Reading this article in The Guardian is an eye opener. It addresses the sustainability of a carbon-driven world, but also makes far broader points that touch all our current manias and reformation drives – eating habits, healthcare, clothing, and living standards in general.

An important question – “how do we get from here to there?” – is highlighted in the article. Bank of England governor Mark Carney ‘believes climate change is the medium-term issue of our age, but talks about the “tragedy of horizons”’. He is saying our society seems to be constructed in such a way that long-term objectives rarely if ever surpass short-term needs and impulses. Jean Monnet, the “father” of the European Union, put it even more bluntly: “People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them.” He’s probably rolling in his grave for how right he was as far as the EU is concerned. We are essentially short-term animals, either because our brain or emotional status has not had a chance to evolve rapidly with our environment or because we are simply hard-wired like this.

Whether or not you believe in climate change (it seems to be happening, for whatever reasons), or that we all need to turn vegans (a balanced diet is probably OK), or that we should stop testing life-saving drugs on animals (I’m not even touching that one), the issue is really one of humanity helping itself towards fair and sustainable goals, and to do so accepting individual responsibility and with reasonable planning.

The Guardian article also talks about the impact an ecological response to global warming would have on the fossil fuels industry. Similarly, many of my acquaintances and friends support non-meat diets of varying degrees of asceticism. But, un-similarly, among invitations to taste meatless meals, to stop eating certain foods during religious holidays, or to sign a petition for the protection of certain species, no one ever addresses what to do with the following (source: North American Meat Institute):

  • Almost 500,000 US workers employed in the meat and poultry packing and processing industries, with combined salaries totaling more than $19 billion.
  • Over 6 million people in the US, with jobs that total $200 billion in wages, that are employed by companies involved in meat production, along with their suppliers, distributors, retailers and ancillary industries.
  • Over $81 billion in revenues to federal, state and local governments these companies and their employees provide.
  • Over $864 billion annually to the US economy (6% of GDP) which the meat and poultry industry is estimated to provide as “economic ripple effect.”

And this does not even touch upon the support the industry provides to foreign countries via exports and imports, or on the structure of the industry in the rest of the world.

Encouraging the “right” behavior is one thing; seeing it through responsibly is a whole different matter.

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