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Environmental > Stir It Up

Meaty matters

 

Published 5/20/2009

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I'm not the biggest meat eater around, but consuming dead animal flesh is OK with me — in moderation. I was a vegetarian for about seven years but gave in when I started craving meat. I read somewhere that your body will tell you what it needs, and I decided to listen. Or as funkmeister George Clinton supposedly said, "If you think about something all the time, you may as well do it."

That may not be great advice, but the reason I'm on this subject is that I recently read another article that throws global warming and eating meat into the same discussion. Here's the skinny: A United Nations report from 2006 says that the meat industry uses more land than any other human activity and it generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all of the trains, planes and automobiles in the world combined. I'd been kind of semi-aware of that already, but here's the part that takes me to another place. Writer and food activist Michael Pollan recently told PBS's Bill Moyers that if Americans gave up meat one evening each week it would slow down greenhouse gas emissions at a rate equal to taking "30 to 40 million cars off the road for a year."

Presumably he meant giving up meat one day weekly for a year would have the desired effect. And last fall, Pollan penned an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama in The New York Times Magazine in which he claimed the once-a-week meat fast would have the effect of taking 20 million cars off the road. So the numbers are kind of squishy. But let's just say cutting back on meat would have a major impact. And just so you know, Pollan isn't just any food writer; he's the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He's not just shooting off the cuff.

I can see the eyes rolling now. What else would you expect out of someone from Berkeley? Get over it and think about this: If slowing down our meat intake can have that much of an impact, why isn't it on the national agenda as part of the global warming strategy?

Mostly what we hear about is finding new sources of energy and cutting back on pollution from factories and cars. Which is all well and good — we do need to find renewable and less-polluting energy sources, and create an infrastructure that supports them. But that is years and decades ahead of us. The meat thing could have an immediate impact on the planet (and on our personal health). We don't have to invent anything new, nor create an infrastructure. I guess that once upon a time the Roman Catholics had it right in eschewing meat one day a week.

The next question seems: Is one meat better than another in the hierarchy of global warming? Again, the thing that is more personally healthy seems to be the most earth-friendly. According to a recent report by Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, beef and lamb are the worst in terms of energy use, pollution and effect on global warming. Lamb was not as bad as beef. Poultry, of course, graded out as the least harmful.

So here we go: Back off on beef, eat a chicken, and if you worry that cutting back on beef will cause a leather shortage, make your shoes out of hemp.

Media mosh: In the wonderful world of media, which I pay inordinate attention to, layoffs are coming to the Detroit dailies. According to someone I know (hey, I used to work at the Freep), and as reported in Crain's last week, they've been told the layoff announcements will be coming as soon as next week. Crain's said cuts could hit up to 150 of 1,900 employees at the Freep, the News and the Detroit Newspapers, which handles combined operations like printing. At the rate things are going, looks like the daily papers are headed toward being made up of a bunch of bloggers and the sports sections.

Speaking of our beloved daily newspapers, now that their choice is the new mayor of Detroit, I'm wondering how long the honeymoon will last. Case in point is last week's indictment of attorney Tim Atalla of Northville on federal racketeering charges involving the Highwaymen Motorcycle club. Just the day before the charges were filed, Bing named Attala to his crises management team. Attala pleaded not guilty and is innocent until proven otherwise, but my guess is that if Ken Cockrel or Kwame Kilpatrick had been doing the naming, there would have been much hue and cry about bad judgment, and more of the same old corrupt politics. And speaking of same old, aren't some of the names popping up in the Bing administration the same ones we've seen for years in local politics — Freman Hendrix, Charles Beckham. Hmmm ...

National media have had their sights trained on Detroit for the past few years as we go through our economic travails and political follies. The next publication to give us major coverage looks like Fortune magazine. A reporter from there has been poking around looking for Detroiters with strong opinions about the city.

Hip-hop Obama? Now that Barack Obama is safely ensconced in the presidency — or as safe as you can be in the hottest hot seat in the world — he seems to be slowly peeling back the nerd-like manner he carried about in the campaign season. I might have referred to it as a black nerd manner. However, everything about his run for the presidency seemed to be about not being black, and that is changing. He hasn't busted out the saxophone and started eyeing interns in the Oval Office, but homeboy is starting to loosen up a bit.

A couple of weeks ago as he took over the mic at a daily press briefing and said, "This is kinda cool." That was pretty mild. He didn't bust out with any MFs, but he did approach that last week at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. He said that chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel wasn't "used to saying the word 'day' after 'mother.'" He also called out Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, saying he's "in the house tonight." Then Obama went on to say that Steele would have said he was "in the heezy."

It wasn't exactly in the Snoop Dogg department, but it had the vibe of comedian Dave Chappelle's piece on the "racial draft." When golfer Tiger Woods was drafted by the black group, Chappelle (as Woods) gave a goofy grin and claimed that he had been wanting to say something for a long time: "Ferschizzle." Every nerd dreams of having some hip slang sliding off the tongue easily and naturally. Obama isn't there yet, but if he stays on the hip-hop tip he might get there.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Contact him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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