Posts Tagged 'greenhouse gases'

It Matters at Thanksgiving, Too

I haven’t linked a bunch of the “sustainable thanksgiving” and “eat local for thanksgiving” and “meatless thanksgiving” posts this year simply because they’re everywhere already- I’m sure if you’re inclined to read news, you’ve run across a few already.  Seen any you particularly liked?

I would like to highlight an anti-sustainable thanksgiving article, though, from one of the hopefully well-meaning people at the NRO.  Normally, I try not to get worked up about ludicrous opinion pieces at small ideologically-driven organizations.  But this column has an insidious message about the importance of personal decisions that I’ve heard echoed other places, plus it’s especially ludicrous, so I’d like to address it directly and completely.

The piece: James Robbins is doing his darnedest to convince us that worrying about sustainability and environmental impact at Thanksgiving is not the point of the holiday, and useless effort anyhow.  Thanksgiving is instead, for

gathering with family and friends, feasting, having fun, and not worrying about consequences.

Family! Friends! Feasting! Fun!  No consequences!  Wait a minute, why is the conservative advocating irresponsibility?  Also, I have no idea what he means by not worrying about consequences, unless he’s the guy who ends up watching football on the couch after the meal until the magic dishwashing fairies come.

Now, my Slavic Rituals and Demonology professor (less interesting than it sounds, the way she taught it) explained how organized societies have festival days where rules don’t apply and everybody wears their pants backwards or whatever so those all those anti-social tendencies we have get let loose in an “acceptable” manner.  This is a good idea, and also really fun.  I’m all for Mr. Robbins being as anti-social as he likes on Thanksgiving.  But I will not allow him to malign the efforts of good, thoughtful people who want to live good, thoughtful lives- and bust a gut on local squash while they’re at it.  Burp.

First, James equates a concern for the environment with a denial of real celebration.  Apparently, people who buy local food aren’t enjoying the holiday as much, since they don’t just buy whatever’s in the main aisle at the national grocery chain?  It’s nice of Mr. Robbins to be concerned for their total experience, but his premise is nonsense.  I invite him to wander the Whole Foods cheese department, then come back and explain to me again how organic types are bad at eating.

Mr. Robbins’ conclusion- that since it’s one day and the relative environmental impact of buying squash is small, there’s no point (and stop ruining his mindless overindulgent fun with your thoughts and calculations!)- is a petty and cynical one (n. b., this cynicism also undermines his own thesis of heart-and-not-head felt holidays).  Yes, if one person skips turkey or buys local side dishes, carbon emissions don’t go down very much.  But they will go down.  And a lot of one persons making these decisions?  I presume you can add.

Oh, also, he’s trying to downplay your individual impact.  He says human impact accounts for 10% or less of carbon emissions around the globe.  He does not cite this, he just says it.  But, in reality, Americans control (directly or indirectly) 65% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US.  The rest of the world manages to influence 43% of the GHG emitted.  Remember this WSJ article?  Cited!  I know it pains Mr. Robbins to remember it, but our individual choices matter.

So, go ahead, please have your sustainable Thanksgiving.  Revel in it, and be thankful you have the wherewithal and time to enjoy it.  Rejoice in the choices we have to live more sustainably, and appreciate that more and more people want to know how they can live better and softer on this earth.  Call your distant relatives and say hi.  Then, don’t eat a turkey leg for Mr. Robbins.  Maybe he’ll thank you later.

Here, It Matters

I’m late finding this, but check out this article from the WSJ from a couple weeks ago.  According to the McKinsey consulting firm, American consumers directly or indirectly influence 65% of the greenhouse gas emissions our country produces.  That’s over 20% higher than consumers in other countries.  So when we make choices about the way we consume, or change our habits, it’s a bigger deal.

Awesome.  Keep up the good work, it’s helping.

More On Meat

Found a couple interesting articles on the environmental impacts of eating meat today. First, from Wired, an argument that eating meat is an ethical issue because of its impacts on the global food supply. Livestock require lots of food to eat and big areas to hang out in, so that prompts deforestation, decreases farmland, and drives up grain prices. There are plenty of other things driving up food prices (corn-based ethanol, argh), but the rising demand for meat is certainly one of them. After describing food riots in a dozen countries:

Even before this crisis, food experts said the world could not feed itself in coming decades if growing populations in developing countries insisted on a meat-rich western diet. That time may already have arrived — and largely without climate-change induced agricultural disruption. Add droughts and years of failing harvests, and things get seriously scary.

So maybe it’s time for taste to take a back seat to conscience. I know that sacrificing meat for veggies won’t solve the problem on its own, but it’s certainly just as meaningful as using compact fluorescent bulbs or cloth shopping bags, and I do that without hesitation.

I dig. Fauxsage for dinner it is.

Ok, so cut back on the meat, check. And when we do get meat, organic free range meat is neat! Right? No. The BBC makes a case that organically raised beef and poultry might produce more greenhouse gases, consume more food, and produce more waste that’s harder to clean up than livestock sequestered indoors.

Housing animals gives humans control. The diet can be precisely manipulated to maximise growth and minimise polluting gases.

Animals do not waste food energy on running about and keeping warm. Their manure can be collected and burned as a fuel, avoiding damaging evaporation and seepage into rivers.

In the future, it is hoped that sealed barns would have exhaust vents where the harmful gases could be captured before they entered the atmosphere.

This combination of precision husbandry and species advantage is what puts commercial indoor poultry sheds at the top of the climate chart.

Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council says: “Organic poultry meat has about 45% more global warming potential than indoor-reared poultry meat.

My first reaction: Well, *expletive*.

We have to keep the animals indoors and still for us to reduce emissions? But that makes them sick, and unhappy, and unhealthy, and and and. The way they raise non-organic pre-meats today, they inject them full of hormones and feed them weird stuff to fatten them up. Plus, do poultry farms really feed their birds to maximise growth AND minimize emissions already? Or are they just focused on maximizing growth? Most farms don’t have biomass heaters or other waste collection/conservation systems in place to actually get rid of the emissions: the article points out that they might, later. So for now, they’re just pumping the animals full of chemicals, and keeping them immobile in a barn so the greenhouse gases probably aren’t reduced, but they are all emitted from the same general area.

Do any of these environmentally friendly barns exist? And are the animals in them treated humanely?

With none of those questions really answered for now, I’ll have to pick my poison: emit more gases (maybe?), or eat healthier food. I’m sure the meat-makers, if they are interested in their carbon impact, will find a way to raise healthier meat in a less greenhouse-gas intensive way. Maybe that will be indoors. Maybe it will be humane. I’m not holding my fork.

Conclusion: I’ll keep buying hormone-free chicken, and free-range if I can find it. Same with beef. Until I find one animals from one of these wonderful indoor gas collection barns.

Sack Race Regulation

Speaking of relay races… last year about this time, the courts pointed out that the EPA had a duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, since they’re pollution, and hurt the environment, and allegedly the EPA is all about environmental protection or whatever.

The EPA promised to get back to the American people on that by the end of 2007, but we got nothing. Last week, a coagulation of groups and places (including Baltimore City, the state of Maryland, and Washington DC) filed a lawsuit against the EPA, seeking their proposed emissions limits, or really just any indication that the EPA is doing it’s job.

Meanwhile, some members of the House said it’d be silly to let the EPA write the laws, since they’d just get sued by anti-regulations types if they did. Instead, they think that legislators should pass some emissions laws, post-haste.

And today, rumors surfaced of a White House plan to control greenhouse gas emissions– maybe to be presented to the legislature by the end of the week (maybe take some people’s minds off that Colombia FTA, oof).

Well well.  Let’s start with the White House.  It’s not April Fool’s (I checked), and I don’t think it’s opposite day, so they might actually be serious.  Conventional wisdom has it (see resigned comments in other articles) that as long as Bush was in office, greenhouse gases would roll freely along.  Bush has proven himself to lack all sorts of foresight- has he just now caught up with the rest of the world?

Then the legislature.  After the biofuels silliness, will we really be so strapped as to ask our more posturing politicians to make coherent and helpful rules based on good science and a basic understanding of the economy?  Sends chills down my spine, that’s what.

But the bureaucrats, the ones who have the experience in drafting regulations, and the capacity to understand the research, and who had a great reputation for cleaning up America, will they even pay attention?

So, I can’t fathom that the president really has a plan (and even so it might go through the legislature), I don’t trust the legislature to get this right, and the bureaucrats are no-shows.

Regulation of greenhouse gases is the first, most basic step in tying pollution to a cost in the market.  If we assign pollution no cost, the market will never “correct itself” to stop destroying the ecosystem we know how to live in.  If we assign it the wrong cost, free marketeers will get to whine about interventionism, and the market will do insane things and freak everybody else out (see biofuels and food, rising costs of).

With these bozos vying (or not) for the chance at the prize, I don’t see a way for anyone to win.  They’re just thrashing around on the field, trying to figure out how to stand up.

Email Me @ (at )

RSS Photo Albums

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Blog Stats

  • 48,046 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.