Written By: - Date published: 11:57 am, June 2nd, 2018 - 54 comments
Categories: capitalism, economy, energy, Environment, farming, farming, global warming, International, political alternatives, Revolution, science, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: AGW, consumerism, red herrings
It’s not simply the obvious nonsense of the claim made by the Guardian and some researchers involved in a study looking at the environmental costs of various food production that pisses me off. It’s the fact that their supposed solution rests on simple individual consumer choices.
It should be obvious enough that reducing the consumption of various products has the potential to be a good thing. But that is not the same as it being “the single biggest way” to ameliorate negative impacts on the environment.
There will no doubt be some who would argue about the methodology of the study and so forth. Thing is, even taking the study at face value and accepting the conclusions it reaches, doesn’t move us forwards in terms of doing jack-shit to avoid the effects of global warming.
There is a farm out by the way. And every year the ground is ploughed, planted and sprayed with the aid of the fossil fuels that run the tractors and helicopters that are employed to carry out the ploughing, planting and spraying . Then beasts are transported in for fattening using fossil fuels. And transported back out again using fossil fuels. Off to the side, a piece of land is used to grow silage – again with fossil fuels being used throughout the entire production process.
If that land was used to produce some other food crop, what real change would take place regarding the use of fossil fuels? (That’s obviously an open question subject to a clatter of variables.)
The point is that it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine that meat consumption could plummet and fossil fuel use in agriculture could stay steady or even increase off the back of that.
Consumers and consumer choices do not and will not “save the world”. That’s not to argue that we shouldn’t make intelligent decisions around what we consume with an eye to the environmental impact of what we buy and eat and so forth. But it is to argue that idiotic notions around what impact those choices might have, shouldn’t be encouraged.
If we want that industrial farming has a much reduced impact on the environment, then fossil has to be taken out of the equation. Take out fossil, and who-ever, can eat whatever amount of beef that they want – because in the absence of machines running on fossil doing the work of however many labourers, and in the absence of fossil transport “shrinking the world”, beef production will plummet. And that’s okay.
But that all sits at the level of deep systemic change, not individual consumer choice. And the last thing anyone speaking for any institution that has grown as a result of our current “world settings” is going to advocate for is deep systemic change.
I read through some of the thousands of comments the Guardian article attracted. There are a few (very few) nuggets in there. For the most part, the same tired old statements about veganism and the equally tired old statements about not having children constitute the majority of the comments.
The IPCC produces Representative Concentration Pathways that suggest future temperatures in light of our likely emissions between now and 2100. RPC 8.5 is the scenario for the greatest amount of emissions, and it’s common enough to hear public speakers from government departments refer to it as being as being extreme or an outlier – implying that we ought not to worry ourselves about that particular scenario.
But RPC 8.5 simply assumes our economic system carries on in coming decades as it has done in previous decades – ie, it continues to expand and grow off the back of fossil fuel use. And the temperature range it suggests the world will experience by 2100 is +2.6°C – +4.8°C…above the 1986-2005 average.
Add another 0.61°C to those temperatures if you want an idea of the possible temperature increase in relation to pre-industrial temperatures.
By the way. Anyone heard anything much from government (any government?) about reducing and eliminating fossil fuel use as fast as we’re humanly able? No. You haven’t. That would involve deep systemic change, and as said before…
Anyway. On the bright side, all else being equal, there will be plenty of red meat for the BBQs in coming decades, and more than enough hot sunny days to stand around in a singlet or whatever and scoff in the face of global warming – except “all else” is very unlikely to approach anything even remotely close to “being equal”.