Thanks to Chris at the Yoga of Ecology blog for the heads up on this fascinating Times Online piece about UK Climate Chief Lord Stern of Brentford proclaiming that “People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change.”
That is a powerful statement, and Lord Stern is hardly the first politician or climate change expert to draw the connection between a vegetarian diet and the environment. Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, who received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on
behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which he
leads) along with Al Gore, has spoken
out strongly about the impact of meat-production on the environment. You might recall that Dr. Pachauri (who is a practicing Hindu) began his acceptance speech by
quoting the Hindu concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means the
whole universe is one family,” and argued that this concept “must
dominate global efforts to protect the global commons.”
Not all Hindus are vegetarian, of course, but the faith does seem to promote making lifestyle choices (including one’s diet) based on principles of compassion (daya) and non-harming (ahimsa). Usually, this is interpreted as showing compassion towards animals; however, in light of Lord Stern’s point about the relationship between the meat industry and harm to the world’s resources, one might look at daya and ahimsa as having broader implications for how we contribute to the preservation or destruction of the earth we inhabit.
Whether or not Hindus take up the banner of vegetarianism for ecological purposes, it does provide some interesting food for thought.
Here are some excerpts from article about Lord Stern:
People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change,
according to a leading authority on global warming.
In an interview
with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of
water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on
the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of
greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a
global warming gas.
Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of
tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change
Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat
and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.
He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became
unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are
doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and
attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a
student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will
increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”
Lord Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank and now I. G. Patel
Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, warned that
British taxpayers would need to contribute about £3 billion a year by 2015
to help poor countries to cope with the inevitable impact of climate change.
UN figures suggest that meat production is responsible for about 18 per cent
of global carbon emissions, including the destruction of forest land for
cattle ranching and the production of animal feeds such as soy.
Lord Stern, who said that he was not a strict vegetarian himself, was speaking
on the eve of an all-parliamentary debate on climate change. His remarks
provoked anger from the meat industry.
Jonathan Scurlock, of the National Farmers Union, said: “Going vegetarian is
not a worldwide solution. It’s not a view shared by the NFU. Farmers in this
country are interested in evidence-based policymaking. We don’t have a
methane-free cow or pig available to us.”
On average, a British person eats 50g of protein derived from meat each day –
the equivalent of a chicken breast or a lamb chop. This is a relatively low
level for a wealthy country but between 25 per cent and 50 per cent higher
than the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Su Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society, welcomed Lord Stern’s
remarks. “What we choose to eat is one of the biggest factors in our
personal impact on the environment,” she said. “Meat uses up a lot of
resources and a vegetarian diet consumes a lot less land and water. One of
the best things you can do about climate change is reduce the amount of meat
in your diet.”
The UN has warned that meat consumption is on course to double by the middle
of the century.
Read the full article here.
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