Science Digest: What you can do to help combat climate change - shop less, eat crickets
Crickets are a source of high protein that don't produce methane and require less food than cattle or sheep. Photo / File Do you want to play your part in helping the climate? Well, switching from beef and lamb to crickets is just one option that could soon be on the table for climate-conscious New Zealanders. This weekend, the United Nations' COP26 Climate Summit begins, with thousands of world leaders and business and government representatives gathering in Glasgow to discuss an international framework to reduce emissions and limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. Summits like this make it seem like government decisions are only hope but in today's episode of Science Digest, the New Zealand Herald's new science podcast, Dr Michelle Dickinson is joined by four New Zealanders to discuss ways in which New Zealanders can change their habits to help the planet. One of the guests is John Hart, a former organic beef and lamb farmer who has recently downsized from methane-producing livestock to crickets. They can be used as an alternative protein in food, including being used in powder and alongside other high-protein foods like chickpeas. Hart told Dickinson that he calls crickets "mini-beef" as they are like "little livestock". "The reason crickets and insects in general are so good for having low emissions and low water use and low land use and low feed use, because insects are really efficient at turning food into protein," Hart said. He said 1kg of crickets needs just 2kg of food, whereas beef needs up to 12kg of food. A self-described "cricket poo geek", Hart said that crickets also don't produce methane like cows or sheep. The frass they produce is the only output from a cricket farm, but it can be used as a nitrogen fertiliser. However, while Hart has been able to make the change, he does not expect crickets will fully replace beef and sheep and changing to organic farming isn't a simple switch. "The farmers who are locked into current systems have sometimes less ability to change than we might think, because everything they're told by banks and the fertiliser companies, is keeping them going in the system they are in. "Changing out of that into something new can be quite a leap of faith, and it's not one that's always supported," Hart added. The key thing consumers can do to influence dairy companies is buy organic, Hart said. That's something back up by Brianne West, a local entrepreneur and founder of Ethique. She launched her plastic-free beauty company in 2015 to play her part in reducing wasteful plastics. West passed on a number of tips to Dickinson but had one simple message for New Zealanders wanting to make a change. "Stop buying stuff you don't need. Literally, the best thing you can is just stop." Regardless of what decisions are made in Glasgow, a leading local expert said nothing is preventing us from making changes in our own lives today. The University of Auckland's Dr Daniel Hikuroa was a signatory on an open letter published last week urging New Zealanders to take urgent action to prevent climate change. He told Dickinson he does not expect that negotiators at COP26 will include an indigenous perspective in their decision making, but they should be drawing on this knowledge or matauranga Maori - that goes back thousands of years. "They have knowledge that goes back thousands of years, and we've demonstrably proven that that knowledge can accurate." He said people should think about tikanga which he describes as a Maori way of doing the right thing and "being a good ancestor" when contemplating what they can do around climate change. "I really strongly believe in collective impact. If everyone does their little bit, we're going to be in a much better place," Hikuroa said. "We can have any number of rules in place they come up with at COP26, but that shouldn't impact you or I or anyone listening from doing the right thing, whatever works best in your context to reduce our carbon footprint so we can say, hand on heart, to our children that we did our best." Science Digest is available to follow on iHeartRadio , Spotify , Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. If I return to visit my dying mother I will be arrested on the spot.