Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Tuesday, December 07, 2021

While many of us struggle to watch policymakers continue ignoring the reality and the severity of climate change, we often forget that government offices are not the only spaces where change can take place. It won’t be the politicians who save our planet, it will be individuals who are inspired by the idea of a better future. Unfortunately, while we remain quick to judge the lack of action on the part of our country’s leaders, we fail to recognize the lack of action on our own part.

When it comes to climate change and environmental protection, the only real way to see results is if the average person starts to make a conscious effort to live sustainably. However, living sustainably means more than just recycling and using reusable grocery bags. One of the most impactful things an individual can do to combat climate change is to reject the meat industry and adopt a vegan or plant-based diet, or at the very least limit their meat consumption.

According to an article by The New York Times, in the U.S., farming is responsible for 574 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. About 42 percent of these emissions come from animal agriculture. Worldwide, somewhere between 14.5 and 18 percent of all human-induced emissions come from livestock.

The environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet are clear. However, we still struggle to see any sort of dramatic change in the way Americans consume food. This lack of change is especially true for men.

As of 2017, only 0.5 percent of the U.S. population adhered to a vegan diet. Of these 1.62 million Americans, 74 percent of them are women. This glaring disparity between genders is due largely to gender stereotyping and the existence of toxic masculinity.

Mainstreamed ideas of masculinity link meat to manliness. Although this trope is antiquated, it still rings true for most men. They have been led to believe from a young age that eating meat will make them manly (whatever that means).

Vegans fall on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of masculinity. They are often stereotyped as frail, sickly and vulnerable, basically the opposite of how men are expected to be. Beyond this, vegans are often characterized as weak-minded because they express strong feelings about the environment, as if a passion for activism is somehow emasculating.

No matter how unfair or inaccurate these stereotypes of the vegan community are, they do still inhibit many men from adopting a plant-based diet. Even when men want to do more to live sustainably, they remain held back by societal pressures to present themselves as manly. The risk of becoming a social outcast and taking a stance that makes them look weak is too much to wager for a safe planet.

I believe the next step we can take to further sustainability efforts in the U.S. is to stop normalizing gender stereotypes. We are already seeing this happen in small waves, but the demanding nature of climate change calls for social upheaval.

Toxic masculinity is a hindrance to many aspects of American culture. The impact on our planet, however, is what makes it an even more immediate problem that needs to be solved. There is no reason half of the population should continue to consume destructively. Everyone should consider a healthier lifestyle.

Abigail Miller is a UF political science and journalism senior. Her column appears on Mondays.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox
Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2021 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.