On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: Don't have a cow, man
Is red meat the next tobacco? Is the federal government destined to hector Americans about their consumption of beef in the same way it now discourages smoking — and perhaps even levy a special tax on it someday?
Until recently, such questions were not merely improbable, they were silly. But no longer. When an ultra-establishment voice such as the Los Angeles Times devotes a 1,600-word editorial to the perils of “Killer cow emissions,” not as parody but as serious analysis, you know that concern over porterhouse steaks has elbowed its way into the mainstream.
After noting that “livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. — more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet,” the Times slogs through a variety of tactics that might reduce the impact of the methane gas that cattle produce (mostly through belching). It then concludes, however, that none of these measures would be enough.
The only alternative: “eating less meat.” As a result, “the government should not only get out of the business of promoting unhealthful and environmentally destructive foods, it should be actively discouraging them.”
Let’s be clear what the Times is saying: The government should actively discourage eating beef in order to combat global warming. The editorial also cites beef’s “unhealthful” effects, to be sure, but if it were truly worried about them, it could have advocated a campaign against red meat years ago. No, global warming is what tipped the scales.
Global warming is quickly becoming the one-stop shop for almost every variety of social engineer and closet authoritarian who hankers to boss the rest of us around. Those who want to dictate where Americans live, including the size of their houses and lots, what they drive or whether they drive, and even what they eat, need only link their goal to the campaign against global warming to infuse it with moral force.
You don’t have to be a global warming skeptic (I’m certainly not) to be disturbed by this trend. Surely preserving freedom is at least as important as combating global warming — just as preserving civil liberties ought to trump the war against global terrorism.
Because if that’s not the case — if global warming outranks every other consideration, why shouldn’t we slap a heavy greenhouse tax on red meat or ban its sale altogether? After all, the Times informs us, “cutting out meat would do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than trading in a gas guzzler for a hybrid car.”
And tofu burgers aren’t really all that bad, are they?
Our highest value?
I guess I don’t have to ask the executive director of the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association whether freedom or the campaign against global warming is more important. In an article this week in USA Today, Gabriel Metcalf is quoted as saying that the city’s proposed 1,200-foot Transbay Transit Center is a “statement that our highest value is ecology. Just as church steeples were always the tallest buildings in the Middle Ages, we’re marking our transit hub as the most important spot on the skyline.”
Our highest value is ecology? And where do such “values” as freedom, justice, the pursuit of truth and knowledge, and the cultivation of community, to mention just a few other candidates, fit in the rankings?
If our highest value is ecology — if that’s truly the emerging consensus — then the banning of red meat is hardly the worst crackdown in the name of the environment that could be lurking in the wings.
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
PPFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTT!Posted by Hank on October 17, 2007 09:00 AM
Hey, it could be worse. The early settlers might have left those millions of buffalo alive and producing emissions for the previous 150+ years... then we'd be completely screwed.
Buffalo Bill, one of the saviors of the environment... ?
Yes my comment is absurd, but oddly it's also logically consistent.Posted by Gekkobear on October 17, 2007 03:07 PM
I'm surprised there are so few comments on this article. I was delighted to read it. My favorite parts:
"Global warming is quickly becoming the one-stop shop for almost every variety of social engineer and closet authoritarian who hankers to boss the rest of us around...."
"Our highest value is ecology? And where do such “values” as freedom, justice, the pursuit of truth and knowledge, and the cultivation of community, to mention just a few other candidates, fit in the rankings?"
One of my favorite pieces on climate change is by Roger Pielke Jr. and Daniel Sarowitz in the Atlantic Monthly: "Breaking the Global-Warming Gridlock" (www.tinyurl.com/ytgdtp)Posted by Brian T. Schwartz on October 20, 2007 04:58 PM