Last Word with Deborah Rogers

The way each of us choses to respond to the inevitable environmental catastrophe facing our planet will be very telling. As countries get richer it seems they are less able to keep a handle on their consumption, and make no mistake, it’s consumption of resources that is changing the livability of the world and limiting the future of generations to come.

It can be overwhelming to place your own individual behaviour against the rest of humanity! Possibly we all think ‘well, at least I recycle’ and carry on our day. It’s not enough though. In countries where people go hungry there’s no need to find complicated solutions to food waste problems. Where people don’t have money to drive a vehicle then fuel efficiency is irrelevant. How sad that as we’ve become more prosperous (often, ironically, through plundering the planet’s resources – thanks oil fields) we become more wasteful.

I hold my hands up too. As a teenager I was very concerned about the environment. I was a member of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (I grew up just outside Glastonbury, it was almost compulsory), and I was scathing towards the adults I saw messing up the world that was my inheritance. Now I’m part of a two-car family; I travel often by air; buy cheap, disposable clothing because I like fashion and generally consume goods and power like the selfish first-world citizen that I am.

What’s going to change my behaviour? What would it take to change yours? Kids like Rupert (our cover star, see page 13) reminding me that I was once idealistic and believed there was a chance that people could change. Manageable small steps like the ones suggested in Trendspotting (page 40). Maybe I just need to recommit in public to positive, thoughtful actions; to behaving with an environmental conscience.

This idea of conscience seems to me to be the crux of the issue. Take environmental out of the equation – we just need to act with conscience: it’s not our planet to mess up, we share it with our family, friends, neighbours and 7.1 billion other people.

At 15, full of concern for the future I hoped to see, I made a commitment to being vegetarian. I’ve stuck with it. Did you know that it takes 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef? Or how about, if you gave up showering, you’d save less water than is required to make a single pound of beef. Not beef for a whole year, just one single pound. A whole year’s worth of showers takes about 5,200 gallons, but it takes 5,214 gallons to produce a single pound of beef. These figures are repeated for all types of meat. Meat is ecologically a VERY bad idea. But when I talk to people about my choice to be vegetarian most commonly I hear some variation of ‘I could never stop eating meat – it just tastes so good’. Really? There are lots of things that just taste so good, or feel so good, but we don’t do them because they are harmful, or destructive or make society a worse place. Put aside the animal welfare issues if you really don’t care, but what about planet welfare?

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say ‘not now,’ then when?”
– Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

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