It's a bird, it's a plane, it's someone eating seitan
Thinking more about quiet acts of revolution, I wanted to repost this article from The NYTimes blog by The Times Magazine's Food Columnist Mark Bittman called We Could Be Heroes from May 15. In response to Ariel Kaminer's challenge to readers of "The Ethicist" to argue the ethics of meat-eating, Bittman makes the case that the ethical question of killing animals for consumption is secondary to a debate over the meat industry's environmental impact. In short, industry farming is not a sustainable practice for many reasons, including:
- a massive contribution to greenhouse gases (between 20 and 50%),
- dwindling water supply (much more water required in beef production vs. wheat)
- no room to put livestock (okay this is nuts, but nearly half the earth's land is related to raising livestock)
As Bittman writes:
"If you believe that earth’s natural resources are limitless, which maybe was excusable 100 years ago but is the height of ignorance now, or that 'technology will fix it' or that we can simply go mine them in outer space with Newt Gingrich, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in reality, and you’d like that to be a place that your kids get to enjoy, this is a big deal."
The problem is, humans have proven time and again they don't believe in reality. According to a recent article in The Nation by Katha Pollitt one quarter "of Americans with graduate degrees believe dinosaurs and humans romped together before Noah’s flood."
I don't know how you combat this on a large-scale. I mean, where do you even begin? Pollitt makes the point that "rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false. Almost every scientist on earth would have to be engaged in a fraud so complex and extensive it involved every field from archaeology, paleontology, geology and genetics to biology, chemistry and physics. And yet this massive concatenation of lies and delusion is so full of obvious holes that a pastor with a Bible-college degree or a homeschooling parent with no degree at all can see right through it."
Pollitt brings the argument around to global warming, successfully cast and rejected as "liberal myth" by Creationist Republicans. She quotes Kenneth Miller, a devout Catholic biology professor at Brown University: "To have a near majority essentially rejecting the scientific method is very troubling."
So where do we begin? Back to Bittman, who ends his article on an uplifting note, assuring us that there is a "simple solution" to the specific problem of livestock consumption and the toll it is taking on the planet. "We can tackle climate change without inventing new cars or spending billions on mass transit or trillions on new forms of energy, though all of that is not only desirable but essential.
In the meantime, we can begin eating less meat tomorrow. That’s something any of us can do, with no technological advances. If personal choice enacted on a large scale could literally save the world, maybe we have to talk about it that way. We could be heroes..."
The “Meatless Monday” movement is already underway. Laurie David, author of the fantastic cookbook The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, writes about it here. And today just happens to be, you guessed it, Monday.
(I actually really don't like seitan. And I should be a vegan, but I'm not. Maybe I'll start with Vegan Mondays or something.)