At the Netroots Nation convention in Austin on Saturday, Al Gore paid a surprise visit. While I appreciate his passion for educating the public about global warming, given the indisputable evidence that meat production is a major contributor to global warming I’ve been disappointed that he chooses to ignore this inconvenient truth. (See for example, this FAO Report.)
So I perked up when OrangeClouds asked Gore, if eating meat has an even more negative impact than driving, what gives? To his credit, Gore didn’t sidestep the question, which was quite refreshing after Nancy Pelosi’s pathetic performance. Instead he admitted that it would be better both for our own health and for that of the planet if we ate less meat.
As to why he doesn’t make that part of his ongoing message, he hemmed and hawed a bit and then suggested that his own meat eating might have something to do with it (you think?). Then he concluded with the excuse that you can’t take on everything all at once.
This is the same guy who minutes earlier was promoting his website wecansolveit.org to mobilize people to support the total conversion to renewable energy and other "clean sources" (that sounds suspicious) in 10 years. But I guess we can’t do it by making simple dietary changes like refusing to eat the one food group that causes the most environmental destruction, including global warming.
Earth to Al: What credibility can you expect to have in calling for others to take global warming seriously when you refuse to set a good example? Even best-selling author Michael Pollen (of NY Times fame), a staunch non-vegetarian (the guy hunted boar just for fun of it) promotes the idea of eating less meat both for environmental and health reasons. Are you really saying that your love of barbeque is more important than the potential destruction of the planet? Come on, Al, this is a no-brainer!
Gore’s refusal to talk about the connection between diet and global warming is part of a much bigger problem with his message: the insufficient finger pointing at the ultimate culprit, Corporate America. As much as I appreciated his documentary film, I was disappointed by the ending, when messages of individual behavior change such as how we can save energy by changing our light bulbs scrolled prior to the credits. Light bulbs? I think the melting of polar ice caps puts us a tad beyond the light-bulb-changing stage.
I would have preferred a list of corporations that have an economic stake in maintaining the status quo and how much money they donate to politicians, especially to those who sit on the House and Senate energy committees. This information isn’t hard to find, as I learned from the wonderful folks at MapLight in the Netroots Nation exhibit hall.
In Gore’s speech in Austin, he didn’t make one mention of corporate influence. And there are so many mentions to choose from: like how the oil corporations for decades have been trying to distort the science on global warming; or how corporations got their way in the recently-passed energy bill, resulting in paltry subsidies for renewables; or how automobile corporations successfully lobby to keep CAFE standards low while they keep our tax dollars flowing to build more highways instead of mass transit. And so on.
Gore said that we all have a moral responsibility to future generations. But corporations don’t have to worry about future generations, only about their next quarterly earnings. In fact, corporations are bound by law to be concerned first and foremost with making profit for shareholders. Indeed, this is their very reason for existing. But we don’t hear too much about that from Gore, which is odd given Big Oil’s attack on him.
And that’s too bad, because he could have had a very different answer to the meat eating question. He could have explained how Big Agribusiness scored a major victory in the farm bill in May by maintaining massive subsidies on commodity crops such as corn, ensuring the continued cheap supply of animal feed, along with business as usual at McDonald’s and Burger King.
You see Al, if meat weren’t so darn cheap thanks to government subsidies, production would plunge, scores of destructive factory farms would shut down, and we’d go back to the days when meat eating was an occasional luxury instead of a daily habit. Problem solved both for the planet and public health.