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Letters to the Editor 

Meat Is Methane

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing Teal Hutton’s article on “Tips on Sustainable Living” in your June issue. This valuable information was presented in a clear, easily digested fashion. My concern is focused on the “Buy Local” section. Supporting local agriculture is one of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint our food makes on its way from farm to dinner plate. However, studies have shown that what we choose to eat has a far greater impact on the environment than how far it was shipped. The single most important step a person can take in this regard is to reduce or eliminate consuming animal flesh.

Animal agriculture is the number one source of methane, a gas 21 times more potent than CO2 in its capacity to trap heat in our atmosphere. While CO2 levels have risen by about a third since pre-industrial times, methane has more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3 percent of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as natural sources. While a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the billions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15 percent of animal agriculture methane emissions are released from massive “lagoons” used to store untreated animal waste, and are the number one source of water pollution in this country.

A shift away from methane-emitting food sources is much easier than cutting CO2. First, there is no limit to reductions in this source of greenhouse gas that can be achieved through a vegetarian diet. Second, shifts in diet lower greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel­—burning technologies that emit CO2. The turnover rate for most ruminant farm animals is one or two years, so decreases in meat consumption would result in an almost immediate drop in methane emissions. The turnover rate for cars and power plants, on the other hand, can be decades. In addition, while CO2 can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate into a cooling planet.

So yes, please buy from your local farmers, but try to reduce or eliminate your consumption of anything with a face. Like the bumper sticker says, “Real environmentalists don’t eat meat.”

Dr. Michael Roth, Canaan


Reactionary Reaction

To the Editor:

Larry Beinhart’s “commentary” column [“Old Myths/New Truths,” 6/08] proclaiming the new truth that jean-craving, rock-loving “hippies” tore down the Berlin Wall overlooked the fact that there was no “Evil Empire” with waiting gulags to gobble up the happy waifs. That was due to a pope, a prime, and a prez, according to John O’Sullivan in a book out by Regnery about the three tyranny breakers, subtitled “Three Who Changed the World.”

Jim Motavalli’s very informative piece on immigration [“Coming to America,” 6/08] noted that without immigrants, jobs would go begging—an unmentioned factor is the missing 43 million, or about 1.3 million a year, since Roe v. Wade. With that fateful decision, America declared war on its own people, leaving a vacuum that the immigrants seeking jobs and opportunity are very happy to fill.

Dick Murphy, Beacon

Speaking of...

  • Local readers respond to articles featured in the June 2008 issue.

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