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    • We try to call them green, carbon-free, and planet-friendly — but are they?

      Well, some things are and some aren't, I suppose. As you pointed out, no scooter is going to be better for the environment than walking. It's easy enough to see through obvious cynical marketing jive. It gets harder when you have to consider the entire production, consumption and disposal cycle of a product. It gets even worse when you realize that social context also matters: what is the net impact of an electric car that's only driven in an area where all the electricity is coal generated? We consumers cannot be expected to know all the answers, but I think knowing the basics plus a bit of critical thinking will usually lead to making the best choices.

    • I have several thoughts on the whole matter.

      First of all, I do not think that global meat consumption trends will be reversed by any NatGeo-led (or similar) awareness, for a very simple reason - it's not being driven by who you think it might be. Global meat consumption is rising not because people in UK or in USA are managing to stuff even more burgers into themselves, but because more people in Africa and Asia and other poor places are finally getting an ability to actually eat meat. Will possibly "overeat" it for a generation or two, too. Just because they couldn't previously.

      Second, I dislike the FUD-tinged methods of raising awareness. Instigating fear is not raising awareness, it's just pushing the pendulum. Most of the alarmist articles I've read on the topic have very poor citations, routinely pervert the facts of any actual scientific works they refer to, and very much indulge in circular references to other similar articles. There seems to be none or next to no effort to actively explain what exactly poses the ecological threat, and it's not the meat itself, but irresponsible meat factory methods of managing the cattle. There *are* people advocating the responsible cattle management which actually improves ecosystems, and those people include some notable chefs, but they are being drowned out by the populist alarmist discourse, and I hate that.

      Finally, as this discourse drives some pretty disgusting things like, say, WeWork's foray into moralizing and arm-twisting their workforce into not eating meat, it only gets more foul-smelling for me.

      Personally, I'm an omnivore. I enjoy my meat and my fish and my dairy, and I mix and match them in my diet as I please, with definite conscious consideration on health issues and also perhaps ecology impact - the latter, as @Chris very correctly indicates, is *very* hard to measure. I respect any dietary convictions a person might have, the same way as I do religious ones - as long as it doesn't get aggressively pushed onto me (especially adorned with quack science), I'm happy if you are happy.

    • For me personally it is the whole package.... the health research (that is not driven by big business interests) showing the benefits of whole food plant based diets, the respect for animals, and the effect on the environment all come together to convince me to try harder to follow that diet.

    • Thanks, mbravo. Interesting. I'm wondering what you think of the various plant milk alternatives. This is a pretty interesting chart.

      In one way, I worry a little bit about plant milks because the food companies often add so much sugar. On the other hand, the rates of lactose intolerance are super high and you can get unsweetened plant milk. We get ours from Trader Joe's.

    • I don't have a qualified opinion on milk alternatives. Personally, I'm one of those lucky people who have very mild genetic lactose intolerance which is offset by good gut biome. So I enjoy milk in moderation (and I'm pretty crazy about cheese :) and the foodie part of life would be seriously degraded without butter ) and generally do not enjoy the plant substitutes purely on taste grounds, but I recognize there's a lot of people who do, out of necessity or by choice.

      On the environmental impact, I have the same reservations. Say, "land use" is a terribly ambiguous metric - what does it even mean? Is that land used exclusively by dairy cattle? In what way, are they crowded into covered mudlots and never see sun their whole life, or is that acreage a nice lightly wooded space where they range and help manage undergrowth, and produce dairy and then eventually offspring that are allowed to partake and then maybe in the later life they graduate to expensive beef? There's been an episode of Chef's Table, one of the earlier seasons, representing a chef - I forget his name, but he's in some way co-running the Blue Hill at Stone Barns place in upstate New York, where he described how he rediscovered the eco-systemic way of managing the land, and that involved dairy cattle. "Emissions" are also suspect in the same way - yes, factory cattle produce excessive emissions, but maybe that's just bad technology and not the actual cattle's problem? People seem to be awed by the famous case of reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone and the subsequent abatement of the trophic cascade there, but why wouldn't we consider productive cattle in the same way?

    • Well said, mbravo. I like to say I don't eat animal foods but I had some salmon last night and it was delicious. I don't know anyone who doesn't love cheese.

      I think we're in the same place with regard to separating animals from the pastures. I think the ecological and ethical disasters come from concentrated animal farms where there isn't the natural cycle of cows feeding off the grass and replenishing the pastures with their poop. That takes more land use but doesn't present the problem of how to dispose of all that manure laced with antibiotics which wants to seep into the groundwater.

      Where cows are out in the field eating grass and clover, they are healthier, they make us healthier, they taste better, we eat less of them because the price per pound goes up, and it isn't as soul-destroying for the farmers who raise them.

    • I think it’s rising in the consciousness of people but change takes time. Slowly people will move more and more away from meat. Laboratory meat will also help to make the transition more feasible for many people. Get healthier, reduce resources and help curb climate change all in one. Sounds win win to me.

    • Unfortunately, "wide-ranging grass-fed beef" is a somewhat utopian solution in my experience. We have a local grass and clover operation, and it's on a highway I travel occasionally, so you can "watch your meat as it grows."

      I find the beef to be tougher and stringier than the CAFO beef from the supermarket, which makes sense given that these cows have to walk around all day to find their food. It's also slightly gamey, but maybe that's just down to the breed they have or something. End result: I don't care for it.

      Additionally, "watching the meat" has shown that even with large plots, a fairly small herd, and a climate where grass grows rapidly, they still have to rotate "ranges" to give the grass a chance to recover. This observation definitely matches the high "Land Use" in the dairy graph above.

      My personal choice has been to move to a "90% vegetarian" diet, at least at home. Eating out vegetarian can be challenging, depending on the restaurant, and I, too, love cheese. But overall I think Richard kind of nailed it early in this thread: the real problem is just "too many people" on a finite planet, and many of the "environmentally-friendlier personal consumption choices" being put forward as solutions represent only tiny fractions of the real change needed.

    • Just as a reference point, there is a very nice course named Introduction to Sustainability on Coursera. It allows one to recognize arguments about "finite planet/too much people" as a Neo-Malthusian kind of thought and generally see the bigger picture based on more facts. In itself it is very neutral and doesn't push you to either side, just helps you think straight.

    • Fascinating about the quality of meat, pasture versus CAFO. Not being a beef eater I have no way to judge myself, but I'm not surprised CAFO beef is more tender. I am surprised that it tastes better because I had the impression from seeing high-end restaurant menus advertise that their beef is grass-fed.

      What about Impossible Burgers? I haven't looked into health or sustainability issues, but I hear they're delicious.