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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

For some wonderful, worshipful thoughts on Earth Day, visit Missy at Daily Portion: Green is a Common Sense Color. I couldn't agree more with her thoughts on living a life of simplicity!

"Though I can be political, living greener is not political for me. Nor is it about running out and buying lots of "green products," or being the trendiest girl on the bandwagon.

Simply put, I did not make this ground on which I step, or paint the sky. Of my will, I cannot make a single blade of grass grow, or a stem bud and then flower. I am here as witness and steward, and worshiper of the Maker. I want to treat less callously what He made. And with a clothespin, a homemade meal, a planted seed, give thanks."

By the way, did you know that what you choose to eat has more effect on our planet than what kind of car you drive? A United Nations study reported that the meat industry is responsible for producing 40% more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world put together.

Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute says, "There is no question that the choice to become a vegetarian or lower meat consumption is one of the most positive lifestyle changes a person could make in terms of reducing one’s personal impact on the environment. The resource requirements and environmental degradation associated with a meat-based diet are very substantial."

Interested in exploring vegetarianism this Earth Day? Why not pledge to be veg for 30 days?


  1. Hmm... well, I think the vegetarian diet has that effect, but only to to a point. If you live, say, in the northeast and your vegetarian diet includes apples from Washington, spinach and asparagus from CA, grapes from Peru, peaches from Argentina, and tomatoes and bell peppers from Mexico, are you really improving matters all that much?

    I think the best impact of all is to eschew industrial agriculture of any form (organic or conventional) and try to remain fairly local in our food consumption. Even with occasional meat consumption, I think this sort of diet is going to have the greatest impact. But there are so many different variables going into this, it seems hard to know how to best crunch the numbers to really figure it out - if such a thing really is even knowable!

    Can you tell I've been reading books like The Omnivore's Dilemma, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Real Food recently? *grin* Lots of good food for thought there! (ok, couldn't resist, sorry)

  2. Amber, I think eating locally is really important (I'm signing up for a CSA this summer... so exciting!), but I think your perspective pre-supposes two things that aren't necessarily true: one, that vegetarians substitute only more vegetables for meat, and I think it's more likely that legumes and protein-rich grains take the place of meat in the diet, with lots of fruits and veggies (at least in my case) remaining the constant. Secondly, that produce and not meat is involved in the issue of transport -- but meat is too!

    But I completely agree that staying away from industrial agriculture is a good thing, and I'm looking forward to eating local produce from June through October this year thanks to my CSA share. AND... I'll have space for a garden once we get moved into our new house (assuming all goes well)!

    Your reading list sounds terrific!

  3. Oh drat, I just lost my comment by navigating away before filling out that darn spam-bot thing. Grr.

    Anyways, what I was going to say was that I wasn't neglecting either of those issues - they just got edited out in the interests of brevity. I should have included things like pasta from Italy, legumes and nuts from China, and rice from Indonesia. Industrial agriculture moves all sorts of goods all over the world, and I didn't mean to only list fruits and vegetables!

    Also, while yes, of course meat is transported too (as is the grain needed to feed the animals before they end up as meat) it is remains a more local supply chain. The grain is largely grown somewhat near the feedlots which are fairly close to the slaughterhouses. The main shipping cost is what it takes to ship the finished products to the population centers.

    Perhaps if you compare the shipping cost on a per unit basis - say a strawberry with a steak - they come out roughly equal. But I wonder if you compare it on a calorie basis (how many fuel calories required to move the given amount of food calories) the meat product might end up ahead. But it all gets rather esoteric and complicated and hard to calculate.

    At this point I think any kind of out of season and industrial diet is pretty much going to be a bad idea and a losing proposition, both in terms of personal health and environmental impact.

    That is really neat that you're doing a CSA too! I'll be looking forward to comparing notes. Ours starts at the beginning of June too and runs for the same season as yours. And I hope you do get to have a garden soon - maybe you'll have time to plant a few tomatoes or something in the midsts of all your unpacking and painting and getting settled in! Nothing says "I live here" like some tomatoes and squash in the garden, right?

  4. Thanks for the more detailed explanation, Amber... I need to read those books you've been reading! They sound very informative and fascinating. I completely agree that eating locally and in-season as much as possible is the best solution.

  5. So after I read (most of) _Food Matters_, I read _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ by Michael Pollan. It is lengthy but extremely thorough and very interesting. You should definitely check it out, though *spoiler* it does not conclude with a vegetarian manifesto. Next on my Books about Food list is Pollan's _In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto_.