Freakonomics wonders why all environmentalists aren’t vegan and I’m like, “for real!” »
Here’s a nice link for you guys!: Agnostic Carnivores and Global Warming: Why Enviros Go After Coal and Not Cows, by James McWilliams.
I think it’s a must-read. Freakonomics summarizes and discusses a recent report (link to PDF, FYI) by the World Preservation Foundation in which they make the case for a vegan diet in the fight against climate change: “As the WPF report shows, veganism offers the single most effective path to reducing global climate change.”
Graph from WPF report
Now, unlike some people suggest, no one is saying you shouldn’t get your Energy Star appliance once it’s time to replace the washing machine—you still should—what it does mean however is that society needs to pay at least as much attention to diet as it does to fossil fuels when it comes to climate change. And maybe it does mean that, in such a dire situation, we should prioritize.
It also seems substituting one meat for another isn’t going to do much good: “Eating a vegan diet, according to the study, is seven times more effective at reducing emissions than eating a local meat-based diet.” And while substituting chicken for beef may do a little, it pales in comparison to going vegan:
According to a 2010 study cited in the WPF report, such a substitution would achieve a “net reduction in environmental impact” of 5 to 13 percent. When it comes to lowering the costs of mitigating climate change, the study shows that a diet devoid of ruminants would reduce the costs of fighting climate change by 50 percent; a vegan diet would do so by over 80 percent. Overall, the point seems pretty strong: global veganism could do more than any other single action to reduce GHG emissions.
This brings Freakonomics to their real question: in the face of information like this, why aren’t environmentalists taking a strong stance on veganism? One reason suggested is that veganism just doesn’t grab headlines, it’s ”an act poorly suited to sensational publicity.” What do you think? I think it grabs headlines, they are just usually, “OMG vegans are annoying!”
Another suggestion is that free-range meat pastures aren’t as ugly as giant pipelines. This part is great:
[Shifting from feedlot farming to rotational grazing] all sounds well and good. But if the statistics in the WPF report are to be trusted, the environmental impacts of this alternative would be minimal. So why the drum beat of support for rotational grazing? I would suggest that the underlying appeal in the pasture solution is something not so much calculated as irrational: pastured animals mimic, however imperfectly, symbiotic patterns that existed before humans arrived to muck things up. In this sense, rotational grazing supports one of the more appealing (if damaging) myths at the core of contemporary environmentalism: the notion that nature is more natural in the absence of human beings. Put differently, rotational grazing speaks powerfully to the aesthetics of environmentalism while confirming a bias against the built environment; a pipeline, not so much.
The last hurdle, the article suggests, is one of personal agency. Meat equals freedom! USA! USA! USA!
Finally, McWilliams gives environmentalists some advice: “trade up their carnivorous agnosticism for a fire-and brimstone dose of vegan fundamentalism.” Amen! Normally I just read linguistics stuff on Freakonomics but I think I will have to stop by there more often. Besides, agnostic carnivore is a great term!
Livestock may account for 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions! Dang. »
new 2009* report from Robert Goodland, former lead environmental advisor at the World Bank Group, and Jeff Anhang, research officer and environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, revisits the question of the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries. Previously, Livestock’s Long Shadow made the claim that livestock contributed 18 percent of the annual worldwide green house gas emissions. This new report, Livestock and Climate Change, estimates that it’s more like 51 percent, at least. Which is, to put it clinically, a shit ton. And because of issues with data that’s available, they kept the figure as conservative as they could. Fifty-one percent is conservative!
Goodland and Anhang say this discrepancy with the older study comes from overlooked sources of GHGs and underestimating recognized sources. Apparently Livestock’s Long Shadow saw fit not to include breathing in their calculations. The newer report says that livestock is a human-creation and “a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.” And because of the growing masses of livestock combined with deforestation, there is no equilibrium such as the older study puts forth. Land use is another issue this report feels is an underestimated source of GHGs. They say that if we reclaim some of the land currently used for grazing or feed production and allow the forest to regenerate, this would significantly reduce GHG emissions. So “free-range” meat isn’t the environmentally sound alternative to factory farming people like to think it is. They also say that choosing a meat that accounts for less GHGs is not going to do much, it’s more important to focus on alternative food sources.
Goodland and Anhang propose that alternative food sources would reduce GHGs faster than replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. Word, fellas! I mean it seems to me that individuals having a veggie burger instead of beef is easier and faster than redesigning our power infrastructure. But these guys know it’s not going to be that easy (relying on people to accept personal responsibility never is!). The second half of the study goes deep into marketing and business strategy.
Basically, if this report stands up, it’s a major boost to our movement! We knew that the meat and dairy industries were bad for the environment but we didn’t know how bad. So give the report a read, it’s not that long. Here’s my abstract for it: LIVESTOCK IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT SO PUT DOWN THE CHEESEBURGER, JERKS! And that’s why I’m the Super Genius.
*OMG the report is not new, it’s from 2009! Can I do anything right today?! WTF? Don’t be mad at me, my dog is sick, I’m distracted. There is a more recent commentary discussing which number is right, the 18 percent or the 51 percent or something totally different! But if you haven’t read the 2009 report, it’s still worth a read.
Book review: Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier! »
You know who Brendan Brazier is, right? He’s a Canadian-born professional Ironman triathlete, international bestselling author, and creator of VEGA natural whole food products and supplements. He’s pretty much a vegan superhero, and he just released a brand new, ultra-informative book called Thrive Foods, which was ever-so-kindly sent to me for review.
The perfect follow-up to his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide, The Thrive Diet, Thrive Foods covers some of Brazier’s original material and delves into much more detail. The first four chapters cover everything you’d ever need to know about the foods we eat and how it translates to fuel and well-being in the body. Chapter one, Health’s Dependence on Nutrition, discusses nutrition’s effects on the body and mind, from stress levels to sleeping patterns. Chapter two, Eating Resources, discusses in glorious detail the effect of our diets on the environment—did you know that livestock production uses 70 percent of all arable land, and 30 percent of all land surface on the PLANET?
Chapter three, An Appetite for Change, explores what Brazier calls the Nutrient-to-Resource Ratio, which analyzes the total amount of each natural resource that goes into a food’s production in exchange for the amount of nutrients it offers. He presents the most beneficial foods based on personal health and environmental preservation. Brazier introduces the Eight Key Components of Good Nutrition in chapter four, and suggests some nutrient-dense pantry essentials for any healthy vegan’s home.
The recipes arrive in chapter six, and they are pretty incredible. Thrive Foods features 200 recipes, from Brazier himself and also a slew of celebrity vegan chefs like Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy), Chad Sarno (Saf, Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program), and Tal Ronnen. Some of the recipes are straight from the menus of some of our favorite vegan hotspots, like Candle 79, Millennium, and Fresh. Candied grapefruit salad! Baby zucchini and avocado tartar! Wild rice with kabocha squash and sage butter! Chocolate-chip maple maca ice cream! OK, I’m drooling.
Brazier has created a consummate guide to health and nutrition for every human being, regardless of athletic prowess. Thrive Foods is an encyclopedia of well-being and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from its wealth of information and incredible food. The Thrive Diet caused me to question the effects of my diet in my body, and now Thrive Foods has taught me about its effects on the world.
Wanna get your learn on? Watch the book trailer, buy the book, and like Brendan Brazier on Facebook to download a Thrive Foods introduction and three free recipes! You can also enter to win a trip to Hollywood to meet Brendan at the Alive! Expo on Friday, Sept. 16!
CLOSED! Vegansaurus Giveaway: Swimsuit from Eco Swim by Aqua Green! »
Hey errrybody! There’s still time to get into a hot suit for summer! A hot PLANET-FRIENDLY suit! This super cute Eco Swim bathing suit can be yours, my friends. Just answer me this: What’s the best vegan food for summer? Leave your answer in the comments and I will
drunkenly randomly select a winner next Thursday!
Eco Swim is a very cool company. Here’s their mission statement:
Our mission is to provide fashionable, excellent quality, and planet-friendly swimwear. We will achieve this by embracing sustainable technologies and methods, hence reducing our carbon footprint in the sand. Our vision is to be the most sustainable swimwear manufacturer on the planet.
As you know, saving the environment is a good endeavor for vegans as that’s where the animals live! And those animals love that environment, I’m telling you. And Eco Swim promises not to make uggo swimwear just because they want it to be sustainable. Check out their site for more cute suits!
Every day is Earth Day when you’re vegan »
For Earth Day this year I celebrated by attending Berkeley Vegan Earth Day, hosted by eco-friendly event planner Karine Brighten. Though you may be thinking, “Earth Day was soooo last week, why are you getting around to this now?” I have two reasons: One is that I am a slacker. Two is that it doesn’t matter because EVERY DAY SHOULD BE EARTH DAY! And the information is still relevant!
What was special about this particular Earth Day event was the link Brighten emphasized between veganism and its positive impact on both animals and the environment, as well as exploring “reasons and ways to take that commitment even further.” Mission accomplished, girlfriend!
Berkeley Vegan Earth Day included a screening of the documentary Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction, followed by a panelist discussion and catered reception.
To put it mildly, Call of Life was intense. Really, read its tag line: “If current trends continue, scientists warn that within a few decades at least HALF of all plant and animal species on Earth will disappear forever.” We live on a planet full of ecosystems that depend on each other for survival. When one species, whether plants or animals, begins to dwindle or become extinct, it causes a ripple effect to which human animals are not immune. The scientists, anthropologists, philosophers and psychologists featured in this documentary are hypothesizing that if we don’t fundamentally change our behavioral and societal patterns (RIGHT NOW) we are going to contribute to both the extinction of the plants and animals on our planet as well as ourselves.
Another point this movie touched upon was that as humans, we are not oblivious to this going on around us and may suffer from feelings of terror, anger, and despair. Yet our society is adept at pushing consumerism as a way to suppress those feelings, or block them out entirely. We buy the things we “deserve” to feel better, and indulge in meat though we know factory farming is vicious and inhumane, as well as a direct reason for clear-cutting rain forests. The longer this movie sat with me, the more powerfully my thoughts centered around throwing myself off my second-story balcony, but then I remembered I was hosting Easter this year, which would hopefully save at least one pig sent for slaughter this spring (nothing like an agave-brown sugar seitan roast). Activism, people! It saves lives!
Next up were the vegan panelists: David Vlansey, the executive producer of Call of Life, Lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, Hope Bohanec of In Defense of Animals, and Alex Eaves of Stay Vocal.
My favorite points from the discussion include:
- In the US farm workers are not paid overtime, though in pretty much every other professional it is mandatory. There are laws against compensating them for overtime.
- Environmental racism—it’s no coincidence that oil refineries, land fills, truck depots,etc happen to be located around low income neighborhoods and communities of color. These areas have higher rates of cancer and pollutants along with less access to health care or healthy foods. Examples of these regions in the SF Bay Area include Richmond and Martinez.
- The only difference between organic beef and conventional beef is what they are fed. Eating organic beef doesn’t effect green house or fossil fuel admissions.
- It’s not feasible to have enough grass-fed, free-range meat to feed 6 billion people (the Earth’s population). There simply isn’t enough room.
- Eating vegan is eating green. Two vegan meals a week is better than eating an organic, locally sourced lifestyle.
- Recycling is failure to reuse.
- It takes 400 gallons of water for all the cotton that goes into one new t-shirt.
- If his friends that own coffeeshops were to charge everyone that brought in their own travel mug $1 and $5 for every paper cup, people could then pay for their ignorance and denial.
The reception was catered by Millennium, which was great for me, as I’ve never eaten there.
Brighten said she is “extremely happy to have had such an amazing turnout, and so much support from the community.” Sign up for her newsletter to receive updates on upcoming events here! I may have heard a rumor about vegan speed dating in Berkeley in the near future.
What to Eat: The Environmental Impacts of our Food voiced by Jason Schwartzman. That damn Schwartzman is all kinds of sexy. You heard me! I’d totally tap that. I might even make him tofu scramble in the morning. If I let him sleep over. Men are so clingy!
The video appears to be part of Farm Sanctuary’s Plate to Planet project:
Small decisions we make every day about what we eat can make a huge difference. Going vegan may be a big step, but simply lessening our meat consumption still goes a long way. If we all pledged to eat meat-free meals throughout the week, we’d not only be healthier individuals but our planet would benefit too.
Plus, did you know that 50,000 pigs on a factory farm create as much waste as Salt Lake City! That’s crazy! And so depressing! The site is pretty great and has lots of tips for your average omni to become more veggie friendly. This video is kind of cute, not amazing. If Schwartzman weren’t voicing it, I prob wouldn’t post it. What are your thoughts? I think it’s cool to offer a view of your average American family man and how you can make a change just for one day and it’s not going to ruin your life.
It’s World Water Day! God forbid we talk about meat »
It’s World Water Day and almost no one, save a lone sexy twitterer, is talking about the toll meat takes on water conservation! Everyone is more than happy to turn the faucet off when they brush their teeth but no one wants to look at the ginormous pink hamburger in the room: meat consumes a crapload of water. It’s bad with a capital awful. Here we are, telling people to speed up their shampoo routines while conscious choices in eating could reduce individual water usage by hundreds of gallons a day. Reducing meat consumption is a substantial, documented way to reduce water waste and yet, nobody wants to get the word out. Lucky for you! I’m HERE and I’m LOUD.
I’ve been hunting around today and National Geographic has this great interactive comparison guide for water use and different foods. According to this, it requires 1,799* gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. It’s only 216 gallons to produce one pound of soy beans. Say it with me now: JESUS CHRISTMAS! That’s a big difference!
Because reading is boring, I have more pictures for you! I found a super quiz over at H2Oconserve.org that estimates the amount of water you use a day. It’s like a Cosmo quiz with morals! I went ahead and took the quiz two separate times! In the quiz, they ask if you are an omnivore or a vegan; keeping all the other answers exactly the same, I did one go-round for each diet option and here are the results!:
So vegan diet to omnivore diet, that’s 543.9 to 1,149.9. DAMN, SON! Meat-eaters use 606 more gallons of water a day than us vegans? Yowza. I kind of saw that coming but more than twice as much? That’s pretty criminal. Yet we’re harassing people about how often they wash their hands? For real, just how many times will we tell people to turn the faucet off when they brush their teeth? Hey, did you also know you should turn the lights out when you leave your house? YES DUH now let’s talk about how we can make real change!
*This is the most conservative figure I’ve seen all day; other sources calculate that it takes thousands of gallons more.
Vegansaurus Double Features! »
Welcome to the first biannual, I mean regular, installment of Vegansaurus Double Features, your ticket (ha, oh man am I off to a good start!) to vegan-interest cinema. “What?!” you might ask. “Here’s a handy FAQ,” I say.
Q: Why movies?
A: Because I ran out of gardening things to talk about and I am a highly respected film critic.
Q: Why vegan?
A: That’s a stupid question.
Q: Why double feature?
A: Because the New Yorker always reviews two movies at once, and Vegansaurus, as is evident, is basically the new New Yorker: lengthy articles, thoughtful detachment from political issues, and bougie ads for weird hats.
OK! Enough with all your silly questions. In this issue, we look at two new amazing documentaries about humankind’s complex relationship with animals and nature.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, the first full-length from biologist-turned-documentarian Jessica Oreck, is a beautiful film that uses Japan’s national obsession with insects as a way to explore larger questions like how we think of ourselves in relation to nature. Don’t let the profundity scare you off: even though this documentary is swarming with insight about haiku, Japanese and Western cultural differences, the urban/nature dichotomy, and the nature of beauty (to name a few!), it’s also incredibly easy on the eyes, featuring inventive cinematography that really captures the wonder of its protagonists–-beetles, larvae, moths, and crickets, especially. And for your ears, there’s an impressive soundtrack of J-pop and experimental Japanese electronic music. All of this is to say: this is a film that works on multiple levels, and one of the best documentaries so far this year. It’s playing RIGHT NOW at the Kabuki in San Francisco through July 15 (Thursday!); I highly recommend it.
I had the chance to see Ms. Oreck present the film in Los Angeles a few months ago, and she had a lot to say about the film. She thinks that Americans have a lot to learn from the Japanese and their perspective on and appreciation of nature, but acknowledges that, as with all societies, there are a lot of contradictions in that relationship. Vegansaurus readers will probably immediately think of The Cove here. What Beetle Queen shows, however, is how “appreciation” of beautiful insects in Japan has led to both an interest in protecting and restoring their natural habitats and the less-benign commodification of all things insect-related. Yeah, it’s cute that Japanese kids play videogames about insects. But commodification has also led to insect collecting of both live and dead bugs, both bought and captured. Japanese pay bundles of yen at large conventions for big beetles to keep as pets, and pinned insect collections are popular hobbies. So, be warned–-for insect lovers, this film isn’t always uplifting.
The tangled relationship between collecting animals and habitat preservation is also at the core of Ghost Bird. Ghost Bird is the long-awaited sequel to Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring everyone’s favorite weird-eyed actor Forest Whitaker as a hit man who uses samurai techniques. Just kidding, it’s a documentary on the supposed rediscovery of the fabled ivory-billed woodpecker. But whatever—same difference!
This truly majestic woodpecker, maybe the most stunning bird that has ever lived in the United States, was thought to have become extinct over half a century ago until a kayaker in an Arkansas swamp caught sight of one in 2004. Ghost Bird outlines what turned out to be the most ambitious, and costly, species recovery campaign in history, fueled not only by excited birders, but by the community where the bird was spotted (which experienced booming economic growth from the ensuing tourism), politicians, and research teams from prestigious universities. While the archival footage of the ivory-billed woodpecker alone is worth the price of admission, the story behind its rediscovery unfolds like a satisfying mystery (or, if you’re a dorky birder, maybe the most exciting, cargo-pants-staining mystery you’ve ever seen), full of dubious motivations and shady characters.
It’s a complex tale, to be sure. Especially interesting is that, like Beetle Queen, Ghost Bird show’s how man’s obsession with a beautiful animal has led to both its collection (and, in this case, destruction) as well as prompting preservation efforts. The scientists working on the “case” use drawerfuls of stuffed specimens of the bird to verify sightings-–specimens collected long ago by other scientists and amateur birders because of the bird’s rarity and beauty that, one researcher admits, contributed to the bird’s extinction.
While Ghost Bird isn’t quite the visual spectacle that is Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, it tells an amazing story. Anyone interested in animals, preservation, and Forrest Whitaker should seek this one out!
Omnivores are selfish bastards »
Raising all those animals for you to eat is unsustainable and absolutely ruinous to the planet. Don’t hate me for saying it—the U.N. did! And of course the comments, even in the good old smarty-trousers Guardian, quickly devolve into meat-eaters demanding that people leave them alone because it’s not their fault the Earth is going to burn up in a toxic flameball by the end of the century; blame those (foreign) people having all those kids! It’s overpopulation of humans, plain and simple!
Never mind that meat and dairy agriculture uses 70 percent of worldwide fresh water and 38 percent of all the land, ever. It’s all those people having all those kids!
Man is it so hard to change your diet? Maybe instead of being subtly racist, overtly selfish dicks, you could stop eating all those animal products. Just a suggestion! Because I’m vegan and I plan on contributing to the human population someday, and I would appreciate it if you fuckers would try a little bit harder than “usually putting the plastic water bottle in the recycling bin instead of the trash” because THAT ISN’T GONNA CUT IT ANYMORE. And my future vegan children deserve oceans that are less than 50 percent trash-island/petroleum products/fish carcasses. Also: breathable air. Are you going to deny my babies BREATHABLE AIR, you FUCKING MONSTERS?
You could at least try Meatless goddamn Mondays without pitching a fit.
I came across this gem on greenlagirl.com: the perfect passive-aggressive gift for your favorite omnivore: a T-shirt detailing the environmental costs of a single cheeseburger. Awesome! Visit the blog for more background on the stats. You can buy the shirt on cafepress.com.