"There is, however, a moral basis for the vegetarian diet for which the indeterminate value of an animal’s life takes on irrelevance. And that moral basis is a concern for the environment, a value as absolute as the value we all place on human life, since humanity will not long survive on a poisoned planet. To be an environmentalist who happens to eat meat is like being a philanthropist who doesn’t happen to give to charity." (Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat" by Howard F. Lyman, Glen Merzer")Rational capital allocation is not our forte as a society. Indulging human foibles is more like it. The dialog about climate change is a case in point. If 51% of GHG-emissions is due to animal husbandry and the self-destructive habit of eating meat, and moreover the our nastiest health problems (heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, CJD, antibiotic resistant bacteria et al.) are partially or wholly attributable to the same self-destructive habit, then why is it not on the agenda for serious discussion?
For me, there is a personal side to the story, I was raised vegetarian, as in lacto-vegetarian, and though I realized a long time ago that milk was for baby cows and not for human consumption, I loved cheese. From my late teens to my early twenties I became more of an omnivore, but after age forty, I simply noticed a tendency to vegetarianism, ever so slowly, but without any particularly strong commitment. I simply drifted towards a more vegetarian lifestyle. In the last ten years health issues made me gradually more and more interested, and I got briefly interested in the Esselstyn diet that was made famous when former President Bill Clinton switched from Mickey D's to veganism. The first time I read the Esselstyn book, I was half-hearted about it. An old friend and I were both experimenting with this diet for a while, and kept some ideas from it, without necessarily going through with it, but the drift continued, aided by the growing realization that even if I did not have any symptoms of hearth disease, why wait till I did? In the last two years all dairy was permanently phased out. For Christmas a giant apple-pie came along, and while I enjoyed it, I also informed Santa Claus that this would be my last apple-pie until after my funeral. Who needs all that white flour and sugar? Most importantly the last year especially, I found myself enjoying food more as I discovered more and more vegan recipes that I really liked.
Meanwhile I am into planning the energy economics for some real-estate developments, and looking into vertical agriculture options in an urban setting, while at the same time I am listening to feedback from my community, Community Board #9 in the Bronx, where a young mother of two stated0 in a recent planning session that she did not want another fast food restaurant in our district, and a young man in the same session was polling people on the idea of establishing a food co-op in our area. But a local supermarket just lost their lease, and that neighborhood is screaming for a half-way decent supermarket to fill the vacuum.
Against that personal backdrop, I have been reading Howard Lyman's Mad Cowboy book, and watching some documentaries on YouTube, including:
- Cowspiracy, a brilliant documentary of our collective economical and environmental and nutritional insanity from 2014, which included an appearance by Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy.
- Then came Earthlings, another brilliant piece on the gruesome realities of the animal husbandry system.
- Next was Gary Yourovsky, who verbalizes it all brilliantly, here, including the most viewed speech in Israeli history here.
- And finally, I had to revisit the whole Howard Lyman story, which I was only vaguely aware of when Oprah and he got sued in 1996, but now it was time to refresh that experience, and this documentary about the Mad Cowboy just his the spot.
- Since I first wrote this post, it got even better, see the story of the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, yet another rancher to vegan story.
And at the final end it is the economist in me who basically realizes that economics will prevail in the end, and we are well on our way to veganism. It will take a few generations, but choices are multiplying now, with more and more vegan food choices, and now even fast food restaurants, it is clear that change is on the agenda. The group of people who turn vegan and get off their meds is growing - the perfect answer to our out of control healthcare system, so not only can the planet not afford animal husbandry, we cannot afford the health consequences of eating all that meat and dairy. I had a home visit from a nurse practitioner from my health insurance provider, and the guy fell of his chair, for just the week before the doctor had taken me off all meds, or rather confirmed that I was doing great without them - not that I was taking that many but still... On top of that, I know I feel more stamina at the gym.
One of the big things I am realizing about net-zero development is that moving combustion out of residential spaces is one of the biggest things we can do for indoor air quality, and this in turn adds to real estate values. Insights like that are pretty potent if you live in the asthma capital of the world, the Bronx. So there is a straightforward connection between economics, environment and health.
The same goes for vertical agriculture: it is now economical to grow fresh vegetables in an urban setting, and eliminate chemical agriculture, and thousands of miles of transportation, to get better, fresher, healthier vegetables, as you can see in this little video from Terrashpere.
And the transition to more and more vegan living will eliminate the most obvious food safety problems, a vast array of health problems, as well as unsustainable agriculture in the service of animal husbandry. Again, economics, environment and health all go hand in hand. And the forces that drives us towards a more sustainable economy are absolutely inexorable. Veganism is a new idea today, or so it seems to many, but it is unavoidable economically. We are literally at the point of realizing that we are feeding the pigs at the expense of human beings, and wiping out the rain forests to raise cattle, which is the most insane misuse of land that ever was. It is that inexorable force of economics and sustainability, that is driving us towards a more sustainable, and therefore increasingly vegan, lifestyle.
Since I originally wrote this post, I have also started a blog on vegan living in my hood.