Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Hope it’s been a good one and the planet was able to take the day off and put its feet up in the hammock or something. This is one hard-living planet we're sitting on and it could certainly use the rest. In fact, think of the Earth as a sick child told to play outside in the backyard because her doctor wants to talk to her parents alone. “Mr. and Mrs. Terra… I’m afraid your daughter’s prognosis isn’t good. Her entire system has been infected by a cancer we planet doctors call ‘humanitoma.’”

It’s actually been on my mind a lot lately – Earth, the environment and all that. In the last two weeks, I saw the documentary “Surviving Progress” and read the book “Eaarth” by Bill McKibben. I recommend them both highly, but if you only have time for one (you should make the time), I would choose the latter. Either one has a lot to say about first, where the world is at and second, where we’re going. I found myself dissatisfied with and at time terrified by both answers. Both end with hope for the future, which makes me hopeful.

And then along comes Earth Day and I realize how timely this new understanding has been. Which actually ties in well with Meatless Mondays, which is what I’m going to explore today. Several outlets have made this connection explicit in their materials: The HuffPo made MM one of their “Earth Week Challenges for 2012” and has made it an ongoing blog challenge. One day a week with no meat and we can reduce our carbon footprint. Cool. Ever since 2006, when the United Nations came out with their report on "Livestock's Long Shadow," showing that raising animals for food contributes more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined, we have recognized the positive impact we can have by reducing the amount of meat we are eating - in the case of MM, 15%. But is that enough?

They've had some time to think about it, and now the U.N. is getting more specific"A recent study by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that the developed world needs to cut its meat consumption by 50 percent per person." Okay, that's a lot. We're going to have to go "Meatless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and a bit of Thursday" to get there. On the bright side, they're giving us until 2050 to make our transformation complete. So... that's fair warning, I guess. But will that be soon enough?

Bill McKibben says "No" and now the Smithsonian Magazine is piling on to agree with him. An article in this month's issue discusses a 40-year-old study called "The Limits of Growth," which McKibben also spent considerable time on. Back in 1972, an international think tank called "The Club of Rome" commissioned some researchers at MIT to model several different future scenarios using their computers: "The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030." 

Helpful Australian physicist Graham Turner compared their predictions (take a good look at the chart shown on the page linked in the paragraph above) with what has actually happened to all the key measures they used in the 30 years after (1970-2000) and he found that we are right on track with the study's original predictions. So who's up for total global economic collapse by 2030? Anyone? We're not going to have enough time to get our meat consumption under 50% if that's the way it's going to go down. Somebody at the U.N. better check out this study and get back to me.

So you get a feel for what's at stake here when you pass on the steak (that's a totally original joke I just thought of that no one's ever used before). Meatless Monday is not a 50% reduction, but it's almost a third of the way there. It's a start. It's a positive contribution we can make to help solve this global problem. Which brings me to this week's recipe, which comes as a result of a special request by loyal reader A.M. of London, Ontario, who wondered why I don't include more dessert recipes. So now I say, let them eat cake! 


P.S. If you're wondering why these are called "Monkey Treats" but contain no bananas, it is because this is what Stella called candied ginger when she was little. We thought it was so adorable that we kept calling them that. Speaking of Stella, it just struck me that she will be 27 years old in 2030, which is not a good age for a global economic collapse, just as your life is getting going. Earth Day serves as a reminder that this is something we have to do for our children and grandchildren - now.