UK readers – did you catch “The 11th Hour” on Channel 4 last night: a very well-made documentary about the plight of the planet narrated and co-produced by Leonardo Di Caprio? The title refers to NOW, the last moment when we can avoid massive environmental catastrophe on earth and the film explores how humanity has arrived at this moment; how we live, how we impact the earth's ecosystems, and what now needs to happen urgently in order to change our course.
The film features interviews with over 50 world experts in fields spanning global warming, oceanography, human evolution, biodiversity, corporate global economics and sustainable design. Together they present the facts and discuss some of the most important issues that face our planet. As one scientist interviewed for the movie observes: “We’re not only at the 11th hour. It is 11.59 and 59 seconds.”
One common misconception is dealt with very early on in the documentary. Concern about the environment is not about some fluffy notion of “saving the environment” and protecting endangered species about whom we may or may not personally care. It is about saving humanity! The "environment" will survive with or without us. This planet has suffered mass extinctions before. If we damage the planet to the point it can no longer sustain human life, we’ll be gone, along with all the species we take with us, the planet will regenerate and new life forms will evolve.
As world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking explains in the movie: "One of the most serious consequences of our actions is global warming brought about by raising levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. The danger is that the temperature increase might become self-sustaining, if it has not done so already. We don't know where the global warming will stop, but the worst case scenario is that earth would become like its sister planet, Venus, with a temperature of 250 centigrade, and raining sulfuric acid. The human race could not survive in those conditions."
Find out more about the movie here. It is well worth watching and a more well-rounded exploration of the pressing issues facing our planet than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Sadly though, this movie, like that one, fails to address the TRUE inconvenient truth: the fact that the single most important thing each of us can do to reduce our footprint on the earth is to adopt a plant-based diet. The United Nations and the World Health Organization have now both acknowledged animal agriculture as the number one contributor to global warming.
This fact was conspicuously absent from Gore’s movie and it is just as absent from this one. They say it is harder to change a man's religion than to change his diet and that is borne out by fact that some of the most vocal "environmental" campaigners will apparently go to any length to save the planet bar the most necesssary one - stop eating meat! Gore has already been pulled up on this. Go here to read about US campaign group Peta’s “Offset Al Gore’s Eco-Unfriendly Diet” campaign! : )
The 11th Hour Movie website contains sample letters you can send to various businesses you patronize suggesting ways in which they can become more sustainable. The letter to restaurants has recommendations about conserving water, buying food locally, eco-friendly takeaway packaging, composting leftover ingredients and even contacting local bio-diesel companies to pick up left-over cooking oil! So plenty of rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic yet not a word about the fact that the single most earth-friendly thing they could do - the thing that would trump all those measures many times over - would be to decrease their use of animal-based ingredients in favour of plant-based ones.
As Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of campaign group Forest Ethics points out in the movie: "Seventy countries in the world no longer have any intact or original forests. In the US, ninety five percent of our old growth forests are already gone. Forest loss is also effecting climate change because forests are the greatest terrestrial storehouse of carbon. So, logging in Canada alone puts as much carbon into the atmosphere as all of the cars in California every year."
Again, the film-makers failed to join the dots and point out that the number one reason for the destruction of forests and rainforests worldwide is and always has been animal agriculture. Our most rich, biologically diverse ecosystems are cleared to make way for either barren grazing land or for the soybeans, corn and other cheap crops that are used to feed farmed animals.
We've all heard those statistics about it taking 20 times the land to feed a meat eater than it takes to feed a vegetarian. But the connection we don't always make is that THAT statistic is the reason behind the majority of the destruction of the planet's original forests. The forests were cleared because meat takes so much land to produce and we eat so much of it. But where will it end?
At the time of writing, the destruction of rainforests continues unabated due to rapidly growing global demand for meat. Where is that growing demand coming from? The exploding human population to start with - it was 3 billion in 1960 but is heading towards 7 billion now. Secondly, from poorer countries that traditionally ate a largely plant-based diet increasingly mimicing western meat and dairy consumption habits - most notably of all China (population over 1 billion). It cannot continue. Something is going to have to give. It will either be humanity's addiction to meat as a cheap, everyday source of protein or the ecosystem on which we rely for our survival.
On the soapbox with us is Health Ranger Mike Adams who this week posted a brilliant and very thought-provoking article on his site that could have been called 'Reasons not to eat meat'. It covered many different areas, including the sustainability issue, on which he had this to say:
"If we hope to have a chance at any kind of sustainable future on this planet, we have to mature as a civilization. We have to grow up! We have to move past this predatory phase and we have to move into a holistic worldview -- a mindfulness that what we do to others is what we do to ourselves [...] Yes, if we want to feed steak and hamburgers to everyone in the world, we can do that for a little while. We can cut down all the rainforest and turn it into grazing land. We can feed those burgers to people all over the world and we can get away with that for a couple of generations. Then it is over! Then the global environment is so disrupted that rainfall patterns shift, weather patterns shift, oceans might begin to rise. Super viruses will emerge out of the destabilized jungle ecosystems and will spread. One way or another, population will be brought back into balance and then meat consumption will go down. It is going to happen one way or another."
Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? If you recycle, compost, buy local and organic and live in an off-the-grid solar-powdered home but still eat meat every day, you are part of the problem.
If you still consume meat, dairy, eggs and/or fish there is no more powerful step you can take to do your part for our long-term survival as a species than reduce them as much as possible or better still cut them out altogether.
That famous statistic that it takes 20 times less land to feed a vegetarian than a meat eater? Do you know how much less it takes to feed a raw vegan? 150. Find out much more about this whole topic in our article on the TRULY green lifestyle in the upcoming Summer 2008 issue of Get Fresh! magazine.