A few weeks back, I posted a link to an article by George Monbiot, the outspoken and often virulent journalist/author/activist who in 2010 admitted he was wrong about veganism. After sending out a newsletter linking to the post, a reader kindly forwarded this to me:
As you can see, Monbiot has resumed his self-defeating romance with veganism (albeit in an incremental “I promise I’ll back off when I start feeling like crap again” manner). Especially striking is the fact he’s experienced first hand the health-destroying effects of a vegan diet, but is now prepared to ignore his own real life observations and give it another go primarily because … Al Gore has become a vegan.
What’s really sad about this is that, in his younger days, Monbiot was quite the activist. And some (certainly not all) of his past causes I actually sympathize with: Monbiot was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, was associated with the cause of indigenous rights, and in 2000 correctly argued that corporate involvement in politics is a serious threat to democracy.
But nowadays, it seems Monbiot’s rebellious streak is limited to deriding climate change skeptics with the rather juvenile ad hominem tag of “deniers”. His sense of anti-establishment has apparently also diminished to the extent where he’s now sheepishly copying the dietary habits of a politician-come-environmental-hypocrite like Al Gore.
Heck, if Al Gore does something, it must be OK. Even when you’ve experienced first hand that it’s not OK!
To say that Monbiot has an inconsistent and self-destructively impulsive streak would be something of an understatement. His past claims to fame include implying in a November 2012 tweet that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile, before apologizing to the ex-Tory politician for his “stupidity and thoughtlessness”.
Harbouring what appears to be a deep hatred of those who dare question the so-called ‘science’ behind man-made climate change, Monbiot has also vigorously applied his erratic thought processes to the task of denigrating Ian Plimer.
Plimer, for those of you who don’t know, is an Australian professor and author of a number of books, including one debunking creationism and another attacking climate change dogma. It is the latter book, Heaven and Earth, that incited Mobiot to go on the attack.
The Monbiot-vs-Plimer sideshow proceeded as follows: Monbiot harshly criticised Heaven and Earth, alleging “fudging and manipulation of the data”. Plimer responded by challenging Monbiot to a public debate. Monbiot agreed on the condition that Plimer first answer a series of written questions for publication on the website of The Guardian. Plimer refused. Monbiot then labeled Plimer a “grandstander” with a “broad yellow streak”. Plimer then reversed his decision, and agreed to answer written questions in return for a live debate.
Plimer also sent Monbiot a series of questions to answer, a tactic that Monbiot subsequently ridiculed, even though he himself was the first to employ this strategy. Clearly, if Plimer was grandstanding, so too was Monbiot. The latter further protested Plimer’s questions by complaining “I am unqualified to answer them” – a rather startling admission from someone who authored a best-selling and characteristically caustic book attacking climate change skepticism.
Claimed Monbiot: “Unlike Ian Plimer, I make no pretence of being a climate scientist. I am a journalist, who, among other tasks, reports and comments on the findings of climate science. My answer to questions 1-13 is: ‘you’re asking the wrong person’“.*
Great, just what the world needs: Another journalist making definitive, widely-read statements on a subject he truly knows little about. If Monbiot ever moves to Australia, I’m sure there’s a guaranteed job waiting for him at the ABC … or the Adelaide Advertiser LOL
So this, ladies and gentleman, is the kind of individual who discards veganism after both experiencing its devastating health effects and being alerted to its flawed environmental arguments – only to re-embrace it after discovering Al Gore is now on a vegan kick.
To be fair, Monbiot also cites a non-celebrity reason contributing to his vegan born-again experience. He claims that “While researching my book Feral, I also came to see extensive livestock rearing as a lot less benign than I – or Fairlie – had assumed. The damage done to biodiversity, to water catchments and carbon stores by sheep and cattle grazing in places unsuitable for arable farming (which means, by and large, the hills) is out of all proportion to the amount of meat produced. Wasteful and destructive as feeding grain to livestock is, ranching appears to be even worse.”
The rebuttals to such a statement are many, but the first thing that always comes to mind when reading one-sided protests about the impact of various forms of agriculture on the environment is how most of their authors seem to forget a very obvious, simple and inescapable fact:
No matter what method of farming you employ, when you’ve got 6.5 billion mouths to feed, you’d better believe there will inevitably be some kind of negative environmental impact regardless of whether it involves animal breeding or crop cultivation!
While quick to highlight any negative impacts from animal rearing, vegan activists apparently have little to say about the numerous adverse effects that have been documented for intensive crop cultivation. Heck, remember a little thing known as the Dust Bowl effect? The most famous example, of course, being the decade-long catastrophe beginning in the 1930s that swept up 100 million acres of topsoil in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. The primary cause? Over-cultivation of soil for grain crops.
While Monbiot protests about the rearing of livestock in less-than-ideal environments, he has nothing to say about the cereal equivalent of this behaviour. As PBS recently reported, “nearly 24 million acres of U.S. grasslands, shrub land and wetlands were plowed under between 2008 and 2011. About 19 million of those acres have been planted to just three crops, corn, soybeans and winter wheat – some of the main building blocks in our industrial food system — due in part to federal policies like farm subsidies that support only a handful of commodity crops.”
The flipside is that there are environmentally sustainable ways of rearing both livestock and cultivating crops. The difficulty, of course, is how to expand the use of these methods in a world where financial and technological restraints, vested interests, and political shenanigans pose a continuing and formidable barrier.
Effective strategies to counter the aforementioned problems will come, not from vegan scare-mongering (typically driven by emotion rather than verifiable science), but from a rational, considered, scientific and systematic approach to overcoming these difficulties.
I’m guessing a flaky British journalist who emulates the dietary habits of a duplicitous politician (while rationalizing away his brazen environmental hypocrisy), wrongly accuses people of being child molesters, and writes best-selling books on subjects he knows little of value about will not be part of that solution. Just a hunch, of course.
For a far more thorough and intelligent consideration of the true impact a population-wide switch to veganism/vegetarianism might have on the environment, be sure to read the following the following article by Mike Archer, Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at University of New South Wales:
Oh, and stay tuned for Monbiot’s 2016 article where he admits he was “wrong about being wrong about being wrong” and publicly announces he’s adopted a sustainable cream-and-pork rinds diet after meeting with incurable low-carb shill and pseudoscientist Gary Taubes…
*Plimer and Monbiot finally did engage in a debate, on the ABC show Lateline, the transcript of which can be read here: http://www.abc.net.au/
Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher, physical conditioning specialist, and author of The Fat Loss Bible and The Great Cholesterol Con. For more information, visit TheFatLossBible.net or TheGreatCholesterolCon.com
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