A warm wel­come for Old Man Win­ter

Cape Breton Post - - THE ENVIRONMENT -

It’s beginning to look a lot like win­ter, and all I have to say is “it’s about time!”

I know every­one wants mild win­ters — no one likes to shovel, it’s tougher to travel, blah, blah, blah. Mild win­ters are for Van­cou­ver, you know, the home of the 2010 Olympics. I was won­der­ing if any­one finds it ironic that, due to cli­mate change, there is not enough snow for some of the out­door Olympic events, so they are ac­tu­ally truck­ing in snow?

I guess the irony of the fact that trans­porta­tion is one of the lead­ing causes of green­house gas emis­sions is lost in the glare of the global spot­light that the Olympics gen­er­ate.

I thought that trans­porta­tion was ac­tu­ally the sin­gle high­est pro­ducer of GHGs but it is not. Did you know that the pro­duc­tion of meat can claim that ti­tle? Ac­cord­ing to a 2006 re­port ( ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/ A0701E/A0701E00.pdf) by the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the UN, ti­tled Live­stock's Long Shadow, live­stock pro­duc­tion causes more green­house gas emis­sions than trans­porta­tion.

So if we want to cut down GHGs, we need to eat less meat. The main prob­lem is that we are us­ing pre­cious re­sources to grow grain to feed cows, in­stead of peo­ple. But there is even more than that of con­cern, as cows are ac­tu­ally a quadru­ple threat. First, we uti­lize land, seed and wa­ter to fat­ten them up. Sec­ond, they emit meth­ane, am­mo­nia and other pol­lut­ing gases. Third, live­stock are a ma­jor source of de­for­esta­tion world­wide. Fourthly, waste from feed­lots con­tam­i­nate streams and cre­ate dead­zones, fur­ther de­plet­ing re­sources.

We don’t have to stop eat­ing meat al­to­gether — even Al Gore ad­mits to eat­ing a steak once in awhile. But be­ing aware of the con­se­quences of the choices we make is im­por­tant. One way to re­duce meat con­sump­tion is to have a few days a week which are des­ig­nated, by you, as meat free. It will soon be­come a rou­tine and most likely you won’t even miss it from your diet.

Speak­ing of choices, I asked a lo­cal veg­e­tar­ian ex­pert once about help­ing me un­der­stand la­bels on food. Nu­tri­tional val­ues are not my strong suit. He said if it had a la­bel, it wasn’t re­ally food — in­stead it was pro­cessed food and I should not be eat­ing that stuff. Well, I guess he was right but that cer­tainly lim­its the sec­tion of the gro­cery store that you would shop in, right? It would be good how­ever, if food came with its car­bon foot­print at­tached in a la­bel — we could then choose foods more wisely for our own health and the health of the earth.

In ad­di­tion to the car­bon foot­print of what we eat, ev­ery item should come marked with a wa­ter foot­print. Did you know it takes 140 litres of wa­ter to make one cup of cof­fee? Or that it takes 16,000 litres of wa­ter to make one pound of beef.

Peo­ple don’t want to think about th­ese facts but that doesn’t make them any less rel­e­vant. It is grap­pling with the way we pro­duce food and the way we man­age our diet which will be the fo­cus of sci­en­tists and doc­tors for years to come. Per­haps we should change the old slo­gan of “ food for thought” to “thought for food.”

Lets’ think about that next time we are in the gro­cery store, or bet­ter yet, the farm­ers’ mar­ket.

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