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Meat: An Exploration

Ayla Dunn Bieber tackles the subject of meat consumption and how reducing it is the best way to fight climate change…

Meat: it is a hot topic. Below we will be looking strictly at the environmental impacts of eating meat. Spoiler alert – It’s a doozy!

All of the text that I’ve highlighted in green below was taken directly from https://veganuary.com/why/environment/. I found their website hugely informative and well sited and wanted to provide you with direct quotes.

image source: www.gotdrought.info

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals contribute 14.5 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than every car, plane, truck and train on the planet. [1]

The largest single cause of deforestation is agriculture. [2] Meaning, due to our global meat demand, we are cutting down the earth’s rainforests to clear more land to either graze game (mostly cattle) or grow crops to feed these animals. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year – that’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. [3]

Humans have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970, with many scientists believing we are in the era of a sixth mass extinction, and the first to be caused by a species. [4]

The three leading causes of this unprecedented massacre are:
-Destruction of habitats, largely to create farmland
-Wild animals being eaten
-Fishing [4]

In fact, agriculture and over-exploitation (including fishing) are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change. [5] Quite simply, eating animal products is destroying our wildlife.

When you read these statistics, how do you feel?

I felt shocked, disgusted, admittedly skeptical, and then ultimately, horrified. Truth be told, I’d been hearing whispers of information like this for some time. But, I chose to look the other way as I very much enjoyed eating meat and felt like my body needed it. That all changed abruptly a few weeks ago, when I got together with a few members of our camp Administration to watch the film “Cowspiracy”.

After watching this film (which did spark debate within the scientific community around how the filmmakers quantified and calculated GHG emissions), I could not ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Though the UN’s 14.5% estimate (the first quote in this article) is likely more accurate than the higher emissions percentage suggested by “Cowspiracy”, the truth is still overwhelmingly clear: WE MUST REDUCE OUR MEAT CONSUMPTION. It is clear that it is the single biggest thing we, as individuals, can do to reduce climate change.

For me, one of the most impactful lines in the movie was last one: ‘You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat, period’. Daniel and I had begun the conversation about our own meat consumption before the movie, but the pace of our decision making quickened that night. The next day we began our meat-consumption-reduction. So far we have cut out most meat entirely, eating a small amount of chicken or fish (about once a week) and occasionally eating dairy.

I still have a lot to learn and I encourage each of you to dig in with me, if you haven’t already. Let’s continue to educate ourselves so we can be the effective environmentalists we want to be.

A place to start: consider cutting your meat (especially beef) consumption in half. This is a great goal to begin with in this new year!

Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op are offering the coupon below to give readers a discount on produce as we transition towards more plant-centered consumption! Just present your coupon at checkout to receive the discount.

Please share your thoughts and information on this topic. Like all sustainability efforts, it is key that we are in this work together!

 

Until next time,

Ayla

 

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Tackling climate change through livestock: a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities’, 2013 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3437e.pdf [Accessed 1 December 2018]
2 ‘Forest conversion’, World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/deforestation_causes/forest_conversion/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
3 ‘Deforestation: overview’, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation [Accessed 1 December 2018]
4 Damian Carrington, ‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds’ The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds [Accessed 1 December 2018]
5 Jessica Aldred, ‘Agriculture and overuse greater threats to wildlife than climate change – study’, The Guardian, 10 Aug 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study [Accessed 1 December 2018]

Garbage Can Challenge – February Update

Ayla Dunn Bieber and Daniel Bieber write in collaboration this month, catching us up on their family’s mission to reduce their waste, and sharing some of the critical questions that’ve been on their minds and in their hearts.

As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, sometimes life throws you a curveball. Then you have to put down some of the other balls you’re juggling in order to focus on an important or unexpected challenge. This month was just that for my family. All is OK, but for a while it wasn’t – we were all in crisis-mode, overwhelmed by a family emergency. Naturally, this took our time and attention away from the rest of life, including our garbage challenge. Despite giving myself permission to buy certain ‘easier’ (but more heavily packaged) items, we didn’t exceed our goal tremendously – 3/4 of our garbage can was full instead of the hoped for 1/2.

It was harder than I thought it would be to go back to buying certain things that I had worked hard to give up. I found myself with a new level of anger about just how hard it is to get away from plastic. There’s got to be another way to package food!

Feeling lost in a sea of thought and plastic, I began to wonder: ‘Why is it so challenging to live a zero/low-waste lifestyle’? And ‘How do people do so when life presents a challenging, time-consuming event, or when all of life is an overarching state of crisis (i.e., poverty)’?

These thoughts led me to more thoughts:

What happens when our ideals meet reality? What do we do when stress, busyness, or struggle consume our ability to fully engage in our ideal? How do we compromise what we think is right with what is possible? And, what kind of culture requires that we must give time, money, and energy to be less destructive? What sort of society ask us to choose between dealing with life (a new baby, sick family member, overwork, poverty, illness, etc.) and having the time, money, and resources to be a less destructive consumer (to buy the right package-free products, to grow/make as much as we can, etc.)? I know that when the sh*t hits the fan in my life, I fall back on take-out food, whatever’s easy, and rely on meeting my needs through the fastest, least thought-consuming means of survival.

Being able to spend energy on reducing our household waste is a wonderfully privileged endeavor. It means we’ve had the time (albeit fought-after and fleeting) to think about more than how we’ll eat, live, or get through life to the next day. And what does it say about us (human beings, America) that to live eco-consciously and natural resource-consciously is positioned generally as either the lofty choice of the urban/suburban middle/upper class, or the non-choice of the poor, rural subsistence-farmer?

The truth is that this positioning is somewhat contrived. It is a by-product of the super influx of consumerism that has taken place over the course of just a few decades. In generations past, it was commonplace to re-use goods to the end of their life before disposing of them; and even then, to repair broken things instead of buying new ones; and to shop second-hand goods rather than purchase brand new ones. But as of late, new things–plastic things–have been made so inexpensive, things bought online and shipped from far away have become so cheap, packaged food has become so ubiquitous and is sometimes the only thing found in so-called ‘food deserts’, that suddenly it appears as though there is great effort and expense required in choosing other options. In some instances, that may very well be the case. But in many other situations, those other choices – to re-use something until you can’t re-use it anymore, to wrap a gift in newspaper rather than buy new wrapping paper, to opt-out of using a plastic straw (more on this below), or to take public transportation – still exist and are simpler than our consumer culture would lead us to believe.

So we ask ourselves: how do you catch a curveball while juggling? How do we reach for an ideal when mired in the reality of life? What it all comes down to, we’ve been thinking, is that we each just have to do our best and sometimes we have to temporarily shift our expectations. We’re asking ourselves, what are the simple tactics, the things people have been practicing for generations, that can be chosen even when we don’t feel like they’re making a huge difference. The important thing to keep in the back of our minds, is that every little bit counts.

With love,
Ayla and Daniel