Friday, July 1, 2011

Environmentalist Religious Thought

This has got to be one of the most moronic pieces I have ever read, entitled "Fire Up the Grill, Not the Atmosphere" by a guy named Brian Palmer, and it just screams to be fisked...
FOOD is responsible for 10 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By many estimates, cooking represents more of a meal’s carbon footprint than transport. For certain vegetables, it accounts for more emissions than agriculture, transport and disposal combined.
Good, let's just stop eating. Or go back to the stone ages and eat everything raw, because we are just KILLING Mother Earth every time we turn on our stove, oven, or microwave.
Fourth of July, the national celebration of combustion, presents an opportunity for atonement.
Ah, the crux of the issue - atonement. We humans have been so guilty of raping the earth that we have to make up for our sins! Everything from here on out has to be viewed through this prism that is such a part of the hardcore environmentalist movement.
I’m not advising you to forsake grilling this holiday and join the ranks of raw-foodists. Nor do I believe that we can reverse climate change by eating burgers rare instead of well done. But a little creative thinking can reduce this year’s Fourth of July carbon emissions without gustatory sacrifice. And maybe that awareness will carry into other days and other parts of our lives.
Then why the hell did you complain above about how much people are spewing carbon into the air by cooking? I am convinced that many 'representatives' of such an extreme view of environmentalism are living examples of cognitive dissonance and even outright doublethink. The 'awareness' line is interesting. At least he didn't put 'raising' in front of it, lest he out himself completely as a White Person.
Consider potato salad: a pale mixture of boiled potatoes and mayonnaise that is sometimes appetizing but always wasteful. An overwhelming majority of the energy in boiling goes into heating the water rather than cooking the potatoes.
Consider that my mother, who probably agrees with Palmer on about eighty percent of the issues, would be offended by this paragraph alone (although probably the whole piece also). Her potato salad is the best in the world, and she isn't going to stop making it because a weirdo in the New York Times thinks she should due to alleged environmental massacres.
Direct-heat methods are more efficient and usually tastier. Cubed and pan-fried potatoes take just 10 minutes to cook and require less than one-third the energy of boiling. (According to my math, microwaving potatoes is about 40 percent more efficient than pan-frying them on an electric stove, but when I do it the potatoes come out rubbery, and that is too much sacrifice for a holiday.)
Thanks for killing your own argument. Those of us who will continue to grill and enjoy grilled food do not do so to eat pan-fried potatoes. There is a reason we grill. We can eat the pan-fried crap the other 364 days of the year. Just a quick question, though: who the hell would try to microwave potatoes to make potato salad?
If you insist on boiling, lower the heat once bubbles appear. Keeping the burner on high only speeds evaporation; it doesn’t make the water any hotter or shorten cooking time. And cut the pieces small, because cooking time decreases as surface area increases.
Thanks for the tips, Rachael. You have a future on the Food Network: Green Cooking With Brian Palmer, or whatever cute, artsfy fartsy name you can come up with.
Now for the burgers and dogs. First, a green disclaimer. Beef is an environmental disaster, no matter how you cook it. However, if you can’t resist grilled cow, your big decision is between charcoal and propane.
I love the smell of sanctimony in the morning! Brian Palmer is better than all of us who enjoy beef, and don't you ever forget that! Enjoying beef is for peons! I am not sure what he thinks is supposed to happen - cows living and continuously fart methane (a 'greenhouse' gas much more potent than carbon dioxide, by the way) without people eating them, or people doing what they are supposed to do: eat the animals. The sneering in this paragraph is something to behold and then immediately forget. Only Bright People™ like Brian Palmer avoid killing the Earth by not eating beef, and if we just can't control ourselves (as unBrights are wont to do), he will at least try to explain the finer points of how we should minimize our murderous rage on Mother Gaia.

Palmer goes on and on about charcoal and propane for a while and then he comes to this...
Charcoal briquettes, however, are a different story. The compressed round briquettes are made from scrap wood that would otherwise go to waste. The better manufacturers build their plants near construction centers and use recycled heat from those centers to power their briquette kilns. If you take that into account, charcoal briquettes are ahead of lump charcoal and propane as the best option in terms of climate change. (Any kind of charcoal, however, releases more particulate matter than propane, which makes charcoal a greater contributor to air pollution. There are few easy choices in environmental analysis.)
I want to know how many serious New York Times readers grill anyway? If they are anything like this guy, I seriously doubt it. Why do I feel like I am reading an attempt to sociologically analyze a foreign society? Us bumpkins in the sticks don't know nothin' about stuff like pollutin' the air, so thank God we have Brian Palmer to show us the way and just not be grillin' and eatin' any beef.
And finally we come to dessert. Skip the pie. Baking is so energy profligate that the government hasn't yet figured out a way to reward any residential ovens with the Energy Star label.
Oh no, it doesn't fit the government's Energy Star rating! Can't do it! Seriously, go away - you make even the nuts in the communes look sane. Look, if I want pie, I am going to make and eat pie. And also, is that the only objection you can come up with against people eating pie - that it doesn't satisfy some completely made up standard of efficiency? Energy Star reminds me of CAFE Standards - it's a psychological attempt to make people feel good about themselves without having any sort of real tangible benefit.
Here’s where you can really make use of your briquettes. One problem with charcoal is that you can’t turn it off when the burgers are done. In most backyards that means lots of heat — and carbon dioxide — goes to waste. Not in your yard, though.

Use that leftover charcoal glow to grill up dessert. Apples, pears, peaches and nectarines grill beautifully, and are even better √† la mode. Or you can prepare a cobbler in a foil pan and grill it on the dying coals. From an environmental perspective, that’s free energy.
There is a problem here. See, there is no temperature control with 'dying charcoals' - and most people make desserts with specific directions. You have a pie on a grill with charcoal, and there is absolutely no sense of time with 'dying charcoal'. Did he think of this idiocy himself, or did he have help?
Maybe an Independence Day meal of pan-fried potatoes and grilled peaches seems un-American. But the tradition of backyard grilling isn’t exactly Jeffersonian in pedigree....Backyard grilling didn’t become popular until the interwar period at the earliest, and accelerated with the baby boom and suburbanization that followed World War II.
The idea behind it being a special day is that you eat food that is above and beyond. I don't do the grill on a normal basis, so this is something out of the ordinary. Like I said above, I can do pan-friend potatoes any other day. And who eats grilled peaches? Anyway, so what if backyard grilling didn't become popular until eighty or ninety years ago. Cars and television became popular then too. Should we ditch those as well?
In other words, there’s nothing so very sacred about the Fourth of July cookout. So this year, why not experiment?
Did anyone claim that it was sacred? Actually, the only thing that has taken on a religious significance here is the piety of the environmentalist movement. He actually sounds like a preacher on the corner - REPENT, THE END IS NEAR!! This piece is an exercise in projection. It is the author who is being overtly religious, and thus he seeks to cast that which he criticizes as having the same qualities.

As for the experimentation - whatever floats your boat. However...stop trying to put it in terms of a religious cleansing or penance. This is what that movement has become - not about conservation, but about punishing people and making them think about their 'sins' in the name of defending an inanimate object. I don't normally put this level of snark into a blogpost, but I get sick and tired of crap like this. It's time to push back.

Enjoy the grilling, and pass me a burger...or two.


AK said...

I must admit, I quite enjoy the irony of a devout Catholic (and private school religion teacher) demonizing some other group for using guilt and atonement to further a cause, which seems a bit like Coke "suing" Coke Zero for tasting exactly the same (though they don't). This coming from a guy who thinks you need to go to a guy in a dress with a special hat and cane (or whatever the modern priest getup is nowadays) and beg for his forgiveness while he molests your children - oh, and don't forget to bring ten bucks for him each time because it keeps slipping God's mind to cut him a check for his daily bread.

A couple other observations about this post. I kinda take umbrage at your gross misconception that lily-livered, egghead liberals such as myself and red-blooded, red-meat eating "all-Americans" such as yourself are mutually exclusive. I grill meat every week during the summer (and oftentimes a couple times a week). True, I like my beef rare, which has it's own coincidental consistency given my democratic socialist proclivities (the redder, the better!). But still, I'm a meat-and-potatoes, beer-swilling all-American male, and I love me a good welfare state (and, though I prefer WaPo, I've been known to read the NYT on occasion, as well). On a somewhat related note, I absolutely hate the widespread misconception that righties are more patriotic than lefties. Righties have (recently as well as historically) advocated secession and/or nullification, which are much more treasonous than patriotic.

Also, your bit about eating the methane-spewing cows is apt. The first time I heard that similar sentiment (though I wouldn't claim it was the first time that sentiment was expressed) was when Ron White was talking about a buddy of his bitching about all the negative impacts of raising beef on the environment, and saying he quit eating beef because of it, and then posing the question "What are you doing to help save the environment?," to which White replied "I'm eatin' all the cows." And while I both think that's pretty funny and I love my beef, there is one thing either deliberately or mistakenly overlooked, which is that the cow population (and thus the methane emanating from their hind quarters) wouldn't be so damn high if there wasn't such a demand for beef. So simply stop demanding beef WOULD reduce the cow population and their methane production.

My final note is unrelated to this particular post, but I figured I'd just throw it all in one post for ease. With regards to your objection to the "Happy Fourth of July" verbiage, simply put, July 4th isn't Independence Day. Independence was declared by Congress on July 2nd, 1776, which prompted the following snippet from a letter from John to Abigail Adams:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.

It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

July 4th, 1776, marks the approval of the final wording for the Declaration of Independence. It went to the printer and wasn't signed by most of the signers until a month later. So in fact, the choice of the Fourth of July to be the national Independence Day is arbitrary. If you revere the official Declaration of Independence, then surely you should celebrate in August, when it became officially endorsed (with signatures) of all of the men agreeing to it. Though I party on the Fourth like everyone else, I personally celebrate the Second. That's the day we declared that we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Joshua Lattanzi said...

Trust me, I don't consider you to be a 'lily-livered, egg-headed' liberal. Unfortunately, this kind of swill is written in the name of liberals everywhere, even if they are like you and I who enjoy the fine delights of grilled beef multiple times a week and having a good beer.

If you read my comments carefully, I am not going after all liberals - in fact, I said that my mother (who is a good liberal) would be offended by the article, because it is utter claptrap that is only meant for the yuppie types of libs. I think you are reading a bit too much into my comments - I never mentioned conservatives or anything to that effect. I never questioned anyone's patriotism at any point. I do think, however, that crap like this article does more harm than good in trying to 'convince' people to stop doing A, B, and C.

I went after atonement as an issue because while hardcore environmentalists claim to be rationalists and such, their actions belie their words. The movement has all the trappings of religion - prophets, scripture, a deity, sin, and atonement. That being said, I love your caricatures of my faith, and you are supposed to be the tolerant one!

AK said...

I admit I might have overreacted, but my umbrage was piqued at this passage: "I want to know how many serious New York Times readers grill anyway?" I may be wrong (though I bet I'm not), but not all "serious New York Times readers" are vegan douchenozzles like the aforementioned Brian Palmer.

As for the bit about religion: eh. I see your point about the trappings, with one key difference (and this is less a dig at your faith than a demonstration of difference between the two things you are comparing): there's conclusive evidence that the environment exists. It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of science. Consequences are natural, not supernatural.

As for the particulars of your faith, I'm tolerant of your lifestyle choices (though you may or may not be tolerant of other people's) as long as it doesn't cause harm. I needn't list all of the harm Catholicism has caused. After all, you're Catholic, and guilt is kind of a central theme for you guys. But I tend to be more tolerant of more moderate people who espouse a more personal, introspective religion (though they're kinda douchey in the trendy chicness of those views), and certainly of more philosophical Eastern religions (at least Buddhism - I'm no theologian, though, so my knowledge is fairly limited).

Another thing that bugs me about America's approach to organized religion is it's tax-exempt status. Look, I get that everyone needs some escapism in their life. Drink some beers, play a video game, become engulfed in the fandom of a team sport, smoke a joint, watch a movie, etc. But I can't write any of that off of my taxes (unless the joint is for my glaucoma). You, however, can slip off into Jesusland tax free. And what's worse is that there are people making money off of it! Just like the NFL, Electronic Arts, the liquor store, and Jamal on the corner, organized religion is a series of businesses. It's pretty arbitrary to draw a distinction between your escapism and mine. Do I just need to insist that Grand Theft Auto will save my mortal soul?

Joshua Lattanzi said...

I asked that question because in reading the article, it was clear that it was an exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing on his part. He was preaching to the choir rather than actually trying to get people to change. He was looking for an affirmation to his already-held belief that grilling is eeeeeeevil and is a sin for which we need to atone RIGHT NOW. The New York Times was a perfect outlet for such a piece - writing for people who, while they may not agree with the specifics, are nonetheless sympathetic to the cause he is advocating - hence your umbrage.

The notion that we have proof that the environment exists and such make it even more ridiculous that the environmentalist movement has taken on the feeling of religion. Even a first semester college undergrad ought to understand that religion (at its basic level) is an attempt to explain the unseen and unknowable. Environmentalism has the distinct whiff of ancient pre-Christian paganism. The irony, of course, is that the very people who subscribe to the 'Church of Gaia' (my term) will be the first ones to decry Christians and other religionists as irrational kooks.

Mr. Kettle, there is a Mr. Pot calling.

The tax-exempt status has more to do with the non-profit and charity work. Not every Christian group has that status (501c, is it?). The tradeoff, of course, is that they cannot endorse specific candidates in any official capacity; only issues can be discussed. I can only speak for my little part of the Catholics - but no one has ever become a millionaire off that. People like Joel Osteen and so forth, on the other hand, I can't speak to their tax status.