Green Being
A Homemade Pizza made in a Cast Iron Pan

Confronting Our Emotions About Climate Change and Pizza

Going plant-based and eating for the environment, doesn’t mean we have to give up the foods we love (and love to share with others).

Pizza Is Still Important in a Plant-Based Future

Choosing a plant-based diet means thinking about the foods we love and love to share with others differently. Our first reactions may sometimes feel as if we are giving something up that we enjoy. However, there are an abundance of creative ways to celebrate your traditions and memories. A good example is pizza.

Pizza & Social Gathering

What is it about this timeless food? As kids, we are indoctrinated at an early age. I am amazed by my nephew’s (age 4) brand loyalty to Dominos by shouting, “Pizza Car! Pizza Car!” at the sight of the iconic logo plastered on a delivery vehicle.

Of course, I have my own memories of the foodstuff. There was the summer swim team pizza party the night before the big meet. I was 8 years old, and I just stuffed myself with the cheesy goodness, which prompted warnings that I would sink to the bottom of the pool!

Clearly, I survived. I didn’t win the race, but my memory of the event endures.

What does it mean to talk about our emotions, climate change, and what we eat? Is there a feeling of loss?

Pizza conjures images of melty, cheese gloriously stretching as a slice of pie is pulled away from the rest. Or, it means spending time with friends. It is the convenient food that will make everyone one happy.

Often, I hear from people that I meet or talk to about consuming plant-based foods that they could never give up dairy and cheese. This is not surprising. When researchers set out to learn which foods vegetarians eat, a majority report consuming dairy products.

Dairy foods are just slightly less negatively impactful than consuming red meat in terms of their contribution to greenhouse gasses. As a result, they are not an ideal food choice for reducing one’s foodprint, and I would argue that dairy is likely to be the most difficult item in the American diet to give up. After all, to do so would mean giving up pizza, which is absurd!

Many, I suspect, will think that a world without pizza as unappetizing. It is a false choice to either celebrate food traditions at the planet’s peril or to have to always feel like something is given up. Choosing a plant-based future means thinking about the foods we eat and how to make them differently.

Climate Change is Real. Enough with the Doom and Gloom.

We are at a point where we are inundated with messages about our impending peril from climate change if we do not act right now. We hear about species loss, unthinkable temperatures, human migrations, or even the nutritional quality of our food will be affected. And yet, it is in our nature to associate these calamities with a future time to be dealt with until later.

So, we employ a strategy that separates and splits our uncomfortable and inconvenient future with enjoying the present. This is a helpful tactic because it prevents us from having to deal honestly with our feelings of loss. A common defense mechanism in this situation may be to deny that the problem is even happening in the first place! Unfortunately, this kind of strategy often results in only making the future problem worse.

What it feels like to me.

Making lifestyle changes for the environment does not have to be painful. As with any change, it helps to have a support network. Maybe this is as simple as sharing a plant-based pizza with friends instead of one made with dairy.

Sure, there are pizza places that offer plant-based options, or you can even try your hand at making your own. But that isn’t the point.

In order to be successful, we have to be honest about our feelings of loss and climate change whether it is through the foods we eat and changing our diets, or confronting emotions stemming from species loss, glaciers retreating, or what the world will look and feel like for the next generations. To bottle those feelings up and not share them hurts us as individuals, and it doesn’t help the people we care for either. It is likely they have similar feelings about these issues as you do.

Acknowledge our emotions, move forward, be creative. Share a Pizza.

The first step to making change is identifying something you actually want to change. What does the future you look like or do differently after making this change? Think critically about it and identify what potential barriers might prevent you from being successful. Finally, what are steps you will take to be successful?

Choosing plant-based foods isn’t about giving something up. Instead it is a choice about how to do something differently. With dairy, there are numerous ways to accomplish the flavor and warmth of those familiar foods by using nuts instead. Your personal challenge to make a change can also be about learning something new.

As you gradually build new skills in the kitchen, you will also grow your confidence. And it turns out, as this happens, you will increase your motivation to keep going.

Instead of feeling despair over giving something up, think of what is possible. And don’t give up pizza![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Sources

Barnett, J., Tschakert, P., Head, L. and Adger, W. N. (2016) A science of loss. Nature Climate Change 6(11), 976-978. [PDF] researchgate.net

Berry, H. L., Waite, T. D., Dear, K. B., Capon, A. G., & Murray, V. (2018). The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 282-290. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0102-4 

Graça, J., Godinho, C. A., & Truninger, M. (2019). Reducing meat consumption and following plant-based diets: Current evidence and future directions to inform integrated transitions. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 91, 380-390. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2019.07.046

Neff, R. A., Edwards, D., Palmer, A., Ramsing, R., Righter, A., & Wolfson, J. (2018). Reducing meat consumption in the USA: A nationally representative survey of attitudes and behaviours. Public Health Nutrition, 21(10), 1835-1844. doi:10.1017/s1368980017004190

Randall, R. (2009). Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives. Ecopsychology, 1(3), 118-129. doi:10.1089/eco.2009.0034

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