Playing chicken with climate change

The Executive Director of the Matuaileoo Environment Trust Incorporation (M.E.T.I.), Dr. Walter Vermeulen has expressed concerns over the impacts of climate change on Samoa and Small Island Developing States. 

Dr. Vermeulen made these statements in M.E.T.I.’s first health column for the year.

According to Dr. Vermeulen, the latest Cyclone to hit Fiji, with winds of more than 300 km per hour and the destruction it brought to its Northern islands offers a sharp reminder that our Pacific Island countries are bearing the brunt of accelerated climate change. 

He also added that some 12 years ago, in a funding application, he wrote: “while in no way having caused the problem, because of its geographical location, like many other Small Island Developing States, Samoa will be among the first countries to face the full impact of the combined effects of Global Warming.

“This will challenge the stamina and resourcefulness of all Samoans.”

However, there is an implication that Samoa contributes, albeit on a minuscule level, to climate change.

Dr Vermeulen stated that Samoa’s complicity is evidenced by the fact that it imports 18,000 tons of chicken parts a year, mostly from America.

“They originate from poultry raised in the most appalling conditions, where hundreds of thousands of birds are held in so-called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) where they are raised in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions requiring the constant feeding of antibiotics to keep them alive.

“They are fed in these huge sheds enormous quantities of cheap grains (mostly corn and soya beans) that are now produced worldwide. However, therein lies the catch: eating animal products like chicken instead of plant-based products require five times more land to grow the animal feeds required.

“To produce all these grains, extra crop land is required, which is the main cause of the extensive deforestation that has been seen happening over the past few decades. 

"Someone calculated that if every person on the planet would adopt the meat-based diet, the land required to grow all the crops needed to feed the animals to be slaughtered would cover 1 ¾ of the size of the Earth.”

He also stressed that it has been proven that the industrial animal farming systems that are now in operation, producing the billions of animals that are being slaughtered constantly, are the drivers of accelerated climate change because of the massive deforestation that is required to find crop land to grow animal feeds.

“The rain forests are the ‘lungs of the earth’ that absorb (together with the oceans) the carbon dioxide (CO2). When that function is eliminated or greatly decreased, CO2 will accumulate in the atmosphere and lead to Global Warming (or what is now, more appropriately, called Global Heating).

“It has been calculated that if humanity would choose to switch to the Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet, CO2 emissions could be cut in half in a few years. Combined with massive reforestation, humanity would have a chance to reverse the path that now is leading for Climate Change to potentially become a catastrophic threat to the survival of the human race. 

Dr Vermeulen asks a question of us all,

“Wouldn’t you want to be part of this Movement to save humanity? And those of you suffering from NCD [non-communicable disease], by following the WFPB diet would not only improve your health, but also help contain Climate Change: truly a ‘win-win’ situation!” 

M.E.T.I. is a registered Samoan organisation implementing permaculture projects across Upolu and Savaii while educating Samoans about the importance of nutrition.

The non-governmental organisation is also passionate about promoting the Whole-Food Plant-Based diet and reversing the trend of obesity, diabetes and heart disease which has become extremely prevalent in Samoa. 


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