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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 – YOU IN!?

This past spring, a few of us camp administrators got together and watched the movie Plastic Paradise (Warning: watch before you think about showing this to your children, there are some graphic parts). It was truly horrific, BUT equally inspiring. The film spells out that unless we, the consumers, stop buying plastic, it will not stop being made! And, if you haven’t guessed it – our plastic use is way out of hand and causing major environmental ramifications. Did you know that if current plastic production and disposal patterns continue, there will be more plastic, by weight, in the oceans than fish?

So, how much garbage does your family produce? In a day? A week? A year? Do you have a sense?

I’ve recently been so excited by the stories of families who’ve committed to living a zero or extremely low waste lifestyle. I’ve also heard of other families that only allow themselves to produce enough waste to fill up one garbage can… for the entire year! What courageous and conscious decisions!

For me, these inspiring challenges feel a little out of reach right now. I try to pay close attention to recycling and composting, but the garbage still fills up faster than I expect it to, and to be honest, I am not even sure how many cans of garbage we fill in an average week or month.

Knowing I definitely wanted to make some degree of change, I began asking myself: how can I reduce the garbage our family produces in a real and tangible way? And, what will make me commit to a goal for the long run? Then, I thought of all of you – our camp community, who I know also care deeply for the earth! It is always helpful to work together and get through challenges as a group.

If any of this is resonating, tell your children, get them on board, and start the challenge with us!

Here’s how to get the ball rolling and keep it going all year:

Step 1: Figure out how much garbage your family is producing as a baseline. You could weigh your garbage bags before you put them out for pickup, or simply count how many bags you toss each time. Notice how much of your waste stream is made up of single-use plastics – plastics that are used only once before they are thrown “away” (i.e. plastic bags, produce bags, straws, coffee stirrers, plastic wrap, etc.).

Step 2: Set a reduction goal you think is doable for your family, that will push you to try some new sustainable choices.

Step 3: Over this year, keep track of your garbage consumption and see if you can meet or surpass your goal!

I propose that we complete our baseline garbage tracking and our family goal setting (any ‘1 garbage can for the entire year’ families out there?) by the next issue of The Dirt, say, mid-October.

For the rest of the year, in each month’s Dirt, I will post about how my family (Daniel, Odelia and I) is doing with the challenge. I’ll also write about things we find helpful along the way!

If you’re in, please visit the Garbage Can Challenge page of our blog to reply with a ‘Yes! We are joining the challenge!’. I encourage you to reply regarding what your garbage goals are and, in future posts, how the challenge is going. This community sharing will help all of us all stay motivated and on track! I’m really looking forward to reading your posts. Pictures of your garbage (and/or recycling and compost) are also most welcome!

SO….WHO’S IN? I know Emily Selover, our Sustainability Queen, is!

I’m very excited about this,

Ayla