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Time to eat the neighbour

I have been hearing about this book “Time to Eat the Dog?” that, as I understand it, goes into the carbon footprint of the pets we share our lives with. According to this book, a medium size dog has a greater carbon footprint than an average SUV. The conclusion, presumably selected for its shock value, is that we should only keep animals if we plan on eating them. I’ve found a fair number of articles on line, including this one on the BBC site, that take this proposal at least somewhat seriously.

I personally think that my cats and, when I had them, dogs were pretty darned important parts of my life. So my “shock value” proposal is a bit different: I suggest we start eating our neighbours…

Think about it for a minute. There are 100 million or so pets in North America, but easily 350 million humans. The food calorie values consumed by each human are nominally twice the values consumed by a cat or dog of equivalent mass. Doing some quick math (about the same kind of math as done in the aforementioned book) the energy savings of consuming 175 million of those humans (about half) would have three to four times the value of consuming our pets. 300% better return for the effort!

But wait, there’s more to my proposal. Unlike a cat or dog, each human has an absolutely vast impact on the resources and carbon production within the environment. Humans buy VCRs and iPods, drive cars, heat their houses: we are, without a question or doubt, by far the the greatest carbon impact in the environment. Conservatively, I’d propose that each person removed from the environment would have ten times the impact of their food consumption value alone. So each person you eat is worth 10 times the value in terms of reducing carbon impact of an equivalent weight pet, and since humans generally weigh over twice as much as the average pet, we are talking 20 times the value per “unit” consumed- again, being conservative. Time to fire up the (solar powered) barbecue and get the rotisserie going!

Am I seriously suggesting we start chowing down on our neighbours? No, I guess not: for one thing, I don’t like that much fat in my meat, and the average North American is pretty… rotund- myself included. However, I do think that seven billion of us is probably three or four billion more than necessary. Our genetic imperative to spawn multiples of ourselves is at odds with our constrained living space. And it is time to set aside those lizard-brain drives to “be fruitful and multiply” before we are crushed beneath the effluvia of our own unimpeded breeding.

The number one most effective way to reduce the impact of humanity on the environment is simple and obvious: birth control. Reduce net population growth to zero globally. Begin the long, slow process of reducing our populations to some more manageable level. Robert and Brenda Vale (authors of Time to Eat the Dog?) think they were courageous to propose eating the family pet, but the real courage would come from seriously proposing the true solution: reduce the human population.

5 comments to Time to eat the neighbour

  • In my “If I were supreme dictator of the world” moments I have thought that it would be great if birth control were mandatory, and coupled with some way to actually value the cost that creating a new human being places on our resources. Right now there is little incentive for people who have nothing not to have kids. Long term it is lethal, short term the economics can favour it.

    So I figure that every person should have a birthright – the right to one offspring, or 2 kids per couple. But if a couple only wants one kid, they can sell the birthright to someone that wants more for say $100,000 ( then let the market decide.)

    As a guy I described this to said “… its like cap and trade – only with kids.”

    It won’t happen, but I DO think we would be better off trying to persuade, bribe and cajole the world into 2 kids per couple than pretending we can keep on breeding and that the problem is anything other than too many humans on too little planet

  • It would be nice if we could appeal to some sense of reason, but the lizard-brain (plus a couple of thousand years of “be fruitful and multiply” religious chanting) seems likely to over rule sanity.

    I mean, consider the authors of “Time to Eat the Dog?” The most “shocking” thing they could come up with for their book’s thesis was for human’s to eat their pets, when the most obvious and logical choice is to have fewer humans. Either they are patently ignorant, or they realized even the slightest suggestion of putting a hold on our mass production of humanity would be more controversial than chowing down on Fido and Kitty.

    I can think of at least two better subjects for such a book, one of which I proposed in my post (“Time to eat the neighbour?”): my second book would be “Time to Neuter the Humans?” The one glimmer of hope is that, as women become more equal in global society and as wealth (in very modest terms) is redistributed, they tend to take control of their own reproduction. It seems as if most women are quite happy to stop after one or two kids, given the choice.

    Unless they are whacked out unemployed American born again Christians with access to invitro fertilization who think having litters of human “puppies” is appropriate behaviour. Yeah, we are screwed…

  • Unfortunately, even if we do get people to control their breeding, and the planet settles in at a nice stable say 4 billion humans in 150 – 200 years we will still be fighting evolution.

    If there is no direct penalty to having more than the number of kids it takes to replace you (right now about 2.2 per couple), unless having more than that many children results in a direct hit to the survival chances of those children, not future children, or others children … then evolution will favour those people who are reckless, selfish, or stupid enough to have lots of kids.

    Oh well, we have to get through the next century without a massive collapse and contraction of civilization before we worry about that, and to me, the chances of that look to be 50/50.

    If we don’t control our population, Nature will. And nature isn’t worried about being nice.

  • Shane

    I would love to see some sort of limit on the amount of people brought into this world. One viewing of “idiocracy” convinced me of that :). I hate how people think it is a “right” to breed. Do we really need more people on this planet just to satisfy someone’s urge to have a kid?

    As far as eating my pets, I don’t think either of my dogs would even supply a day’s worth of food, and my 2 doves, not even a snack 😉

    On a semi-related note, Sweden has introduced “carbon labelling” on food.

    http://www.euractiv.com/en/cap/sweden-introduces-climate-labelling-food/article-183787

    One example was a bag of quaker oatmeal (my numbers may not be exact) but to produce 1 kg or 2 pounds of quaker oatmeal, produces over 60 kg or 120 pounds)of CO2! That was kind of shocking.

    And 6 kg (12 pounds)for one cheeseburger. Which ironically is what I ate yesterday, but I also had to drive there, because it was raining, so I am sure It was even more then 12 pounds. Not to mention the fries and onion rings 😛

  • Shane

    I just wanted to add something that I should have included in my original message, I realize that a hundred, heck even 50 years ago, having a large family was kind of a necessity. Having a large family would hopefully mean, that in your “golden” years, you would be taken care of. I just don’t really see the need for it now is all.

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