Greenwashing Meat

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

You’ve gotta love Gretta. I mean there are plenty out there who don’t. She’s young, she’s loud, she’s vegan and she’s unapologetic. I’ve heard her called a prat, and I’m sure this is the nice version of it.

This years COP26 is not yet over and while our representatives are patting themselves on the back for some incremental achievements that must feel infinitely large to themselves, the reality is that we are in danger of thinking that these efforts are enough and that we have somehow redirected the future.

The sad fact is that the the generation deciding our future is setting pretty low standards. They were born into an era of plenty – of rapid progress where a utopian future seemed guaranteed. All we had to do was to was keep turning natural resources into products. This idea was a reaction to the austerity of the war-marked first half of the twentieth century. Rapid economic and industrial expansion birthed consumerism and unprecedented levels of animal consumption. A chicken on every table. And for a generation or two, it seemed great.

The ability of our current generation of leadership, who grew up in the 60s and 70s, to see beyond this idea is limited. This is why meat was missing at COP26. Even a focus on methane targets non-livestock sources. It just cannot be admitted by this generation (as a whole) that the industry needs to scale down. They’re too invested in the illusions that birthed our culture.

The issues that make Meat deadly for our civilisation are not singular, but are always talked about in isolation of each other. You have ‘land use change’ – or deforestation. You have land degradation where land used for animal agriculture becomes unsuitable for much else, you have water use which contributes along with the previous two factors to gradually desertification, you have the direct methane emissions, you have the CO2 emitted in production, transport and storage. This is all compounded by the knowledge that Meat is a very inefficient way to farm usable protein. Plant-based diets or diets low in animal foods are repeatedly verified as healthier, all other things equal.

What are we doing?

And why are we fucking around with carbon neutrality while we need to withdraw carbon from the atmosphere as fast as possible – best done with large scale sequestration efforts with wartime urgency? Do we think climate change that is already evident will progress linearly, orderly, predictably? Do we think we have time to ‘develop technology; to allow industries to wreck slightly less damage as they every expand? Who are we placating by ignoring these things? Our dead grandparents? Our ailing parents?

Disappointingly, here in Australia were our land is absolutely ravaged by meat production, there is talk of carbon sequestering in afforestation to be limited to 1/3 of farmland. Why? It’s undoubtedly a measure to protect the measly 3% of GDP that this industry contributes while it exports our natural environment and wrecks the gobal climate.

These things are of course also obfuscated by an absolute minimisation of livestock’s physical impact on the world. The science is watered down and presented in the most benign way possible. Animal agriculture, to anyone who dares question it’s immunity, is the major cause of global warming and the only cause we can immediately do anything about.

That is, if cultural concepts were not our largest, most restrictive limitation. Yes, our own attachment to the way things are, this cultural momentum propelling us forward into some utopian version of the 70s, is our main obstacle in the climate crisis. It prevents us from identifying threats, and from seeing how easily it can be abated. And this is a generational problem.

How quickly can we see past our emotional attachments to allegiance to the imaginings of our grandparents? If we can change what’s on our plates, we can change it all. But doing so half-heartedly, or non-convincingly, and telling ourselves we’re doing our part, won’t cut it as far as the physical world is concerned.

As Australians, our identities must change. Instead of loving a dry, red rock, why not love trees and rivers. We can support ourselves on less than a tenth of current agricultural land, and perhaps use our natural abundance to export not animals confined on torturous ships, but grains, and vegetables that require far less water and land. Rainfall will stabilise with the return of vegetation and forest, healthy food will be more affordable, and people living in and around cities will be able to take part.