Personal: February 2008 Archives

I started eating a primarily lacto-vegetarian diet about a decade ago, driven primarily by selfishly anthropocentric environmental concerns. The more I read, the more obvious it became that eating lower down on the food chain’s more sustainable for human societies, because it uses fewer resources than eating meat.

Over the past year, I’ve been reading more about animal rights and global warming. Animal rights is clearly linked to vegetarian (or better yet, vegan) diets, but global warming? The data’s depressing.

Food writer Mark Bittman summarizes some of the latest findings in a recent New York Times article, “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler”:

  • global demand for meat is skyrocketing
  • raising livestock for meat is incredibly land- and energy-inefficient
  • the FAO estimates that livestock production causes more greenhouse gases than transportation; sources include animal manure, methane, and trees felled to provide pastureland for animals
  • Americans eat way too much meat as it is, and about twice the recommended daily allowance of protein

According to an often-cited University of Chicago study, switching from a meat-based to a vegan diet eliminates about 1.5 tons of CO2 per year. While the implications of this have been widely debated by environmentalist number-crunchers, it’s clear that eating an increasingly vegan diet is a useful (and easy) way to help ensure more usable croplands for all humans, and a lighter carbon impact on the planet.

I'm in Kolkata, India, for my cousin's wedding. I've been enjoying being part of a Big Fat Bengali Wedding, but I was hoping to spend the weekend at the Kolkata Book Fair, the third largest book fair in the world. This year's theme was American literature, featuring guests like Paul Theroux, Bharati Mukherjee, and a delegation of American poets; I was particularly interested in seeing what kind of reception they'd get.

Unfortunately, the event’s been cancelled at the last minute, due to a decision by the Kolkata High Court to bar the organizers from holding the event at the planned venue, due to a high likelihood of environmental damage. (The organizers had been kicked out of their previous venue the year before for the same reason, and hadn't done adequate planning to find a space capable of handling the popular event's high-intensity noise and environmental impacts.) The cancellation's been devastating to writers, bibliophiles, and book-related businesses getting ready for the biggest book fair in Asia.

So what of the American delegation? The local book community's helped the Americans reschedule many events at universities and bookstores around town, and the US Embassy assures us that all isn't lost.

Most Kolkata residents are disappointed at the turn of events; so am I, but unlike local bibliophiles, I may not get another chance to make it back to Kolkata in late January for the fair. In the meantime, I'm making do hitting up local bookstores, making my suitcase heavier, book by book.


Anirvan Chatterjee is a San Francisco Bay Area tech geek and bibliophile.


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This page is a archive of entries in the Personal category from February 2008.

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