Low Carbon Common Sense

Low Carbon Common Sense

Are we on it yet?

A bracingly rare article: an environmental case for not eating meat in a mainstream environmental publication. It’s titled “The Low Carbon Diet” and it’s in the current issue of Audubon, the magazine of the National Audubon Society, and it’s lengthy, well-reasoned, well-written, persuasive and punctilious in its examination of facts (and fiction). In other words: it’s worth reading — and sharing. Mike Tidwell, the writer, begins with the seemingly obligatory (and irritating) bona fides for an article like this: “I love to eat meat.”

But it gets better. Tidwell engages with straw men and not-such-straw sentiments, such as these (excerpts follow):

So why do we so rarely talk about meat consumption when discussing global warming in America? Compact fluorescent bulbs? Biking to work? Buying wind power? We hear it nonstop. But even the super-liberal, Prius-driving, Green Party activist in America typically eats chicken wings and morning bacon like everyone else. While the climate impacts of meat consumption might be new to many people, the knowledge of meat’s general ecological harm is not at all novel. So what gives?

What does give? Facts and figures on the role of animal agriculture in climate change and other critical environmental conundrums follow, plus some more rumination, like this:

So why in the world am I a dedicated vegetarian? Why is meat, including sumptuous pork, a complete stranger to my fork at home and away? The answer is simple: I have an 11-year-old son whose future’like yours and mine’is rapidly unraveling due to global warming. And what we put on our plates can directly accelerate or decelerate the heating trend.

Tidwell, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Congo DRC, includes a refreshing — and all too rare — focus on equity to his essay. As we in industrialized nations use up climate space to produce and consume animal products, there’s less space for others, particularly in the global South where climate change is hitting hardest and where means to adapt are few. He writes:

But in the Congo and other poor countries, in places like Bangladesh and Peru and Vietnam, where meat consumption is already low, severe climate change means food off the table. It means hungry children. It means the rains don’t come on time or at all in tiny villages like the one I lived in. It means, in the end, cruelty to people.

…with global warming, here’s the inconvenient truth about meat and dairy products: If you eat them, regardless of their origin and how they were produced, you significantly contribute to climate change. Period.