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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 entire planet.

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 non-sustainable future.

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) self-interest.

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.



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