Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An open letter to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver

So yesterday the Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver published an open letter to the Canadian public about the environmental "radicals" whose "goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth." Referring to Enbridge's new Northern Gateway Pipeline, he decries the attempts to stop the export of tar sands oil to Asia, which is the Harper Government's new plan after the Keystone XL Pipeline to the US was effectively scrapped by President Obama.

Much though this insidious attack offended me personally — I'm sure Oliver would lump we in with the crazies — it didn't surprise me. Oliver's attitude is in fact typical of business and government, whose interests are always in short-term profit over the long-term welfare of the public. What they fail to understand — or perhaps, more rightly, acknowledge — is that the destruction of the environment will actually lead to more lost jobs and disastrous economic decline, and that the environmental agenda is not in fact about the environment but about humanity. Environmentalists want to save the world because they — we — want to save the human species. This planet, as I said in the previous post, is the only like it within the nearest 200 million light years; we don't get another one. It is finite.

David Suzuki had a clever response, I thought, calling the environmental paradigm "a pretty conservative approach" that seeks to "'live within our means,' 'save some for tomorrow,' [and] think about the 'legacy we leave for our children.'" He pointed out that the government's policies actually deplete and destroy the very resources it seeks to profit from, ensuring, in the long-term, economic depression (not big 'D,' though that could easily follow).

Here's another writer saying the same thing as me: 350.org

Friday, January 6, 2012

food waste, caloric density, cooking...

Time for an update. It has now been over a year since I stopped eating red meat. It still sucks, but I still feel committed to the decision. My daughter will often say to me, "so Daddy, just stop being a vegetarian! If you want to eat meat, then eat it!" This is in fact helpful, because I have to restate my case to her: I don't eat meat because I love her and I want her and her children to have a beautiful planet to live on. We don't get another one. In fact, author Bill Bryson says (in his excellent book A Short History of Nearly Everything), the average distance between stars is about 200 million light years, meaning that's the closest we are to another Earth-like planet at the right proximity to its sun to support life. "Two hundred light years is so far beyond us as to be, well, beyond us." (p28) ...All to say, it's worth trying to preserve this tiny finite planet for future humans; our great migration to Earth Mark 2 is a few years off.

1) There was a program on the CBC a couple weeks ago — I think in conjunction with their annual Sounds off the Season food drive — about how much food gets wasted in North America. It's obscene. Now, I'm a pretty frugal guy as it is, and growing up my mom always tried to waste as little food as possible, so I have always tended to eat things others might not, and save things others might throw out, but after hearing the article I have been being even more intentional. This is problematic on the rare occasions there's beef being eaten in our house, but otherwise one of the main things I've been trying to do is eat smaller portions. I find that if I dole out a smaller plate of food for myself, I not only eat less but also waste less. Not only that, it also means I can finish whatever my daughter doesn't, also leading to less waste.

2) I've also been thinking about, for lack of less jargony term, "caloric density." For a variety of reasons, including the ailing economy, personal finances, climate change, Third World hunger, and recent CBC articles about the prolongation of human life (one report said the potential was almost infinite life! How on earth do they expect humanity to have enough food if everyone lives into their hundreds and hundreds?), I've begun thinking about food sources, and just how calorie-rich nuts and seeds are. One cup of sunflower seeds, for instance, has like 1200 calories! So 2 cups would be enough to sustain someone my size for a day. Environmentally, this would mean such a tiny little footprint, both in terms of production and in terms of waste. Not that we could ever move as a species towards such a diet, but is it worth thinking about how to apply this in some (more balanced) manner? Maybe cutting my meals in half and eating more nuts & seeds?

3) A couple nights ago I tried to make potato chips by baking rather than deep-frying them. They were in the oven at like 425ºF for over 45 minutes and only got about halfway done. I started wondering how much energy it must take to make many of the foods we eat regularly, which once again brought up the idea that easily the most "environmentally-friendly" way to eat is raw food, not cooked. I have not yet converted, no. Not sure I could bring myself to do it. Being a vegetarian or even a vegan seems like a cakewalk by comparison.