Category Archives: Ecological Economics

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

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

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.”

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 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 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

Chris Hedges: Go Vegan for the Planet

Chris Hedges has seen "Cowspiracy"

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.

Chris Hedges is also now a vegan, citing serious environmental concerns. He describes this in his recent article, “Saving the Planet, One Meal at a Time.” Continue reading

Extracted (review)

Extracted. How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet.
Ugo Bardi. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

Many people have heard of “peak oil,” and are concerned that finite fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas cannot support our economy indefinitely. But what about metals, like copper, gold, platinum, aluminum, and others? Isn’t there a finite supply of those in the earth’s crust as well? Do we have to worry about “running out” of metals?

Well, actually we do, although it’s more complicated than the phrase “running out” implies. This is the topic of Ugo Bardi’s clearly written and quite interesting book on minerals and how humans extract them. Continue reading

Drilling Down (review)

Drilling Down. The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma.
Joseph A. Tainter and Tadeusz W. Patzek. Springer, 2011.

Remember the Gulf oil spill in 2011? This catastrophic and deadly failure has now begun to fade from the public memory, but oil continues to be an increasingly complex issue in our society and the world.

To get oil, we now have to contend with “terrorists” abroad (ISIL), chaotic countries (Libya, Nigeria), and autocratic regimes with culture straight out of the Middle Ages (Saudi Arabia). The price of oil is permanently too expensive, unless the economy collapses (as in 2008–2009), and as may be happening now. Environmental damage is rife. Besides the Gulf oil spill, we have fracking (earthquakes, water contamination), the Alberta tar sands (which have done immense damage) and climate change. It’s not just that the situation is bad, but that the depth and complexity of our situation is breathtaking. Continue reading

Radicalization

What does "respect" mean?

The recently-concluded Denver event “Hoofin It” (August 17-20th) featured a different hoofed animal each day at different restaurants for customers to eat. The meat is from “responsibly raised hoofed animals,” and it was a benefit for the Colorado Food Guild, and tickets were not cheap: $60 for dinner for one person. The theme of the event was “respect your dinner.”

Had this been just another event of the “happy meat” people, vegans would have greeted this news with yawns and the ritualistic rolling of the eyes. But this event had an unexpected feature; the key sponsor was The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Continue reading

Robert Goodland (1939 – 2013)

Dr. Robert Goodland died on December 28, 2013. He is best known as the lead author (with co-author Jeff Anhang) of “Livestock and Climate Change” (WorldWatch, November / December 2009), which made the case that livestock agriculture is responsible for over half of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.  He worked at the World Bank for over two decades and was sometimes referred to as “the conscience of the World Bank.” Continue reading

Al Gore is Vegan

Methane is a lot worse than we thought, but there is some good news about the climate as well, already well publicized. Al Gore has gone vegan. In the past many people have complained about Gore’s lack of interest in combating a key cause of climate change. Well, now our hopes have been realized: Gore is a vegan. The “revelation” has been confirmed by The Washington Post.

This is a hugely interesting fact about which quite a bit of ink has already been spilled. The most interesting facet of this story is how amazingly little we know about Gore’s veganism. Continue reading