Friday, July 20, 2018

SS/DD Where's the Beef?

It's now a rule of thumb in this Age of Nihilism: if it's going to kill us, we're fine with it.

With all the global warming already baked in from current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas loading, we ought to be decarbonizing our economies and our societies just as fast as we can. Ain't gonna happen. You know it. I know it. The Petro-Pimps of Parliament Hill intend to see to it. They've got the filthiest, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum to flog and they're aiming to sell as much of it as they can just as fast as they can. Your little grandkids? Screw 'em.

Meanwhile the fast emerging economies are scouring the world for cheap energy wherever they can find it. Bitumen, sure. Coal, of course. Natural gas, if they can get it cheap enough. Doesn't really matter.  It doesn't matter that many of these rapidly industrializing countries are also in line for the worst impacts of climate change. Oh hell, they'll think of something, won't they? Sure "they" will.

But hard-working people who suddenly find themselves with a little change in their pocket want to eat and they want to eat - meat.

A new report in the journal, Science, finds that meat is all the rage and it's killing us.
Meat consumption is rising annually as human populations grow and affluence increases. Godfray et al. review this trend, which has major negative consequences for land and water use and environmental change. Although meat is a concentrated source of nutrients for low-income families, it also enhances the risks of chronic ill health, such as from colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. Changing meat consumption habits is a challenge that requires identifying the complex social factors associated with meat eating and developing policies for effective interventions.

The global average per capita consumption of meat and the total amount of meat consumed are rising (see the figure), driven by increasing average individual incomes and by population growth. Growth rates vary across different regions, with consumption in high-income countries static or declining and in middle-income countries moderately to strongly increasing, whereas in low-income countries, meat consumption is on average low and stable. There has been a particularly marked increase in the global consumption of chicken and pork. The consumption of different types of meat and meat products has substantial effects on people’s health, and livestock production can have major negative effects on the environment.

Meat produces more emissions per unit of energy compared with that of plant-based foods because energy is lost at each trophic level. Within types of meat, ruminant production usually leads to more emissions than that of nonruminant mammals, and poultry production usually leads to less emissions than that of mammals. Meat production is the single most important source of methane, which has a relatively high warming potential but a low half-life in the environment compared with that of CO2. Careful management of grassland systems can contribute to carbon storage, but the net benefits are likely to be relatively modest. Agriculture uses more freshwater than any other human activity, with nearly a third required for livestock, so meat production in water-stressed areas is a major competitor with other uses of water, including that required to maintain natural ecosystems. Meat production can be an important source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants and affects biodiversity—in particular, through land conversion to pasture and arable feed crops.
By now you're probably yawning. You're right, you've heard this all before. It's just another fine study recapitulating the warnings that we've so consistently ignored for years.

When it comes to meat and the environment, the survival of our and other species of life on the planet, it's like treating a diagnosis of lung cancer by going from a two pack a day habit to three or three-and-a-half. It's crazy but all nihilism is basically crazy. Our response is abject fatalism. 


the salamander said...

.. This 22 minuted Ted Talk fascinated me, Mound..
Alan Savory may be the Jacques Cousteau of the grasslands. He has already done some large scale comparisons re before/after. I could see people booking to spend a week or ten days roughing it with First Nations or American Indians, or in Africa.. learning herd husbandry, how to cure a skin, riding herd, string a bow or make pemmican etc.

Toby said...

salamander, Thanks for posting that Ted Talk link. That's an excellent lecture. Ever since I first watched it I have been convinced that our problem isn't that we eat meat but we do everything on the industrial model for so-called efficiency.

Anonymous said...

Interesting ... as we age my wife and I are consuming less meat. Especially her. Not sure why. And, she's a registered nurse.

Maybe gradually realising some things are not as healthy as we once thought.


The Mound of Sound said...

It was an interesting talk, Sal. Thanks for the link. I don't want to be a naysayer but I think the window is already closed for Savory's idea. Had we done that before the Holocene was lost to the Anthropocene it might have been feasible. One of the great vulnerabilities of grazing, as for other forms of agriculture, is water. You need an adequate supply of water at the right times in the right places. The hydrologic cycle of the Holocene provided that. It allowed man to progress from hunter-gatherers to farmers and then on to modern civilization - roads, towns, ultimately cities and nation states. That cycle is now broken, the once gently undulating jet streams replaced by Rossby waves that bring mega-droughts and mega-floods, unduly hot summers, unduly cold winters, even the disruption of ocean currents.

This brings to mind the sad account of a nomadic pastoralist, a herder, from the Sahel of Africa. Drought claimed half his herd in just one year. Floods took the other half in the subsequent year. It was believed his ancestors had been pastoralists for centuries, perhaps more than a millennia. In just two years he and his family were driven to a subsistence life of poverty in the nearest city.

I can show you a way to transform our dying forests from today's "carbon bombs" back to viable forests, carbon sinks, while simultaneously harvesting transport fuels from the surface carbon cycle (to displace fossil fuels) and providing the stock for soil remediation and significantly improved and sustainable crop yields through the application of mineralized carbon. It cleans groundwater, retains soil moisture and nurtures microbial growth essential to fixing nitrogen. I worked on this idea for seven or eight years, always convinced I was missing something, there was something wrong. And, over those years, I read report after report that collectively confirmed I was right. It's based on what was done by some lost civilization in the Amazon 2,500 years ago that remains completely effective today. I even worked out three major and two secondary income streams from the idea. Some day I hope to get an hour of Tom Steyer's time to present my paper to him.

If you know anyone who's really rich and wants to get a lot richer, have him get in touch.

Jay Farquharson said...

Not rich, can't help,

But I turned an overgrazed ranch from fallow land into an organic farm and ranch with permachar, amongst other techniques.

Just getting by for now.