Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some Light Earth Day Reading

There are only a couple hours of Earth Day left in my time zone. I meant to post this earlier, but oh well.

And not all of it's light reading. I'll start off with the lightest and get heavier from there.

First, there's 10 Kid-Friendly Earth Day Tips from Ruby Roth, author of That's Why We Don't Eat Animals.

Then there's, Want to Go Green? Eat Less Meat, which focuses on Gene Baur and his organization, Farm Sanctuary, an organization that I have my qualms with. I love Farm Sanctuary's sanctuary program, but have my problems with their focus on improving animal welfare instead of abolishing animal use. I met Gene a few years ago and he's a nice guy. We had a good discussion about my qualms and, while I didn't leave convinced that welfarism is a valid way to advocate for animal rights, I came to realize that his heart is, of course, in the right place. We don't necessarily differ in regard to our goal, but in the way in which we advocate for that goal.

Anyway, I liked most of what he had to say in this article.

"Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, carpooling, recycling — these are all great ways we can lessen our carbon footprint," says Baur, "but when compared with the difference you can make simply by eliminating or reducing meat and animal products from your diet, other aspects of green living pale by comparison."

Next, there's This Earth Day, Go Vegan from The Guardian which, unfortunately, repeatedly links to PETA. But other than that it's pretty good. Some highlights:

In Livestock and Climate Change, the Worldwatch Institute estimates that raising animals for food actually accounts for 51% of all greenhouse-gas emissions.
A totally vegetarian diet can be produced with only 1,100 litres of water per day, while producing a diet that includes meat requires more than 15,000 litres of water per day.
Our meat-based diet is partly to blame for world hunger, because land, water and other resources that could be used to grow food for human beings are used to grow crops for farmed animals instead. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat.

And here's Veganism: Morality, Health, and the Environment, a post from Gary Francione that illustrates how we can't really separate our caring for the environment and our caring for animals, including ourselves.

And finally, Livestock and Climate Change by the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization that, "focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society."

Some of you may remember the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations paper called Livestock's Long Shadow. It was a page turner, let me tell you. Well, what the Worldwatch Institute did was take the FAO's paper, apply reality to it, and come up with different numbers.

Livestock are already well-known to contribute to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. Livestock’s Long Shadow, the widely-cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that 7,516 million metric tons per year of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), or 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions, are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry. That amount would easily qualify livestock for a hard look indeed in the search for ways to address climate change. But our analysis shows that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.

And they back that up with a lot of numbers. Be warned. There are a lot of numbers. But it's worth the read, at least up until page 15. After page 15 they get into marketing stuff and focus too heavily on soy as the supposed magic bean to save the world. Don't get me wrong, I like soy. And I guess from a "way to convince people to stop killing the earth" standpoint, soy is pretty versatile. What with the analogs and all.

At any rate, I personally don't think that there's some sort of line you have to draw in the dietary sand when it comes to being an environmentalist. These things are all graded on scale, and a drastic reduction in your animal and animal product consumption would, without a doubt, translate into a drastic reduction in your carbon and water footprint. So, for the environment, I would say that we should all drastically reduce our animal and animal product consumption, preferably to nill.

For the the non-human animals we eat and wear, on the other hand, I'd have to say that we should go vegan.

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