Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

with 7 comments

7 Responses

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  1. I’m going to reiterate what you said on twitter: 7% is a lot.


    June 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

  2. Sorry, you can probably delete that. I didn’t realize it was seven percent *for food consumption* and not overall.


    June 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

  3. And 7% is for veganism. But it’s still a lot! And basically at no cost.


    June 8, 2010 at 10:30 am

  4. There’s also this, highlighted by the link at Tim’s blog:

    The authors suggest that eating less red meat and/or dairy products may be a more effective way for concerned citizens to lower their food-related climate impacts. They estimate that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as driving 1,000 miles, while changing only one day per week’s meat and dairy-based calories to chicken, fish, or vegetables would have about the same impact. Shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year.

    I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look to me like transportation emissions are factored into the “vegetarianism is ineffective” link; I think that study is concerned entirely with direct production emissions.


    June 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  5. “concerned entirely with direct production emissions” — not sure, but especially since it’s a single-nation study (Finland) those kinds of questions might be outside its scope.

    here’s the citation info for the article (paywalled):

    and here’s info on a study they did on how to localize food production:

    there’s a slight omission and maybe a reporting error in the article – this is from the abstract:
    “A strict vegan diet would nearly halve the agricultural GHG emissions, but reduction of the total emissions would be about 8%.”

    i also have no idea what “social learning” means.

    the point though, is that for the purpose of lowering global emissions, the effect of individual consumption choices is minimal, and that reduction in emissions is probably not the most important thing these kinds of acts accomplish – their value is less empirical than it is about affecting attitudes, culture, building solidarity, etc., i.e. it’s social, not about individual guilt trips.

    not sure why you’re still saying shifting global consumption habits toward veganism is ‘free.’ it probably won’t be as hard as replacing cars, but there are some pretty strongly ingrained infrastructural and cultural limits on the global spread of a vegan diet. it will also take a long time. and it won’t depend on autonomous individuals making free choices. getting everyone in the u.s. to switch to a corn-based diet seems the nearest historical precedent, and that had the advantage of being a monocrop.


    June 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  6. I just mean “free” in the sense that vegetarianism and veganism replace one type of food for another; nobody has to “go without” in the same way they would with, say, gasoline rationing. It resists (or should resist, anyway) the “ecology as sacrifice” mold that usually frames these sorts of discussions.

    But yes it’s not literally free. The change in habits (and more importantly) the change in infrastructure and agricultural practices would certainly be real costs — but in terms of consumption you could keep exactly the same “standard of living.” Arguably the standard would go up given that people would generally be eating healthier.


    June 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  7. But it’s not minimal. 8% is not minimal. But yes, I agree, consumption change is a social practice.


    June 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

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