Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What about methane?

Robert Goodland, the longtime senior environmental advisor to the president of the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, his colleague at the World Bank Group, have determined that livestock rearing contributes at least 51 percent of total global warming.

The most famous greenhouse gas, the one that gets most of the attention from the media, activists, and policy makers, is CO2. But CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, and is not in fact the one most sensitive to reduction efforts. Methane (CH4) offers a more promising lever with which to push back global warming. Molecule for molecule, methane is about twenty-five times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. But more important, methane, with an atmospheric half-life of seven years, disappears from the atmosphere far faster than carbon dioxide, which has a half-life of more than a century. So almost as soon as we eliminate sources of methane, its contribution to the greenhouse effect begins to wane significantly. By contrast, even after we stop releasing CO2, the gas that has already been released will contribute to global warming for decades.

When the amount of methane in the atmosphere is considered over ta twenty-year period, its global warming potential is said to be seventy-two times that of CO2. And methane is largely associated with industrial livestock production. This means that reducing meat consumption, the main driver of the livestock industry, may be the most rapid way to affect global warming. It turns out that our present programs, focused on carbon dioxide reduction, are mostly a lot of hot air—in more ways than one.

If this new assessment of the methane contribution is correct, the implications are momentous. I am puzzled as to why more people in the environmental community aren’t paying attention to this. Do they not want to challenge the livestock industry? Maybe we need bioengineers to figure out how to entrap and safely process cow farts. Failing this, maybe we should stop producing and eating the machines that do the farting.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, pages 168–69 (emphasis original)

Monday, July 25, 2016

It just isn't sustainable in the long run...

• Animal protein production requires eight times as much fossil fuel as plant protein. • The livestock population of the Unites States consumes five times as much grain (which is not even their natural diet) as the country’s entire human population. • Every kilogram of beef requires 100,000 liters of water to produce. By comparison, a kilogram of wheat requires just 900 liters, and a kilogram of potatoes just 500 liters. • A United Nations-sponsored workshop of about 200 experts concluded that 80 percent of deforestation in the tropics is attributable to the creation of new farmland, the majority of which is used for livestock grazing and feed.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 166

<idle musing>
And this is where theology intersects life. This lifestyle is just not sustainable. It is bad stewardship of the earth.

Dare I say it is sinful? Well, at least at the level we are doing it, I think I can say that...
</idle musing>

Sunday, July 24, 2016

But I want it to mean this!

In the face of insufficient data, any judgment is weakly founded. Since the Qumran texts are the very epitome of incomplete data, caution is necessary.—Ronald Hendel in Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible, forthcoming from SBL Press

<idle musing>
Wise words! Many have ignored the perils and gone beyond the data...
</idle musing>

Friday, July 22, 2016

One-dimensional thinking

I know many environmentalists whose commitment is manifest and commendable, but stops at their lips. It’s understandable; many of our favorite “foods” (or, more properly, food-like items) are highly addictive. And our relationship with food is far more emotionally fraught than, say, our relationship with incandescent light bulbs or plastic shopping bags. But even these far-seeing and far-thinking activists are wearing reductionist blinders if they cannot see that their personal food choices matter at least as much as—and I would argue considerably more than—recycling and using energy-efficient light bulbs.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 165

<idle musing>
Indeed! What's the greatest source of methane (which is the largest cause of global warming)? Confined feeding operations (CAFOs)!

That's right. Every time you eat a hamburger or steak you are contributing to global warming. Probably more so than using a styrofoam box to wrap the leftovers in...

Whole foods, plant-based diet. Good for the health of the person and the planet!
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The magic bullet that isn't

The danger of our increasing consumption of supplements is more than just the documented negative effects on our health. It’s that our love affair with the magic bullet of supplementation lets us believe we’re “of the hook” when it comes to eating right. Why eat your veggies when you can binge on hot dogs and ice cream and, if you get into trouble, make it all better with a pill?— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 162

<idle musing>
Indeed! I've heard people say it numerous times: "That's OK, I'll just take a calcium pill when I get home." Instead of eating veggies that are loaded with calcium.

Admit it. You're addicted to junk food! Now, take the 6 week challenge: Eat nothing but whole foods on a plant-based, animal-free diet for 6 weeks. I'll bet you feel better. And at the end of 6 weeks, when you try some of the stuff you used to eat, you'll be amazed at how bad it tastes. You will feel the oil coat your tongue and the sugar and salt will jump on your taste buds. You won't like it anymore...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So where does it come from?

Population studies begun forty to fifty years ago show that when people migrate from one country to another, they acquire the cancer rate of the country to which they move, despite the fact their genes remain the same. This strongly indicates that at least 80 percent to 90 percent—and probably closer to 97 percent to 98 percent—of all cancers are related to diet and lifestyle, not to genes.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 129

<idle musing>
I remember when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin; I was hitch-hiking to school and a couple of grad students picked me up who were working on this kind of stuff (way back in the 1970s); they were discussing the results of their work with each other. The one guy said to the other, "I'm convinced that cancer is man-made." That's stuck with me—obviously, if I can still remember it 40 years later!
</idle musing>

Monday, July 18, 2016

On manipulating genes

As a research discipline, modern-day genetics addresses the consequences of that small percentage of disease-producing genes that we acquire along the way. It operates from the assumption that one day we will be able to locate and identify damaged genes and use that information to more easily diagnose and treat disease. However, it largely fails to consider how to prevent genes from becoming damaged in the first place. And the field’s presumption that genetic engineering will be able to prevent disease from occurring by repairing or replacing specific genes that cause disease, is the height of hubris, given the unimaginable complexity of DNA.— Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, page 127

<idle musing>
Come, let us play God! So far, every time we've tried, it hasn't worked so well. But, hey, maybe this time, right? : (
</idle musing>