It's Not Easy Being Green.


Coal-powered vehicle? (Flickr/jurvetson)

Two things for you to contemplate: First, Scientific American gives us "The Dirty Truth About Plug-In Hybrids," which shows you how, depending on where you live, switching to a plug-in vehicle might actually increase your carbon emissions (compared to a regular gas-electric hybrid, that is). That's because much of that electricity is probably coming from coal. The interactive map shows that it's particularly bad in parts of the Midwest but a better deal for the climate in the Northwest, California, Florida, and Texas. Just a reminder that shifting to an electric fleet only solves part of the fossil-fuel problem.

From what comes out of your tailpipe to what goes into your mouth: "If you're a typical westerner, you ate nearly 100 kilograms of meat last year." That provocative sentence begins this article in the New Scientist on why going to an all-veggie world, or even a free-range world, would be awfully difficult. Not much breaking news there. But what might surprise you is how dramatically the world has increased its demand for animal products in the last couple of decades:

In country after country, as people become wealthier they eat more meat. Between 1980 and 2002, per capita meat consumption in developing countries doubled to 28 kilograms per year, and is projected to rise to 37 kilograms per year by 2030. That is still less than half what the average person in the developed world eats today, and demand is still rising. In the west, people ate nearly 8 per cent more meat per capita in 2002 than they did in 1992. When you add this to the growing population, the United Nations' best guess is that by 2050, the world will need to more than double its production of meat -- an increase that would be environmentally disastrous.

And that's only the beginning. In 1970, the world produced 13 million tons of chicken. In 2008 it was 79 million tons. Pork production went from 36 million tons to 103 million tons. Milk production almost doubled over the same period. Egg production more than tripled. None of it shows any signs of slowing. Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when all our meat is produced in a lab.

-- Paul Waldman

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