Over consumption and Lifestyle Choices Affect Our Natural Resources

by natgarrod on October 1, 2016 - 11:52am

CBC News posted an article titled “Beef’s environmental costs called exceptionally high” which connects the idea that our lifestyle choices are essential in determining our impact on the environment. In summary, this article examines the process of beef production and how this dietary choice impacts earth’s processes and our natural resources. The main actors that are involved in this industry include the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (which represents Canada’s beef industry), Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, beef consumers, and the Natural Resource Management department of Canada. The problem with this industry is that it contributes large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, depletes our limited fresh water resources and disturbs wild habitats. In order to provide evidence of these impacts the author referenced a study by U.S. and Israeli researchers who compare the environmental costs of producing beef with dairy, pork, and eggs per calorie of protein. For example, the researchers found that switching from beef to pork reduced 540 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year which is nine days worth of the nation’s per capita GHG emissions (Chung 2014). The information presented in this article is astonishing because it demonstrates how our lifestyle choices and overconsumption of products can have a large impact on the environment. Do consumers know and understand the impacts of the choices they make at the grocery store? There are a few types of conflict that exist between consumers of beef and natural resource management department (NRM). There is conflict of value that exists between the two actors, this means that the actors value different things leading to different goals of management. As North Americans it has become part of our culture to consume large amounts of beef, this Canadian pastime has led to the expansion of cattle farms leading to mass production to satisfy our demand for beef. In contrast, the Natural Resource Department values the amount of freshwater that goes into the production of beef. As our neighbours in the U.S. struggle to find aquifers to keep up with their rate of extraction Canada’s fresh water resources are becoming more valuable. Therefore, those fighting for sustainable NRM want to conserve our fresh water resources, this could mean supporting the consumption of pork instead of beef. Furthermore, there are behavioural conflicts resulting from personality issues and a lack of trust. Consumers of beef may not want to eat pork because they prefer beef. In Canada we value the right to freedom of choice and therefore should exercise our right to choose. Furthermore, people may not trust chicken products because of past incidences with salmonella poisoning from chicken products. Possible natural resource management techniques to encourage sustainable food consumption could include the enforcement of discursive power. Discursive power is used when the government creates a new social norm through education or common sense. In this situation the government could support vegetarianism or vegan which has recently become a fab. They could support these fads by educating people about the environmental effects of beef production and how unsustainable it is for our natural resources. Additionally, the Natural Resources Department could impose stringent regulations on beef production to encourage ‘responsible beef production’ to reduce the footprint of this industry. In conclusion, in order to live a sustainable lifestyle we must educate ourselves and make changes for the health of our natural resources.

 

Chung M. (2014) Beef’s environmental costs called exceptionally high. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/beef-s-environmental-costs-called-exceptionally-high-1.2713654

Comments

Good morning, after reading your argument about how the over consumption of beef is hurting the environment I don't really feel convinced that eating beef is worse for the environment than eating pork or chicken. My main argument is stirred up from your statement that the article you read " connects the idea that our lifestyle choices are essential in determining our impact on the environment."
I fully agree with the thought that our lifestyle choices revolved around eating have a huge impact on the environment and the social system. Humans in North America have an extremely high demand for foods that they want, but don't need. This then leads to extreme over production followed by a large amount of waste. Take buffet style for example: people go to a restaurant to eat until they feel sick and then waste pounds and pounds of food. On that buffet is a vast amount of chicken, pork, beef, corn and soy products. To say that beef is the main culprit for natural resource abuse is a pretty far stretch. I myself am a farmer and I have been involved in beef feed lots, poultry barns and swine facilities and they all have one goal: make as much product in the least amount of time. If people start eating less beef and start eating more swine or poultry, then those animals will be the #1 product demanded by consumers, will take the most resources to feed and will then become the #1 problem. To me this seems likely to just be a blame game.
Although I don't necessarily agree with the argument of the article that you're referencing, I do agree with your final message that the public needs to more educated on their level of consumption. I feel society needs to cut back on EVERY meat product in order to reserve more natural resources, not just beef. But telling our society to not over eat is like trying to tell a baby not to cry over split milk, it doesn't really work the way you want it to.

Hi Nat! I really liked your piece because I just recently watched a documentary on how eating beef, and other animal products is not sustainable. I really think it’s a topic that not many people think about or consider when they take into account their diet.
If you relate your article to agriculture you’ll see that there is a lot of literature about the viable nutrient rich land that’s being occupied by crops that are solely for cattle consumption. If people stepped back and looked at the grand scheme of things and saw how unsustainable it is to eat meats such as beef, they would know that ‘responsible beef production’ is not only the way we can reduce our footprint, but improve our way of life.