Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on November 15, 2007
More news from the Global Warming front: Don’t just switch from gas to hybrid, eat less meat. What some people have known for years is now becoming a new focus for environmentalists. Meat production is perhaps (actually, it’s scientifically proven) a greater factor in global warming than even the biggest SUVs. And animal-rights folks are miffed at Al Gore for not focusing attention on the issue in An Inconvenient Truth.
The New York Times reported in August that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization confirmed “the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined” — a rather shocking revelation given that automakers have taken the brunt of the greenhouse gas complaints.
If you’ve ever driven across southern Kansas like I have, you might start to see the picture more clearly – mountains of manure and thousands of acres of cows penned in so tight that they have barely any room to move. Of course, this revelation is nothing new. Frances Moore Lappe wrote about the dangers of overproducing beef in her seminal 1971 book, Diet For a Small Planet, and earlier this year the Christian Science Monitor released some statistics about the amount of CO2 emissions from beef production.
The basic idea is that beef production was once driven by the sun in a sustainable cycle. Overproduction has necessitated new energy inputs to be added (mostly from fossil fuels) making the cycle unsustainable – not to mention the amount of CO2 and methane that cows produce. The same argument can be made for other meat production including aquaculture.
So what can we learn? The solution to global warming is really about choices at the personal level. Sure big agribusiness, car manufacturers and energy companies have a job to do to reduce their emissions. But by changing personal behavior (namely what we eat) we can create significant, measurable impact that will have long-term important benefits for the environment.