Al Gore penned a lengthy New York Times op-ed entitled, “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change,” on February 28, 2010. As expected, Gore was wordy, made no effort to discuss the planet’s top polluter (US Department of Defense), and, most of all, the former vice president once again opted to ignore the No. 1 cause of climate change: the meat-based diet. In fact, I ran a search on the nearly 2,000 words, but none of the following terms were found: meat, cow, livestock, methane, farm, diet or vegan.
Accepting the (unfortunate) reality that Al Gore is the planet’s best-known climate change spokesperson, he has yet again squandered an ideal opportunity to educate, inform and provoke real change. Just as they served burgers and hot dogs at the Gore-inspired Live Earth concerts in 2007, the high-profile, green crowd simply refused to accept the convenient truth: According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.”
Yes, it’s much more than just climate change. What about the aforementioned water degradation? As the Sierra Club explained, groundwater is “frequently contaminated by factory farm pollution, generally in the form of nitrates. Nitrate pollution, which can cause serious human health problems, seeps out of manure lagoons and into community sources of drinking water.”
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Let’s consider deforestation. “In the Amazon the cattle sector is the largest driver of rainforest destruction, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of deforestation,” wrote Nikolas Kozloff, author of “No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet.” “To put it in concrete terms: every eighteen seconds on average one hectare of Amazon rainforest is being lost to cattle ranchers. As if the carbon emissions resulting from cattle deforestation were not enough, consider bovine methane emissions.”
As a result, the meat-based diet also plays a role in habitat destruction, animal and plant extinctions, world hunger and corporate welfare. Still, since climate change is the eco-topic most familiar to the general public, it may be the ideal place for Al Gore to start this discussion.
As vegan musician Moby explained, omitting the role of animals raised for food from efforts to address climate change is “like talking about lung cancer without talking about cigarettes.”
How much longer can the world’s best known environmentalist ignore such an issue?
In an open letter to Al Gore, Pamela Rice of the Viva Vegie Society wrote:
We’re changing our light bulbs. We’re buying high-mileage cars. We’re dreaming up new green businesses to reduce the shoe-size of our ecological footprint. But even if we do all of this, a silent trend is working in the background that surely will wipe out all of our gains. We’re eating too much meat – meat that from a health standpoint is far in excess. And the world is on a trajectory to double its consumption of meat by mid-century. Indeed, all of our efforts to cut greenhouse emissions will be wiped out if we don’t reduce our meat consumption. And people need to hear this from you, Mr. Gore, as the person with the most credibility to get this fact out there. If they hear it from you, they will listen. It is an environmental imperative for humans to reduce their consumption of animal-based foods.
Simple Suggestion for Al Gore: A slow, but steady, introduction into his talks and articles regarding the role of the meat-based diet in climate change. You can even use a mainstream source: Henning Steinfeld, chief of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report, who said, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”
Sounds like another Oscar-winning documentary to me …