Eat Your Greens

One problem with modern culture is that everything becomes so quickly commercialized and faddish that good intentions often get lost or subverted in the process. The Green Revolution is a good example; the term “green” being so overplayed that it is in danger of ending up in the verbal dustbin along with other such exhausted adjectives as “natural” and “organic.”

It’s easy to forget the term originally was originally intended to describe a way of living more in harmony with nature and gentler on the environment, and not a style of boutique shopping (do we really need “green” paperclips?).  There are many ways to protect the environment that do not involve shelling out $30,000 for a hybrid SUV. In fact, there is evidence that the majority of environmental damage caused by automobiles comes not from driving them but from the manufacturing process, so it could be argued that using a second hand car is actually more eco-friendly than buying a new one, even if it is a hybrid.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the world’s leading authority on global warming and chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, has come up with a simple way for everyone to “green” up their lives and reduce global warming: eat less meat. He suggests beginning with one day a week meat-free and moving on from there.

Apparently meat production accounts for close to one fifth of current global greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these are generated during the production of animal feeds, but cows and other ruminants (do they ponder, I wonder, while they chew?), also pass considerable doses of methane while chewing the cud, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide, (and whose method of production doesn’t bear thinking about, nor what might happen if you accidentally lit a match in a large herd of cows). More disturbingly, at the current rate of growth, meat consumption is set to double by the middle of this century, which, apart from anything else, means a lot more odiferous bovine emissions.

Diet, of course is a very personal issue and everyone has different views on the matter. I, for example, gave up eating meat in 1971, while attending the first Glastonbury Music Festival (in a somewhat hazy state, I must say), and coming across a guy with a chicken sat on his shoulder and a sign reading, “If you love animals, don’t eat them.” Not perhaps the most scientific of reasons, but I’ve never regretted it and I’ve certainly felt better since switching to a vegetarian diet.

From all the evidence, it does appear we are consuming far too much meat as a society and there would a lot less health problems if our national diet moved towards more fruit and vegetables and fewer Big Macs. Now it seems it will make the planet healthier too.

So when Frank Zappa famously crooned “Eat your greens. Don’t forget your beans and celery,” forty years ago, he was actually being a concerned environmentalist.