Kyle Luzynski advocates for a vegan diet to combat climate change

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Kyle Luzynski aims to make the Midwest vegan by 2056 through his work as the executive director of Project Animal Freedom.

When Kyle Luzynski was a child living in Pacific, Missouri, the remnants of a winter’s snowfall seemed to last for days.

He could overturn logs in his wooded backyard  and find Spotted Salamanders squirming from his grasp. The toad population was so vast that he kept his eyes glued to his feet, lest he step on a frog.

Upon returning to his childhood home nearly a decade later, he noticed no Spotted Salamanders and he no longer had to watch out for toads. These minute details sounded the alarm for Luzynski that climate change was on the move.

Kyle Luzynski is the executive director of Project Animal Freedom. Photo by Zoe DeYoung.

“Study after study has shown even relatively small changes can have a profound impact, and we are rapidly approaching tipping points at which we will experience catastrophic runaway climate change,” Luzynski said.

Luzynski is the executive director of Project Animal Freedom (PAF), an animal rights organization that aims to build a “fully vegan Midwest by 2056.” To reach this goal, the organization utilizes vegan outreach initiatives like movie screenings, community-building events like potlucks and “peaceful demonstrations.”

Much of PAF’s growth relies on donations and recruitment.

“We cannot bring about large-scale, systemic change without a mass movement behind us,” Luzynski said. “That’s why we need to recruit as many leaders as possible and secure as many financial resources as possible.”

Luzynski believes donations will profoundly impact PAF’s level of influence. He said PAF is currently unable to financially support chapters beyond its one active chapter in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“We simply don’t have the funding, the fuel necessary to power these engines for social progress as much as we need it to. So a major component of our mission is trying to overcome this massive deficit,” Luzynski said.

The fervor Luzynski has towards the animal rights movement is tangible, but research varies on whether an individual’s veganism can make a large-scale impact on climate.

“I’ve come to the point where I’ve had to realize you have to choose your battles wisely and try to create systemic change. Veganism is an endeavor, [and] largely an individual action,” Luzynski said. “But if you want a comprehensive environmental solution, you need to fundamentally change systems. And you can only get so far trying to change one person at a time.”

Frank Mitloehner is a professor from UC Davis who specializes in air quality with the university’s Department of Animal Science.

In an article by Sarah Marsh for The Guardian, Mitloehner shares similar viewpoints with Luzynski. He believes that a broad shift toward veganism rests on the shoulders of lawmakers.

“If we really want to make a difference in carbon emissions, we need to change policy,” Mitloehner said for The Guardian. “We need to incentivise those who can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to do so.”

A BMJ Open study investigated the impact of red and processed meat consumption on greenhouse gas emissions. This study showed the environmental impact of one vegan person: it pales in comparison to what could be achieved by reducing emissions generated by fossil fuels.

Nonetheless, Luzynski said he is confident that, “[Veganism] is the most comprehensive action you can take.”

“It addresses issues of water security, of water pollution, of land use and degradation, of climate change, particularly with respect to the emissions of nitrous oxide and methane, which are many times more potent greenhouse gasses than CO2,” Luzynski said.

Luzynski said he is optimistic that PAF can achieve its mission of widespread veganism, even if his contemporaries think his hope is naive

“I believe we can build a fully vegan world, whereas many of my contemporaries—especially those who have been in the animal rights movement longer than I—have become rather cynical about our chances of success,” Luzynski said. “They call me young, naive and ambitious. Those probably all apply to me, but I firmly believe that it’s within our power. If it’s within our power to cause these problems, it’s also within our power to stop causing those problems and start repairing the damage.”

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Zoe DeYoung