Should We Save The Planet or The Economy?

Well, my vote is for the planet but first we should look at all the hypothetical facts in this thought exercise, from L.V. Anderson in Slate: What if everyone in the world became vegetarians all at once?

At least one research team has run the numbers on what global veganism would mean for the planet. In 2009 researchers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency published their projections of the greenhouse gas consequences if humanity came to eat less meat, no meat, or no animal products at all. The researchers predicted that universal veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21 percent by 2050. Universal vegetarianism would result in similarly impressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, the Dutch researchers found that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would achieve these gains at a much lower cost than a purely energy-focused intervention involving carbon taxes and renewable energy technology. The upshot: Universal eschewal of meat wouldn’t single-handedly stave off global warming, but it would go a long way toward mitigating climate change.

So the meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change and giving it up would be awesome for the environment. But what about all the other consequences of worldwide vegetarianism? Anderson outlines a few:

– 1.3B people would be out of a job / economy might tank
– 26% of the world’s ice-free land, formerly used for animal grazing, would become available
– We could continue to use antibiotics!

So what would be the result, in an all-vegetarian world, of the combination of widespread unemployment and economic disruption, millions of square miles of available land, and a lowered risk of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea? I can only conclude that people would band together to form communes in order to escape capitalism’s ruthlessness, squat on the former pasture land, and adopt a lifestyle of free love.

She’s joking but SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.