From: God / Re: Your Planet
Reviewed by Keith Akers
God’s Last Offer: Negotiating for a Sustainable Future, by Ed Ayres.
Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999. 357 pages, $22.00.
It is the environmental issue, more than any other, which will define the
vegetarian agenda in the next century. You can shrug off the health effects of
meat consumption — "we’re all going to die anyway," some will say.
You can shrug off animal rights — why should we care about a bunch of animals?
But it’s a lot harder to shrug off the environment; that’s shrugging off not
only your future, but the future of the human race and everything else on the
God’s Last Offer is easy to read and compelling up to the last page.
There’s nothing like starting off the year 2000 with a good strong reminder of
which planet we’re on (that’s "Earth") and the condition it’s
in. The author is the editor of World Watch magazine and very familiar
with not only environmental realities but also the way in which the media and
large corporations are depicting those realities. The time has come when it is
necessary to acknowledge and deal with the truth, or we will have a
And yet, this book is not primarily about the environment. It is a book about
our perception (or misperception) of the environment. Ayres quickly
establishes the state of the planet in his first chapter by referring to the
four extraordinary spikes of the twentieth century: the carbon dioxide spike,
the extinction spike, the consumption spike, and the population spike. Having
done that, he proceeds to the main focus of the book — why these clear truths
are not getting out. With reminders from our own history, he tells the story of
how the media, the political process, and our own lack of familiarity can result
in information which is denied, disappears, or is simply disregarded.
He also offers answers as to what YOU can do about it. While he does not
dwell on the vegetarian issue, he is clearly aware of the central problems which
meat causes for the world’s food system and refers to it on more than one
occasion in his book. One of the chief things he includes in his chapter on
practical action ("You") concerns meat consumption. "Reconsider
your consumption of meat," he advises; "if you once thought this was
only an animal rights issue, look again." He also advises us to look at our
jobs and to consider changing them if they are not compatible with a sustainable
economy, and to reduce our materials and energy consumption. Finally, he advises
us to act for what we know is right even what that is not in our own (narrow)
This book is an open invitation to the vegetarian movement to get more
involved in environmental issues. Unlike EarthSave, the Worldwatch Institute
which Ayres works with was not founded by those self-consciously trying to
promote a plant-based diet; nevertheless, the work of Worldwatch (including this
book) clearly points in the same direction. These environmentalists deserve our
support and our attention.