Meat takes heat

Letters to the Boston editor, May 18, 2007

Regarding your recent editorial, “Global Warming," I want to add another reason for hope: while we wait for policymakers to come around, we have more power as individuals than most of us realize. The most effective thing we can do as individuals to curb global warming (and a host of other environmental and ethical problems) is to eat plant-based foods over meat, dairy, and eggs whenever possible. Caloric efficiency diminishes dramatically the further up the food chain we eat; producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 10 times as much fossil fuel input than a calorie of plant protein. So, it’s an amazingly inefficient use of energy to funnel plants through livestock rather than to eat them directly. Livestock agriculture has other major environmental consequences, like its role as a major source of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) and its contribution to rainforest destruction in countries like Brazil to produce more cattle-grazing land.

Despite the general exclusion of these facts from the global warming debate (it seems that meat production’s role in climate change is too inconvenient a truth for Al Gore), this isn’t just tree-hugging fringe talk; the UN, sponsor of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produced findings to this effect last year. A report from their Food and Agriculture Organization found that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, which is more than the emissions caused by all the cars and trucks in the world combined. A 2005 University of Chicago study comparing the energy consumption of animal- and plant-based diets concluded that a reduced intake of animal products can make a difference equal to, if not greater than, changing the kind of car you drive.

We don’t have to hold our breaths while we wait for politicians to get on board (after all, it’s been more than 15 years since the IPCC’s first report on climate change). Use your power every time you sit down to eat.

Erin Kern

Smitten by Mitt
Judging by “Mitt’s Kind of Women,” you apparently have a problem with women who love their children enough to sacrifice their self-gratifying corporate advancement and second incomes to teach their children, rather than pass off the responsibility to some daycare center. Perhaps these women support Romney because he represents the traditional family values that they hold so dear. Put it in context. Romney raised twice as much money, and twice as much from housewives, as Giuliani did. The proportions add up to me. Don’t forget that Giuliani, a man who lied to two of his wives, might not have the same respect from American mothers as Romney, a man married to the same woman for almost 40 years, with five successful children. Next time don’t spin these things through your obvious prejudices.

Brandon P. Petersen
an admitted Mitt Romney supporter
Parker, Colorado

Attractive alienation
I think that your evaluation of Edward Hopper is missing something: if Hopper paints scenes of desolation, isolation, etc., then why are his paintings — the greatest ones — so engrossing, so pleasurable to look at? Why are we not just bummed out and repelled? There is something positively comforting in his presentation of alienation in paintings such as “Nighthawks at the Diner,” “Gas,” and “Early Sunday.” How does he do it? It has something to do with his bold contrasts of unexpected bright and dark patches. These mute paintings of silent people — or no people at all — still manage to suggest a world within, or just beyond, brimming with possibilities, that draws us in. The silence, and the suggestion of life beyond it, make a tantalizing combination.

Robert Rotstein

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