Sunday, August 05, 2007

Well now I don't know what to do

Walking to the store might be worse for the planet than driving?

Although this one seems obvious to me:

The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

Well, yeah. When we all die from lethargy-induced diabetes or heart failure, the sheer fact of fewer humans would benefit the planet rather nicely, I suppose. Maybe that explains America's high obesity rates: a secret plan to combat global warming!

More seriously, the point of the article is how awful our food-production system in the west really is: food is so energy-intense (read: petroleum-intense) that you're better off putting the gas straight in to your gas tank for basic mobility.


adam said...

Skyscraper farms, baby! Best idea evar!!

Makes me want to be a venture capitalist.

odograph said...

The guy actually made the argument based on beef consumption for the 100 calories?

I wonder who's spinning, him or the paper ...

I'd expect the calculation would look much much different when 100 calories of rice or oatmeal are used.

Maybe you should contact him and brace him about this beef thing.

odograph said...

Oh, I thought of something else:

I mean, that famous bag of potato chips only requires 1/120th gallon of oil for its total production. You can munch it on your walk and I'm sure still put on weight.

Maybe we all should push back on this clown?

Declan said...

Of course, I suspect that the calculations didn't factor in the trip to the gym avoided by carrying your groceries home 1.5 miles(!).

Meanwhile, as you note, the real emissions problem with walking to the store is that it will make you live longer.

Also, driving 3 miles will (generally) be a lot faster than walking 3 miles. We're comparing 10 minutes of emissions with one hour of emissions. What are drivers doing with all that extra time and how many emissions are these extra activities causing?

And do people who drive to the store really not consume those extra calories or do they just gain weight?

I could go on (and on - what about the lifecycle costs of making, shipping, advertising, selling, insuring, regulating, maintaining, parking, driving and disposing of the vehicle?) but really, the whole analysis seems almost as plausible as the study which 'shows' that driving a big SUV is better for the environment than driving a hybrid.

More interesting would be a (thorough and objective!) comparison of different methods of food production, distribution and consumption that would allows us to make smart choices about how to reduce the emissions footprint per calorie in our diets (assuming a public and government that cared, of course).

Alternatively, capturing the externalities from emissions in the pricing system (e.g. a carbon tax) would encourage all the participants in the food chain to minimize unnecessary emissions, allowing them to figure out the best way to do so themselves.

Technetium said...

I browsed the article. Is he comparing the emissions of burning vehicle fuel, to the production of the food (human fuel?). Seems to me you'd need to compare production of the car fuel for a comparison to mean anything.

PLUS, you would have to include the food required to provide the calories you'd burn driving the car? or does those cancel =)

odograph said...

Was that closing paragraph about "how bad our food system is" there yesterday?

I think the beef vs potato chips thing shows you uneven it is, and how bad bland generalizations are.

That bag of chips produced 75g of CO2 emissions head-to-tail. Compare that to the 900g of CO2 the article says a drive to the shop produces.

The article is grandstanding with bad data.