venerdì 18 dicembre 2015

Written by Bianca Thiglia 



I was definitely surprised when I discovered that Arnold Schwarzenegger was invited to speak at COP21 and at SciencesPo, the French university that recently launched different programmes focused on the environment.
He called global leaders to cope with environmental problems not considering the future but the present, acknowledging that it is now that people are dying for environmental disorders, nineteen thousand a day, bringing the example of cancer.

The next situation in which I noticed his green commitment was a video in which he -with a tank on the background- blew up an elephant tusk to “get rid of the demand once and for all”. It is easy to find the clip online. It was in support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), creating awareness about the fact that 96 elephants are killed every day for their ivory. He also acted against big cat hunting during the wave of protest following the killing of Cecil the lion. On social media it declared it is not ballsy as protecting big cat is instead, inviting to donate for their conservation.

I catalogued his sporadic presence in the environmental field as the public branding of a politician. So I was sincerely surprised when I heard of him advocating for the reduction of meat consumption. As far as I know, I’ve never heard of any politicians, including at COP21, directly touching such a delicate issue. Intensive animal farming is one of the major causes of greenhouse gasses emission, not considering the incredible damage due to deforestation, water pollution and feed production as one third of all food produced worldwide is dedicated to feeding livestock. Although the dramatic contribution of these practices, no one is seriously tackling the matter and little is being done to promote a diet that may include a smaller -and healthier- amount of animal products.
So Schwarzenegger the bodybuilder publicly declared that there is the urgency of reducing meat consumption. He is aware it is unrealistic for a major stake of the population to become vegetarian or even vegan, it is a drastic step. He advocates instead for a part-time vegetarianism, a commitment of eliminating meat from one’s diet at least two or three days a week, something anybody would easily do and a small step that needs to be taken to ignite the change. His effort was also aimed at eliminating concerns about how to build a terminator-body without beef. He ensured that he knows plenty of successful vegetarian bodybuilders and that animals are not the only available and valuable source of proteins.

Let’s talk about his fleet of Hummers, heavy war vehicles that pollute way more that a normal off-road. He promised he’d turned his Hummer into a hydrogen Hummer - and he did it. Through a public-private partnership, he also created California Hydrogen Highway, providing more than 50 additional fuelling systems across the State to encourage the shift to new technologies and the growth of the hydrogen vehicles market. While he was the governor of California, his environmental agenda was packed with other projects that made the State’s sustainability outstanding if compared to the others’.

The University of Southern California (USC) even has a department devoted to public policy named after him, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, whose slogan is “Advancing policy, not politics”. It is a reference to the ex-governor’s mixed agenda, that was often observed as including democratic measures although being republican. Of course the Institute has an environmental section.   

So, at least for sustainability concerns, I’ve learned again that is not alway useful to judge a book by its cover and consider positive steps however small they may appear - and however bizarre their source may sound.
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