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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Let's Be Honest about Global Climate Change

Published 10/15/09
By Monica Engebretson, Senior Program Associate

Today (October 15) is Blog Action Day for Climate Change, where bloggers around the world unite to talk about Global Climate Change — arguably the most important environmental issue we now face.

As a campaigner for an organization that works protect wild animals from exploitation and keep wildlife in the wild — including threatened and endangered species — the issue of global climate change is very relevant. If the predictions are correct and we continue down a path toward massive climate destabilization, everything else we work on is like polishing the silver on the Titanic.

This is not to say that we can stop working on all the important issues we work on ... No, No, No ... that would only accelerate the problems wild animals face and create a huge backslide in our progress over the years. What I’m saying is we have to also acknowledge the broader environmental issues by talking to our supporters about it.

There is now broad scientific consensus that climate change (defined as shifts in average weather conditions over time) is underway and that human activity is at least the major contributor if not the sole cause.

When it comes to global climate change and humane behavior, it seems that many U.S. citizens, companies, and their associated public service announcements love to talk about changing light bulbs, using reusable bags, and recycling; however, all tend to ignore the proverbial “elephant in the room,” by failing to acknowledge the biggest causes of human-caused environmental destruction.

So, I'm going to break the taboos and just lay out the 3 top causes of environmental destruction that are oft ignored.

  1. Human Population Growth — Now as much as people love to point to the population growth in the developing world, as Dr. Albert Bartlett, a retired professor from the University of Colorado points out, population growth in the United States because of our consumption levels is hugely important.
  2. Fuel Consumption — including driving big ol’ SUVs just to commute to work and drive to the supermarket.
  3. Consumption of Animal Products — Meat consumption rated second only to automobiles in a list of most environmentally damaging products, prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The products were rated on their effect on global warming, air and water pollution, and the alteration of natural habitats.

Numbers 2 and 3 are actually closely tied together since the production of animal products requires an inordinate amount of fuel compared to plant based-foods.

“It takes, on average, 28 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of meat protein for human consumption, [whereas] it takes only 3.3 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of protein from grain for human consumption.” David Pimentel, Cornell University. Excerpted in World Watch Vol. 17. No. 4, July/August 2004.

Actually all 3 of these points are connected:

“The U.S. beef cattle industry is highly dependant on fossil fuels and will become increasingly unsustainable as the human population grows.” R.K. Heitschmidt, R.E. Short, and E.E. Gings 1996. Ecosystems, Sustainability, and Animal Agriculture. J.Anim.Sci. 74:1395-1405.

Now I'm not going to conclude this blog with a bunch of tips for how individuals can make changes in their life to acknowledge and address these issues, because they already know it’s just a matter of getting past the denial, changing habits, and taking responsibility.

Let us all do our part to protect the planet for ourselves, for future generations, and for the animals.

Blogging off,

Monica

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