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Guest editorial

In 2017, Park City needs to grab climate change by the fork

Chris Shapard
Salt Lake City Director, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition

As the consequences of climate change and the threat posed by continued inaction becomes more dire, Park City is paying closer attention than ever. Yet despite the danger a warming climate poses to our treasured ski town, we have yet to deploy one of the most critical and effective tools we have to help stop it: our forks.

When people think about climate change, we typically picture images of cars and smokestacks. What most people don’t realize is that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, and that it takes an average of more than 10 times as much fossil energy to produce a calorie of animal protein than it does to produce a calorie of plant protein.

Our appetite for beef — by far one of the most resource inefficient foods we choose to eat — is also the leading cause of the Amazon Rainforest being destroyed.

Changing climate conditions are particularly relevant to snow-dependent Park City, so it only makes sense that our small but powerful community would help lead the way in stopping climate change.

According to a 2012 report on climate change in Park City, base snow levels could reach only 26 percent of 2000-2001 levels, and the snowline could shift up by around 8,000 feet.

A study by the Environmental Working Group found that if everyone in the United States ate no meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off of the road, or not driving 91 billion miles.

As much as we humans like to avoid facing reality, especially when it challenges such deeply ingrained habits and customs as the food we eat, it has never been easier to make the switch to more sustainable, plant-based foods.

We are fortunate to have access to multiple quality supermarkets stocking fruits and vegetables of every sort all year round. It has never been easier to find ice creams and yogurts made from cashew milk or coconut milk, and innovative companies pop-up seemingly every day with plant-based versions of every type of animal-meat, from breakfast sausage to fish-fillets, so convincing that they fool people in blind taste-tests.

Other progressive cities like Portland, Oregon and Aspen, Colorado have adopted “Meatless Monday” resolutions, taking a step towards addressing this too often ignored problem. Many other cities in the U.S. and around the world have taken similar steps.

No serious environmental initiative is complete without addressing the issue of our food choices, and if Park City wants to be taken seriously as a community focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship, we cannot leave this critical component unaddressed simply because we find it inconvenient.

As a native of Park City who understands what this community means to the people who live here and to everyone who comes to experience its beauty, I believe we owe it to future generations to do everything in our power to preserve this amazing place, and it starts with all of us and the choices we make every day, including what we put on the end of our forks.

Not only is this one of the best steps we can take for our town and the rest of the planet, but it’s the best choice we can make for our own health, and for the animals we share this beautiful world we call home with.


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