Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Compared to what?

One of the problems economists have is that we always ask obnoxious questions.

When I was in grad school, Angus will attest that my obnoxious question was usually, "Hey, bud:  you gonna eat that?"

But my current obnoxious question -- and it's the same one that everyone else should be asking -- is "compared to what?"

So, when people say that "You shouldn't eat bacon, meat is bad for the environment!" then you should say, "Well, compared to what?"

Some Carnegie-Mellon U folks did that, and the results are perhaps a bit surprising to the sanctimonious and the environmentally conscious.

The fact is that human beings, just being human beings, are "harmful to the environment."


Tom said...

Some environmentalists do recognize that humans are and must be "harmful to the environment." They have founded a Voluntary Human Extinction movement - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_Human_Extinction_Movement

I haven't figured out what The Environment is to saved /for/ but I do agree that people who believe this should not reproduce.

Hasdrubal said...

I'm guessing this is driven by calorie density? "...Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.” Yeah, this is probably driven by calorie density since it takes a ton more of those to equal the same number of calories in a serving of meat. Sounds like an interesting article, I'll have to read it. I wonder how nuts work out...

Cornette said...

I prefer cheese!

Cornette said...

How about "human beings, just being human beings, are part of the environment."

Brad said...

Mungo, you're a better social scientist than this. 100g of ground beef has 330 calories. A 100g of lettuce 15. No vegetarian advocates replacing meat with lettuce. We don't actually all live off salads, in fact.

100g of black beans, though? 340 calories. The logical comparison is legumes. You know, what people actually replace meat with when they decrease (no need to remove) the amount of meat in their diet. And guess what? It takes a LOT less to produce 100g of beans than meat.

Comparing 100g of beef it to 2.2kg of lettuce (five pounds) is a complete red herring.

Mungowitz said...

Gee, Brad, here is a quote from the Carnegie Mellon University press release:

In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.

Your quarrel is with the peer-reviewed study, and your disagreement is the sort of narrow, ideologically filtered crap you always do.

I'd say that YOU are a better social scientist than that, but we both know you aren't. You pretty much rose to the level you deserved.

Cornette said...

I can't believe you took the bait. Does it really matter if the thesis is "compared to what?" There really is no substitute for the great taste of beef or bacon. There is a price on both that reflect all the information associated with it's production and demand. Your game of substitutes here has now become a childish argument because you both are giving credibility to a movement wants to take us back to the "primitives." Brad, if you are willing to give up your beef also willing to give up your cell phone? And I hope you are not advocating for others to give up their preferences. I think you need to be very suspect when the players here describe themselves as engineers. ( "professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy" and "student in civil and environmental engineering") Are not theses the people of the fatal conceit?

Hasdrubal said...

I haven't gotten access to the paper, but here's Jayson Lusk on it: http://jaysonlusk.com/blog/2015/12/15/lettuce-a-bigger-environmental-threat-than-beef

Here's a fun quote, not from this study but referencing a related one:

“a report from Heller and Keoleian suggests that an isocaloric shift from the average U.S. diet (at current U.S. per capita intake of 2,534 kcals/day from Loss-Adjusted Food Availability (LAFA) data) to a pattern that adheres to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans would result in a 12 percent increase in diet-related GHG emissions."

So, while the press release makes it sound like calorie density, it's a lot more complicated than that and they look at several factors, not just GHG emissions.