Here is a brief summary of the biggest news in science this week. Yesterday, two separate groups of scientists simultaneously announced their findings that a large section of West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart–and that the melting, and the rise in sea levels, will be unstoppable. In a NASA news conference, one of the researchers, Dr. Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, stated that through satellite and air measurements, his team has obtained evidence that the ice sheet “has gone into irreversible retreat” and that “it has passed the point of no return.”
The West Antarctic ice sheet is comprised of six glaciers, which could cause the ocean to rise 4 feet as they disappear. Though the global sea level has been rising for more than a century, the biggest contributor to date has been the expansion of seawater as it warms. The melting of glaciers is expected not only to contribute newly to the rising sea levels, but also to the release of more greenhouse gases trapped inside the ice into the atmosphere.
A United Nations scientific committee, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007 for its work–has stated that the global sea level could rise 3 feet by the end of 21st century, if drastic measures are not taken to control greenhouse gases.
The media reports resoundingly intone that this is grave, sobering news. But unfortunately, what might be more shocking than the findings is that no mainstream media dares to actually talk about what is causing global warming, and what can be done to reduce it. The New York Times, the Boston Globe, NBC…all seem intent on delivering the news without demanding any sense of responsibility from their readers, or providing even a suggestion of a solution to the problem. This isn’t because of any sense of neutrality or journalistic integrity, since facts have been laid out for years. It stems from the avoidance of anything that might be too “radical” or morally taxing for people to hear: that veganism is the best solution for reducing greenhouse gases and slowing global warming as much as possible.
Here are the facts that mainstream media reports omit. The majority of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere–as in over 50%, and above any other factor–is produced by livestock farming. A non-vegan person has 7 times the carbon footprint of a vegan person–a wake-up call to those who say the only way to reduce global warming is population control (which has a grotesque undertone of eugenics). These same people who attribute global warming to population explosion in third world countries actually have much greater carbon footprint themselves through their first-world lifestyles and animal-based diets. If you are an avowed environmentalist, there is something 1.5 times more effective at reducing carbon footprint than driving a Prius–a vegan diet. And finally, according to World Preservation Foundation, going vegan on a global scale would reduce greenhouse gases by 87%–while going vegan and organic would reduce emissions by astonishing 94%.
In an age when people feel free to live tweet a parent’s death, and a celebrity’s op-ed piece about her mastectomy is lauded as brave and revelatory, why do we shy away from discussing the ethics of veganism, which has far greater consequences for everyone? News media are eager to talk about any truly private decision so long as it doesn’t demand anything from the collective conscience. Yes, eating is a private choice–yet, it is a choice that will impact every single one of us and our children. How you eat is no longer just a personal preference, but a personal responsibility.
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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling