… “damned environmentalists!” … Ok… maybe I am. Regardless!
Jade’s right: there are many other solutions to the environmental problems facing our generation. A big first step would be the radical reduction of carbon dioxide belching coal-fired electrical plants. Another would by the American adoption of the Kyoto Protocol.
There is, however, no environmental panacea. Environmental damage comes from myriad sources; there is no single “cure-all” for environmental issues. The solution is complex and multifaceted. Finding sources of green energy is part of the solution. Recycling is yet another part of the solution. Changing our habits of consumption, yet another part. And– changing our diet may, too, be a part of the solution.
I can’t change energy policy decisions. Nor can I, even though I vote, get America to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. I can, however, recycle my beer bottles, ride my bike from time to time instead of taking my car (being sure to come to a complete stop at all stop-signs! ug!), and try to reduce my meat consumption: all infinitesimally small parts of a gargantuan solution. It’s what I can do. Here and now.
Look: I am not saying that everyone needs to suddenly stop eating meat! I admit that, by becoming a vegetarian, I am an extreme example. It’s not an example that I try to push on to others, or expect others to follow. I do contend, however, that reducing (not eliminating!) our global meat consumption is an important part of a sustainable future.
I don’t suffer any delusions of grandeur: I don’t think of myself as “saving the planet,” or even “just doing my part.” I’m not on a mission to save the world from itself. I’m just … not eating meat.
But you don’t have to become a vegetarian. Really! That doesn’t bother me. But what I DO want is for you to realize that, when you go to Wendy’s, it’s not just $.99 you’re paying for your Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. I want you to make an informed choice– or what I consider to be an informed choice, anyway. (I mentioned externalities as a cause of market failures below. Imperfect information, is another (of four) causes of market failures.)
So yeah, there’s a political agenda to me being a vegetarian. I want to
1) increase awareness of environmental issues surrounding the meat industry
2) encourage the development of an alternative, non-meat-centric cuisine.
Meat is tasty– there’s no denying that. But vegetarian dishes can be equally tasty. (Want proof? Come over, and I’ll cook you dinner some time.) The reason that vegetarian food has unsavory connotations is simply because our Western culinary tradition has not invested itself into meat-alternatives.
We have this sacred “meat and potatoes” mindset: that, for some reason, every meal must contain meat. Perhaps this is a hold-over from our “rugged”, romanticized American past: ranching is as mucn an inviolable stronghold and romanticized images as the small, American farm (or homestead).
As an aside, just doing a little reading on farm subsidies should be enough to convince you that we could do well to stop nurturing and protecting this (small American farm) icon from our past, and to open American agriculture to the vagaries of the open market. (What’s this? Am I supporting the removal of government subsidies? Yeah, I am: they don’t make sense, especially in this case.)
Anyhow. Back on track: It’s not true! You do NOT need meat at every meal. This is an anachronism: an unfounded and illogical bias that has no place in a modern world. It should be abandoned in the rubbish heap of the past, where racial segregation and sexist discrimination reside! “Meat and potatoes” is parochial and passé, regardless of the going trends in Miles City, MT or Kaycee, WY. I’m emphatic on this point!
Whew…. deep breath… count to ten. Ok. Much better. Back to business:
Indian, Italian and Mexican culinary traditions place far less emphasis on the meat (although this fact is often lost in the Americanized representation of these respective genres: Tex-Mex is often little more than Mexican, con carne). And, frankly, I prefer each to our often bland and uninspired “American” cuisine– consisting largely of hot dogs, hamburgers, “casseroles”, and “hot dishes”.