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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 01-29-08, 09:42 AM   #1
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American diet compared to the combustion engine

The New York Times just had an article, Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler , that starts out with the similarities bewteen oil and meat. I just recently switched to a vegetarian diet. For those who haven't, this article might make you think about doing the same.

Environmentally speaking, subsidized meat might be more detrimental to the world's wellbeing than subsidized oil.

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Old 01-29-08, 10:00 AM   #2
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Yeah, it's a connection people often fail to make. I too have recently stopped eating meat, eggs, and dairy, mainly because of the damage these industries do to the environment. I guess I'm also doing it for my health, but that's a hard case to make since I'm healthier than almost anyone I know.

I recommend reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which I'm in the middle of now.
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Old 01-29-08, 10:08 AM   #3
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Are americans the only meat eaters of the world?
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Old 01-29-08, 10:25 AM   #4
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Interesting article. I was surprised to see Americans only eat 2x as much meat as the rest of the world, I would have thought it was much more.

I sure do like meat... mmmm..... Thinking of grilled sasuages tonight

An interesting calculation: the article says "....estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef .....burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

100 watts for 20 days is 48kW, I am paying around 16cents per kilowatt, which is $7.68. $7.68 will buy 2.2lbs of inexpensive beef! the math works out!
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Old 01-29-08, 10:30 AM   #5
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Are americans the only meat eaters of the world?
No, and I understand your sarcasm and frustration with that assertion. I find it annoying as well when Americans and American practices seem to be singled out and ripped on when many other countries are doing the same.

However, I referred to "American Diets", because the article does. The fact that Britain and other developed countries have the same issues does not change anything. I imagine one of the reasons "Americans" are singled out is because when it comes to voting and implementing laws and such, we are stuck with working with the "American" side of the issue.

Also, most of the New York Times' readers are in fact "American", so, in order to personalize the story and urge a self imposed change, it wouldn't make much sense to speak of Austrailians, Brits, or Canadians.

edited to add that I know the readership of the Times is very diverse, but I'm guessing that Americans do make up the single largest bunch

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Old 01-29-08, 10:37 AM   #6
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Thanks, jcwitte. Interesting article.

Here's a permalink to the article, in case somebody's trying to find it a couple weeks from now.

If anybody wants more information on the subject, Michael Pollan (another Times writer) is the one to go to. He wrote a fantastic book called The Omnivore's Dilemna that describes factory farming and it's alternatives in detail. Pollan also wrote recent NYT articles called "Our Decrepit Food Factories" and "Unhappy Meals" . His new book, In Defense of Food, probably has more material on this topic. rhm is reading it so maybe he'll tell us more.
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Old 01-29-08, 10:42 AM   #7
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Are americans the only meat eaters of the world?
No. But evidently they are the touchiest and most defensive people in the world. In that vein, maybe you should capitalize the A in American....

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Old 01-29-08, 10:57 AM   #8
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I sure do like meat... mmmm..... Thinking of grilled sasuages tonight
Me too, and I've decided to continue eating it. I've found better sources for meat over the last couple years. Within easy bike range, I can get pastured beef and pork (including delicious homemade sausages!) at my City Market and various farmer's markets. True free-range chickens are also pretty easy to find. The best deal I have is on eggs. A lady at work has a few hens and she brings me a dozen eggs right to the workplace for one dollar.

The environmental issues of meat production are important to me, and so is the healthfulness of the product, of course. But the flavor of pastured meat is the biggest selling point for me. For example, the pork chops are big and sweet, and they have enough fat in them to make them juicy and delicious, even on the grill. Pastured meat is more expensive--I pay $7.00 a pound for those pork chops--but I think it works well to eat less meat, but enjoy it more.

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An interesting calculation: the article says "....estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef .....burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

100 watts for 20 days is 48kW, I am paying around 16cents per kilowatt, which is $7.68. $7.68 will buy 2.2lbs of inexpensive beef! the math works out!
Yeah, I've learned to be a little skeptical of some of these claims made by the environmental press. However, if you look into the mechanics of the mass production of beef, you'll understand that producers would have some pretty hefty energy bills, even if not as hefty as the article says.
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Old 01-29-08, 11:07 AM   #9
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Thanks, jcwitte. Interesting article.

Here's a permalink to the article, in case somebody's trying to find it a couple weeks from now.
Thanks Roody, I switched to a permalink in the original post. I guess I ought to go and learn how to use, make, or find the permalink for an article.
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Old 01-29-08, 11:40 AM   #10
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Thanks Roody, I switched to a permalink in the original post. I guess I ought to go and learn how to use, make, or find the permalink for an article.
It's easy on nytimes.com. Just click on the "Share" link and you'll get a dropdown menu. One more reason nytimes.com is one of the greatest sites on the web!
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Old 01-29-08, 11:49 AM   #11
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I still eat meat, poultry and dairy products, but I am particular where it comes from and I don't eat great amounts of it by American standards. Unless you are buying your vegetables from a locally grown source it is only barely better than the meat and poultry producers. The massive factory farms cause various environmental as well as social issues, not to mention the amount of energy required to transport stuff from one coast to the other.

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Old 01-29-08, 11:59 AM   #12
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Back in '95, my decision to become vegetarian was based on moral and health issues. Changing one's routine and diet isn't easy. Bringing awareness to this issue, without being branded a ________ (fill in the blank(s)), especially in North America, would prove to be even harder.

Things have changed over the years. And so has awareness. From an environmental position, I'm not sure which would be harder for the average North American: becoming vegetarian or becoming carfree?

Of course these are radical shifts in lifestyle, and I'm not suggesting that we must. But, I think it is our responsibility to be aware of how our lifestyle may/can/will impact our environment and ecosystems.

I know that our health would be greatly improved by incorporating, on some level, one or both of these lifestyle changes. But I'm not one to force my ideals on other people.

The biggest hurdle I think we need to overcome, is to disengage from the propaganda fed to us from the corporate machine. They don't have our best interests at heart. And if we don't care, why should they.

Overstated, but so true...Think globally, act locally

There must be a restructuring of priorities on a global level, but that can only start with the individual. And this re-education won't be easy. Apathy and/or shirking one's responsibility, will no longer be an option when push comes to shove, between human kind and our environment. Though we may initially take the upperhand, ultimately, if unchecked...we will loose out.
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Old 01-29-08, 12:11 PM   #13
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Interesting article. I was surprised to see Americans only eat 2x as much meat as the rest of the world, I would have thought it was much more.

I sure do like meat... mmmm..... Thinking of grilled sasuages tonight

An interesting calculation: the article says "....estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef .....burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

100 watts for 20 days is 48kW, I am paying around 16cents per kilowatt, which is $7.68. $7.68 will buy 2.2lbs of inexpensive beef! the math works out!
Okay I am with ya but you have to explain the math. How in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did you get 100 Watts for 20 days to come out to 48kW? You lost me man....
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Old 01-29-08, 12:17 PM   #14
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Okay I am with ya but you have to explain the math. How in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did you get 100 Watts for 20 days to come out to 48kW? You lost me man....
well, (100W)x(20days)x(24hrs/day) = 48,000 watt-hours, which is 48kilowatt hours. unless i'm missing something...
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Old 01-29-08, 12:23 PM   #15
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well, (100W)x(20days)x(24hrs/day) = 48,000 watt-hours, which is 48kilowatt hours. unless i'm missing something...
DoH! forgot the watt-hour def... cool thanks.
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Old 01-29-08, 03:40 PM   #16
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It's all overpopulation though. Every person over 60 or under 6 needs to be sent off to colonize space.
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Old 01-29-08, 03:49 PM   #17
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I don't understand the whole 'vegetarian' thing. It seems like Americans can only exist in extremes - isn't there anything between 'No protein shall ever pass between my lips again' and 'I eat three pounds of red bloody meat every day! I eat greens - a sprig of parsley every week! Haw haw!'?

I can't go vegetarian after spending time around a bunch of vegetarians and seeing how each and every single one was having health and energy problems not shared by the people who were at least eating a nibble of fish or meat now and then. A can of tuna every week or two seems to be more than enough. Sure, Americans eat way too much meat, but why people are unable to contemplate the idea of just CUTTING BACK on meat bothers me.
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Old 01-29-08, 04:07 PM   #18
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I don't understand the whole 'vegetarian' thing. It seems like Americans can only exist in extremes - isn't there anything between 'No protein shall ever pass between my lips again' and 'I eat three pounds of red bloody meat every day! I eat greens - a sprig of parsley every week! Haw haw!'?

I can't go vegetarian after spending time around a bunch of vegetarians and seeing how each and every single one was having health and energy problems not shared by the people who were at least eating a nibble of fish or meat now and then. A can of tuna every week or two seems to be more than enough. Sure, Americans eat way too much meat, but why people are unable to contemplate the idea of just CUTTING BACK on meat bothers me.
Who can't contemplate the idea of cutting back on meat? I've met plenty of people who are 'cutting back' and only a very few who are actually strict vegetarians.
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Old 01-29-08, 04:46 PM   #19
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Because every time this sort of discussion comes up, people start going "I went vegetarian over this sort of thing!" and no-one says they 'cut back'. Vegetarianism is an unhealthy extreme, as is the amount of meat consumed.
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Old 01-29-08, 06:10 PM   #20
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I don't understand the whole 'vegetarian' thing. It seems like Americans can only exist in extremes - isn't there anything between 'No protein shall ever pass between my lips again' and 'I eat three pounds of red bloody meat every day! I eat greens - a sprig of parsley every week! Haw haw!'?

I can't go vegetarian after spending time around a bunch of vegetarians and seeing how each and every single one was having health and energy problems not shared by the people who were at least eating a nibble of fish or meat now and then. A can of tuna every week or two seems to be more than enough. Sure, Americans eat way too much meat, but why people are unable to contemplate the idea of just CUTTING BACK on meat bothers me.
Well, I'm sorry more people can't be exactly like you!

The comment about unhealthy vegetarians is a complete crock. I've known many vegetarians who are perfectly happy and healthy, and I think you're exaggerating a little when you say the ones you know were all unhealthy. (Or else there's another reason unrelated to vegetarianism to explain the poor health.)

Thoreau said a farmer told him that you can't possibly have strong bones if you don't eat meat. At the time the farmer was plowing his field, with the plow being pulled by a vegetarian ox--an ox who appeared to have very strong bones indeed!
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Old 01-29-08, 07:52 PM   #21
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I don't understand the whole 'vegetarian' thing. It seems like Americans can only exist in extremes - isn't there anything between 'No protein shall ever pass between my lips again' and 'I eat three pounds of red bloody meat every day! I eat greens - a sprig of parsley every week! Haw haw!'?

I can't go vegetarian after spending time around a bunch of vegetarians and seeing how each and every single one was having health and energy problems not shared by the people who were at least eating a nibble of fish or meat now and then. A can of tuna every week or two seems to be more than enough. Sure, Americans eat way too much meat, but why people are unable to contemplate the idea of just CUTTING BACK on meat bothers me.
I think you have the wrong idea of what a vegetarian is. Some vegetarians do eat fish, dairy products, and eggs. You might be thinking of a vegan diet. I just recently switched to a vegetarian diet and this afternoon for lunch I had a baked tuna steak. I get more than enough protein in my diet.
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Old 01-29-08, 07:55 PM   #22
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I don't understand the whole 'vegetarian' thing. It seems like Americans can only exist in extremes - isn't there anything between 'No protein shall ever pass between my lips again' and 'I eat three pounds of red bloody meat every day! I eat greens - a sprig of parsley every week! Haw haw!'?
Good point. I've cut way back on the amount of meat I eat, but I haven't cut it out altogether. But then, I've also cut way back on my driving but I'm not completely car-free.
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Old 01-29-08, 08:04 PM   #23
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Something I have discovered over the years...DOH! is that not everything works for every person. I have been on a vegan diet and it did not work for me, I need at least some meat. My true belief is in moderation of just about everything. I probably eat about 1/8th the amount of meat as the average American consumption and it works for me. IMHO most Americans over eat...period! I read labels on everything before I even consider eating it. The less processed the better for my tastes.

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Old 01-29-08, 08:13 PM   #24
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Something I have discovered over the years...DOH! is that not everything works for every person. I have been on a vegan diet and it did not work for me, I need at least some meat. My true belief is in moderation of just about everything. I probably eat about 1/8th the amount of meat as the average American consumption and it works for me. IMHO most Americans over eat...period! I read labels on everything before I even consider eating it. The less processed the better for my tastes.

Aaron
Not to keep harping on Michael Pollan, but the line everybody's quoting from his new book is his mantra on food selection:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.'’

It sounds like you came up with the same wisdom all on your own, Aaron.
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Old 01-29-08, 09:36 PM   #25
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It's all overpopulation though. Every person over 60 or under 6 needs to be sent off to colonize space.
Good advice. 6 billion people? Come on! From a billion to 6.6 in a century and a half, coupled with higher living standards and you have a problem. It will go to 10 billion in 50 years
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