Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I went to meet Dean Ornish the other day with Larry. We talk about various things trying to tie together free culture and health. After the meeting, Dean Ornish gave us his new book, The Spectrum. While the book isn’t focused primarily on this, Dean Ornish points out the relationship between nutrition and the environment which I found very interesting.

…according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s report Livestock’s Long Shadow, animal-based agribusiness generates more greenhouse gasses than all transportation combined. The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as mesured in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent than does transportatino (18 percent versus 13.5 percent). Also, it accounts for 9 percent of CO2 derived from human-related activities. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2. It’s also responsible for 37 percent of all human-induced methane, which is twenty-three times more warming than CO2. Nitrous oxide and methane come mostly from manure. Imagine about 56 billion “food animals” pooping every day.

Also, livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s land surface, mostly for permanent pasture, but also including 33 percent of global arable land to produce feed for them. Clearing forests to create new pastures is a major driver of deforestation - some 70 percent of forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

I’ll try to write more about the book when I finish it, but it might be the most practical nutrition book I’ve read so far. I may tune my diet a bit afterwards.

UPDATE: The report he is referring, which was published in 2006, is is online.


So this is an interesting topic for me not because it's new info but because around 1990-1995 when veganism was making the rounds in the punk rock / hardcore worlds just about every fanzine you touched had this info printed in it. As well as many records had it printed in their liner notes. All kinds of statistics and details about how mass animal farming was bad for the environment. In fact it was one of the main things the Hardline movement used to wave around to attract new people. In fact it was so common that it got frustrating and I got sick of seeing it because it was very much a case of preaching to the choir. The only people reading those fanzines and buying those records were people who already knew the info. So that isn't the really interesting part, the interesting thing is that if these punk rock kids had tried (as many of them certainly did) to show it to people outside of their communities no one would have listened, and it's only now, more than 10 years later that other circles are discussing the ideas. So I'm not saying this from a "this is old news" standpoint, but rather from a standpoint wondering what other info is out there that some circles are all too familiar with and the rest of the world has never even heard about. What info is someone telling their family today and being told they are insane, but in 10 years will be much more widely accepted and backed up by major books and studies?

Interesting point Sean. "Global Warming" was a "controversial theory" until recently. I think that while the information has been out there, the fact that the FAO wrote a report about it is pretty significant.

I think I heard about it in the context of Diet for a Small Planet originally.

I think the bigger question here is: how do we create a growing economy that isn't dependent on rapid destruction of limited natural resources. This is the real issue behind the curtain. Or maybe that question is wrong and we need to be even more radical.