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Global Warming Goes Mainstream

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Having experienced for over twenty years the daily anxiety and frustration which any environmentally concerned, rational, and humane person alive today must be feeling over the potential for catastrophic alterations of our planet's atmosphere from over 150 years of industrial burning of fossil fuels, otherwise known as global warming, I have to say I've been truly amazed by the public and political reactions to the findings released last week in a summary report on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC report, officially titled, "Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis", summarily assessed the total body of scientific knowledge to date of the natural and human drivers of climate change and the projections for future climate change. The report reveals, for the second time, nearly unanimous international scientific consensus that 90% or more of climate change is being produced by anthrogenic causes, ie., human activities.

This overwhelmingly valid indictment of hydrocarbon-born CO2 "greenhouse" gas emissions obviously came as really bad news for all huge multinational oil entities such as ExxonMobil and Shell. It was also extremely bad news for the entrenched oil dynasty known as the Bush Administration (as if they didn't already have enough sh*t to wallow in with their failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the resulting political warfare finally underway here at home).

Before any further reveling and possible dancing in the streets over the sudden pain and discomfort that this dire IPCC global warming indictment places on these particular status quo-driving "oiligarchies", please recall that none of us, not even the most ardent environmental activist, can claim innocence in this shared 21st century plight known as industrial civilization.

Out of fairness, I have to take a moment to exonerate the world's last remaining indigenous cultures who still manage to survive in pre-industrial civilizations. Because they have not been enjoying the many conveniences and benefits promised by our historic aberration of evolution, ie., modern technology and industry, an era that now presently offers computer viruses, choking traffic congestion, cell phone rudeness and microwave inundation, and of course, the joy of mass consuming at Wal Mart (just the tip the melting iceberg), the indigenous peoples can least guiltlessly explain to their questioning grandchildren that none of them were ever asked to sign on to our plan, therefore are not now and never will be in any way culpable for our predicament.

So the mainstream might may at last be comprehending the reality of global warming? Pinch me. It has honestly left me positively stirring with optimism. Might it be possible that a majority of our vast, reality-deprived public is now awakening to the smell the hydrocarbons? If this amazing development might be true then I would like to offer the millions of newly convinced concerned Americans (I genuinely hope) a unique perspective on what we might do about this looming planetary threat.

How can we as a global village (very progressive supposition I know) best reign in on, and even possibly completely stave off, this terrible catastrophe for our children's children and all the wonderful beings of the planet? In a word, vegetarianism.

As a longtime vegetarian (vegan now), and deep ecological activist, I have learned some incredible facts during my twenty year journey on a plant-based diet. For example, in a time when our world faces so many environmental problems, over 50 billion animals are reared and slaughtered every year, requiring an incredible 70% of all grain produced in the United States (over a third worldwide) to be inefficiently diverted to feed and fatten farmed animals.

Further, up to 14 times as much water is necessary to support an animal-centered food supply than is required to produce vegan diets. Projections suggest that rising demand for meat and dairy products in the developing world will result in more than doubling global meat and dairy production by 2050!

These ghastly resource depletions don't even take into account rising poultry, egg, fish and seafood consumption. This Malthusian nightmare should leave any rational individual thinking about choosing a soy veggie burger for dinner tonight.

For the many millions of otherwise environmentally aware meat eaters out there who are still reluctant to give up what many strangely refer to as "my meat", I want to offer yet another thought rousing fact; a November 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report which indicates that animal-based agriculture has an even greater effect on global climate change and other environmental problems than motor vehicles.

Can you already guess where I might be leading with this information? Yes, one can actually do more to reduce global climate change by switching to a plant-based vegan diet than be switching to a fuel-efficient hybrid car!

If you would like to fact check this please refer to the 400-page FAO report which is summarized at . It is downloadable at . This report follows warnings from renowned climate scientists, such as James Hansen of NASA, that global climate change may spiral out of control with a decade, with disastrous consequences.

Although I certainly do not deny the significant environmental and fuel-saving benefits to choosing a hybrid automobile over any traditional gas-sucking American SUV or luxury sedan, I really believe that our endangered planet - including all those 50 billion sentient beings callously referred to by Outback and McDonald's as "ribs" and "nuggets" - is urgently crying out for much faster and more dramatic action on our part than simply switching vehicles.

And trust me, going vegetarian is far more easier than quitting smoking.

 

Glenn Kirk is a social and ecological justice activist, dedicated anti-hunter, and chronic issue provocateur, ie., op-ed writer.

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