Category Archives: Ecological Economics

The economy is part of the environment, not vice versa.

Talk on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture”

Keith AkersIn case you’re in Denver this Tuesday (September 29), I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Denver on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture,” sponsored by the DU Environmental Team. It will be at 8 p. m. in room 253 of Sturm Hall (2000 E. Asbury Ave, Denver, Colorado). There will be a quick overview of basic environmental issues relating to the livestock industry, such as climate change, resource depletion, and mass extinctions. It’s free and there will be vegan goodies served. For more details, check out the Denver Vegans Meetup site.

It’s not about climate change

Several major news sources have stated that the Pope’s recent encyclical is concerned about climate change. The CNN headline summarized the message: “’Revolution’ needed to combat climate change”. The New York Times declared: “Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change.”

Well, yes, the pope is concerned about climate change, but this view of what the pope’s encyclical is “about” is quite misleading. It is about the environment generally and the human relationship to the environment. It is worth actually reading the Pope’s encyclical to see what he does say. Continue reading

Livestock and atmospheric carbon dioxide

A key cause of climate change

A key cause of climate change

There is now more megafauna biomass (the total biomass of all large animals that are heavier than about 100 pounds) than there has been in recent earth history — indeed possibly in all of earth’s history. It seemed to be fairly constant at 200 million tons for literally hundreds of thousands of years. Then, starting with the industrial revolution and the huge surge in human population and the population of domestic livestock, megafauna biomass has exploded. It is currently about 1500 million tons, over seven times as much. And almost all of this increase has happened just since the industrial revolution.

Whoa! How did this happen? And do you think that all this extra animal biomass would affect carbon dioxide levels? Continue reading

Megafauna Extinctions and Overpopulation

Extinction is a hot topic these days. Megafauna — those “big animals” whose average size is 100 pounds or more — are going extinct at an alarming rate. There is huge popular sympathy for elephants, whales, tigers, giraffes, apes, and other animals endangered by human activities. At the same time, we face a huge paradox: there is more megafauna biomass now than there ever has been for past 100,000 years or so. How can megafauna become more prolific and yet so many species be faced with extinction?

There’s a simple explanation. The cause of megafauna extinctions is one particular megafauna species, namely us, and a number of other species that we have brought into existence, namely our livestock. Continue reading

Earth Day Veganism

Environmentalism requires veganism. Livestock agriculture is hugely wasteful of natural resources, and is the leading cause of climate change. And this is not to mention the California drought, species extinction, and deforestation — all exacerbated by livestock agriculture, and all threatening the basis of human life on earth.

But this works the other way as well. Veganism implies radical environmentalism. That’s because consumers who drive gas-guzzling cars, live in huge houses, and buy lots of toys really are doing more than just depleting the earth’s resources; they are endangering all animals on earth. Continue reading

Degrowth and Veganism

"Degrowth" is something natural and beautiful

“Degrowth” is something natural and beautiful

How can we deal with climate change, let alone peak oil, water shortages, deforestation, and everything else — given that truly effective environmental action would probably stop the economy from growing and totally change everyone’s lifestyle?

Our whole economy depends on fossil fuels, and our livestock-centered agricultural system is pillaging the earth’s biosphere. Veganism is surely part of the needed approach here. Continue reading

The Drought in California

The California drought is not going away anytime soon. And guess what uses more water than anything else in California? Livestock agriculture.

The environmental reasons for veganism suddenly are getting more credibility and attention. The recent film Cowspiracy, and the San Diego based group Truth or Drought, have drawn needed attention to the environmental destructiveness of livestock agriculture.

The solution seems to be obvious. Some people get it, while others don’t. Still other people almost get it, but not quite. Continue reading

This Changes Everything — Review

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

For Naomi Klein, the climate change issue changes everything: the only way to deal with climate change is to change capitalism. We need fundamentally to alter our economic system if we hope to save the planet. Her analysis is spot on and I hope that climate change activists and vegans will study and benefit from this book. The only criticism I would have is not that it is too radical, but that it isn’t radical enough. Continue reading

Sinkholes in Siberia

Siberian sinkhole in winter

Siberian sinkhole in winter

There is some good news and bad news about the massive sinkholes in Siberia. The good news is, people are beginning to become very concerned about them! Some people (such as Alexei Portnov) are concerned for the obvious reason; this is a strong symptom of accelerated global warming.

The bad news is that the leading cause of concern is that “the sinkholes could pose a serious challenge to the quickly expanding gas industry in the area.”

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God is not going to put more oil in the ground

There has been a huge drop in oil prices since last July. Many environmentalists don’t know what to make of this. Some are saying that the fall of prices should get us to rethink the “flawed” argument for peak oil, or that it will “destroy the green revolution,” or that it reflects the “existential crisis” of the environmentalists. Earth First! has chimed in as well. How can there be a shortage of oil, if prices are falling? Continue reading

Soil Erosion — is anyone paying attention?

Over a month ago, Reuters issued a widely-mentioned (but not widely discussed) press release on soils.“Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues,” reads the release. It quotes some United Nations officials, warning of the problems of soil erosion.

Is anyone paying attention? In an ideal world, the public would be outraged by this. Congressional committees would study the problem. Students would demand courses on soil preservation. But back in the real world, farmland just isn’t that big of a deal. After all, agriculture is just a very small part of the U. S. economy. We could also debate whether this is an exaggeration. Perhaps we have 100, or even 200 years of farming left! Continue reading

How can we ask them not to eat meat?

In a recent Go Vegan radio interview, Leslie Goldberg (author of the Vicious Vegan blog) gave an account of a conversation she had with Bill McKibben. (McKibben is a noted environmentalist and a co-founder of Leslie asked McKibben why he didn’t talk about meat consumption as a cause of climate change. McKibben first pointed out that most of the growth in meat consumption comes from the developing countries. Somewhat irritated, he then asked (in effect) “how can you ask people who are just starting to be able to afford and enjoy meat, not to eat meat?”

This is an intelligent question, so I thought I’d attempt to answer it. Continue reading

5280 Magazine Misses the Meat of the Matter

By Kate Lawrence

5280 The Denver Magazine recently featured an article on “Everyday Environmentalists,” presenting over 40 ways to live greener.  Pointing out that Coloradans are not as environmentally virtuous as we may think we are, the article featured excellent advice on such topics as home insulation, composting, gardening, biking–the usual and more.  Some items were very detailed, such as the advice to buy a live Christmas tree instead of an artificial one, and then plant it outside.  Readers who hike popular mountain trails were encouraged to go during the week so as to increase the likelihood that they will stay on the trail and minimize trail deterioration.  Yes, yes, yes, I’m saying to myself as I read, but when do we get to the huge environmental impact of meat consumption? Continue reading

Peak oil may be almost here

“Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” This aphorism is nowhere more applicable than when predicting the date of “peak oil” — the maximum point of world oil production. In case you hadn’t noticed, oil prices are falling dramatically. Until about six months ago, oil (“West Texas Intermediate”) had hovered for several years in the region of $100 a barrel, reaching $107 on July 23. But by last Friday (December 12), it was below $60. If we’re close to peak oil, and oil is getting scarce, shouldn’t the price be going up? What happened, and why?

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Are the Economists Hopeless on Environmental Issues?

The world has serious problems, such as climate change, peak oil, and resource depletion generally. Economists should be leading the charge on these types of issues, but except for the very few “ecological economists,” like Herman Daly, they say increasingly strange things about a parallel world which seems to have only a tangential relationship to the one in which we actually live.

A case in point is the recent book The Climate Casino (2013) by William Nordhaus. His book is quite insightful on several levels. The Climate Casino is a disturbing book, but unfortunately some of what makes it disturbing is not intentional on the part of the author.

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