What we eat and a comic

27 Mar 2022

Everyone that has the capacity to make any change has the unique opportunity to do that, regardless of position. Don’t give up.

Welcome to the second climate newsletter for Wincoll. If you’re reading these, think of them as your way in to having more conversations about climate with your peers and with dons.

Stories covered in this newsletter:

Food Emissions at Wincoll

Dr Clayton (AIC) and I have produced a document about emissions from food in Wincoll and the UK in general. This report aims to address the following:

I highly encourage you to read the report yourself. It is a brisk 11 pages and tries not to be too technical. However, for the sake of brevity, what follows is a brief summary of the key messages from the report.


A lot of the food at Winchester College is locally sourced. Unfortunately, this does not actually have a significant impact on our emissions since transport, retail and packaging on account for ~2% of emissions from food. Rather, the majority of emissions come from the inherent inefficiency in rearing animals. For this reason, changing our diet can have a huge effect on cutting emissions; for instance, cutting all red meat halves emissions from food in the UK.

The world’s food systems account for up to 34% of global emissions and are incredibly complicated. In the report we mainly look at meat, this is because it is the easiest and simplest place to reduce emissions.

Pork and poultry emissions are higher in the UK/W. Europe due to the prevalence of soya based feed, which has a high LUC (Land Use Change) impact. Beef production in the UK is relatively inefficient due to the dominance of grazing. Lamb is mostly reared on marginal land; this means that the opportunity cost (what the land could be doing for the climate) is large and rewilding that land would have a disproportionately small impact on food security.

This report looks primarily at 2 recommendations: EAT-Lancet recommends sets out a diet designed to be sustainable for 10 bn people and the NFS’s (National Food Strategy) recommendations for the UK. Both say that we should be eating less meat and dairy while eating more fruit and veg. The EAT-Lancet diet also cuts the UK’s consumption by about 50% (while still increasing the amount of vegetables we are eating).

The UK is the 13th worst in the world by kg CO2 eq/capita/yr. Even upon this the average pupil at Winchester College emits 165-210% of the national average from food (this is a significant underestimate because the national average used accounts for opportunity cost but the Wincoll estimates do not). So not only is the UK one of the worst in the world (worse than France!), Wincoll is a top emitter.

We are currently seeing no meaningful change in diet nationally. Despite the minor changes we are seeing - eating more poultry and a little less bovine meat - we are not on track to achieve our targets. This means we need to take radical action as soon as possible - no solutions will simply happen. While these may seem like large changes, in reality this is simply a matter acknowledging there is a problem and enacting solutions we already have. Such changes would be greatly beneficial to all concerned.


Our World in Data: Blowing through our carbon budget with food alone
Our World in Data: Eat less meat not sustainable meat
Medium reads

Our World in Data is one of the places Dr Clayton and I probably visited most often when writing the above report. Their visualisations/articles are clear and succinct and always backed up with rock solid evidence. These two brief articles show where we’re headed if we continue with business as usual and emphasise one of the messages of the report - eat less meat not local/sustainable meat.


Kurzgesagt: Is Meat Really that Bad?
Short watch

Changing our diet can be a tough subject to broach, primarily because it’s part of our culture or because it’s something we’ve done so much that we don’t want to acknowledge how bad it is. There are some videos (not this one) that come to different conclusions about whether we should eat meat, and you’re more than welcome to watch them, but make sure you do your own research and challenge everything (what I write, what videos say, etc.) that way you’ll end up informed and can come to your own conclusions.


Outrage + Optimism: An appetite for Adaptation
O+O can also be found on your podcast app of choice. A full transcript is available on their website.

You know, at some point I’ll have to actually justify why I keep recommending O+O to people. I listen to what, 5.5 climate change podcasts and still O+O is my top priority and what I’m always recommendation. You could always listen yourself to find out why I like it!

The Most Important Comic Book On Earth

And why you should read it. Get it in Scilib (333.72)! Goodreads

Let’s be clear: I don’t know how to write book reviews. However, I plan on giving it a go. The Most Important Comic Book on Earth - Stories to save the world is a collection of stories. Over 300 people came together to produce more than 120 stories to save the world. There is a wonderful mix of humour, horror and hope.

This book is for everyone and could easily be a turning point in your opinions and actions about climate (as it was for me). After all, feeling empathy for those affected by climate change is a motivator second only to actually experiencing those effects.

It is broken up into the following 4 sections:

  1. CHANGE - a gallery of practices and systems that need changing
  2. PROTECT - what we have to protect and how we’re doing that
  3. RESTORE - 5 charities that are working to undo some of the damage
  4. INSPIRE - stories from some of the most influential speakers in the world

But such a summary cannot do justice to the comic.

“What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

There are some moments in The Most Important Comic that really hit hard. Obviously, there are plenty of sad/dead animals but the human stories are the true heavy hitters - and this book is not afraid to lead with those. This comic: knocked me over, made me question my priorities, pulled me up, showed me how it’s done, gave me a pat on the back and inspirational speech and then ended. There is not a page wasted. Read this book.

There are some pages of text, but they are few and far between as they are usually to introduce/close sections. Definitely worth reading them as well as the comic strips. The comic is spilt into sections and I recommend you take breaks while reading to allow yourself to process and relax a little. Try not to just read the words in this comic and move on - the art in this comic is just… wow.

“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land said ‘This is mine,’ and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, war, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the Earth belong to us all, and the Earth itself to nobody.” - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I compiled a list of organisations mentioned in the book (only 1 needed unblocking!). If you can’t get the book from Scilib as someone else got there first and there’s now a 10 person waiting list, have a look at some of these sites:

“It’s about time we had a talk with her about the birds and the bees.”

If you do end up buying this book for a friend or family member - as I plan on doing - you can be comfortable buying it knowing that all the royalties (profits) the author gets to charities (most of those listed above).

Lightning Round

TED: TED Countdown livestream
Long watch (full subtitles)

This video from October 2021 is provides an inspiring and empowering mix of TED talk highlights, music and even some comedy in a digestible and fun 2.5 hours. Countdown covers briefly all areas of climate change, from food to fossil fuels. It realises we being hopefully is hard, and has plenty of that for us. This is really worth a watch, so much so that I’m finding it really hard to encapsulate here but here’s the big takeaway: because we’re causing climate change, we can be hopeful, because that means we can stop it. Speak up, and take action; start small and go big.

Pricing Nature: What’s the Right Price for Carbon Emissions?
Pricing Nature can also be found on your podcast app of choice. A full transcript is available on their Substack page. More episodes.

Last edition I recommended the first episode of pricing nature, and I’m back to recommend episodes 2 & 3 (or more!) for over Easter. Be sure to listen in order of publication so you don’t become too lost. Setting a cost for carbon requires quantifying the social cost of carbon - this is not simple. In episode 2 our hosts discuss process of setting a price.

Emergence magazine: When the Earth Started to Sing
The Emergence Magazine podcast can also be found on your podcast app of choice.

This episode of Emergence magazine (the 0.5 podcasts from above) is a beautiful audio experience of the history and brief present of sound. It’s relaxing - practically a meditation makes great listening before bed.

“Honey, birds and bees were small creatures that used to fly in the air.” - The Most Important Comic Book on Earth

Just a quick note: Editions for the mailing list will be coming ~ every other Monday during term-time (unless there’s no news at all or I’m super busy), so it should be more consistent from now on. There will also be ~half termly editions for the whole school, which will contain mostly highlights from the couple editions you’ve seen.

See you next Edition!
Oscar Mitcham