Robert Burns warned me that this would happen. Then, as if his glorious Scottish brogue weren’t enough, Steinbeck followed it up with a warning of his own in Of Mice and Men. Bottom line: don’t make solid plans, especially where developing nations are concerned. My passport and visa are inexplicably stuck somewhere among an embassy, a ministry of labor, and an outsourced visa servicing company. Good-bye, hostel deposit. So long, plane ticket reservations in June. Namaste, emotional instability!
Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to learn as much as I’d like about environmental issues in India. Although I would dearly love to tell you more about the wastepickers in Delhi, I’ve very nearly exhausted my knowledge about their work until I am able to get out to the field. But what’s the state of the environment in the U.S.? What are some small things that we Americans can do to make this world a more live-able place?
I’m rather inclined to agree with Al, myself, so I’ll carry on with the radical assumption that most of us disagree with Rush: it’s not terribly ethical for us to set our air conditioners on 68 degrees fahrenheit. (Am I the only one who gets cold if it’s less than 78 degrees, anyway?) Still, even environmentally-conscious Americans contribute to our nation’s 20-ton carbon footprint, which is much, much higher than the world-wide average of 4 tons (courtesy of The Encyclopedia of Earth).
The average U.S. diet generates about 0.75 tons of CO2 annually, before accounting for food transportation. But the average distance that food travels from its American source to its American market is 1,500 miles, so greenhouse gas emissions from food transportation are anything but negligible. Meat eaters leave even bigger carbon footprints than vegetarians, generating about 1.5 more tons of CO2 per year.
But is this really a problem? Yes, when one considers how much Americans love eating meat. About 30% of the world’s ice-free land is involved, at least indirectly, in raising livestock. Meat production also accounts for about 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases. This becomes more important when you begin to think about the links between personal meat consumption and world hunger. People who are hungry on the other side of the world, or possibly in our backyards, could be eating the grain that’s currently feeding our food. When we eat meat, we do not do so in isolation.
I do not absolve myself from responsibility. I’m in Arkansas right now, and it’s a typically muggy, late-June, Faulkneresque kind of day that requires air conditioning by most people’s standards. I’ll be eating meat tonight when we make Greek wraps for friends who will drive an hour to join us for dinner. AC, meat, gas— we cannot just give all of these things up all of the time. But perhaps we can go without them more often.
Posted By Karie Cross
Posted Jun 29th, 2010