The benefits of not eating lamb and beef

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The benefits of not eating lamb and beef extend beyond  the reduction in greenhouse gases to  preserving the environment.

According to the Rainforest Partnership https://rainforestpartnership.org/the-beef-industry-and-deforestation/  the production of beef is without question the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon. With millions of acres of land devoted to the cultivation of soya beans for animal feed as well as the animal pastures created by clearing the forest, Brazil has become the biggest exporter of beef in the world.

 

 

Hence cutting down your consumption of hamburgers can help save the rain forests.

 

As to sheep, according to George Monbiot

Sheep have reduced most of our uplands to bowling greens with contours. Only the merest remnants of life persist. Spend two hours sitting in a bushy suburban garden and you are likely to see more birds and of a greater range of species than in walking five miles across almost any part of the British uplands. The land has been sheepwrecked.

 

By cutting back on your lamb kebabs you can contribute to the spread of biodiversity and the return of the natural world

Dish the meat

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Our love of eating meat has long cultural traditions. The initial evolutionary success of the human species was based on our ability to catch and eat large mammals. We have since learnt to domesticate cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken and many other species purely so we can eat their flesh.  But the chickens are coming home to roost. Livestock farming now accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions and according to the latest UN report, this number is set to increase 75% by 2050. This problem can’t be solved by just switching to green energy sources. Cattle and the other ruminants emit methane, a much more potent source of greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; over a 5-year period methane traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere.

It is possible for humans to change their eating habits. For thousands of years Hindus have avoided eating beef. Brahmins are vegetarian.  Jews and Muslims have been taught to avoid pork. If we are to avoid the worst excesses of climate change we need a new moral initiative to dish the meat and become vegetarian.

The young will pick up the bill for climate change

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The BBC reports today how the UK is falling behind on meeting its carbon dioxide emission targets and how the young will pick up the bill for climate change ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44634122).

To reverse the trend many government sponsored initiatives have to be speeded up, but what can we do individually to make a change? In a telling comment at the end of the article it states that:

People committed to personally tackling climate change can avoid flying and eating meat – two of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

Becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is a very difficult decision for most of us. However, dietary based taboos are common amongst religious groups, many of which are based on ancient and obscure religious texts. It can’t be morally right for us to continue to pollute the environment and cause suffering to future generations. Wouldn’t it be good if religious groups modified their food related ideas of fasting and meat avoidance to make them more relevant to the modern world? The combination of religious impetus and climate change science might just be the spur needed to change our eating habits for the good of us all.

Drawdown- (2 Reduce food wastes)

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If the number one concern of Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever devised to reverse global warming was surprising, the number three issue is amazing. One third of the food that’s produced goes to waste. ‘Ranked with countries, food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, just behind China and the United States’. The reasons are many: food is left rotting in the field because it is not worth harvesting, poor refrigeration causes food to rot in transit, misshapen fruit and vegetables are left unsold having been rejected by the supermarkets, best before dates mean that perfectly eatable food is taken from the shelves, bought food is left uncooked and finally cooked food is left uneaten.

How do you tackle such a vast problem? Part of the issue must be to do with failures in the capitalist system. Why isn’t there a market for misshapen vegetables or perfectly eatable food that is beyond its best before date? Surely this is a marketing opportunity for someone?

According to Drawdown ‘up to 35% [of] food in high-income countries is thrown out’. The one thing we all can do is eat the food we buy. ‘Eat up your food dear, someone in Africa is starving’, was the mantra I grew up by. Very little food was thrown out, then. Somehow, we have to get back to that principle.

Drawdown- (1 refrigeration)

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Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever devised to reverse global warming 

is a review not just of green energy sources but all the other human activities that effect our carbon footprint. This includes building design, transport efficiency, recycling, population control and food use. A total of 80 actions are analysed for their potential to reduce carbon emissions.

 

I found the number one concern surprising – refrigeration. The coolants that refrigerators use are hydrofluorocarbons(HFCs). Their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one to nine thousand times greater than carbon dioxide.  An international agreement (the Kigali accord) is in hand to phase out HFCs by 2028. However, in the meantime disposal of old refrigerator units represents a great threat to global warming and the process of safe disposal is expensive.

Surely this is one area where the polluter ought to pay. Refrigerator manufacturers should have to receive and recycle old fridges. Refrigerator costs will rise but we will all be better off.

 

Relaunch of eco-humanity website

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The Eco-humanity website is being relaunched following the publication of Compete or Cooperate – the evolutionary choice that will determine our future. Its new mission is to mobilise people of all nationalities and religious views who have eco-friendly ideals, and believe in the liberal humanist principles of freedom, equality and rationality.

The future of our children is being threatened by a combination of new technologies, an aging demographic,  climate change, the destruction of the environment, and the growing divide between rich and poor. Since 1990  globalisation has altered the way society operates. The liberal humanist values of an egalitarian and  caring society have come under increasing attack from the disaffected. Libertarian and neo-liberal attitudes have celebrated the success of the rich and marginalised those living in penury.  There has been an increase in national and racial intolerance, known as populism.

When society changes there are always two options; either retrench, rally round the flag, try to prevent change and look after one’s own, or reach out and co-operate and try to make the new society work for the good of everybody. Right now, everything seems to be pointing towards the first alternative.  Populist politicians are rejecting the rational approach of liberal humanism. Global warming is not happening, according to the populists, even though records prove that average temperatures are rising inexorably every year.

Right now evolutionary forces are creating an increasingly divided world that is destroying the planet. It doesn’t have to be that way. By inspiring all those  who espouse eco-friendly liberal humanist views to co-operate and work together  across national and religious divides, we humans can create a society that works for  the good of all.

 

The fourth principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The fourth principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is to conserve the Earth’s resources for the benefit of our offspring.

It has come as a shock that humans can’t just continue to dump their waste products  without threatening their standard of living. The most serious problem is greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but our rivers and seas are also becoming more polluted and the level of use of our soils is unsustainable.

To quote from The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton:

There is no serious doubt that the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect is a key determinant of the Earth’s temperature. Nor is there any serious doubt that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, or that humans have been adding to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the past few centuries by burning fossil fuels. In 1750, before the industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide level was 280 parts per million. In1950, when the great global boom of the second part of the twentieth century was taking off, it was about 310 parts per million. Today it is 400 parts per million.

It is now incontestable that humans are warming the planet. The unanswered question is, do humans have the capability of doing anything about it? It requires vast expenditure to change to green energy sources. To quote Oliver Morton again:

The world has made huge investments in the facilities that extract fossil fuels from the ground and burn them… Leaving aside the political lobbying power that such investment can command, there would be a limit to how quickly that much kit could be replaced even if there were perfect substitute technologies at hand that simply needed scaling up. If the world had the capacity to deliver one of the largest nuclear power plants ever built once a week, week in and week out, it would take 20 years to replace the current stock of coal-fired plants… That is all before starting on replacing the gas and the oil…

To make this investment with no immediate economic benefit is impossible for any political organisation without committed public support. This is why humans need a new philosophy of life , one that can encourage sustainable behaviour and  can save the planet for our children.

The third principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The third principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is to recognise the integrated world of nature, respect how it supports our lives and preserve its full diversity.

Humans are genetically adapted to be hunter-gatherers.  Our instincts are honed to be killers of animals and harvesters of plants.  When humans first left Africa and colonised the Five Continents we initiated a major change in biodiversity. Many large mammal species were wiped out in America, and Australia; mastodons, giant sloths, giant kangaroos, sabre tooth cats and many others are only known by their skeletal remains.  As we colonised the islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans many species of bird were defenceless and disappeared, including the famous Dodo.  As little as 5000 years ago Mammoths existed in Russia, before humans killed the last of them.

When we learned to domesticate animals and cultivate plants our destruction of nature stepped up a gear. Trees were chopped down and whole environments disappeared. The landscape of Britain that we love today is completely unnatural. If left to its own devices, nature would cover most of Britain with woodland.  Wolves and lynxes would hunt wild deer in the forest. Beavers would dam rivers. Now, in the ‘countryside’ farmers plough the land and sheep graze the hills ensuring there is no natural growth in vegetation.

As a species we have become too successful. The same process of elimination of the natural world is happening right across the globe. Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Many species are losing their natural habitat; lemurs in Madagascar, orang-utans in Borneo and jaguars in South America are some of the many species threatened. Wild life is becoming restricted to small nature reserves. Even these are threatened; rhinos, lions and elephants are being shot by poachers. The reserves are being encroached on by farmers and pastoralists.  We are eliminating plant and animal diversity at an alarming rate.

Does it matter? After all we have learnt to love the British countryside as it is without wolves, forests and aurochs. There are many arguments for maintaining the diversity of nature.  Nature provides an almost infinite source of compounds that could be tested for medicinal, chemical or food usage. The workings of nature provide inspiration for physicists and chemists to develop new machines and drugs.  The workings of nature provide natural defences against floods, storms and insect infestations. However the principal reason we should preserve nature is that it is so wonderful.  Since the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century we have learned to study how the natural world works.  The more we learn the more amazing it becomes.  Recently the films made by naturalists, such as David Attenborough, have inspired us all.  We absolutely need to preserve this wonder for our children to enjoy.

Global Warming in 2015

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In 2015 global warming happened just as predicted. There have been more extreme weather events; in December, for instance we’ve had floods in Britain, Missouri and Argentina, forest fires in California, Australia and the Basque country and we‘ve even had snow in Mexico. Carbon dioxide continued to accumulate in the atmosphere and global temperatures reached one degree higher than pre-industrial levels.

What is strange is that there is no sign of any global public reaction. Green campaigners continue to try to spread the word, but there is no urgent public demand for those in command of the economy to change tack and adopt green energy policies.  A two degree rise by 2050 is now almost inevitable. We will see ,for example, the continued decline in Arctic pack ice and the demise of the polar bear, water shortages in Peru as the last glaciers in the Andes disappear and  the acidification of the oceans and its disastrous effects on the Great Barrier Reef.  There will be greater and more frequent floods, fires and droughts with consequent food shortages.

This we will have to cope with. The challenge now  is to avoid temperature rises of 3, 4, 5 and 6 degrees. If you read Mark Lynas’ book Six degrees you will get an idea of what further horrors await. This is why it is urgent to create a popular movement to change the way we live. We need to establish a new moral imperative  to save the environment. We spend billions sending scientists into space. We subsidise the exploitation of fossil fuels. Why can’t we invest instead in our children’s future and save the planet?

The second principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The second principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is:

 Respect other humans; co-operate, and support them in advancing the lot of mankind as a whole.

It differs subtly from the normal ideal of humanist interaction which is often expressed as the ‘Golden Rule’ http://www.thinkhumanism.com/the-golden-rule.html as :

People should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

The web-site goes on to say:

Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us. Empathy is at the root of kindness, compassion, understanding and respect – qualities that we all appreciate being shown, whoever we are, whatever we think and wherever we come from. And although it isn’t possible to know what it really feels like to be a different person or live in different circumstances and have different life experiences, it isn’t difficult for most of us to imagine what would cause us suffering and to try to avoid causing suffering to others. For this reason many people find the Golden Rule’s corollary – “do not treat people in a way you would not wish to be treated yourself” – more pragmatic.

All this is important for Eco-humanists. However there is an additional injunction to co-operate with others for the good of the universe as a whole. Whilst all people are respected, the community of those battling for the good of the planet need to be encouraged and supported. Here the important concept is community. This is something that has been lost in our modern materialistic world with its individually centred aspirations. If Eco–humanity is to work, appropriate ecological behaviour has to be developed and encouraged through peer pressure in a community. We will need to learn from and help each other if we are to save the planet for our children.