Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Meat consumption and climate change

"There's shit in the meat."

That is a quote from Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation.

We read that book in a class I taught last semester.  The quote comes from a chapter that describes the environment in a slaughterhouse, what gets mixed in with meat products, and how much tainting is actually allowed to happen as recalls and inspections are subject to politicians and corporate lobbies.  Between that and my inherent love of animals, you'd think my journey towards a regimen of vegetarianism would be complete.  No such luck.  Just another failure.

But now there is further evidence that links meat consumption with global climate change.  A report from the U.N. International Resource Panel says that we are overconsuming ourselves into "environmental oblivion."  To wit:

“Growing demand for food and non-food biomass will lead to an expansion of global cropland; yield growth will not be able to compensate for the expected surge in global demand,” the report states. “Cropland expansion at the cost of tropical forests and savannahs induces severe changes in the living environment with uncertain repercussions.”

The report asserts that at the current rate of farming, we will have a total amount of deforestation equivalent to the size of Brazil by 2050.  Fewer trees means definite effects upon the world's atmosphere and therefore the climate.  At the same time, it is not simply deforestation that contributes to the change in climate.  An enormous amount of greenhouse gas is produced just to yield a half pound of hamburger, this includes everything from the exhaust of trucks transporting the beef to the very methane released by the cows.

Now don't freak out.  The political lobby for the meat industry is sufficiently strong in this nation that you'll be able to get steak and hamburgers for a long time to come.  Obama is not going to come along and "communize your Nazism" and force you to become a vegetarian.  It won't happen.  What will need to happen, that is if we have any interest in preserving our environment, is a reduction in the amount of meat that we consume.  A reduction.  Not an elimination.

Although it would be nifty as heck if we...including me...could do that.

To get more involved with efforts around climate change, visit Greenpeace.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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