4 Vegan Climate Evangelists You Need to Follow Now
Ever since Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth 15 years ago, re-energizing the environmental movement and making the term “global warming” part of the everyday vernacular, there has been one glaring inconsistency that plagues a segment of that movement.
Despite evidence indicating that mass production of meat products is a leading contributor to global warming, among other environmental hazards (like toxic manure runoff into water sources and deforestation), many climate activists consider asking people to change their eating habits (or even asking themselves to) as being a bridge too far. That was another Inconvenient Truth, and one Gore wasn’t talking about.
Look, I am all about holding systems as accountable as we try to hold individuals; that we shouldn’t ask individuals to stop using plastic straws if we’re not asking huge corporations to reduce their plastic production and consumption.
But among the individual actions one can take on behalf of the environment, going vegan is among the most powerful.
People will say it’s unrealistic to expect the masses to adopt vegetarian lifestyles, but did you know that 20 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that women wouldn’t use the Internet because it was too intimidating?
So, if you’d rather ditch the naysayers and get inspired by some yaysayers, here are four climate evangelists for whom being vegan is a core part of their message. You can’t spell “evangelist” without “vegan,” so it seems about right to me!
Thunberg would obviously top any list of environmental warriors. The youngest TIME Person of the Year ever, she seemed to single-handedly galvanize a new generation to take up the cause of environmentalism back in 2018. Despite a voluminous Wikipedia page, very little is made of or discussed about her veganism ... even though it was among the very first actions she took, convincing her family to join her (which is sometimes the most difficult task!).
Along the way as an environmental activist, Thunberg’s managed to school us all on neurodiversity and put body-shamers to shame. Thunberg is truly an incredible person.
Butler has activism in her genes, as the great grand-niece of legendary activist Cesar Chavez. So maybe it’s no wonder that she also holds the distinction of the youngest person to ever give a TED Talk at 10 years old, where she talked all about healing the planet by changing the way we eat.
Butler is 14 years old now, and she has evolved to bring a 360-degree lens to her vegan climate activism. She started out with concern for animals, then expanded her message to address animal agriculture’s impact on the environment. Next, she connected the dots to general social justice, for example, how the factory farms with the most toxic outputs are often located in low-income communities and communities of color, with resulting negative health outcomes.
She’s the founder of the youth-led Youth Climate Save and Butler has even been made into a Marvel Hero!
“Earthling Ed” Winters
Like Butler, Winters' awakening to the environmental impact of our dietary choices came after going vegan for the animals. I suppose you could say that veganism is a gateway to full-on environmentalism since this is a common progression for many.
Winters is most active in his native UK, but he also has a particular focus on speaking on university campuses, where he gives many talks and participates in debates. He has founded Surge Media, which produces content to make his environmental and animal justice arguments as dynamic, shareable, and impactful as possible. With his YouTube channel at more than 400K subscribers and more than 500K Insta followers, he’s striking a chord.
Dr. Sailesh Rao
What motivates a Stanford Ph.D. in electrical engineering and longtime high-level engineering employee at companies like Intel and Bell Labs to shift their focus to environmentally focused veganism? Well, like most of his fellow vegan environmental evangelists on this list, it started with the animals.
Rao made a pinky promise with his granddaughter that he would do everything he could to convince people to go vegan to save her friends, the animals. But he also saw veganism as an ecological necessity.
Since that pinky promise nearly a decade ago, Rao has written two books and executive produced multiple documentaries focused on our shared fates on this shared planet.
Rao’s website has a wealth of educational resources and position papers—a great starting place to solidify your own knowledge of the connection between animal agriculture and the dire straits we find ourselves in here on planet Earth. Find more at the site of his organization, Climate Healers.
In case these four examples aren’t enough to add environmentalism to your veganism toolkit (and vice-versa), you might be interested to know that Al Gore himself did eventually state that he had gone vegan. He mentioned it briefly in 2013, and the latest reference to it I could find was from 2019, so I can’t speak for his current menu. But I think it’s safe to say he saw the light on the connection between veganism and saving the planet.
Or to be more accurate: Saving a planet that the human species can safely inhabit.
Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and This Week-ish newsletter, and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Learn more at elisacp.com.