Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meat, Global Warming, and Personal Complicity

In the Time article "Meat: Making Global Warming Worse," Bryan Walsh covers the environmental impact of meat production and consumption. Basically,

"In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions."

Walsh cites some scientists that suggest reduction in meat consumption can have a major impact on global warming--but then he lets readers off the hook. I do agree in principle when Walsh writes that

"It's a tactical mistake, first of all, to focus global warming action on personal restrictions. [...] relying on individuals to voluntarily change their behavior is nowhere near as effective as political change aimed at speeding the transition to an economy far less carbon-intensive than our current one. [...] your choices from the takeout menu will matter less than the choices made by those who inherit the White House next January."

Indeed, changes in governmental policy have more environmental impact than changes in individual behavior. But is that also a copout, an excuse to continue damaging individual behavior, a rationalization for staying complicit in the problem? For people who don't want to change, it is a comfort to justify a lifestyle of eating animals for pleasure. Too often I find writers who discuss the issue, but are willing to avoid the obvious step they could take to avoid complicity in animal consumption.

1 comment:

  1. Personal complicity is something North American culture seems to be very good at ignoring on many different fronts, not just the one in which the consumption of animals and environmental damage is concerned.

    However, it does seem as though this blind spot is particularly intense. I guess having to consider changing something so fundamental as eating makes people feel quite threatened. Not that I think that's any reason not to take personal responsibility...