Thursday, January 17, 2019

Roadkill, Kale and the Humble Iguana. Dining in an Overpopulated Planet.

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.
Years ago I bought Buck Peterson's original "Roadkill Cookbook." It's still available in bookstores and you should find a copy for under $10.  Buck covers all the bases, everything from how to fry up skunk to the best way to roast a haunch of moose.  He describes how to tenderize you free meat (usually the car/truck does most of that) and the spices that will make your carrion wonderfully delicious.

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). 
Globally, pets consume about 20% of the world’s meat and fish, a number set to rise with the trend for consumers to feed them human-grade meat. Pet food is also estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impacts of meat production in terms of use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates and pesticides. 
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."


Karl Kolchak said...

Your fellow Canadian blogger Ian Welsh wrote some time ago that hundreds of millions will die on the Indian subcontinent in the next few decades as the annual monsoon peters out. Here in the U.S., California and the Gulf Coast are rapidly becoming zones of high risk to life and limb, while the depletion of the Ogalala Aquifer is soon to turn the wheat belt back into the dust bowl. Moreover, thanks to rampant globalization with its insane insistence on just-in-time delivery systems for vital necessities such as food and medicine, the catastrophic effects of any major disruption will be greatly magnified and ripple around the globe

This is why I no longer get worked up about conventional politics all that much. While Trump may be a nightmare, it isn't like belligerent, war mongering Hillary would have done anything to "save" us from our fate. Either way, it's all just a matter of time.

The Mound of Sound said...

I skimmed through a report yesterday on what the retreat of glaciers around the world will mean for populations dependent on their melt water.

Why did China invade Tibet? Did it think itself endangered by a gaggle of Buddhist monks? Or might it have something to do with gaining strategic control over the Himalayan glaciers and the rivers they feed?

Three countries are mortally dependent on Himalayan meltwaters - China, India and Pakistan. All three if them also field substantial nuclear arsenals. China, it's feared, could divert more of the Himalayan headwaters to its own needs,beggaring India and Pakistan. India, likewise, is considering dams for the rivers that flow through it en route to Pakistan.

Compound this problem with the unreliable Monsoons, China's contaminated freshwater resources, India's rapacious emptying of its aquifers and the inability to supply enough clean water to its major cities, and you have a formula for major power conflicts.

Gwynne Dyer, in his book "Climate Wars" writes that, no matter how peaceful, no village will allow its children to starve without first raiding its neighbours.

the salamander said...

.. i just spent five minutes, contemplating, reflecting on your post..
We .. (myself, fiancee, immediate family & friends or extended neighbors)
have so much.. so much to be grateful for

Tonight is 'salmon night' in salamander whirled (not a typo)
Even the dogs get a tidbit ..
We bake it and steam broccoli, simmer mixed rice

Would I like to surrender or lose this Thursday eve tradition.. not !
But to this day, I still buy noodle soup - 4 for a doller at Dollar Store
and that's tradition too.. back to my beach volleyball days
when I had no money, no job.. just an astonishing beach, a Great lake
and a family about to become three of us.. not two

We lived large then Mound.. by the lake
the 'bounty' was in the environment & ambience.. sand, water, sky, boardwalk
a safe community.. let me repeat 'COMMUNITY' .,
180 degrees of view, sand, water, sky, wind and weather..

We can get by with less now, of course ..
and since this is the slow season for a hardly humble house painter
We certainly do.. but we are far from 'hard done by'

We have electric power (lights)
We have water (from a tap, on demand)
We have sewage.. (not sure where it goes)
and we have the odd snowplough after snow falls

I can hit (and do) The St Lawrence Market or Kensington
or the local farmer's market in season
or The Danforth.. (like for wild salmon, eh !)

My huge son is now married, lives by the beach
they foster dogs, have two monsters & thus do not lock their doors
and seems their lifestyle is similar.. to that he was raised & fed on

Will his n hers children if so blessed, enjoy such wonder ?
Such environment, opportunity, hell.. such luxury ?
Or will they 'inherit' the disatrous debt of our neo era
that of the Trump or Harper.. Ford or Trudeau ? Cite C
as species and food chains just disappear ..

The Mound of Sound said...

If your son and his family are as resilient as you, Sal, they should be okay. Their kids, no one can tell right now. They are in one of the most advantaged countries and, if only we start appreciating what we have, we can preserve some of those advantages. If, however, we take these benefits for granted, ours by virtue of location rather than our own making, I fear they'll slip straight through our fingers.

Trailblazer said...

My stomach still churns when I listen to CKNW and they advertise 'all you can eat fish and chips with bottomless pop".

When it comes to food we,Canadians, are a wasteful lot throwing away about 25% of the food we purchase.

Road kill! nah who needs it when I can still pick up a pound or two of pigs trotters!!


The Mound of Sound said...

Our only redeeming grace, TB, at least in comparison with our cousins to the south, is restaurant portion size. Back when my idea of a good time was to motorcycle through the US western states I never got accustomed to what the server would deliver when I ordered breakfast or lunch.