Harming Animals Harms Humans, part 3: The Environment
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Harming Animals Harms Humans, part 3: The Environment

I think the evidence is overwhelming that humanity is facing a global environmental crisis that threatens human civilization. A leading challenge is global warming, which threatens to cause flooding, reduce agricultural yields, and unleash ever larger storms. As Bill McKibben notes in his book Eaarth (sic), societies build infrastructures designed to address local climates.  These infrastructures are often ill-equipped to deal with the effects of climate change.
A 2009 World Watch article by two environmental specialists with the World Bank Group entitled “Livestock and Climate Change” concluded that animal agriculture accounts for 51% of humanity’s production of greenhouse gasses. If humanity is to effectively address global warming, substantial reduction in meat, eggs, and dairy consumption will be necessary.
Attempts to satisfy humanity’s huge and growing demand for flesh and other animal products has been a major drain on scarce land, water, and energy resources. Thanks to the discovery of fossil fuels, the extent of these resources has increased dramatically, permitting a rapid rise in both human population and human consumption. However, these resources are limited and dwindling, and growth in consumption (including killing animals) is not sustainable.
Past pessimists, such as those who predicted the end of oil by 2000, were grossly wrong because they made the foolish assumption that humanity would stop finding new energy and other resources. Though I think their time-frames for their predictions were unsound, their general arguments were valid. All great nations in the past have exhausted their resources and collapsed. Human civilization has nonetheless flourished because discoveries of new lands and use of new technologies have permitted new empires to thrive. There are no new habitable lands awaiting discovery, and it unreasonable to expect new technologies to save the day. In the unlikely event that fusion energy could be harnessed, humanity might be able to avoid the day of reckoning for a century or two, but I think worldwide exhaustion of resources is surely coming, unless consumption of limited resources can be contained. This will require both reversing population growth and reducing per-person consumption, particularly the highly wasteful production of animal products.

If there is to be any hope that this might happen, it will require people of widely different traditions and beliefs working together. Can this happen if we simultaneously oppress and abuse nonhumans? I don’t think so, and next essay I’ll start to talk about why.

Go on to: Harming Animals Harms Humans: Undermining Any Universal Ethic
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