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Living Your Values, 2016

The Consequence of Not Caring About Consequence

Hari Prasada Das


We’re accustomed to subtle lies. When an ad depicts a scene out of a storybook that has nothing to do with reality, we don’t even think twice. They’re just doing what they gotta do… Or doing what they will do, anyway.

But does it ever cross our minds what we’re actually allowing ourselves to buy into? And what the consequences of this buying into subtle lying may be?

Here’s a prime example: Driving next to a big FreshDirect truck, I noticed the billboard-sized ad spanning across its side. On it were a herd of cows peacefully grazing on brilliant green pastures. In the background was a big red romanticized barn. Now, what’s wrong with this picture?

We know that such landscapes simply don’t exist in today’s factory farming landscape. There’s mechanization and brutality behind nearly every dairy product that comes our way en masse, what to speak of the more obvious and flagrant servings of meat on our plates.

To display an idyllic scene from a fairy tale as if that’s what you’re offering is not only a gross distortion of reality but one that warps the very moral compass within us. The more we become desensitized by the deluge of such images, the more abstracted we become from the suffering of other living beings and the suffering we reap for ourselves when we fail to care about consequence.

On the part of FreshDirect or the ad agency, it’s deliberate. We’re meant to be abstracted. There’s not going to be a factory display, much less a brutality display.

And we, in turn, allow ourselves to be susceptible via ignorance or via apathy. This is an alarming reality that is leading to the greatest environmental crisis scientists have ever seen.

The New York Times published the warning,

“Recent reports show that there may be no way to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising, given the current level of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and the projected rate of emissions expected to continue before any new deal is carried out…Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.”

What is the number one cause behind this rapidly impending global crisis? The meat industry. The statistics are staggering. There’s much more to say than what can be presented in a small reflection here, but in summation, according to The Scientific American quoted here (as well as a number of other reputable sources), the toll the meat industry takes on the planet is holistically horrible in all of the following ways:

“The production, processing and distribution of meat requires huge outlays of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed and water while releasing greenhouse gases, manure and a range of toxic chemicals into our air and water.”

In addition, the detriments come through mass deforestation, sewage overloads, and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria getting into our systems, as well as indirectly fueling world hunger rather than quelling it.

The Scientific American says further in this vein:

“If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million.”

To feed a person on an all-plant-based vegan diet for a year requires 1/6 of an acre of land. To feed the average US citizen requires 18 times as much land. You can produce 37,000 lbs. of vegetables on 1½ acres of land, while only 375 lbs. of meat.

A vegan diet produces half the amount of CO2 as the American omnivore, requires 1/11 the amount of fossil fuels, 1/13 the amount of water, and 1/18 the amount of land.

91% of the loss of Amazon rainforest is due to raising livestock. It consumes 1/3 of the planet’s fresh water and occupies up to 45% of the earth’s land. It is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction.

Imagine: 116,000 lbs. of farm animal excrement is produced every second in the US alone… Enough waste per year to cover every square inch of San Francisco, New York City, Tokyo, Paris, New Delhi, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Rio de Janeiro, all of the state of Delaware, the country of Bali, Costa Rica, and Denmark, combined! Scary!

The World Bank determined 51% of greenhouse gas emissions are from animal agriculture, and many scientists feel this is a highly conservative estimate! All the world’s cars, planes, and trains, add up to less than 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 is often the worry about greenhouse gases, while ironically, Methane, Ozone, and deadliest of all, Nitrogen Dioxide, affect climatic temperature far more than CO2, and livestock farming produces all four noxious emissions at the most alarming scale.

Demosthenes Maratos, Communications Director at Molloy College’s Sustainability Institute says very simply:

“The leading cause of environmental destruction is animal agriculture. No other lifestyle choice has a farther reaching and more profoundly positive impact on the planet and all life on earth than choosing to stop consuming animals and live a vegan lifestyle.”

We have the choice every single day to save over 1100 gallons of water, 45 lbs. of grain, 35 sq. feet of forested area, 20 lbs. of CO2, and one animal’s life…

But at the rate we’re going, we will have to try to fancily cover up the problem altogether by spending a minimum of 18 trillion dollars and 20 years of time building solar wind generators all over the world. Besides the ludicrous amount of money, or worse the implications of covering up a problem rather than resolving what caused it, scientists estimate that we have 3-4 years before climate change will be irreversibly underway…

Meanwhile, we can stop eating animals today.

According to UN Framework Planet Status Update:

“If we reduce livestock farming now, and we could do it very quickly, especially by cutting subsidies to livestock farming, then we would see an immediate effect of mitigation on climate change.”

I’m not quite a full vegan and I do sometimes order from FreshDirect (in spite of their idyllic imagery which is everywhere anyway)! The point is not to be perfect. The point is to care. To care enough to do our part. Whatever we can. And to want to do more. Always! That is the key. It’s subtle but it’s the key. Not to justify. Not to rationalize… Not to become jaded by “reality” that is not in touch with reality.

Abstracted from truth and desensitized by the deluge of subtle lies, we miss all the things that are unprecedented and corruptive. Artificial ingredients become natural to us, chemicals commonplace, the pace of life the norm, the divorce rate “realism”, and so much more…

Photos of food and agriculture are but one avenue that affects us unfathomably. What about photos of women or the effects of pornography? Research shows men have unreasonable expectations of the female anatomy and women have unreasonable expectations of the female anatomy!

There is nothing healthy about a culture of abstraction. We can give up the craving for personal gratification and wake up to the planet that needs saving or we can remain passive passengers on a ship heading towards disaster.

When we give in to the deliberate fudging of reality, we create the world of subtle lies and airbrushed lives…

What will you do today to help prevent our global crisis?

Special Note: Many thanks to Broxstar Films for their UN Framework Planet Status Update that provided much of the education behind this piece and the spirit to help change the world…and actually save it!


Hari Prasada Das

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