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The Gap Year Blog

Changing Diets and the Global Shift to Asia

21 Feb 2020 13:55 PM

Globalisation has been both a blessing and a curse for the environmental conservation movement which has grown in recent years, as the potential impacts of climate change continue to plague the headlines. One way in which I would describe globalisation would be “the growing interconnectedness and interdependence between nations”. This has always been promoted as a positive change by international organisations, national governments and hyper globalisers; however, the spread of culture from the Western world and the impact of this change in lifestyles internationally is often overlooked.

Since the beginning of the decade, there has been a massive global shift to the Asian powerhouses such as India, China and Indonesia. There has been a change in which countries carry out the most economic activity; as a result, there have been rising incomes within many emerging countries. For instance, China began this decade with a GDP per capita of $959.37, but by 2018 this had risen to a staggering $10,200. As connectivity increases and technology improves, lifestyles and ideas are also spread. A new popularised lifestyle choice is the American diet, which includes high meat consumption and overconsumption of demerit goods such as McDonalds. This aspect of Western culture has started to become a luxury lifestyle choice, so as incomes rise in MEDCs; the consumption of high meat diets and high fats foods has increased substantially across Asia.

One may be wondering how this relates to the conservation of the earth. These changes could be detrimental to the atmosphere in the long run. According to the BBC, “Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, according to a University of Oxford study”. A large-scale increase in the amount of people who consume meat once a week can potentially increase greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in future. An individual who consumes a beef once or twice a week would increase their carbon footprint by 640 KG. Scaled up to a growing middle class within an area (South Asia) which accounts for nearly 3/7 of the world’s population, the effects of changing diets could be catastrophic.

Often people make articles like this and end it on a bitter note, telling the person reading to change their habits and adopt new lifestyle. However, I am going to offer something different. I am offering a possible solution to this issue. Anyone can talk about an issue, but discussing how to solve it makes the difference.

On a personal level, one can take up environmentally friendly diet challenges such as going vegan for a month, or not eating fast food for month. Additionally, the spread of cultures has led to changing diets. So, one can take it upon themselves to use the abundance of technology available to spread information about their diets and lifestyle routines which are more environmentally friendly. Hopefully, by using the wide range of global links provided by the internet; an eco-friendlier lifestyle can be adopted by the masses.

The major decision makers are the national governments and the investors who benefit greatly from the economic prosperity which arises from the increased meat consumption by their increasingly affluent consumer base. A way that governments could help to combat the potentially irreversible damage caused by climate change is by banning or setting a cap on the imports of certain goods such as pork and poultry. This could deter suppliers from working with domestic companies in these nations, as caps on importing often limit economies of scale from being reached fully. Furthermore, the cap will lead to an increase in prices for such commodities, which will inevitably reduce the quantity demanded by the consumers as excess demand is not being met. As each price the quantity supplied is lower, businesses will experience a rise in costs - which for any TNC is not a desired option. Countries such as Thailand, which have experienced massive growth in GDP due to the global economic shift, are now taking leading roles in protecting the environment. By Thailand banning plastic bags on the 1st of January, they have helped to pave the way for large scale conservation initiatives by major political decision makers.

Major changes like this can help to lessen the impact of changing diets and help to promote conservation on a large and small scale. Small scale projects such as Frontier’s South East Asia trail, is perfect example of using the resources around us to help reduce the impacts of global warming.

I hope that after reading this, you not only feel enlightened but empowered. Go and change your diet and try and popularise your lifestyle. If you're feeling adventurous and want to redefine travel aboard, why not check out the 400 projects Frontier has going on now.

Guest Blogger: Work Shadowing

By Alisha Kasobya - Wallington High School for Girls

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!