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Problem Solving 101

When you have a problem and you know what causes it, what do you do? Do you attack the symptoms of the problem? No, because you know what the cause is. When wouldn't you go to the problem's cause? Simple: When you don't want to.

Thus is the saga of the myriad ridiculous, expensive, time- and energy-consuming strategies of environmentalists and other scientists, who are treating the relationship between raising animals to kill them for food and climate change like Rubik's Cube.

Let's deconstruct "As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions" in today's New York Times:

  • The title of the article clearly doesn't allow for a solution other than more eating meat. We know where the article isn't going.
  • I was surprised to read this in the NYT: "[A] group of farmers-turned-environmentalists here at a smelly but impeccably clean research farm have a new take on making a silk purse from a sow’s ear .  . . " Silk purse from a sow's ear? My guess is that's supposed to be playful, at least for those who don't care about harming sentient nonhumans. I found it offensive, unnecessary and creepy, and my ear stings just reading it.
  • It may indeed be true that "more and more people are eating more meat around the world." But each individual who is aware of the connection between climate change and "meat," even if they don't find the thought of consuming another to be repugnant, can be part of the solution. Each person can do something about cause of the problem.
  • Nobel Prize-winning Rajendra Pachauri didn't get that Nobel Prize for nothing. His ingenious idea? "Eat less meat." But that simple idea, which does indeed go directly to the cause of the problem, is overlooked again and again. 
  • "The trillions of farm animals around the world generate 18 percent of the emissions that are raising global temperatures, according to United Nations estimates, more even than from cars, buses and airplanes." Knowing that, I'm not sure why any thinking person needs a gaggle of scientists to provide a solution for them beyond their own personal actions.
  • In case you aren't sure what the solution is: “Of course for the environment it’s better to eat beans than beef,” according to the chief of sustainability at the Swedish agricultural group Lantmannen. Later, the group also adds that "producing a pound of beef creates 11 times as much greenhouse gas emission as a pound of chicken and 100 times more than a pound of carrots." Even the people who study agriculture say that it's better for the environment not to eat animals! Yet, the notion isn't treated seriously as a solution.
  • Dr. Pachauri tries again: 
“'I’m not sure that the system we have for livestock can be sustainable.' A sober scientist, he suggests that 'the most attractive' near-term solution is for everyone simply to 'reduce meat consumption,' a change he says would have more effect than switching to a hybrid car.“

Nah, let's just label the products about how much harm they cause and hope people read the labels and choose well, and that will be their statement of how much they care about the planet. That should do the trick, right?

  • Once again, and I find it unfathomable, "any suggestion to eat less meat may run into resistance in a world with more carnivores and a booming global livestock industry."

Sure there are oodles of fascinating experiments you can try with the feces of other species to resolve this problem. But all of that is absurd given the simplest, easiest solution that's most ethical in every regard. You can begin with what a Nobel Prize winner's been talking about for years: eating less meat. And then you can simply stop, once you realize killing unnecessarily isn't a very kind thing to do.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. After changing lightbulbs… (and carbon impact labels) a grand scale pathogenic zootonic-prion-animal-meat disease might reduce meat consumption? I also highly approve of a *meat*consumption tax!

    But even before this I'm betting on the inevitable water crisis predicted within the next 20 years will encourage the logical solution of a plant-based diet:

    Jeremy Rifkin, author of Beyond Beef: "half the water consumed in the US now goes to grow feed for cattle and other livestock".

    Frances Moore Lapp, author of Diet for a Small Planet: "the water used to produce just ten pounds of steak equals the household water consumption of her family for an entire year."

    John Robbins, Diet for a New America: "a pound of beef protein requires up to fifteen times more water than producing an equivalent amount of plant protein."

    Guzzling the West's Water: "raising water-loving livestock makes about as much sense as raising oranges in Alaska. If you can get most of your costs subsidized, and if you and society are willing to ignore the environmental consequences, it can be done. However, as more of the true costs of (western) livestock production are realized, including the cost in precious water resources, society may want to reconsider this folly."

    No… I think we'll drag our feet on the environmental impact of meat consumption for a long time after we figure out how to manage the looming water crisis.

    December 4, 2008
  2. (Sorry to double-post) but I ran into this and thought it relevant as to the steps being taken by the EPA to "manage or tax" methane from livestock industries… There's not much in mainstream media about this proposed *cow-fart tax* as the animal ag people call it – but they are poised for economic calamity should it pass:
    "Since July, the Environmental Protection Agency has been considering how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

    Such regulation might take the form of an emissions tax. Preliminary figures indicate the tax could run as high as $175 a year per dairy cow."

    Of course money isn't going to fix the problem (meat/dairy consumption)- It's not like Mother Nature is bribed by cash.

    December 4, 2008
  3. davedrum #

    It's amazing HOW many times this issue comes up and still nothing gets done. It only reminds me of the abolitionists…talking about "facts" and blaming others… yet nothing gets done to bring about "change"… The failure of the abolitions is clear here…meat consumption is going up. They keep saying, writing, and talking about how they have a plan to create more vegans, yet to "me" this article rings true… there are more people around the world that are creating more factory farms, housing more things "living" and and consuming more dead animals each and every single day that passes. Maybe it's time for them to stop posting all day on forums and start "doing" something with all they "preach" about… Spending all day on forums writing the same crap over and over is not saving lives or helping out planet. Yet they are so very correct…all the time…about the "change" that they speak about and how it needs to be done. Again, this NY Times article shows how they are failing to reach out. Be it the abolitionists, General Best, Admiral Watson, or whomever… Whatever it is they're doing…it's CLEARLY not working when all "facts" show that meat consumption is going in they wrong direction… up (not down).


    December 4, 2008
  4. It's disturbing to think that so many people actually consider themselves animal rights advocates when they utter things like "I'm against eating meat" and "we should eat less meat".

    The prejudice is built right into the sentence, "meat". Animals aren't right-holders or sentient beings, but these things, "meat", just clusters of meat that just so happen to inconveniently be smelly walking things at one stage in their product cycle.

    Campaigning against "meat-eating" is like campaigning that we should be "nicer to n—ers" or "more courteous to broads". The prejudice that animals are nothing more than things, objects made for us to use and exploit is so heavy, most animal advocates I've met can't see past it.

    As you point out in this article, we try to use this "environmentalist" appeal as if it were an extra resource we have to get people going vegan, yet it further diminishes the idea that animals have any rights or should be acknowledged as sentient beings.

    December 4, 2008
  5. Adam… hi. I get that using the word *meat* has built in prejuidices – I hate the word myself. Usually when I say *it* it's always with the finger quotes – and when I type it: it's *meat*. Of course the most appropriate word is flesh… But then nothing is closer to the truth than "animals"… what is your word of choice – just curious?

    And David – I hear your anger… But what exactly should we all be out there "doing"? Especially if some of us are handicapped, elderly, isolated, home-bound or broke? What is the "thing" we're suppose to be doing more of?

    I learned of veganism through the internet – so did my husband… We're working on several people (showing them what's on the internet) so they can go vegan too. And because of the world we live in, the internet is pretty much where most people learn of these atrocities to animals… It only stands to reason that it's a battleground. The internet (and accompanying video technology) is the one thing that the animal ag people didn't bank on. Go to any of their forums and you will see their strategy is to blitz the "internet" with their propaganda… It is no coincidence that veganism has doubled in the past 10 years due to folks getting educated about animals, about health, about the environment and all the issues we regularly use to sway them to our position.

    "Activism" is fine when you can volunteer at an outreach, a meet-up, a shelter or sanctuary… But speaking from experience – cleaning cages of warehoused cats/dogs in a building with 2 omnivores doesn't accomplish much either… "Activism" is fine work when you can get it -but in the town I live in no-one is hiring, or looking for volunteers for that matter.

    I understand the frustration that not enough is being done for the animals… even if some of us are giving/doing everything we can. What is the solution? And what are you doing that might direct us all to a more productive course?

    Believe it – tell me what I can do to change the property status of animals any more rigorously than what I'm already doing, and I'll be on it – double quick.

    December 4, 2008
  6. Angus #

    Here's a piece on the subject that's worth reading:

    December 5, 2008
  7. Angus – That's a great essay supporting the obvious – Institutions, government and individuals do not want to acknowledge the best method to restoring planetary and personal health is to reduce (eliminate) animal products. But as the article said "People get very upset when they feel they are being told what to eat."

    I take a different view on that – I think instead we are being barraged on what to eat all the time: "meat". One just needs to see with different eyes… the billboards, franchises, the media, and grocery stores all point one way – to animal products.

    And even with the manipulations and collusions between the American Meat Inst. and the EPA – we don't still don't see how we are being told what to eat…

    The facts are ushered in the room with the elephant of what needs to be done, yet the Federal Government is still the largest customer of animal products! There's always plenty of *meat* on the menu in the military, schools and other gov institutions. "Food experts and environmentalists are worried about hostility"? Pleeze.

    I would also say that the Sierra Club, Gore and their ilk are to environmentalism what HSUS is to Animal Rights – More harm than good.

    Compromise and denial there's nothing that hasn't been discussed already, but here's more:

    December 5, 2008

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