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Challenging Consumer Society: Ways to Mitigate Global Warming

Feedlots like this feed both our addiction to cheap beef and accelerate the earth towards an environmental disaster. Feedlots like this feed both our addiction to cheap beef and accelerate the earth towards an environmental disaster.

It is very easy to get bogged down in the stark reports of climate change. The news really is grim. But more important than investigating the consequences of environmental destruction and pollution is knowing how to best reduce your personal footprint. This is not always easy. We are dependent upon a system that demands fuel consumption. So are there personal ways to help mitigate the looming crisis?

Investing too much time and energy into marginal attempts at carbon reduction can sometimes do more harm than good. Actions need to be effective, otherwise a fake sense of accomplishment arises. Let’s not delude ourselves: changing a light bulb, although beneficial, will not avert the environmental crisis. Significant actions need to be taken, both personally and communally. Here are the two most effective and worthwhile endeavors that we all need to consider:

Cutting down on meat consumption, or buying organic free range, is much, much more effective than driving a hybrid or recycling cans

One of the highest contributors of carbon and methane emission, higher than all transportation combined, is beef production. This is not casual public knowledge, and the implications are far reaching. However, we need to make a distinction: the pollution from meat production is specifically the result of Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations (aka factory farms). These are not, as the nicely packaged label would have you believe, grass-grazing cows happily wandering a farm. No. Factory farms are immense industrial factories catering to the demand for cheap beef. More than half of all agricultural land is dedicated to feeding these farms. Not to mention the traveling, distribution, water waste, methane production, etc. And all this takes tremendous amounts of petroleum – petrochemical fertilizer for growing the grain, gas for transportation, power for the production, water for the animals and maintenance (which then is converted into toxic waste that ruins the local ecology), and so on.

Putting this into perspective: cutting down on meat consumption, or buying organic free range, is much, much more effective than driving a hybrid or recycling cans – although you should try to reduce all areas of impact, of course. I don’t know why this fact is not politically and publicly recognized. It’s the easiest and most productive step individuals can take in reducing your carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide footprint. Still not sure? Here’s some food-for-thought: it takes 220 pounds of grain to produce 22 pounds of beef. And it takes a lot of fuel to make that grain. Therefore, on a personal level, trying to reduce beef consumption is a higher priority than the issue of transportation. Not even the famous Al Gore recognizes this.

Another critical issue is our agricultural system, which in itself is unsustainable. Depending upon a system that ships fruit and veggies thousands of miles is not only unsustainable, but very fragile. We have an agricultural system that literally translates fossil fuels into food – what’s going to happen when weather systems become unreliable and oil begins to dry up? Simply put, food deserts will leach outwards across the country and people could struggle to find the right foods. Therefore, the most important question concerning your local community is the following: how are you going to cope with the commercial food system’s collapse?

Even if we halt all carbon emissions today, parts per million will still rise to 550 (estimated)

Severe climate change will take place. Even if we halt all carbon emissions today, parts per million will still rise to 550 (estimated). But this does not mean we give up – every ton of carbon pushes Earth closer to that unknown tipping point. Instead, we need to prepare in a collective effort for the coming crisis. Grow food, urban or rural, and sever the tentacles of consumerism. Store some food if you’re in a city – and store seeds! Make a plan within your community, and in the meantime, reduce your impact on the environment. We are entering unknown territory. Spark the discussion for comprehensive planning in your own area.

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Want to learn more about what is causing climate change? Read this article.

Interested in the future of sustainable food production? Discover the hydroponics connection here.

Interested in learning about growing in cold climates? Click here for expert advice.

 

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ABC News reports on the connection between beef consumption and climate change.
Last modified on Thursday, 06 September 2012 15:39

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