In 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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.”
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 350.org.) 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 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
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.
Chris Hedges was a war correspondent, worked for the Greens in 2008 and 2012, and was part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. He’s also, interestingly enough, a Presbyterian minister. He is known to me personally mostly as the author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a book which is at once interesting, powerfully written, and quite disturbing. It was so powerful, in fact, that I couldn’t finish it. Forcing myself to finish it would be like forcing a vegan to watch slaughterhouse footage. I get it already; I don’t want to watch it.
Richard Heinberg, a prominent member of the Post-Carbon Institute, has issued a 10-point plan on “How to Shrink the Economy Without Crashing It.” He makes plenty of excellent points, but it contains a glaring omission: it (once again!) leaves out any discussion of food choices.
It’s distressing to see that advocates of reducing the human impact on the planet ignore the significance of our food choices. This was exactly the theme pursued by the recent documentary “Cowspiracy,” with which the Post-Carbon Institute (PCI) is perhaps unfamiliar. Without a change in food choices, how much shrinkage in the economy’s effects on the planet will we actually see? Continue reading
The economy in Colorado is doing well. Population is growing, driving up housing prices. Fracking, livestock, and debt are providing jobs. Unfortunately, these are the very factors which are devastating the planet.
Several months ago, Russian researchers reported a giant sinkhole in Siberia, on the Yamal peninsula. It was apparently caused by a huge and spontaneous release of methane from the permafrost, caused by the unusually warm summers in this Arctic region (about 5 degrees Celsius warmer than normal). Methane is a vital issue because it’s a very important greenhouse gas, right next to carbon dioxide, and its importance is typically underestimated.
Let’s put this in perspective: the permafrost is melting. Continue reading
“You vegans seem to be pretty well organized!” This is what one of the leaders of the Denver climate march said to Kate and me as we marched down the 16th Street Mall today. I had to smile. Basically, my “organizational efforts” consisted mostly in bringing just four signs. Each of the four had “Meat’s Not Green” on one side, and “Less Meat = Less Heat” on the other. Kate, however, also had a considerable role in this; she had just given a short talk to the crowd about veganism, livestock agriculture, and climate change. Continue reading