Something I've been waiting for my entire life has just happened. I've been a huge Beatles fan for decades and, in fact, my very first display of activism was not on behalf of a cause, but on behalf of them. When I was 12, I was so obsessed with the Fab Four that I cut out advertisements for their new movie Let It Be from the local newspapers and tacked them up on every telephone pole within a mile of my house to do my part to help promote the film -- determined I could make a difference.
Okay, I digress. My lovely assistant, Dawn, just said to me, "Laurie, Paul McCartney's on the phone." After I retrieved my jaw from the floor, I picked up the phone and heard the trademark Liverpudlian accent: "Hello Laurie, it's Paul." I immediately told him I'd often dreamed of hearing those exact words. He laughed and got right down to business. He wanted to talk about vegetarianism and the environment, an important link he feels is being overlooked in the global warming discussion. Paul loves the Buddhist principle often cited by the Dalai Lama that we all must "reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings." Paul's own vegetarianism started 30 years ago, "simply out of compassion for animals." But it has become increasingly clear that there are other issues equally as compelling, including personal health and the impact our meat-eating ways have on the environment.
Vegetarians are often treated as a fringe group. "People think vegetarians are weirdos," Paul said, "but they aren't actually, and as time goes by they seem less and less weird." Paul then cited some pretty shocking statistics from a 2006 UN report entitled ""Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options." which backed up his concerns about factory farms, overgrazing, and water pollution.
The report found that 18 percent of global warming emissions come from raising cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys and other animals we eat. That's 40 percent more than all the world's cars, SUVs, airplanes, and other modes of fossil-based transportation, which combined account for 13 percent. For further comparison, every house, residential and office building in the world accounts for just 8 percent.
The UN report details how 70 percent of the Amazon rain forests have been cut down for grazing, and fully one-third of the planet's arable land is now used for growing feed for livestock. The UN predicts that global meat production will more than double by 2050 to keep pace with increasing demand.
Paul also talked about a big trend happening in Europe called "Meat Reducers" where, along with recycling and not taking plastic bags, people are eating meat at least one day less a week. A simple thing everyone can do to lower their own carbon footprint.
I made my pledge right there on the phone; I am now a meat reducer. But if Paul wants me to go all vegan, he'll have to take me out to dinner to discuss it.