Category Archives: Vegetarianism / Veganism

A vegetarian eats only plant foods, with or without the addition of dairy products, eggs, and honey. A vegan doesn’t eat any animal products and avoids the use of animal products for any other purposes; the exact definition is debated.

“Climate Change and Veganism — an update”

In case you’re in Denver on Earth Day weekend, I’ll be speaking at the Denver Vegans potluck this Saturday, April 21. The title of my talk is “Climate Change and Veganism — an Update.” The Denver Vegans monthly vegan potluck will be held at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center, 1939 South Monroe Street in Denver, 6 pm to 8:30 pm. Bring a vegan dish; the presentation will follow the meal. For details and to sign up, visit the Denver Vegans meetup page. Continue reading

Eat for the Planet — review

Eat for the Planet. Saving the World, One Bite at a Time. Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone. Abrams Image, 2018. Hardcover, 160 pages, $19.99 / $24.99 Can.

Plant-based diets and the environment — isn’t it about time we started talking to a wider audience about this? This attractively produced book will surely get people discussing these vital concerns for the future of the planet. Zacharias and Stone give plenty of evidence that a plant-based diet is also a “planet”-based diet. In a remarkably narrow space, the authors quickly cover seven key issues — land, water, food, energy, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction, showing how a single solution can address them all. Continue reading

Judge wants to know about respiration and climate

The California judge in the climate change liability trial wants to know if human respiration is a problem for climate change. Humans are breathing out carbon dioxide (CO2), and human population has increased dramatically in just the past century. Is this part of the climate problem? (I wrote about this previously but am now revisiting it.)

Here’s the question that the judge asked:

“In grade school, many of us were taught that humans exhale CO2 but plants absorb CO2 and return oxygen to the air (keeping the carbon for fiber). Is this still valid? If so, why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? Given the increase in human population on Earth (four billion), is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2?” Continue reading

Air pollution: another reason to go vegan for the climate

There’s a lot of disturbing news about climate right now: methane sinkholes in Siberia, disappearing Arctic sea ice, and balmy winter temperatures at the North Pole. But a recent scientific report on air pollution (“anthropogenic aerosols”) in the atmosphere, highlighted in this interview with the lead researcher, adds another dimension to “disturbing” and gives us yet another reason to go vegan for the climate.

What does air pollution have to do with climate breakdown, and what does any of this have to do with veganism? Continue reading

Veganism is not enough

A giant methane sinkhole in Siberia. Should we be worried?

Many vegans, upon studying environmental issues a bit, conclude that there’s no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist. Well, guess what, vegans! You’re right. Veganism is a necessary part of any sane environmental approach. But it’s still not enough. Even if everyone goes vegan, if we keep burning coal, driving cars, and overpopulating the planet, universal veganism isn’t going to save us. Let’s take a look at some key environmental issues. Continue reading

Vegans: take the lead in climate action in 2018

Kate Lawrence (left) talks about veganism with another marcher at the 2017 climate march in Denver. There was 8 inches of snow that day, while it was above 90 F in Washington, D. C.

In 2018, vegans need to take the lead in climate action.

There has been increasing awareness within the climate movement about the relationship between food, land use, and climate. A 350.org flyer urges “put plants on your plate”; a draft of a Climate Mobilization document wants “a reduction in meat-based consumption.” These are steps in the right direction, but we need to do better than this. The climate situation is much more serious than we thought and radical solutions are now absolutely necessary. Continue reading

Breathing and climate change

Source: Derzsi Elekes Andor

Does breathing contribute to climate change? With every breath we take, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. So are we contributing to climate change just by the act of breathing?

If someone knows a bit about biology, they might respond, “no, because new plants will replace the plants we have eaten, and the new plants will take up the carbon dioxide.” The actual answer is not some glib assurance that new plants will replace the old, but “it depends.” And when you spin out what precisely it depends on, it has very significant implications for how we address climate change. Continue reading

An Inconvenient Sequel ignores livestock agriculture

Al Gore’s new documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel” is well worth seeing. Coming out a decade after “An Inconvenient Truth,” it makes one key point on which we all can agree: climate change is already happening, illustrated with collapsing glaciers, extreme weather events, and more. To his credit, Gore does acknowledge agriculture — in one sentence — but immediately adds that the leading cause of climate change is fossil fuel emissions.

Well, isn’t he right?

I would turn Gore’s statement around: without addressing livestock agriculture, we will not be able to deal with climate change. And here’s why. Continue reading

The Ecological Hoofprint (review)

The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock. Tony Weis. London: Zed Books, 2013.

When we think about the ecological effects of livestock agriculture, many of us reflexively think about soil erosion, water pollution, or cutting down the rainforests.

Tony Weis, in The Ecological Hoofprint, shows that there is much more going on. There is an entire social framework underpinning livestock agriculture. This framework consists of political structures to legitimize extreme exploitation and an ideology to match. Ultimately, it is this social framework which is the problem, even more than the individual decision to eat (or not eat) meat. Continue reading

Vegetarianism and Christianity — are they compatible?

[The following article by Keith Akers was published in The Ark, No. 234, Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The Ark is the publication of the Catholic Concern for Animals.]

Is vegetarianism part of Christianity, or are they incompatible? Christianity and vegetarianism don’t have to be in competition, but in practice they are. While many become vegetarians for health reasons, the heart of vegetarianism is its ethical component — the practice of not eating meat out of concern for the suffering of animals. Continue reading

The Sierra Club addresses livestock agriculture

sierra-club-mtg-10-18-2016Remember the very beginning of Cowspiracy, where the producers interview Bruce Hamilton representing the Sierra Club? Hamilton gives a litany of all the dire consequences of climate change, ending with a prediction of “climate wars.” He is then asked, “what about livestock and animal agriculture?” to which Hamilton innocently (and seemingly obliviously) responds, “well, what about it? I mean —”. This is the lead-in to Cowspiracy’s general theme that environmental organizations are either clueless or hypocritically silent about livestock agriculture and the environment.

If the producers of Cowspiracy had showed up at a local Sierra Club meeting last week, instead of interviewing Hamilton, Cowspiracy might have taken a very different turn. Continue reading

Meathooked — review

Meathooked by Marta Zaraska - coverMeathooked: The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat. By Marta Zaraska. Basic Books, 2016.

A well-written and informative book, even when one doesn’t completely agree with it, is easy to review. This book fills the bill. Thank you, Marta Zaraska, for keeping us up to snuff on the issues. She also manages not to upset anyone, steering away from nasty little confrontations with vegetarian sensibilities. So, vegetarians, you can relax; your ethical sensibilities will not be sullied.

Zaraska, a freelance science journalist, provides the flip side of the “why are you vegetarian?” discussion — “why do you eat meat?” The author isn’t looking for, or trying to dissect, rational arguments for meat-eating — she’s just looking for an explanation or a cause for this behavior. Continue reading

It’s worse than we thought

The High Park Wildfire burns on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland on June 10, 2012. The High Park Wildfire located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, CO has consumed over 65, 738 acres of forest and grassland with approximately 189 homes destroyed. Over 1,773 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service (FS), state and local resources are fighting the wildfire and have achieved 55% containment as of June 20, 2012. The High Park Wildfire began on June 9. 2012 because of a lightening strike on private land. U.S. FS photo.

The High Park Wildfire, June 10, 2012. U.S. FS photo.

Climate change is a lot worse than we thought. This is catching even the climate scientists by surprise, according to a widely-cited story from the Thompson Reuters foundation. The World Meteorological Association reported record temperatures in June — for the 14th straight month. David Carlson, director of the WMO’s climate research programme, stated that “what concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps.” They knew it was bad, just not this bad.

And why do you suppose climate change is worse than anyone thought? Has this question occurred to anyone? Continue reading

UCS posts strange review of Cowspiracy — no, wait, a review of “Livestock and Climate Change”

CowspiracyWe’ve been wondering for some time if major environmental groups would ever react to Cowspiracy, the 2014 documentary making the case that livestock agriculture is the most destructive industry on the planet today.

Well, there’s good news and bad news! The good news is that one group, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), is now publicly discussing Cowspiracy. The bad news is that this comes in the form of a rather strange review which Doug Boucher, a scientific advisor to the UCS, has posted on the UCS web site.  Continue reading

Talking to vegans about simple living

Prairie dogs are extinct in perhaps 98% to 99% of their former range

Prairie dogs are extinct in perhaps 98% to 99% of their former range

If you are a vegan, should you also try to live simply? Does veganism imply simple living? Vegan activists often downplay or reject outright the suggestion that veganism means “doing without.” We have vegan cheese! We can travel to exotic destinations and eat vegan! We can get the latest Tesla electric car with non-leather seats! However, veganism — in spirit, if not in the letter — does imply living simply, because of the effect of our consumption patterns on wild animals. Continue reading