We Don’t Have to Stop Eating Meat to Stop Climate Change

Real solutions to climate change are delightfully boring

Chris Newman


Image via BBC

During an “Ask Me Anything” on my soon-to-be-retired Instagram, one fellow asked for:

“Resources to counter the ‘cows are causing climate change no matter how you raise them’ argument”

There was a time not long ago where I’d have jumped headlong into a point-by-point debate with anyone suggesting that cattle are “causing” climate change… but those arguments just result in a hostile stalemate between two people whose minds are already made up and, ultimately, a bunch of wasted time.

If I absolutely HAD to engage, however (say this debate came up during a speaking engagement), I’d take a page from this really interesting discussion that Neil DeGrasse Tyson had with Ben Shapiro about the LGBT community (go to 42:25 for that part of the discussion):

In this discussion, Ben Shapiro attempts to frame trans rights as a debate around the “scientific validity” of the gender spectrum (is it biological or psychological), and NDT basically shuts down the discussion by asking an interesting question:

Why do you want to know?

The technique he employs slows the conversation way down, pre-empting a rapid-fire exchange of “facts” (known in the debate world as Gish Galloping) and forcing Shapiro to examine his premises and state them out loud… which causes Shapiro to become visibly uncomfortable when it’s made clear that he isn’t so much interested in the science of the gender spectrum, as he is in using it to exercise prejudice by denying people’s rights.

A similar approach makes discussions around cattle much more interesting and much less wasteful.

These discussions usually start with a broad claim that cattle are a primary driver of climate change (or with the opposite, dubious claim that cattle can reverse climate change), then devolve into alternating volleys of statistics around…



Chris Newman

Building a new, accessible, open, and democratic food economy in the Chesapeake Bay region @ Sylvanaqua Farms