Thursday, September 6, 2007

Load up the Hummer, Ma, we're going to Washington.

Studies now show that dietary changes can drastically impact greenhouse gas buildup, and that the practice of raising meat (not to mention transporting it, and of course the massive amount of space and energy it takes to grow feed corn, the environmental damages caused by erosion, or by nitrogen pollution leading to giant anaerobic 'dead zones' in bodies of water, say, like the Gulf of Mexico...), is the biggest contributor to global warming in the United States. An article in the NYTimes recently discussed the more active roles being taken by various animal rights groups in highlighting the connection between diet and environment. Their goal is to point out that people can go on and on about cars, and changing their lifestyles, but that to truly make effective differences one really must change their lifestyle.

I'm a vegetarian not because I don't like to eat meat, or because I think it's intrinsically wrong to do so (and I probably would eat meat under particular conditions), but because as a person who considers themselves fairly 'aware' of what's going on in our world, I don't think it's ethical to do so. While I at times think the more orthodox vegans can be obnoxious in the way only 'fundamentalists' can be, the call for self-control implied in the major changes in lifestyle necessitated by a transformed and transforming world highlights most people's bottom-line unwillingness to do more than pay environmental lip-service. Our culture of self-indulgence (where a sense of entitlement seems to be the ugly step-sibling of the American dream), needs to be shaken like a baby will be seriously challenged in the years to come, and people absolutely will be forced to make changes in their lives beyond using long-lasting lightbulbs.

Here's the University of Chicago report by Eshel and Martin (2006), Diet, Energy, and Global Warming where much of the data comes from.

Meat Production 'Beefs Up Emissions' September 7th, The Guardian

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