Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pretty Much My Point All Along

I'm a pretty bad hippie. I wear deodorant, use electricity, am not a big fan of patchouli oil, and really don't like reggae music. I wear clothes that I bought from the store, and I even pay someone to cut my hair sometimes. Heck, in Portland people threw labels like emo / hipster around.

But this is Not Portland, where recycling is de rigeur No, if you're interested in reducing your environmental impact and work at Starbucks in and around Tacoma, WA, a "hippie" is what you become.

Whatever, I'll take it, with my "for here" coffee mug, my bicycle, my "this slide-lock plastic bag can be reused!" I'll take it, most of all, with my vegetarianism.

I admitted to a bit of logical laziness and irrelevant Making the Point decision making this week when I didn't eat any of the calamari. In truth, it is Just Easier to be a vegetarian entirely (lacto-ovo-vegetarian, technically -- I avoid eating anything that is the flesh of a member of the animal kingdom. Crap, do I have to put fungi- in the "do eat" list, too? No one does that, I suppose) than it is to make a long list of check-boxes of what is ethically acceptable for me to eat.

The entire list of my diet and my decisions about it are best saved for a little later, especially if I discuss "The Omnivore's Dilemma" as Ryan did.

Instead, I'm going to focus on one article, and one change, for the time. If you couldn't tell, the title of this post is a link to the article in question. The point is, according to the staff of, that if you make one simple dietary change, choose to avoid beef and other commercially-sourced "red meat." Apparently, their research shows that this is considerably more important than the whole "locavore" movement, whatever other benefits there are from eating produce from next door rather than that from, say, Chile. Apologies to Chilenos, who probably shouldn't eat Californian produce, either.

This isn't so hard, is it?


  • At 11:01 AM , Blogger ryan said...

    I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with this article. All things being equal, they'd be right, but they are making a lot of assumptions that aren't necessarily true in Cascadia. For one, we live nearer our cows than a lot of people. Chicken lots can easily be put up in the nearest sleepy suburb of virtually anywhere and processed quasi-locally, but a lot of really good beef comes from our backyard, at least here in the capitol. Responsible pasturing of these cows on grass instead of corn can also be a boon for the environment, rather than a cost on it, as the growth of these artisanal herds is growing rather more slowly than the carbon they are helping draw down.

    Indeed, if we were to wage total war on commercial food and eat nothing but grass fed steaks (shades of Mayor Hannegan of the Texarkana Empire!), it would have a lower environmental impact. This is, of course, pushing the argument to the absurd.

    The real enemy here is commercial food: chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables, coming from long distances and/or nourished entirely from the petroleum teat. Grown from artificial fertilizers, trucked by diesel, and wrapped in polymers, sold in a too-far-away point of sale to walk to, etc, etc.

    I'll get to the evils of recycling in another post.

  • At 8:16 AM , Blogger Argentius said...

    Well, I'd be making more of a pun than I intend with a forest / trees reference, but, even if they don't acknowledge the benefits of grass-fed beef, you've got to acknowledge that the percentage of such ethical meat consumed in the authors' context, the modern US, is -- of course, I have no numbers, but dollars to doughnuts it's the barest fraction of a per cent.

    And, since this article is about consumer change, they've got to go at it from a different angle.

    Perhaps I'm presuming people are less capable than they are, but avoiding red meat is a -simple- change.

    Proverbial deck chairs on the titanic?


    But if it's catalyst for other change, we might get somewhere.

    As soon as I get the energy, I'll talk about my diet yesterday...

  • At 10:46 AM , Blogger r. patrick said...

    Ah, but this form of environmentally immoral meat-eating is but a relatively new thing. It would be like getting rid of dogs because of a few poorly trained rottweilers.

    To me it seems not only easier but much more realistic to ask humans to go back to doing something they did for literally ever than to give something up completely because of the way things have been done for less than a century. It's not too late!

    I suppose that is maybe the most important part of Pollan's argument in talking me out of vegetarianism. He showed me that in a world of no factory farming, I would never have even considered being a vegetarian. In that way, I truly didn't see the forest for the trees.

  • At 10:58 AM , Blogger Argentius said...

    I suppose that's reasonable in the sense that I, too, saw the evils of factory-raised animals -- beef in particular -- and decided to opt out of the system entirely rather than seek out specialized niches that did it better.

    I hate to batter analogies, but if this were the poorly trained rottweiler world, it isn't just a few of them. Wouldn't you say that, what, perhaps nine houses in ten would have one?

    We've gotten far enough into this stuff that we cannot reasonably go back. In that sense, I think it IS too late.

    There is a way forward, and I think Pollan's onto it.

    In the long term. Maybe.

    But what to do in the medium term? I guess our problem is that we're not debating what a good IDEA would be, any longer, but what is "simpler," "easier," what people actually WOULD do, theoretically. That's much harder to figure.

    We're on something of a high horse, you and I, already participating in different versions of a system that's just barely getting its legs.

  • At 2:26 PM , Blogger Miriam. said...

    But wait a minute, you havent opted out the entire factory raised food cycle. You just opted out of the factory raised MEAT cycle.

    There are still plenty of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer that go into conventional non-meat food. Not to mention genetically modified fruits and veggies.

    Unless we are completely organic/locally grown/grow your own, we still are involved in big agri business, veggie or not.

    Non-organic soybeans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops.

    PS hurry up and blog, this 2x a month blogging is not ok. ;)


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