to tackle climate change earlier this year. These included plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050 and emission targets for the agriculture sector.
In order to help combat global warming, New Zealand’s secondary school systems are encouraging students to have meatless days. They want students to consume more plant-based foods. The new course also points to recycling, driving less, and buying secondhand or used products as additional ways to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A recent study from the University of Otago revealed a population-wide shift to a plant-based diet may reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 42 percent.
According to lead researcher Jono Drew, animal agriculture is harmful to human health, too.
“International research has highlighted the climate and health co-benefits that arise from consuming a diet that is rich in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes,” Drew told New Food Magazine.
But many meat and dairy farmers have not been receptive to the new curriculum. “If they are going to continue to bite the hand that feeds them, and farming feeds New Zealand, then they are going to lose out in the long term,” Malcolm Lumsden, a New Zealand dairy farmer, told Reuters.
Some politicians are welcoming the new educational resources. They say it’s important for children to learn how climate change will impact them when they are adults.
“[E]very year they have been alive has been one of the hottest on record and they expect us to act,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw said in a statement after the curriculum’s launch.