So far September’s been a pretty good month for shedding some light on the connections between meat and global warming. First, Brighter Green’s policy paper on China and factory farming has gotten a good reception. Fall forward. More heat. The catalyst: UK-based Compassion in World Farming sponsored a dialogue-shaping lecture in London with Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Pachauri’s topic? Meat and the climate. He urged, without dancing around the topic, people to eat less meat, starting with one meatless day a week and expanding from there. The day before Dr. Pachauri’s talk (I was in London, although unfortunately had to leave before the event) the UK Observer, the Guardian on Sunday, made its lead story the meat-climate story and an interview with Dr. Pachauri . The headline: “UN says eat less meat to curb global warming.” Nothing ambiguous about that.
Time magazine also covered Dr. Pachauri’s lecture and produced a thoughtful piece on meat and climate change. Not to be outdone, London’s voluble new mayor, Boris Johnson, also weighed in on Dr. Pachauri’s analysis — rather less thoughtfully. In a column full of his trade-mark “Boris bluster” he poked fun at the UN and the “UN man” and suggested the UK hold feasts of meat and name them for Dr. Pachauri. Man is an omnivore, Johnson declared, and it’s curbing global population growth — not meat — where public and policy attention should be. Father-of-four Johnson didn’t refer to his own production and consumption habits. Nor did he leaven his screed with many facts, including that Western meat consumption is still much higher than that in less developed regions . . . but that with the globalization of the Western consumer lifestyle, per capita meat and dairy consumption is rising rapidly, much faster than population growth rates.
Case in point: well, China, of course. (See the Brighter Green policy paper — if you haven’t already.)
While the mayor was waiting on lines for omnivorous meals at the Beijing Olympics while observing the scant lines for “salad” (an anecdote he relates in his column), he may well have usefully been reading — the policy paper. Maybe he will have by the time the Olympics get to London in 2012. Even as summer in the northern hemisphere winds down, it’s clear the heat is on.