Think of it as just another lesson in Lifeboat Earth.
Like the occupants of a lifeboat, we're scrambling around to keep us all going just a little bit longer.
Everyone on a lifeboat needs certain things. Water and food are pretty high on their list. There'll be no feasts, no banquets. You have to make do with what you've got when you get in and whatever you can snag afterward. You don't get to be fussy.
Earth is beginning to resemble our lifeboat and we're struggling to get as many aboard as possible. And, no, we don't get to be fussy. Consider these three news reports.
The Guardian reports on a study by the Norwegian think-tank, Eat, in conjunction with the British medical journal, the Lancet, to come up with a new diet for our difficult times. The answer - red meat once a month and oodles and oodles of kale. Think you can get by with eating just once a month?
The Eat-Lancet report posits that the global food system is broken. From the numbers quoted alone, it is hard to disagree: more than 2 billion people are micronutrient deficient, and almost 1 billion go hungry, while 2.1 billion adults are overweight or obese. Unhealthy diets are, it says, “the largest global burden of disease”, and pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than “unsafe sex, alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined”. The planet isn’t faring any better. Introducing the commission under the title Acting in the Anthropocene, the Lancet firmly places that global food system within the framework of human impact on both climate and the environment that has caused geologists to rethink how they work: we are not (yet) extinct, but we have an era named after us. And what we are eating has a lot to do with that. Food production, the report states, “is the largest source of environmental degradation”.But what if you need a little more meat in your diet? What's a guy to do? Well, there's always roadkill. Drive far enough and you're bound to find dinner.
Every year, between 600 and 800 moose are killed in Alaska by cars, leaving up to 250,000lb of organic, free-range meat on the road. State troopers who respond to these collisions keep a list of charities and families who have agreed to drive to the scene of an accident at any time, in any weather, to haul away and butcher the body.
“It goes back to the traditions of Alaskans: we’re really good at using our resources,” the Alaska state trooper David Lorring told me. Everyone I talked to – biologists, law enforcement, hunters and roadkill harvesters – agreed: it would be embarrassing to waste the meat. In the past few years, a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon and Montana, have started to adopt the attitude that Alaskans have always had toward eating roadkill. A loosening of class stigma and the questionable ethics and economics of leaving dinner to rot by the side of the road have driven acceptance of the practice in the lower 48.
Buck even has tips on going hunting. He prefers those 50s-era pickup trucks with the huge, real metal bumpers, that, if you hit your next meal just right can actually flip the dispatched carcass over the cab and into the bed of the truck. He has tips on what to hunt and when, where to go hunting, how to get the sun behind you, all that sort of thing.
And, if you're famished, you can always cook up the entree on your way home. Check out Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller's "Manifold Destiny." You've got that perfectly good engine. Why not use it to cook your fresh kill?
But not every part of the world is blessed with ready meat on the hoof. Central America is an example. That region is getting hammered by climate change. Heatwaves and droughts, crop failures have beset several countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. Yet they've got something that, I've read, tastes just like chicken - iguana.
The government of Nicaragua even set up billboards urging the people to turn that household pet into household dinner.
A land management expert, Guillermo Membreño, told Nicaragua's government-run online newspaper La Voz del Sandinismo that breeding the prehistoric-looking lizards "has two benefits." It's not just a great supply of dietary protein (packing a hefty 24 percent, compared to the 18 percent found in chicken, according to Memreño, although there is scant evidence for his calculations), but can also "offer a commercial use for the animals", i.e. selling the skins, or the iguanas themselves as pets.
Nicaragua's environmental law prohibits iguana hunting between January and April each year, but there are exceptions—the law is waived if you are going to keep the lizards for food.
This isn't the first time iguanas have hit the news. Back in 2012, Puerto Rico had mini-Godzilla situation—there were more iguanas than humans. The solution, as they'd become invasive, was to start culling and selling them for export to the Latino and Asian immigrants across the US who miss the taste of iguana—said to be like a sweeter version of chicken, often served either quick-fried in tacos or slow-cooked in stews. The eggs are also eaten, too, and are supposed to taste like a rich cheese.Unfortunately the taste for iguanas has encountered a predictable problem. They've become nearly extinct in Honduras.
Well, there are always bugs. Hardly a week goes by without some report on the latest yummy insects on offer at some swank eatery. But let's not leave out our pets. This week dog food made of insects hit the grocery shelves in Britain. The pet pellets are made of the larvae of black soldier flies (shown above).
Insects provide a relatively high 40% of the protein in the new product from startup Yora. They are dried and ground with oats, potato and “natural botanicals”. The current version comes in the form of dried pellets, although Yora says it hopes to launch a “wet” version later in the year.So what's the message in the saga of kale diets, roadkill and the noble iguana? Each of these tells the same tale. We've outgrown the planet. There's a similar parallel underway on our oceans where the industrial fleet, taking advantage of growing demand and dwindling supplies, is "fishing down the food chain," collapsing one fish stock after another.
We do indeed live in "interesting times."