Sunday, September 23, 2007

The search for the environmental GUT...

The Grand Unification Theory - long the Holy Grail of physicists - is grounded in the perhaps inborn desire for one explanation for everything. But physics isn't the only arena where the goal of tying everything together seems irresistible until finally adherents overreach.

Environmentalists, for example, often try to link disparate causes under one big umbrella. Not always with results that please everybody. Take global warming and vegetarianism.
Matt Prescott, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asserted last month that "you just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist." PETA's pronouncement is part of a cooperative campaign among a number of animal-rights groups. Their message is that meat production exacerbates global warming.

PETA will lead the charge by dispatching an operative in a chicken suit to tour the country in a Hummer. The group will also deploy billboards nationwide with a mocking cartoon depicting climate-change hero Al Gore eating a drumstick, next to the words "Too Chicken to Go Vegetarian? Meat Is the No. 1 Cause of Global Warming." PETA's recent bleating has attracted substantial attention, including a recent story in The New York Times. [More]

My guess is the broad attack approach will be far less effective than engaging people in the one thing they really get worked about. I don't think - judging from the widespread denial of the energy crisis as an energy consumption problem - people are quite ready to embrace the big, albeit pretty obvious solutions.


Anonymous said...

Just a question...doesn't the act of digesting vegetables cause one to pass gas? Wouldn't that be methane? There are more people than cows and if everyone ate vegan and that did increase the gas passed , wouldn't that lead to more global warming, and thus defeat the purpose? Just wondering... Farmer Bill

John Phipps said...


Oddly enough, you have touched on a subject rarely discussed in vegan/climate change circles, but since you asked...

My guess is human emissions would be offset by a reduction in cow/herbivore emissions. It all depends on which system is more efficient. Something has to process the vegetation.