Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodbye, Beef!

Red Robot--"My Last Home" (mp3)

I guess I needed a movie. I guess I had to see it.

For the last ten days I have gone beefless--no hamburgers, no spaghetti sauce, no roast beef sub at Ankars, no reuben sandwich, no Chicago hot dog, no steak or brisket. Last night at the Southern Brewers Festival, as my friend stopped at the "authentic" Philadelphia cheesesteak booth, I kept going and bought a piece of cheese pizza instead. When he cut off a piece of his cheesesteak and put it on my plate, I told him I'd eaten a late lunch and gave it back to him.

People don't like when you give up things that they like to eat or drink, that you have shared together, so I've kept silent. This is my coming out.

And, yes, it took a movie. The movie is called Home. You can watch it on YouTube:

The movie is pretty basic, and both beautiful and terrifying in its simplicity. Using only aerial photography and a usually-understated Glenn Close-voiced narrative, the movie shows the world and man's impact on it. It makes a compelling case for the interconnectedness of all aspects of nature from the beginning of the Earth and then begins to document the ways that our habits and behaviors have disrupted that balance, particularly in the last 50 years or so. If you are not already disgusted by the concept of Dubai, it will make you so.

Much of the film deals with energy and how much energy is now required to accomplish certain accepted practices like raising massive amounts of grain-fed cattle to provide beef for the world. And that's where you see forests, rainforests to be specific, being cleared out so that soybeans and grains can be planted to fatten cows quickly and in ways that are counter to cows' natural diets. When I finally focused on how much energy, how much water, how much fossil fuel, how much space is consumed, I got it.

I guess you never know what will shut you down. The "killing animals for food is wrong" argument hasn't ever touched me all that much, at least not yet. Our species is carnivorous by tradition, and probably by nature. Or at least, like Lewis and Clark, we eat what is available at the time and in the place, so maybe more omnivorous. I also know that my family having four cars for four people is excessive and extravagant, but that's one I expect we will figure out soon. But participating in the overt destruction of the world in order to get a cheap, easily available hamburger, well, that shut me down. When I saw the images, I realized that I just don't need it.

NOTE: the "Out" (there's always an Out) is grass-fed beef. Rainforests are not being compromised to raise these cows.

Most days when I drive around this city, I am hyper-conscious of the dwindling resources we are consuming anyway. Maybe it's because we spent our summer of construction dumping all kinds of waste in a dumpster without really knowing or caring where it went. Maybe it's because I see my neighbors and my school watering grass when I know that water in the world is running out. Maybe it's because sometimes a grocery store feels like the silliest place in the world with its myriad of choice and the incredible amount of waste from spoiled, unpurchased goods that is factored into its existence. Maybe it's because the air conditioning doesn't work in my car, and so I sit in lines of vehicles putting out massive heat while I swelter in my own, and I realize what an incredible luxury cold air is.

We are, of course, part, the main part, of that 20% of the world's population that consumes 80% of the world's resources. And while I'm not the type to be consumed with guilt about this, I have fully begun to expect the reckoning(s) that have to come. So I suppose this small "sacrifice" of giving up beef has been coming. Is it a first step? I don't know. Where it will lead, I'm not sure.

But please understand that I'm not preaching, not yet, and I'm not judging. I'm just telling you about a baby, baby, baby step that I've taken and how it came about in a privileged, wireless access kind of way that most people in the world don't have the opportunity to experience. I'm not glorying in it; in fact, I feel kind of silly even talking about it.

But do watch the movie and see what you think.


troutking said...

It was exactly this argument that spoke to me when I went veggie for 6 months in 2008. During that time, I couldn't fathom going back to eating meat, especially that ascetic feeling of sacrificing to do the right thing. But then I cheated a little and have been backsliding ever since. I could give up beef pretty easily, but what about chicken? Is raising chickens just as destructive as beef?

Bob said...

Don't know about environmental impact of chickens. The raising of chickens, except for free range, of course, is simply disgusting. So there is that.

Except for Champy's chickens--they are humanely raised and willingly offer themselves, thankful for the chance to be part of such a delicious meal.

Sara C said...

Bob, If you are interested in some local grass-fed beef, my parents have a beef cattle farm in Marion Co. They keep me well-supplied in relatively guilt-free beef and would probably be glad to sell you some. Bonus: it's extra lean and particularly good. Let me know.