One day in 1991, an advertising executive rode his bike off a cliff in a heartbreaking attempt to end his life. What saved him were a few tree branches.
From this moment of utter despair came a realisation. He needed higher purpose, and for him, that meant pursuing the things he believed in. So he’s launching an app to save humanity, by changing one simple thing about what we eat: meat. With every bite, the app will show just how much meat matters – for ourselves, each other and the environment that keeps us all alive. In the process we’ll all be saving a lot of trees, which incidentally is what saved this man.
It gets more interesting. This man is Chris Darwin, and he’s the great-great-Grandson of Charles Darwin.
“I started out my career essentially arresting people’s attention to sell them stuff they didn’t need,” Darwin says. “Now, I’m running a PR campaign for Mother Nature.”
That’s the big picture vision for his new app, anyway. What the app does is act as your super-well-informed, encouraging friend on your journey to swap some meat out with more earth-friendly protein (you know, the ones that come from plants). It’s like MyFitnessPal for meat eaters – but instead of counting calories, The Darwin Challenge rewards you for doing something that counts.
Every time you quaff some hummus instead of a steak, The Darwin Challenge app will tell you:
- how much longer you’ll live
- how much money you’re saving
- how many animals and fish you’re saving
- how much forest or land you’re saving
- how much greenhouse gas you’re saving from screwing humanity over
- how much water you’re saving
- what you’re doing for hungry people, who will be better able to afford food now that they’re not competing with our steaks
- you’re an awesome human for giving a shit (jk on this…maybe)
“We often see nature as separate from us, but The Darwin Challenge is about connecting nature to every bite we eat. Because it’s essential that we nurture the world that nurtures us. And I don’t mean that in an airy fairy, wouldn’t it be nice way. I mean if we don’t, we will literally not have enough air that we can breathe. And if people in the West keep eating too much meat, we’ll also keep starving developing countries, while giving ourselves all sorts of health problems. So really, The Darwin Challenge is about loving ourselves, and the other people living on this planet, by loving the environment.”
It all sounds a bit far-fetched (or flung) from the pork on your fork. But the facts are on Darwin’s side. Even if you couldn’t care less about fluffy bunnies, eating too much meat has been linked to most of the top things that kill us early and cost us a ton. “It’s why we didn’t just want to include environmental benefits in the app – because really, it’s our health and survival at stake.”
Of course, if you do care about fluffy bunnies, the app will give you plenty of motivation too. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, meat is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. The vast majority of forests bulldozed abroad and land that we clear (and the animals living in or on them) are to make way for farming meat, or the food that our meat eats. And as Darwin points out, we need forests to breathe.
In the mean time, if you’re not sure what to eat instead of meat, check out our lazy person’s guide to plant proteins, and how to make ’em delicious.