Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Five Self-Righteous Ways of Messing Things Up

From Cracked, a rather profane and irreverant dissection of the behaviors of people want to “save the planet.”

Bottom line: when your behavior is really for the purpose of making you feel very good and moral, you aren’t inclined to ask questions as to whether it actually serves any good social purpose.

Here is just one of the five:

#5.Buying Organically Grown Food

Why People Do It:

Seems like a no-brainer. Organic food eliminates the use of chemical fertilizers, hormones and pesticides. Getting rid of all those nasty chemicals means healthier foods and less contamination to the planet.

And anything that’s organic or natural has to be better for you, right? It’s like you’re eating the opposite of Twinkies here.

Why They Shouldn’t:

So what’s the problem with eating healthier food and saving the Earth? Nothing, except that the food may not be any healthier. And that’s even if you can afford the (much) higher prices. Oh, and the impact on the planet may actually be worse.

The funny thing about those chemical fertilizers and pesticides is that they were invented for a reason, and that’s to increase food production. Turns out organic farming is pretty damn inefficient. Holding hands and thinking peaceful thoughts does dick all against pests that want to eat your crops and weeds that want to choke them out. The current acre of farmland produces 200 percent more wheat than it did 70 years ago. The same goes for meat and poultry. The chemicals did that for us.

Take them away, and suddenly you’re getting less food per acre of land. According to some guy who won a Nobel Prize, we could feed 4 billion people if we went all organic. This sounds great except maybe to the 2.5 billion people who would be left without anything to eat.

A tiny fraction of the people organic food would leave starving.

Despite all the claims that chemicals used in farming are bad for us, it turns out cancer rates have dropped 15 percent since farmers began using chemicals. How is that possible? Well it’s mainly due to people being able to afford more fruits and vegetables, because the chemicals allow more to be grown. That’s one reason the average life expectancy in the US went up by almost 10 years between 1950 and 2000.

As for the environment, it turns out organic farming has its own issues. Because it is much less efficient, there is actually a shortage of organic food available. This leads to people having the food shipped in from much further away. We’re no scientists, but we think that doing things like shipping organic milk 900 miles over the highway in a truck belching diesel fumes is probably canceling out any environmental benefits you might have gained from going organic.

Oh, and did we mention organic farming uses a lot of manure to fertilize crops? This results in a greater risk of contamination. Although organic produce only accounts for one percent of the food supply, it accounts for eight percent of the E. coli cases in the U.S.

Basically, you are at greater risk of eating a s**t sandwich, which is admittedly organic, but still.

Check out the others.

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Blogger Matt Wion said...

I think the most interesting post in the article you linked was the one about parents not vaccinating their kids.

A very scary trend! And based on bogus reasonsing! I know several people who think that vaccinations are bad, and it scares the blazes out of me!

I'd perfer not to return to the illnesses of the early 20th century!

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow so much to say here. The answer to this is so obvious. The only reason organics is messing up is because of corporations trying to make a profit. (And people who mindlessly buy stuff without thinking or researching it.) Corporations are the ones who are trying to make a buck by shipping organics from a million miles away. They are buying out the small local organic farmers or out competing them by offering the lowest prices on organic foods.

They are messing up the initial idea behind organics i.e. sustainability and locally grown food. NOT organic food at any environmental cost.
Its like the corporations have taken this organic idea and "spun"it to become "organic food for everyone, RIGHT NOW!" And obviously the fastest way to do this is to ship it from other places. NOT to make real changes. basically, whatever they can do to make a buck. Think bandage on a gangrene infested leg analogy.

Organics are inefficient without using chemicals NOW because we have been relying on chemicals for a hundred years and not developing/perfecting natural ways to counter pests. When given time and $ to research it, we can think of millions of ways to stop crops from getting eaten by bugs (e.g. ladybugs eating aphids)

If you think about it a lil more, the inefficiency is a result of infrastructure segregation. I.e. Farms are way out THERE and cities are concrete monstrosities, no room for gardens of any kind. A simple, gradual, cost effective solution is to integrate small farms closer to cities.

But if you are a "glass is half empty" person/don't want anything to change/think that nothing can be improved/prefer ingesting chemicals then this argument is completely justified. :)

3:02 PM  

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