F&D A matter of meat 

Making real changes to tackle climate change only gets tougher

Living in post-postmodern times means revisiting our revisited attitudes and values about darn near everything. That includes things held near and dear to our hearts about sustainability, the environment, and how we're all going to live peaceably and pleasantly on this planet without totally screwing it up.

This idea was pretty evident at Globe 2010 in Vancouver, which recently wrapped. Globe is the biennial conference that brings together civil society leaders - policy makers, business types, NGOs and the like - to discuss "the business of the environment."

One of the themes that kept popping up during the three-day event, and at other enviro-type conferences I've attended lately, is the concern that when it comes to the general public - that's you and me - the shine has worn off enviro issues. Been there, done that, heard about it, now what?

The negative impact of humans on the planet is a given, the headlines are stale and nobody wants to face the boring old grunt work of real behaviour modification. Besides, we're too busy shopping.

And we're confused. Our ennui with all things environmental has been further clouded by ranting blowhards, polarized debates, hacked e-mails and lousy - and often inaccurate - media coverage. That, plus more and more detailed scientific research rife with nuances and tangents, is leaving people scratching their heads if not paralyzed into downright catatonia.

Just as the pressure in the pressure cooker mounts, what seems to be lost on the lethargic crowd is that rather than abandoning our efforts to shrink our collective enviro footprint, we should be re-doubling them.

Given this is a food column, I'll give you one food-ish case in point, with able assistance from the Columbia Journalism Review : meat.

Remember the highly circulated and much-laughed-over enviro report from a few years back that the production of livestock is responsible for about 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions - more than those coming from all the vehicles, planes and trains on Earth?

The report, "Livestock's Long Shadow," by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, was equally acclaimed by vegetarians as justification to switch to a meat-free diet and by climate change deniers as justification for yet another form of inaction, as in, don't worry about driving that gas-guzzling Hummer - your pork chop is more complicit.

Recently, this UN report was revisited by an associate professor specializing in air quality at the University of California, Dr. Frank Mitloehner.

The criticism Mitloehner levelled, which a UN spokesperson fully agreed with, was that the Long Shadow report compared apples and oranges.


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