Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

Do you love your meat? Well, love it or hate it, it may well cause the collapse of our global society. In the latest report confirming the strain factory farming and overconsumption of animal products causes our environment, The Guardian reports that mass food shortages are predicted within the next 40 years if we as a species do not scale back meat consumption. It’s a simple matter of not having enough water to produce the crops necessary to support the animals needed to satisfy current consumption, to say nothing of what another 2 billion human mouths will bring to the table. If we do not scale back, food shortages and water shortages could be a worldwide reality, as well as food price spikes.

As the article states, “Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals. Other options to feed people include eliminating waste and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in deficit.”

But wait, there’s more! That refrigerator in which you store all that meaty goodness is also a problem. It seems that satisfying our energy demand is a daughnting task. This week, the Obama Administration “gave Shell Oil the initial approval to begin controversial and dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, despite the fact that a critical oil-spill containment vessel is still awaiting certification,” as reported by the Center for Biological Diversity, thereby giving the go ahead to put one of the last pristine environments in the world at risk. The administration seems to be conveniently ignoring previous problems in that area, such as the oil still present from the Exxon-Valdez spill, and recent disasters with off-shore drilling. This approval stands in contrast to the administration’s lauded higher standards for auto emissions. Take note of the language in the White House’s press release — we are cutting down dependence on foreign oil; domestic production apparently doesn’t put the environment at risk. Obama’s environmental record is mixed at best (as is his animal rights record), and arctic drilling isn’t going to win him any more favors. How cutting emissions while encouraging more oil production helps solve our energy and climate problems is beyond me.

Is the government’s move politically motivated? Almost certainly. There is an election in two months, and energy security and job growth will always be key issues, despite the risks. Politically, it’s not a bad move; given the GOP’s environmental stance, Obama isn’t going to be losing environmentalists to the Romney camp any time soon.

Take a step back though and it’s clear that the problem isn’t the politics; it’s us. We have a pending global water shortage, a historic domestic drought that is already driving up meat prices, and an ever shrinking arctic ice cap due to climate change. Polar bears and other marine life suffer, cows, chickens, and pig wallow in tiny cages, and we critique the government. Don’t get me wrong. We should be critiquing the government, and be ever watchful of what law and executive orders are signed. But more importantly, we should not be creating the demand that is fueling the quest for non-renewable energy. Nor should we have water shortages when we could effectively manage the water available. We should be wary of new drilling in the Arctic or the Gulf of Mexico, and we should be aware of what our taxes are actually funding in the agricultural sector, but we should also take individual and community responsibility for the reasons these issues exist. CAFO cruelty isn’t an issue if there are no animals to be abused. The arctic isn’t drilled if we aren’t powering every part of our lives.

Golf courses, memorial fountains, and steak at every meal, plus limitless domestic oil and gas from Alaska and Pennsylvania to get you where you are going – truly the American Dream. Just remember, dreams end, often suddenly.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks, Seth, for a great post, and thanks for actually connecting the dots. I don’t have much to add, but, since the Arctic drilling approval hit me between the eyes this morning (not that it hasn’t been years in the making), I thought I’d share another post, this one by Subhankar Banerjee, an artist and activist who focuses on Arctic issues. It’s available here: http://www.climatestorytellers.org/stories/subhankar-banerjee-walking-the-waters/

    As Banerjee writes re: the Shell approval: “After all, no one actually knows how to clean up an oil spill that happens under the ice in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean. Despite that, the Obama administration has been fast–tracking Shell’s dangerous drilling plan, while paying remarkably little attention to the ecological fears it raises and the potential devastation a major spill or spills would cause to the native peoples of the north.

    No need to worry, though: Shell swears it’s dealing with the possibility of such a disaster, even to the point of bringing in dogs “to detect oil spills beneath snow and ice.” No joke. “When it comes to drilling for oil in the harsh and unpredictable Arctic,” the Guardian reported in March, “Shell has gone to the dogs, it seems. A dachshund and two border collies to be specific.”

    The Obama administration has been no less reassuring. There will be a genuine federal inspector on board those drill ships 24/7. And whether you’re listening to the oil company or our government, you should just know that it’s all a beautiful dream, nothing more. When a spill happens, and it’s minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind’s howling at 65 miles per hour, and sea ice is all around you and moving, the idea that a highly trained dachshund or federal inspector will be able to do a thing is pure fantasy. Believe me, I’ve been there under those conditions and if the worst occurs, this won’t be a repeat of BP in the Gulf of Mexico (bad as that was). Help will not be available.”

    Hope they’ve at least got a coat and booties for the dachshund.

    Viva our Divine Right to plunder the earth and all the other critters on it for our most Sacred pursuits — golf and steak dinners! Onward and downward!

  2. Speaking of refrigerators it’s not only what’s in them – The sheer, massive Hummer size of them spells disaster! We waited until the brink to change our automobiles (somewhat)… Appears we’ll do that with our food choices as well. Everything about our kitchens, our grocery stores, our wallets and our guts should be an urgently heeded warning!

  3. Great Post Seth, I would say you have pretty much nailed it. Now what will people do with the info?

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