Now that 2020 came to an end, it is time to look back and reflect on my top ideas of last year.
In 2020, I focused on effective giving: donating to the most effective charities. I increased my personal donations to 50% of my net, after-tax income and made a list of my top three charities: Wild Animal Initiative, Animal Ethics and the Good Food Institute. The first two charities are promoting research in welfare biology, how to help nature to improve the welfare of wild animals. The third charity promotes the development of new animal-free food. Wild Animal Initiative and the Good Food Institute were top recommended animal charities of Animal Charity Evaluators in 2020.
I came to the conclusion that veganmodernism could be our final strategy for meat abolition. Veganmodernism focuses on research and development of new animal-free food, using modern technologies, instead of doing traditional vegan outreach, consumer behavioral change and corporate pressure campaigns.
I estimated the extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D. In a medium estimate, funding 1 dollar of cell-based meat R&D could spare the suffering of 100 vertebrate farm animals and the killing of 1000 vertebrate land and sea animals. This is at least an order of magnitude more effective than other animal advocacy actions. Due to that article, someone donated 5000 dollar to New Harvest, an organization who, like the Good Food Institute, funds research and development in cellular agriculture. I also made an infographic to demonstrate why cell-based meat will be better than animal-based meat.
As a result of these reflections on the importance of alternative protein such as cell-based meat, I co-founded the Leuven Alt. Protein Project, a university-based initiative by the Good Food Institute.
Cell-based meat or clean protein is also very beneficial for the climate, as I learned about a second big climate benefit of animal-free agriculture: the carbon sequestration potential. With a global animal-free food production, less agricultural land is required. Roughly 7 million km² could be reforested spontaneously (without having to plant trees). Those new grown forests could absorb more than half of the total amount of CO2 ever emitted from burning fossil fuels. I argued that clean protein and clean energy R&D, or more generally clean technology innovation is the most cost-effective climate action. Funding 1 dollar of clean meat R&D could avoid 1 ton CO2-equivalents in the atmosphere. That is more cost-effective than other climate actions.
As agriculture is one of humanities most harmful activities, I am looking for effective means to minimize agricultural harms. Animal-free agriculture is necessary but not sufficient. We have to be much more ambitious and move towards zero harm by exploring the possibilities of high-tech, soil-free (landless) agriculture such as vertical farming and air-based food. Lisa Dyson, CEO and founder of Air Protein, became my new role model, as she exemplifies my personal paradigm shift from radical ecology with soil-based low-tech food to rational ecology with air-based high-tech food. I included my affiliation with radical ecology in my by now long list of personal mistakes.
In general, I realized once more how important scientific research, development and innovation of new technologies is. We need more research in welfare biology, clean protein, clean energy and soil-free agriculture.
Happy New Year!