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Some Hard Truths You and Your Kids Probably Didn't Talk About This Earth Day

global warming, bp oil spill, gulf seafood, greenhouse gases, eating less meat

It’s time to make some changes.

I’m sure many of you, like me, enjoyed some fine, fun Earth Day activities this weekend. My daughter and I went with a friend to the beautiful public garden Wave Hill in the Bronx and made Earth Day crafts, tracing our hands to make a tree, then enjoyed the stunningly manicured grounds under a perfectly blue sky. What we didn’t talk about is the fact that if meat-eaters in the developed world don’t cut their (and I should say our) meat consumption by 50 percent over the next 30 or so years, we face “catastrophic global warming.” Or the fact that scientists in the Gulf region of the US have discovered “eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions,” a now common occurrence they say, likely thanks to the BP oil spill.

Let’s dig into those stories, shall we?! Mmm!

According to The Guardian, “the developed world will have to cut fertiliser use by 50% and persuade consumers in the developed world to stop eating so much meat” because “nitrous oxide, released by fertilisers and animal manure, is the most potent of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.” The UN has “called for deep cuts to those emissions.” So, you see, it’s not the eating of the meat in-and-of-itself that’s the problem, it’s “growing feed crops, for cattle and pigs,” which “produces more of those emissions than crops that go directly into the human food chain.” In other words, feeding animals so that we can eat them causes global warming. “Eating less meat would reduce demand for fertiliser as well as reduce the amount of manure produced.”

This is not new information – my vegetarian friends have been telling me this for years. But now the scientific community is all like, “Hello? Yeah, we’re serious this time, guys.” The good news is, for the obstinate meat eaters out there, “The solution isn’t that everyone needs to become a vegetarian or a vegan. Simply reducing portion sizes and frequency would go a long way,” says Eric Davidson, author of these findings, published in Environmental Research Letters. Switching from beef and pork to chicken and fish will also help, he says.

But then again, you might want to avoid fish … at least if it’s from the Gulf of Mexico. Because as Al Jazeera reports, “fishermen, scientists and seafood processors … are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.” They say, “Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp.”

Tracy Kuhns and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria, Louisiana, say their friends caught 400 pounds of eyeless shrimp back in September. Kuhns said at least 50 percent of those shrimp were caught in Barataria Bay, “a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants.” She added: “Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.” More eyeless shrimp have been caught out in the open Gulf and in Alabama and Mississippi.

If you’ve got the stomach for it, you should not only go read Al Jazeera’s extensive expose about the deformities of Gulf seafood, but watch their video footage as well to see the deformed species for yourself. (Warning before you click, even the pictures are upsetting. Just like, old-fashioned gross.) BP of course claims no level of responsibility, and is even claiming Gulf fish had lesions on them before the spill, even though the chemicals they used to clean up the spill are known to be toxic. Government agencies refused to answer Al Jazeera’s questions, as well.

What changes are you prepared to make to prevent environmental catastrophe? Do you talk to your children about these issues? I do. My daughter loves meat, but I made a delicious veggie chili this weekend, and she sort of kind of liked it, so I’m going to keep trying to broaden her palate. Wish me, and all of us, luck.

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