Climate guilt is real, and it may affect up to 64% of Americans (aka the percentage of people in the U.S. in 2016 who are greatly or fairly worried about global climate change and probably have a carbon footprint significantly higher than zero).
In 2015, the New York Times named “climatarian” one of the words of the year (right after cat café), defined as:
a diet whose primary goal is to reverse climate change. This includes eating locally produced food (to reduce energy in transportation), choosing pork and poultry instead of beef and lamb (to limit gas emissions), and using every part of ingredients (apple cores, cheese rinds, etc.) to limit food waste.
However, “climatarian” (n) is not yet recognized by any of the major dictionaries, such as Merriam Webster or Oxford.
Therefore, I’m proposing a second, broader definition of this newfound term:
climatarian (noun) | ‘klīmit(e)rēən : a person who makes both day-to-day and major life decisions based around the prospect of climate change and its impacts; experiences often debilitating guilt regarding their contributions to climate change; and spends inordinate amounts of time worrying about catastrophic climate change
AS IN …
When Ricardo declined to travel to Paris because of the carbon footprint of the trip, Suzy accused him of being a climatarian.
The Smiths opted to raise felines instead of children because they identify as climatarians.
Reilly is having difficulty completing her classwork because she is distracted by the prospect of runaway climate change destroying everything she knows and loves.
You might be a climatarian if:
- The taste of shame overpowers even the strongest delicious flavors when you consume beef, pork, out-of-season produce, and unsustainably farmed fish.
- You agonize over simple decisions at the grocery store, baffled by whether you should prioritize local, non-GMO, organic, free-range, and/or cost.
- You try to hide the plastic bottle/disposable coffee cup that you bought in a moment of weakness from others.
- You love the show Tiny House, but don’t live in a small home yourself, and therefore experience a measured degree of self-hate while watching.
- You experience a minor panic attack when you’re forced to throw away the now moldy leftovers you forgot about in the back of your fridge because you haven’t gotten around to establishing a compost pile yet.
- Water World is one of your favorite movies!
- Netflix keeps recommending environmental documentaries like GMO OMG and Cowspiracy.
- You tell people you have a Costco membership because of the great deals, but really you’re starting to horde non-perishables in case of a potential climapocalypse.
- When you forget your reusable bags, you attempt to cram groceries into your purse or carry them in a carefully balanced pile in your arms to the amusement/pity of the cashier.
But if climatarians are going to try to affect large-scale change, they must dwell in this reality. Climatarians must strike a balance.
We can’t ask everyone to totally abandon their cars, go off-grid, and become subsistence farmers. But we can make a concerted effort to reduce our impacts as we fight for systematic change.
And so The Climatarian documents the daily struggle to live (and eat) in a way that contributes as little as possible to environmental injustices, the oppression of others, and, of course, climate change.