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Driving to save the planet

Posted by Richard on August 7, 2007

Do you walk or ride your bike to work or to the store? According to a leading British environmentalist and Green Party candidate for parliament, you're destroying the planet! If you really care about the environment, you ought to get in your car and drive:

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. "Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere," he said, a calculation based on the Government's official fuel emission figures. "If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

"The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."

Don't go feeling smug if you're a vegetarian. Beef cattle are especially bad for the planet, according the Gaia-worshippers (although they'd change their tune if everyone gave up meat eating and cattle became an endangered species). But if you eat beans instead of beef, you're just shifting the methane production, right?

According to Goodall and other environmentalists, meat is only a small part of the "problem." There's all the shipping of produce, food processing, packaging, refrigeration, etc. Together, they mean that the food industry is responsible for a sixth of your "carbon footprint." Naturally, Goodall has a solution — we just need to go back to a pre-industrial lifestyle based on subsistence farming:

"Don't buy anything from the supermarket," Mr Goodall said, "or anything that's travelled too far."

And for crying out loud, get off that treadmill and go watch some TV! Oh, screw it. When you're growing all your own food and weaving all your own clothing (can't fly it in from China!), you'll be working sunup to sundown and won't have time for TV anyway.



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