Vegetarian is the New Prius.
January 19, 2007 10:57 PM   Subscribe

Vegetarian is the New Prius : following a report from the UN indicating that the billions of livestock raised for meat are wreaking more havoc on the environment than fossil fuels, environmental activists are linking vegetarianism with fighting global warming.
posted by grapefruitmoon (102 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Y'know, I haven't really thought about it this way before. I don't own a car because I feel strongly about it, so why am I willing to eat industry-farmed meat?

To be truthful I haven't read the linked articles at all, and agendafilter usually bothers me, but just the reminder of the association was enough to give me pause. Maybe it's time to go vegetarian again.

I don't usually eat meat, anyway, but I do so love cheeses of all origins, and I'm still looking for rice or soy milk that costs less than "real" milk.

And goodness yes I still love a good steak - but I bet I'd love that steak even more if it was saved for special occasions and perhaps I had some relationship to the cow it once was and the land it was raised on.
posted by loquacious at 11:10 PM on January 19, 2007


Yeah, while this post is a bit Agenda-Filter, the reason I posted it is because a friend posted the first article in her own blog to defend her own vegetarianism and it got me thinking, and not because I want everyone to stop eating cows.

That is, I'm not a vegetarian, it's just something I'm thinking about.

I do, however, want to give the earth a hug.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:13 PM on January 19, 2007


If we all become vegetarians there will be a lot fewer cows farting in the fields, but how much more methane wil be expelled by people eating all those beans? There might be a net savings, but nothing is as simple as it might seem.
posted by donfactor at 11:16 PM on January 19, 2007


I don't understand the all-or-nothing approach. We don't talk about completely ending the use of fossil fuels, we talk about conserving and using what we have more efficiently. Why must I go from meat-eater to vegetarian? Instead of asking Americans to become vegetarians, they should try promoting a reduction, but not an elimination, of meat intake.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:16 PM on January 19, 2007


I do, however, want to give the earth a hug.

I think your arms are too short, but maybe if we held hands...
posted by loquacious at 11:35 PM on January 19, 2007 [9 favorites]


Where I live there is grassland to spare, on account of how we got rid of all the trees, and it isn't terribly suitable for cereals or legumes. Raising cattle and sheep for meat and dairy is a pretty reasonable thing to do. Although we wouldn't have so many if it weren't for you guys buying it.

Incidentally, it uses less CO2 overall to ship grass-fed free-range meat from New Zeland to North America or the UK than it does to raise "local" feedlot or barn-raised meat. Do buy our stuff if your conscience troubles you.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:39 PM on January 19, 2007


Here's a link to the MeFi discussion concerning the UN report mentioned in the first link in the FPP.
posted by peeedro at 11:40 PM on January 19, 2007


Nothing's going to come between me and my weekly grassfed bison burger. If PETA wants to put every confined area feeding operation out of business, great. Just keep the hell away from the Lindner herd, you legume-eating, joyless freaks.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:49 PM on January 19, 2007


I find Silk, a nice soy milk thingamahoochie, to be pretty darn cheap at Costco. In Canada, it's like a set of three 2L containers for 5 bucks, or thereabouts. The big plus is I much prefer Silk to milk. And I'm hardly a legume-eating joyless freak.
posted by eurasian at 11:55 PM on January 19, 2007


And I'm hardly a legume-eating joyless freak.

AhA! You admit that you want to get near his beloved Lindner herd! And you just admitted to eating, err, drinking soy, a known legume!
posted by loquacious at 12:03 AM on January 20, 2007


Frances Moore Lappé brought a related idea to the table, via Diet For a Small Planet (~1971); Since reading that book, I've often thought about how much water is wasted to produce beef (the water:grain as opposed to water->grain as feed->meat). I don't know that there's anything in there about global warming, but there might be some about the methane angle, and there's certainly stuff about the sheer amount of waste (i.e. shit) that is produced and ends up in the water.

I've been an on-and-off veg, but frankly, as a starving student who also happens to love beef, I'm a fairly conscious consumer of meat... as soon as the lab-grown stuff becomes commercially viable, I'm the first on the line. In the meantime, I'll have the occasional steak in order to break the monotony and negative health effects of my diet of pb & j's, ramen noodles and quesadillas.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:09 AM on January 20, 2007


There's no reason it has to be all or nothing; if you have a moral objection to killing animals for food, then sure, become a vegetarian. If you just want to improve the way you treat the planet, then it's not necessary.

Most people in the world don't eat much meat. They don't do this for moral reason, they do it because meat is expensive and difficult to produce. I reckon a campaign to encourage people to cut down meat to 2 dinners a week, on environmental and money-saving grounds, would have a lot more success than a campaign to encourage people to stop eating meat all together on "moral" grounds (hello PETA!).
posted by Jimbob at 12:32 AM on January 20, 2007


A big chunk of the problem with farmed animals, on the other hand, is methane, a gas which cycles out of the atmosphere in just a decade. That means less meat consumption quickly translates into a cooler planet.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the carbon compounds produced by livestock originate in plants, and thus in atmospheric carbon. This would make the whole process carbon-neutral, assuming that petroleum-based fertilizers aren't being used. Transporting meat is another matter, but transportation and refrigeration costs for vegetable produce are not trivial.

Petroleum fertilization strikes me as a bigger issue, especially since we're starting to promote corn ethanol as clean and carbon-neutral, which is untrue when you account for how it's grown.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:45 AM on January 20, 2007


Of course, carbon in the methane-cycle travels a different path than carbon remaining in the CO2 cycle. But then, methane is less dense than CO2.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:57 AM on January 20, 2007


I reckon a campaign to encourage people to cut down meat to 2 dinners a week, on environmental and money-saving grounds, would have a lot more success than a campaign to encourage people to stop eating meat all together on "moral" grounds (hello PETA!).

I remember a short piece a long while back called "One Less Act of Violence" that was a morality-based reduction approach. The thinking went that it would be a hell of a lot easier, and thus more effective, getting everyone to eat, say, half as much meat, as it would getting half of everyone to eat no meat at all. Fewer animals in the abbatoir, and everyone is happy. So rather than asking "Can I truly never eat meat again?!" the question is "Can I go without meat today, or this meal?"

Pretty reasonably, non-PETA stuff.

As for "joyless", what loquacious said about frequency.
posted by dreamsign at 1:30 AM on January 20, 2007


MetaFilter? MeatFilter? MeatFilter.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:16 AM on January 20, 2007


Is it just me or does anybody get the feeling that with the increased secularism in the liberal world people are casting about for some way to be able to label other people, and probably themselves, as sinners?

I'm not surprised that movements like vegetarianism/dietism/healthism and environmentalism are finding common cause. They are secularized puritan movements granting people a framework for piety, repentance and excommunication. We can no longer condemn people for being gay, divorced or addicts but we can despise people who eat bad food and drive Hummers. I also see weird echoes of Scientology where movements hold up celebrities as prominent members of their causes even though they are jetsetting conspicuous consumers.
posted by srboisvert at 2:21 AM on January 20, 2007 [6 favorites]


There is a disturbing lack of meat in that MeatFilter.
posted by loquacious at 2:42 AM on January 20, 2007


It's all been filtered out.
posted by MrMustard at 4:02 AM on January 20, 2007


srboisvert: It is just you.
posted by MrMustard at 4:06 AM on January 20, 2007


People condemn my personal choices as destructive, so instead of considering their criticisms and changing my behavior when I find their arguments have merit, I shall brush them aside.
posted by beerbajay at 4:19 AM on January 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the carbon compounds produced by livestock originate in plants, and thus in atmospheric carbon. This would make the whole process carbon-neutral

Methane produced by cattle may have the same mass of the carbon dioxide consumed, but methane is a more potent greenhouse gas so it has a greater effect. (That's my understanding: I'm not a climate scientist)
posted by alasdair at 5:06 AM on January 20, 2007


srboisvert, I think it is probably just you.
posted by Tuwa at 5:09 AM on January 20, 2007


> srboisvert, I think it is probably just you.

Yeah, shut up, you heretic, before we get out the pitchforks and torches.
posted by jfuller at 5:21 AM on January 20, 2007


You could go vegetarian, or, you could just eat less beef, and eat more fish and poultry, and you could stop buying meat produced by big agribusinesses and start buying it from local farmers.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:21 AM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thirty years ago next month, I read Food for a Future by Jon Wynne-Tyson where all these facts were aired. The argument was so compelling my wife and I became vegan;
I even went so far as become fruitarian... but couldn't keep it up. I developed a tendancy to fall down after standing up, not good.
But the proposition is still a good one, even more so today.
As for the Prius - it isn't that ecofriendly. Our diesel hatchy did 60mpg ., that's the brit gall. An all electric car would be better.
posted by Cennad at 5:32 AM on January 20, 2007


Flexitarians unite! And, unrelatedly, if they imposed a meat tax, as they should impose a gas tax, this stuff would take care of itself. If you had to routinely pay $15/lb for hamburger, you'd eat a lot more veggies. This is how it used to be in most of the world, anyway, before industrialized animal-raising. You'd have been eating less steak and more, say, ears.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:55 AM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


The UN report is being mis-characterized. The report also said most of the problems are fixable simply by changing the husbandry practices used. So - take responsibility and buy meat from a responsible source. Start here. No need to become a vegetarian.
posted by stbalbach at 6:11 AM on January 20, 2007


Fruitarian? That sounds just so, so.... fruity. Please explain the advantages of the fruity diet over plain old veganism.

Anyway, I think this post would be more aptly titled "Veganism is the new Prius" as cows are going to pass a lot of gas on the way to making your milk, and its products - cheese, yogurt, butter, etc.
posted by caddis at 6:25 AM on January 20, 2007


> if they imposed a meat tax, as they should impose a gas tax,

...it would generate all the more money for the war machine, right now when we really need to invade Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, in addition to Iraq. Kindly remember who gets all the new taxes you propose. Go, meat tax!
posted by jfuller at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2007


I remember doing a tour of a Civil War fort here in North Carolina. The guide was explaining the weekly food ration - mostly a big loaf of bread per soldier, with a small amount of additional things like meat. The change from a mostly grain-based to a mostly meat-based diet became pretty clear to me when thinking about that.

My wife and I are not vegetarians. We do however buy a lot of meatless products. Colon cancer runs in her family, so she isn't thrilled by red meat. We have both discovered that we really enjoy eating locally raised and/or free range meats; because we do not often purchase chicken breast or steaks, we don't feel bad paying more for it to ensure we are getting healthier products. I would much rather buy a free range hen from a local supplier than a factory-farmed bird pumped full of hormones - they just taste better.

Add into this the fact that meatless products have become remarkably better and easier to find in recent years, and making a change to a more eco-friendly diet isn't that difficult. Morningstar Farms (a division of Kellogg, I believe) makes some very good, low sodium meatless products that you can find in just about any supermarket, even WalMart, bastion of the health-conscious and eco-conscious shopper that it is.

If you haven't given the veg products a try, I highly recommend Quorn, sold since the '60s in the UK, becoming more available in the US, and quite good.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:36 AM on January 20, 2007


I double the general sentiment re. meatless products and substitutes; they've come a long way. The first veggie burger I ever tried, back in '92, looked, smelled and tasted like wet hay. These days, the Presidents Choice meatless burgers actually fooled my dad, a committed carnivore, into thinking it was meat.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:48 AM on January 20, 2007


To me, this just sounds like a sort of psudo-scientific attempt to use global warming to promote their own agenda. Also this:

First, there is no limit to reductions in this source of greenhouse gas that can be achieved through vegetarian diet. In principle, even 100% reduction could be achieved with little negative impact. In contrast, similar cuts in carbon dioxide are impossible without devastating effects on the economy.

Little negative impact? I don't think vegetarians really appreciate how difficult it would actually be to become vegetarian. I mean that stuff tastes good.
posted by delmoi at 8:09 AM on January 20, 2007


I developed a tendancy to fall down after standing up, not good.
But the proposition is still a good one, even more so today.


No, no it isn't.
posted by odinsdream at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2007


This is all well and good, but John McCain told me that studying cow flatulence was laughable, so I'm going to have to simply dismiss this and laugh at it. Ha ha ha.
posted by aaronetc at 8:20 AM on January 20, 2007


Wow! And here I had always thought those vegetarian types were totally full of shit, and eating meat 90% of the time was the healthy, human thing to do.

(On a serious note, are some not understanding the net energy reduction in jumping down one step on the food chain? High-order animals only produce a small fraction of the energy in their meat compared to the amount of roughage it takes to support them. So no,, just eating the plants instead of eating the cow that would eat the plants isn't an even trade off--if you are focusing on energy lost as heat. Only thing dumber than eating our milk machines would be feeding them to lions and then cutting in.)
posted by shownomercy at 8:25 AM on January 20, 2007


I'm finding it's already pretty common for people I know to treat meat like a less-frequent delicacy rather than a staple.
posted by everichon at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2007


Cows use up a tremendous amount of water per litre of milk produced, too. People who aren't thrilled with the idea of catching their shower water in buckets for garden re-use can have about the same impact on total water supply by halving the amount of milk in their tea.
posted by flabdablet at 8:40 AM on January 20, 2007


Cennad - Unless you're running biodiesel in there, then a diesel care is a lot less eco-friendly than a Prius. The big benefit of the Prius comes not from it's respectable 50ish MPG, but from its PZEV status.



More generally, as far as the vegetarian thing goes... It really doesn't have to be all or nothing, as some others have pointed out. The ladyfriend has been a vegetarian for 10 years now, and over the time we've been together, I have gradually come to eat less and less meat.

This started out of convenience, as I cook and it was easier to make something we could both eat. Then I studied parasitology and ready Fast Food Nation, and got kinda squicked out by industry farming practices, so I switched to just organics.

These days, I identify mostly as a vegetarian when people ask me, since it's easier than giving them the litany of what I will and will not eat. I eat organically grown meat maybe 4-6x per year, usually fish...sometimes chicken... and once or twice some red meat.

I would have no ethical problem eating more, it's mostly just a matter of not being able to get organic meats when dining out, and not cooking it at home.

There are those hardline vegetarians would would take major umbrage with somebody like me using the term, but it really does convey very simply to others what your basic diet is, without being prattish. If I just say, "oh, I don't eat meat that often," then co-workers have no problem at all asking a million questions, pressuring me to eat some "just this one time" because they want to go to a steakhouse, etc., whereas just saying "vegetarian" eliminates all of that, no questions asked.
posted by kaseijin at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2007


Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the carbon compounds produced by livestock originate in plants, and thus in atmospheric carbon. This would make the whole process carbon-neutral

You're wrong here. The problem is that feedlot cattle are typically fed corn, which contains more dense carbon compounds than a natural cow diet of grasses. Because cow stomachs don't naturally digest corn, this denser carbon can't be efficiently consumed and converted to usable energy, so it's released as gas. Grass-fed cattle don't release these gasses; they convert this carbon to energy in their bodies, which we can eat and convert to energy in our bodies, releasing it into Earth when we die rather than into the atomosphere.

Nature spent thousands of years taking energy from the atmosphere and storing it in the Earth, and corn-feed cows are one way in which we've reversed this process in the past few decades.
posted by scottreynen at 9:26 AM on January 20, 2007


Big factory pig farms are some of America's worst polluters
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2007


It's not just you, srboisvert.

I almost posted a comment in this thread earlier, in response to something above, to observe that ethical vegetarians tend to behave like evangelicals. Both groups believe they're right and both believe they can make a difference for the better — so they preach to convert. And in both cases, the movement has become defined by its lunatics. There are plenty of reasonable comments above (e.g., "Eat less meat, rather than none"), but more often the face of vegetarianism is PETA — or people like Kathy Freston, whose few interesting points are sandwiched between ludicrous hyperbole* that seems intended to both (1) attract snickering applause from already-practicing vegans, and (2) violently repel anyone who didn't already agree with her.

* My favorite example being, "Ever-rising temperatures, melting ice caps, spreading tropical diseases, stronger hurricanes... So, what are you do doing for dinner tonight?"
posted by cribcage at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2007


Look, I was born and raised a vegetarian. But I'm happy with people eating less meat, or thinking about their meat consumption. And I love my local farmers, and would be happy with everyone just buying from small folks around here. It's the feedlots that are fucking up the watershed, not folks with 12 head of cattle. But hey, most people seem happy with Applebees, so I don't have any real faith in the ability to convert others to anything resembling a sustainable or moderate diet.
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 AM on January 20, 2007


Randomly related; while pregnant with my son, I suddenly disliked meat. At 14 mos old, he still refuses any and all meat products. And I find I still can't enjoy it like I used to, and since he won't eat it anyway, we cook far less of it. And you know, I used to eat a ton of it, but I don't really miss it most of the time. Legumes are very tasty, and I don't feel particularly joyless....
posted by emjaybee at 9:47 AM on January 20, 2007


The Meatrix Trilogy
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2007


The challenge facing local food: Food service giants like Sodexho, Aramark and BAMCO are jumping on the "eat local" bandwagon. Will the corporate attention give a boost to sustainable agriculture or defuse the grassroots revolution?
posted by homunculus at 9:53 AM on January 20, 2007


the movement has become defined by its lunatics

Indeed. Someone needs to organize the majority of vegetarians, who hate PETA and have no interest in converting anyone else.
posted by scottreynen at 9:57 AM on January 20, 2007


At 14 mos old, he still refuses any and all meat products.

I don't get that. I've got a relative who says the same thing about his 4-year-old: He "won't" eat meat. My answer is that when I was that age, I refused to eat plenty of things — "refusal" meaning that I sat with my arms crossed for a half-hour before finally choking down a couple of bites so I could leave the table.

I'm sure your son is healthy; but mostly when I hear this sentiment nowadays, it's coming from a parent who finishes the sentence, "He won't eat anything...except pizza." Well, sure. Neither would I, if anybody had asked me at that age. Hell, I hated lima beans and boiled dinners — but my parents liked 'em, and nobody gave me a vote.
posted by cribcage at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2007


Eating meat causes enormous suffering.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:01 AM on January 20, 2007


The way to fight global warming from livestock is to tax it and give credits to those who do it correctly. Abstaining just makes the price go down.

Recap of traditional methane sources, livestock overtaking rice only in the last two decades (thanks to improved rice farming that periodically drains swamps):

For flaring and venting of natural gas, estimated methane emissions rose from 0.0 in 1860 to a maximum of 29.3 million metric tons in 1973, then declined. For oil and gas supply systems, excluding flaring, estimated methane emissions rose from 0.0 in 1860 to a maximum of 18.0 million metric tons in 1994. For coal mining, estimated methane emissions rose from 2.2 million metric tons in 1860 to 49.5 million metric tons in 1989, then dropped slightly. For biomass burning, estimated methane emissions rose from 9.8 million metric tons in 1860 to 38.0 million metric tons in 1988 and subsequently declined slightly. For livestock farming, estimated methane emissions rose from 25.6 million metric tons in 1860 to 113.1 million metric tons in 1994; this appears to now be the largest individual anthropogenic source of methane emissions, having overtaken rice farming in the early 1980s. For rice farming and related activities, estimated methane emissions rose from 40.1 million metric tons in 1860 to 100.8 million metric tons in 1994. For landfills, estimated methane emissions rose from 1.6 million metric tons in 1860 to 40.3 million metric tons in 1994. Total estimated anthropogenic methane emissions rose from 79.3 million metric tons in 1860 to 371.0 million metric tons in 1994. During the period 1860-1994, the relative importance of the various component sources changed, with fossil fuels increasing and agriculture - although still dominant - declining in dominance. Within the agricultural sector, livestock replaced rice as the leading component.

posted by Brian B. at 11:04 AM on January 20, 2007


Lots of people are making reasonable "let's eat less meat comments" but PETA pisses me off so vegetarians suck and screw you Earth.

Lots of people are making reasonable "maybe we should think before invading" but hippies piss me off and so leftists suck and screw you Iraqi people.

My gracious this is getting old.
posted by hackly_fracture at 11:06 AM on January 20, 2007


Put me on the list of vegetarians who would be plenty happy if all the rest of the world just stopped supporting factory farmers. There's a million reasons why factory farming is bad and gross and harmful and the environment is just one of them. I have no urge to turn the world against eating meat entirely, but to maybe think for just a second about what they put into their body and the consequences there of.

Also: we don't need to tax meat to get people to stop eating it, we just need to get the government to stop subsidizing the farmers that produce it. If your hamburger cost 35 bucks a pound as it should then you might try to figure out how to make your stir fry without it.
posted by nadawi at 11:19 AM on January 20, 2007


Indeed, buy local, and you will have a greater impact than simply being vegetarian. As consumers, you have much control over the environmental impact of your food choices. Pay attention to the distance food must be shipped and the amount of processing and packaging it has to undergo. Buy food that's local and in season. Find your closest farmer's market, and encourage your grocer by asking what a local produce is in supply.

My local, small-time farmers would be ecstatic at the prospect of being able to reliably compete with industrial agriculture, rather than virtually subcontracting to large corporations. Many of them are just as concerned about the environment as you are.
posted by zennie at 11:34 AM on January 20, 2007


Another side of the same coin:

“So much comes back to corn, this cheap feed that turns out in so many ways to be not cheap at all. While I stood in No. 534's pen, a dump truck pulled up alongside the feed bunk and released a golden stream of feed. The animals stepped up to the bunk for their lunch. The $1.60 a day I'm paying for three giant meals is a bargain only by the narrowest of calculations. It doesn't take into account, for example, the cost to the public health of antibiotic resistance or food poisoning by E. coli or all the environmental costs associated with industrial corn.

For if you follow the corn from this bunk back to the fields where it grows, you will find an 80-million-acre monoculture that consumes more chemical herbicide and fertilizer than any other crop. Keep going and you can trace the nitrogen runoff from that crop all the way down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has created (if that is the right word) a 12,000-square-mile 'dead zone.'

But you can go farther still, and follow the fertilizer needed to grow that corn all the way to the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. No. 534 started life as part of a food chain that derived all its energy from the sun; now that corn constitutes such an important link in his food chain, he is the product of an industrial system powered by fossil fuel. (And in turn, defended by the military -- another uncounted cost of 'cheap' food.) I asked David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, if it might be possible to calculate precisely how much oil it will take to grow my steer to slaughter weight. Assuming No. 534 continues to eat 25 pounds of corn a day and reaches a weight of 1,250 pounds, he will have consumed in his lifetime roughly 284 gallons of oil. We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine.”
Michael Pollan/NY Times
posted by Huplescat at 11:57 AM on January 20, 2007


caution live frogs : Morningstar Farms (a division of Kellogg, I believe) makes some very good, low sodium meatless products that you can find in just about any supermarket,

As a lazy omnivore who is married to an industrious vegetarian, I can attest to the tastiness of Morningstar Farms foods. Occasionally she will make something that fills the house with smells of deliciously barbecued meat, and often I find it's easier just to grab a bit of her fake meat than to make my own real meat. Don't get me wrong, there is a difference. But not so much so that it's a deal breaker for me.
posted by quin at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2007


scottreyman: You're wrong here. [...] Grass-fed cattle don't release these gasses; they convert this carbon to energy in their bodies, which we can eat and convert to energy in our bodies, releasing it into Earth when we die rather than into the atomosphere.

Wait, when we die? What about the Krebs cycle? When we convert sugars, fats, and proteins to energy in our bodies, carbon returns to the atmosphere in the CO2 we exhale.

That would still make this process carbon-neutral. You might argue that the methane cycle is different from the CO2 cycle (as I also pointed out), but your point seems to be that the human body should be treated as a carbon sink for easily-metabolized compounds. Aside from some enormously fat people who don't exercise or breathe, I don't think this will work.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:23 PM on January 20, 2007


Former vegetarian with some downsides on 'fake meat.'

Given an equal volume (not weight) of fake and real meat, the fake has an unwelcome side-effect of significant constipation in my experience. This is Quorn(TM), various soy products, TVP, seytan and more exotic/homemade compositions.

So I'll add a voice to the limited-meat camp (as opposed to fake-meat).

Choosing grains, legumes, and vegetables in proportions to provide an adequate health balance (especially the devil protein) is a valuable skill in its own right.

That, however, is a large part of the reason I'm no longer veg. No matter how skilled I got, I never seemed to be as good at eating balanced meals when vegetarian as I am when meat is available. (The proportion of fats to proteins in lean meat is very tough to beat in fake meats and compositions).
posted by abulafa at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2007


re: Is it just me or does anybody get the feeling that with the increased secularism in the liberal world people are casting about for some way to be able to label other people, and probably themselves, as sinners?

The difference is that the idea of a sin is being used in a much different context here. Instead being based on whether or not you're offending a giant angry concept in the sky, it's based on whether or not what you're doing is actually harming the climate, wildlife, healthcare system, etc; you know, things that actually have some real-world basis.

So yeah, comparing proponents of vegetarianism and "healthism" (haha) as being in the same league as deists and moral conservatives is, well, laughable.
posted by tehloki at 3:18 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do, however, want to give the earth a hug.

I think your arms are too short, but maybe if we held hands...


That is the sweetest thing I have ever read on Metafilter.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:43 PM on January 20, 2007


"That would still make this process carbon-neutral. You might argue that the methane cycle is different from the CO2 cycle (as I also pointed out), but your point seems to be that the human body should be treated as a carbon sink for easily-metabolized compounds. Aside from some enormously fat people who don't exercise or breathe, I don't think this will work."

Why not continue this chain of thought? Everything we do is carbon-neutral, because there's only a finite amount carbon, endlessly recycled into the universe. And, of course, you're still arguing based on a model where no one shits... (Krebs cycle is fine, but my dumps are mighty carbony...)
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on January 20, 2007


klangklangston: it's a question of timescale. The reason that the threat posed by human-caused global warming is unprecedented is not that the planet has never been as warm as we're busy making it; it's that the planet has never, according to the best evidence available, warmed this fast before.

If you accept the mainstream view of where fossil fuels came from, it's certainly true that the fossil-fuel carbon we're currently adding to the biosphere was indeed originally part of that biosphere. But the point is that there is a shitload of that old carbon, and none of it has been in circulation for millions of years, and we're on the way to returning as much as we can to circulation within a couple of hundred.

Carbon neutrality is not about stabilizing the total amount of carbon in the universe; as you correctly note, we can't do that and it's pointless to try. It's about stabilizing the amount of carbon in circulation in the biosphere, as measured on a timescale of tens to thousands of years.
posted by flabdablet at 4:53 PM on January 20, 2007


(I was kinda trying to point out how absurd the logical chain was, not endorse it...)
posted by klangklangston at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2007


Facetiousness was never a good way to make a point.
posted by tehloki at 5:15 PM on January 20, 2007


SRBoisvert: Is it just me or does anybody get the feeling that with the increased secularism in the liberal world people are casting about for some way to be able to label other people, and probably themselves, as sinners?

No, it's not just you:
Anthropologists have established how different cultures independently evolve similar myths - familiar stories, such as the myth of the Fall and the myth of the Apocalypse, which meet deep-seated human needs. The Christian tradition describes the temptation of Adam and Eve and warns of the Last Judgment.

In Europe, these stories no longer have the impact they did. Environmentalism now fulfils for many people the widespread longing for simple, all-encompassing narratives. Environmentalism offers an alternative account of the natural world to the religious and an alternative anti-capitalist account of the political world to the Marxist. The rise of environmentalism parallels in time and place the decline of religion and of socialism. ...

The Apocalypse myth is equally familiar. Our wickedness has damaged our inheritance and, although it is almost too late, immediate reform can transform our future. Christians look to the Second Coming, Marxists to the collapse of capitalism, with the same mixture of fear and longing.

Environmentalism at first lacked a persuasive Apocalypse myth. The litany of environmental degradation had to confront the manifest fact that many aspects of the environment were steadily improving, with cleaner air, rivers and seashores. The discovery of global warming filled a gap in the canon. That is why environmentalists attach so much importance to the assertion not just that the world is warming up, which is plainly true, but that this warming is our fault, which is less plainly true. The connection between rising carbon concentrations and the growth of modern industrial society provides justification for the link between the sins of our past and the catastrophe of our future.

Environmental evangelists are therefore not interested in pragmatic solutions to climate change or technological fixes for it. They are even less interested in evidence that if we were really serious about reducing carbon emissions we could do so by large amounts without significantly affecting our economies or our lives. Windmills on roofs and cycling to work are insignificant in practical consequence, but that is to miss their point. Every ideology needs rituals of observance which demonstrate the commitment of adherents.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:19 PM on January 20, 2007


Steven, the problem with that comparison is that it refuses to let myth be allegory to make its point. Adam and Eve are allegorical to losing paradise under colonial rule, the natives shamed by their nakedness and forced to work and breed. Environmentalism unwittingly points to the same colonial method, even without making the explicit connection. Your author, however, made the explicit connection, without being able to see the validity. Environmentalism gets good points here for not being inspired by the myth, but validating it, while your author stumbles while in the same bed with religionists.

Furthermore, environmentalists don't worship the apocalypse, and this is where it really goes wrong, because critics like Rush Limbaugh claim that the rock of earth is here to stay, but they ignore that nature can dispose of humans for human errors to make their point. Nature becomes, by allegory, the whimsical god of the apocalypse, a parallel which is firmly based in history and myth.
posted by Brian B. at 6:04 PM on January 20, 2007


These "environmental evangelists" who are "not interested in pragmatic solutions ... or technological fixes" are frequent targets for scorn, but I've never actually met one. I think that by and large they're straw men.

I've met people who tend to ignore the possibility of pragmatic technological fixes, but these people come from both sides of the smelly unwashed hippie / cashed-up urban professional divide. What they have in common is a tendency to think of technology as Big and Expensive, like nuclear power plants.

Windmills on roofs and bicycles are technologies, and deserve to be analyzed on their technological merits - not dismissed out of hand as meaningless symbols of pseudo-religious observance.

Reducing energy-related carbon emission is a project best tackled from two directions simultaneously: adoption of energy-supply-side processes without carbon emission side-effects, and adoption of energy-demand-side processes that reduce energy wastage. It strikes me as foolish to get into an argument about which of these overall approaches is "best"; clearly they're complementary. Public policy made on the basis of ignoring either will be faulty.

It seems to me that at present there's much more public policymaking devoted to supply-side solutions than demand-side solutions, and that much of this policy is lobbyist-driven rather than coming from any genuine understanding on the part of the policymakers. But perhaps that's just because I'm a smelly unwashed hippie with a clearly visible solar hot water heater on my roof.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 PM on January 20, 2007


Why not continue this chain of thought? Everything we do is carbon-neutral, because there's only a finite amount carbon, endlessly recycled into the universe.

Klangklangston, I don't see how my post reduces to this conclusion.

I'm using "carbon-neutral" to describe actions that
have a nil carbon offset - that neither increase nor decrease the total gaseous carbon compounds in the *modern* atmosphere. I'm fairly sure this keeps with the widespread use of the term. Carbon in corn comes from the air, is eaten, and returns to the air, all within an extremely short span of time.

Burning a forest that took thousands of years to grow, and will take thousands of years to replace, is not a carbon-neutral action. It doesn't offset its own emissions in any reasonable timeframe, and atmospheric CO2 levels will certainly rise as a result.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:43 PM on January 20, 2007


Christians look to the Second Coming, Marxists to the collapse of capitalism, with the same mixture of fear and longing.

And environmentalists look forward to ecological collapse? Is that why they're always preaching and acting against it? damn, they sure fooled me.
posted by eustatic at 6:46 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


And environmentalists look forward to ecological collapse? Is that why they're always preaching and acting against it? damn, they sure fooled me.

No kidding. It's not as if after the environmental Apocalypse there will be a bunch happy of environmentalists gloating saying "I told you so." What's in it for them after that? They get to fight tooth and nail for the same road Warrior scraps as the rest of us?

Where as after the Sky God Apocalypse all those Christians will be floating about the ether playing harps in a state of ecstasy saying "I told you so." THEY get something out of being gloating bastards - eternal life.
posted by tkchrist at 9:35 PM on January 20, 2007


It's naive to believe that, in either case, the payoff involves some hypothetical future interaction; rather, as Srboisvert says, it's about present-tense superiority and the apparent need for certain people, whether they turn to science or religion, to find fault with (and cast stones at) their peers.
posted by cribcage at 9:56 PM on January 20, 2007


rather, as Srboisvert says, it's about present-tense superiority and the apparent need for certain people, whether they turn to science or religion, to find fault with (and cast stones at) their peers.

I would say that the popularization of environmental issues is that most people believe they personally can do their part to "save" a planet by abstaining from buying something--often lowing the price for the offenders. That's an ego trip in itself. It takes a policy.

I still remember when a famous Senate budget crusader, William Proxmire, mercilessly mocked a federal grant to study livestock methane output. It was ridiculed nationwide as an animal gas study by crazed scientists with nothing better to do. Obviously he was protecting a homegrown industry, and here we sit a generation later discussing the problem anew.
posted by Brian B. at 10:05 PM on January 20, 2007


it's about present-tense superiority

Maybe. But Bro. I'm an environmentalist. And I eat meat. I see no conflict at all.
posted by tkchrist at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2007


Former vegetarian with some downsides on 'fake meat.'

Given an equal volume (not weight) of fake and real meat, the fake has an unwelcome side-effect of significant constipation in my experience.


um. really? you are the first vegetarian I have ever met with that problem. The problem has always been the exact opposite as far as I can tell. For the TMI, I use to not poo enough but becoming a vegetarian changed all of that. It was actually such a difference that I thought something was wrong with me until I talked to other Veg's who assured me that it has a lot to do with the fake meats and soy i've started eating.

Oh, the things I like to admit on metafilter.
posted by nadawi at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2007


A story about ex-economist Julian Simon:
[Simon] was at some environmental forum, and he said, “How many people here believe that the earth is increasingly polluted and that our natural resources are being exhausted?” Naturally, every hand shot up. He said, “Is there any evidence that could dissuade you?” Nothing. Again: “Is there any evidence I could give you — anything at all — that would lead you to reconsider these assumptions?” Not a stir. Simon then said, “Well, excuse me, I’m not dressed for church.”
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:39 PM on January 20, 2007


[Simon] was at some environmental forum, and he said, “How many people here believe that the earth is increasingly polluted and that our natural resources are being exhausted?” Naturally, every hand shot up. He said, “Is there any evidence that could dissuade you?” Nothing. Again: “Is there any evidence I could give you — anything at all — that would lead you to reconsider these assumptions?” Not a stir. Simon then said, “Well, excuse me, I’m not dressed for church.”


The irony of that parable is that they didn't take him seriously and he egoistically used it against them. They remain unchallenged by his bluff, and he claims victory while siding with the churchgoing naysayers. This is pretty standard self-righteousness, not knowing what an ad hominem argument is. It's like the story of the boy scout who gets well-meaning people to sign a petition to remove "dihydrogenmonoxide" from rivers and streams, not realizing it is water. The point being that it is fallaciously cited as proof that people don't know what they are doing, when it is only proof they wanted to help a boyscout who wasn't taken very seriously. They tell that one in churches apparently.
posted by Brian B. at 11:08 PM on January 20, 2007


The problem has always been the exact opposite as far as I can tell. For the TMI, I use to not poo enough but becoming a vegetarian changed all of that. It was actually such a difference that I thought something was wrong with me until I talked to other Veg's who assured me that it has a lot to do with the fake meats and soy i've started eating.

Though I never had significant problems with moving the old bowel before I went vegetarian (occasionally movement would be ahh, difficult), movement most certainly increased quite a lot after I switched. I now have to deal with the unstoppable force sort on nearly a daily basis. The only faux meat I ever eat is at Chinese restaurants (in Toronto) and it has never put a stop to the movement (I'm told they are made from gluten, soy, and mushrooms.)

However, people do react very differently to certain foods, and there are always exceptions so while it isn't the experience of you or I, or many it seems, I wouldn't discount it for a few. Some people can apparently eat a very heavy meat diet and not get backed up. It maybe a little unusual but it can occur.

In fact, I've found reactions to food to be widely varied and had just such a conversation about this topic in the real world recently.
posted by juiceCake at 11:37 PM on January 20, 2007


Brian, Simon's point was not that contradictory evidence existed. Simon's point was that his audience's belief in environmental breakdown was unfalsifiable.

Falsifiable is not the same as false. Relativity is falsifiable; it's possible to describe many kinds of evidence which would prove Relativity to be false. Nothing like that has ever shown up, however. All good scientific theories should be both falsifiable and not false, which is to say that you can describe evidence which would disprove them, but determined effort has not turned up any such evidence.

If a theory is unfalsifiable, it isn't science. If you cannot describe any evidence even hypothetically which would convince you that it's false, then it's dogmatic belief. And those who hold it dogmatically deserve about as much scientific respect as those who dogmatically believe in "creation science".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:56 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Steven, that is not in the information. People didn't want to play his game and he claimed victory anyway without having a game to play. One cannot make the conclusion you offer based on audience silence during an incompetent presentation. He went from raising hands to suddenly asking questions that would make someone take his position, but he stupidly equates them.
posted by Brian B. at 12:23 AM on January 21, 2007


"How many of you hear can clap your hands?" Everyone claps.
"Now, get up and sign a song?" Nobody stands and not a peep is heard.
"Well then, apparently your hands work, but you have all had your voice boxes removed. Pity."
posted by Cassford at 1:07 AM on January 21, 2007


OK, Brian, what evidence would convince you that there is no environmental catastrophe facing us?

I'm not asking you to admit that your opinion is false. I'm asking you to demonstrate that your opinion is falsifiable.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:27 AM on January 21, 2007


An example of animal methane and dung byproducts burned as neutral alternatives to fossil fuels:

BBC News, 2005 It is calculated that gas generated from cattle dung in rural Nepal has lit around 140,000 kitchens, saving 400,000 tonnes of firewood, 800,000 litres of kerosene and preventing 600,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere.
Unlike fossil fuels, burning biomass, like biogas from cow dung, is generally considered to be carbon neutral.

posted by kid ichorous at 1:39 AM on January 21, 2007


Steven, my own perception of widespread environmental degradation would also be unaffected by just about anything Julian Simon said. My hand would have stayed down, too.

That doesn't mean I have unfalsifiable beliefs; it just means I think they're unlikely to be changed much by anything Julian Simon says (or Bjorn Lomborg, come to that). Simon is a master of the straw man attack, and it's my belief that his opinions on ecology are pretty much irrelevant.

Of course, if Simon actually did present some evidence to support a claim that things are on the up and up, and if that evidence passed sanity testing and real-world confirmation checks, my position might well shift. He tends not to do that, though. In my experience, Simon's writing is long on anecdote, short on data, and restricted in worldview.

Anybody can mine a body of evidence to support a personal point of view. Simon is an economist, and Lomborg is a political scientist; and as far as I can tell, both their critiques of the "environmental movement" are based on precisely this kind of data mining.

If I'm going to let somebody else's opinion sway mine, it will generally be somebody who actually has some kind of recognized expertise in the relevant field. I'd be far more likely to take Julian Simon seriously on matters economic than on matters ecological.
posted by flabdablet at 1:52 AM on January 21, 2007


And in case you're interested in my answer to the question you asked Brian, here is an outline of my current position on the state of the world:

There now exist unprecedented numbers of human beings. Although the population growth rate expressed as a percentage of the existing population is relatively stable or falling slightly, the sheer size of the population base means that human beings are being added to the planet at a faster rate than has ever happened before. This has resulted in an unprecedented rate of competition with other species for food and living space. We've never been farming as much of the planet as we do right now, and farm ecologies are much much simpler (and therefore less robust) than the forest ecologies they continue to encroach upon. We've never before run extractive industries (logging, mining, fishing) at the volumes we do now. We've never been using energy resources as fast as we do now, we've never loaded the biosphere with as much byproduct as we load it with now, and we've never been reducing its capacity to process that waste as intensively as we're busy reducing it now.

Ecologically speaking we're the top predator, and we're currently present in plague proportions. No plague lasts forever, and the crash phase is generally unpleasant for the species involved.

I'd love to be wrong about this. By all means, present convincing evidence that I've got it all wrong.
posted by flabdablet at 2:22 AM on January 21, 2007


Agreeing with flabdablet here ... claiming the response to Simon proved that their belief was unfalsifiable misses some key context. The situation is akin to:

Abusive Ex: Is there anything I could say that would make you believe I won't ever do that again, baby?

Person: Well, given that years and years of experience have amply demonstrated that pretty much everything you say is a lie, you're going to keep hitting me no matter what, and whatever evidence you present to the contrary has always been disproved in a matter of days, then no, there's nothing you could say.

SCDB: That belief is unfalsifiable.

If Simon had asked if such evidence, instead of being presented by him, was presented and agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of the world's environmental scientists and verified by numerous repeated studies that were shown beyond a reasonable doubt to be free of bias or conflict of interest, then he might have gotten a different response.

Or, possibly, he wouldn't have, since I very well might not have raised my hand in response to such an obviously baited question from someone I didn't respect, even though I do of course have standards of evidence (including the one I just mentioned) which would cause me to raise my hand if the question was asked by someone else. As other posters have pointed out, a show of hands ain't exactly the gold standard for reflecting actual beliefs.
posted by kyrademon at 2:33 AM on January 21, 2007


It's also just occurred to me that while we're talking about modern-day substitutes for old-time religion and unfalsifiable belief sets, it's probably appropriate to raise the topic of the wacky bunch who cling tight to their belief that Adam Smith's Invisible Hand has humanity's best interests at heart, despite copious evidence to the contrary :)
posted by flabdablet at 3:22 AM on January 21, 2007


You folks are missing the epistemological point. Demonstrating falsifiability of your belief isn't to admit that it's false.

Let me give you an example: I believe in the theory of evolution. But if it could be demonstrated that there were several living species on this planet, each of which used completely unrelated and incompatible translation matrices from RNA triples to amino acids when doing protein synthesis, I would be forced to admit that speciation was not the result of evolution and I would be forced to start considering creation alternatives (though not necessarily supernatural origins for same).

As it turns out, every species which has been analyzed has used exactly the same transformation matrix. So evolution is falsifiable, but as of this writing it is not false.

Now you do the same. Complete the following: "I believe that environmental degradation is taking place and it will lead to catastrophe. But if the following piece of evidence were found, which has not been found, and which I believe never will be found, then I would be forced to admit I was wrong: [enter hypothetical falsification case here]"
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:28 AM on January 21, 2007


Hypothetical falsification cases:

* Human population records are found to have been fatally flawed, and in fact the population has been steady for the past fifty years

* Satellite photos from the earliest days of satellite photography that show a greater area of global forest cover than that shown on present-day photographs

* Peer-reviewed and many-times-replicated studies demonstrating that radically simplified broadscale monocultures are, in general, as ecologically robust as the pre-existing wild ecological systems in the locations they now occupy (this one is as applicable to humanity itself as to present farming practices)

* Verifiable records of past logging, mining and fishing rates demonstrating that today's rates are (a) not unprecedented and (b) do not result in a rapid decline of available resources

* Peer-reviewed and many-times-replicated studies demonstrating that the much-maligned "hockey stick" curve does not, in fact, paint a true picture of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the periods covered

* Peer-reviewed and carefully tested atmospheric/climate models that support the contention that there is not, in fact, a strong correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and mean global near-surface air temperature

* Peer-reviewed and many-times-replicated studies demonstrating that similar rates of increase of global temperature have, in fact, occurred before without causing major damage to local ecologies

* A collection of personal histories from people who used to dive on the Great Barrier Reef fifty years ago that clearly shows that the health of its corals and the diversity of its fish species has not, in fact, suffered a catastrophic decline since then

* Historical records of aquifer water levels that demonstrate that the present levels for most large aquifers are not, in fact, unprecedentedly low

In fact, just about any reliable indicator of how well the non-human portions of the ecology were doing, starting (say) fifty years ago, that doesn't show conditions on a global scale getting inexorably worse, would act as partial falsification. Naturally, full falsification of my present "we're heading for some seriously bad shit unless we get serious about cleaning up our act" worldview would require that a majority of such indicators showed improvement rather than decline.

Hell, I'd even take some comfort from a broadscale survey that clearly demonstrated that human ingenuity, in general, does not cause more problems than it solves.
posted by flabdablet at 7:08 AM on January 21, 2007


Peer-reviewed and many-times-replicated studies demonstrating that the much-maligned "hockey stick" curve does not, in fact, paint a true picture of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the periods covered.

It turns out that the analysis computer program which created the "hockey stick" had a bug in it. When fed gaussian random input data that had no trendline it found a hockey stick in it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:15 AM on January 21, 2007


Now try this one: "I believe that environmental change is taking place at a rate well within the capacity of the biosphere at large to absorb without significant detriment to the living conditions of future generations of humanity. But if the following piece of evidence were found, which has not been found, and which I believe never will be found, then I would be forced to admit I was wrong: [enter hypothetical falsification case here]"
posted by flabdablet at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2007


Hockey stick bug: cite, please.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 AM on January 21, 2007


If anybody else is waiting for Steven to provide that cite, you might care to find out what some actual climate scientists have to say about the relative importance of particular computer programs vs. the free availability of the raw data.
posted by flabdablet at 7:41 AM on January 21, 2007


The Hockey Stick Debate as a Form of Torture
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on January 21, 2007


OK, Brian, what evidence would convince you that there is no environmental catastrophe facing us?

This is the wrong question. I don't have the burden of proof. You must prove that our actions aren't causing the problems we already know about, leading us to make the dire predictions in the first place. It would only begin to reestablish credibility, which was lost by pretending that conservation and managed growth were bad ideas in the first place. If God isn't coming, as your side is now arguing, then we need to conserve our resources, obviously. Oh, and tell them to stop using fallacies. To read someone in a financial paper argue that environmentalists are like the religious people who already blindly support his argument, therefore wrong, goes beyond special pleading, something closer to psy-ops.
posted by Brian B. at 10:45 AM on January 21, 2007


Steven, in case you missed my point, find me a reason NOT to plan to conserve resources while assuming a long-term human existence, as environmentalists do.
posted by Brian B. at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2007


Steven, I already answered that question.
posted by kyrademon at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2007


I don't have the burden of proof. You must prove that our actions aren't causing the problems...

You're missing Steven's point, and you're illustrating Simon's.

find me a reason NOT to plan to conserve resources...

What leads you to conclude that someone who doesn't follow strict adherence to a particular doctrine about global warming must necessarily oppose conservation?
posted by cribcage at 12:19 PM on January 21, 2007


The religion debate is fascinating, but I'll throw in with regard to the poo question:

About 1/3 of my current social group are veg, and of that subset I'd say about half have nodded in furious agreement when I brought up this question.

So some more evidence for the "different bodies deal with different substances somewhat differently" hypothesis.

(Also, it turns out I'm one of the meat = regular BM folks. Go figure.)
posted by abulafa at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2007


You're missing Steven's point, and you're illustrating Simon's.


No I'm not, Steven's point is Simon's point, and Simon painted his opponent in error with an argument from silence, and then stupidly insulted them while being in the same political league with faith and religion.

What leads you to conclude that someone who doesn't follow strict adherence to a particular doctrine about global warming must necessarily oppose conservation?

Well, considering that I proposed a policy of taxation, from the beginning, opposed to the ego trip of religious abstinence, I don't credit the question.

What leads me to conclude that people oppose conservation is when they use a strawman catastrophe to suggest that environmentalists are in error. We don't need a reason to conserve, its just a good human value that we would want for ourselves in the receiving position. If we don't need a reason to conserve, then this argument is moot, because it's all that is demanded. Contrary to what you may imagine, the environmentalists weren't really advocating a religion.

I think what happened here is that anti-environmentalists dangled the bait by trying to get us to assume that the threat of disaster was the only reason to be environmental.
posted by Brian B. at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2007


the headline is both backward and a bad comparison; i would say instead Prius is the new semi-vegetarian; a Prius may reduce carbon emissions by roughly 50%, but it also takes alot of energy to produce; a fully car-free lifestyle would be a better comparison to vegetarianism

plus, Prius is the newcomer here; eating a low-meat diet has for years been considered an environmental choice; eating a small fraction of the meat an average American eats has most of the benefit of eating none at all; the type of meat chosen, plus choosing local organic foods can also have a significant impact
posted by sporobolus at 7:50 PM on January 21, 2007


kid ichorous: Sorry if it's bad form to reply so late in the thread, but your insistence that livestock is carbon neutral is incorrect. I'm not arguing about your definition of carbon neutrality, as I believe that it is correct. I agree with you that scottreynen's analysis is flawed and, for the record, klangklangston's mighty carbony poops are consumed by microbes which release his consumed carbon back into the atmosphere as gases such as CO2 and CH4 so I'm not sure what he's getting at with his sarcasm.

Here's my short reply: livestock production, as it is currently practiced, is not carbon neutral. Even if it was, carbon neutrality would not the address the global warming concerns.

For my longer reply about the environmental impact of livestock, there are two issues at hand: Some mitigation techniques boil down to husbandry and production consolidation practices, which you allude to here, that will likely result in safer and tastier meat. Others will be costly, require new technologies, extensive public policy and economic changes, and infrastructure improvements in developing nations. The full discussion on mitigation in the FAO report is on pages 114 to 123. Also note, nowhere in the FAO report is the suggestion that everyone should be a vegetarian.

I've touched on these issues before in another thread about the UN FAO livestock report.
posted by peeedro at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Peeedro, while some of this goes back to fertilizer and transportation costs (which I'd mentioned and wanted to isolate from the effects of the animal itself), I appreciate the information and links - especially the GWP link.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:04 PM on January 22, 2007


cribcage - "I almost posted a comment... to observe that ethical vegetarians tend to behave like evangelicals. Both groups believe they're right and both believe they can make a difference for the better — so they preach to convert."

That's the product of a sampling error. You're not aware of the ethical vegetarians around you who aren't trying to convert you. I've had people go months or years before noticing, so their impression of your comparison wouldn't include me, either.
posted by NortonDC at 9:44 PM on January 25, 2007


« Older Who is going to care for your pets after you are r...  |  Graham Jeffery's coloured smok... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments