[Coral-List] Climate Change perceptions AND the importance of personal choices

Szmant, Alina szmanta at uncw.edu
Fri Nov 6 10:41:38 EST 2009

I am very glad that Kelley posted this message, because one irksome pattern I see in this string of Coral-List posts is that many keep expecting the governments and big organizations to "do something about it" but it is the sum total of each individual person on Earth, with his or her personal decisions about lifestyle and consumption, that add up to the climate change we are experiencing. We vote for change with our wallet, what we buy drives the economic sector. You can't expect others to change how they live if you are not willing to do it. Government is made up of people we elect and who feel the pressure to get re-elected.

If we didn't have a tripling of people on Earth over the past few decades (now 6.8 BILLION but only 2 Billion when I was in my 20's), and if each person didn't need to eat, cook their food (i.e. wood, charcoal, oil, electricity), find a way to make a living (from artisanal farming and fishing to high rollers in big banks and oil companies), then we wouldn't be facing the changes in Earth ecology that are happening so quickly today.  Our governments, in many cases (developed world) respond to the pressures of the majority.  In the US, 'we' want economic growth, more jobs, better standards of living AND LESS GOVERNMENT REGULATION, and most of our undereducated citizens can't see past their daily needs  (so yes, we need to scare them with graphic videos and doomsday scenarios to drive the message home, as suggested by Sherry).

But here is my issue today:  How many people reading these Coral-List messages are making the fundamental changes in their own lives that are needed for anything to change?  Becoming a vegetarian is a simple change, and one that as Kelley has explained, will save a lot of carbon units.  Beef production, from start to finish, is one of the most environmentally destructive and energy consuming of our modern food industries. It is one of the major contributors to deforestation in the tropics: clearing of land for growing fodder for cattle, and grazing itself. In his book, "Shadows of Consumption, Consequences for the Global Environment", Peter Dauvergne has summarized in gory detail the escalating global impact of the beef industry (other interesting chapters in this book are about automobiles, leaded gas, Freon).  Deforestation is right up there with SUVs as a sources of CO2, thus eating beef (and pigs, and other land animals) DIRECTLY contributes to climate change just as much as being an energy hog at work or home. Then there is the methane cattle produce... with 20 times per molecule the green house effect of CO2. I read that every pound of beef is equivalent in C units to driving an SUV 40 miles (but not sure if that is based on the C content of the beef or the sum total of C units produced in producing the beef and getting it to your plate).

I've made this transition gradually over the past 5 years, for two reasons: disgust at the agribusiness abuse of animals, and environmental concerns.  First I only bought humanely raised and slaughtered mammals, and free range chickens and turkeys; then I gave up all land animals this year, and only sustainably harvested fishes and no tuna.  Next year, probably no more fish except for mollusks which Daniel Pauly tells us can be sustainably raised and harvested. It does take discipline, and changes in my life, but that is what we will need on ALL fronts, not just food choices, to turn our global ecology and climate around. My family is dreading this coming Thanksgiving with no turkey...

Food for thought as we approach the holidays!

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
UNCW-Center for Marine Science
5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409
Tel: (910)962-2362 & Fax:  (910)962-2410
Cell:  (910)200-3913
email:  szmanta at uncw.edu
Web Page:  http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Kelley Anderson
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 10:54 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Climate Change perceptions

On the topic of  climate change perceptions, I would just like to point out
the need for an increased understanding of the huge contribution of
greenhouse gases emitted from factory farms, which recently won an
accountability of these gases.  Factory farming contributes a huge
chunk of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions, ~18-25% depending upon who you
believe (18% according to the FAO -
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html ).  Many of us
are aware of the environmental destruction associated with modern fishing,
but the link between factory farming and climate change has only recently
become more well known.  This comes as a great relief to myself, as I have
to deal with much less heckling for my food choices - some climate change
conferences even have a veg option now.

Unfortunately a last minute amendment was added to exempt livestock
production's greenhouse gas emissions from being regulated by the the EPA so
now we won't know for sure how much livestock really contributes.  The
livestock farming industries have essentially won a free
greenhouse gas emissions.  The actual text and link to H.R. 2996:
Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations
Act, 2010 are provided below.

I am primarily posting this to point out the seriousness of this exemption
and the need for accountability.  I hope it also helps explain the
perspective of many environmentally driven vegetarians and vegans, and even
offer one way to reduce your own carbon footprint, if you are so inclined.


prohibition on use of funds

Sec. 424. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made
available in this Act or any other Act may be used to promulgate or
implement any regulation requiring the issuance of permits under title V of
the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C.
seq.) for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane
emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock

Kelley L. Anderson, M.Sc.
Marine Scientist
The Climate Foundation
Tafuna, American Samoa
"If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do
not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts?
To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent
tinkering."  Aldo Leopold
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