Today’s column comes to you courtesy of Rex Murphy. When I was growing up, I remember listening to Rex on the radio and liking him. Later, he turned to newspaper columns, and I think it was only then that I realized what a dunce he was. And is. After poking fun at the Europeans for the latest tainted meat scandal — it seems that eastern Europeans are raking in money by labelling horsemeat as “beef” and shipping it west to unsuspecting buyers — Rex just can’t resist getting another dig in at the pesky greenies across the pond:
Lay aside the dubious pork, that maybe-it’s-beef, for a while. Britain and Europe have an easy way out: meat from the multitude of our country’s vast seal population. Seal meat is a wonder — very nutritious, nice game taste, can be prepared variously, makes splendid “flipper pie.” It is also, almost by necessity, organic. And free range? The whole North Atlantic is their pasture. Seal meat will see Europe through this crisis.
I’m trying not to take this too seriously, because no doubt Rex doesn’t want his readers to see him as a serious, insightful critical thinker. But the fact that he can even utter such an asinine statement is proof of how appallingly ignorant the denialist right has become when it comes to environmental issues. That’s the same denialist right, incidentally, 40% of which tell pollsters that a 20-foot sea level rise wouldn’t pose a significant problem for coastal cities. (Don’t get too upset at me, right-wingers: I’ll be turning my guns on the denialist left in just a moment.)
Because here’s the thing: someone who makes a statement like this proves, by saying it, that they have absolutely no idea what the ecological footprint of the human race has become. They are absolutely, appallingly, utterly ignorant on the subject. Which I suppose goes a long ways towards explaining why Rex Murphy is something of a climate change denialist. Even in jest, it’s just a really stupid thing to say. It’s like saying: “oh, you don’t like driving in to work from the suburbs every day? That’s okay: invest in a kayak.” It’s nonsensical.
To see what I mean, juxtapose the following two statistics. First of all, even using decade-old figures, the European market consumes 35 million tonnes of meat per year. About one-fifth of that is beef. There’s also 80,000 tonnes per year of legal horse meat — i.e. the horse meat people actually want to buy, not the stuff included in the new “horse-beef” scam.
Second of all, although I’m not sure what the total North Atlantic seal population is, I can tell you that according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the northwest Atlantic seal population includes 8 million harp seals, 600,000 hooded seals, 350,000 grey seals, and 1 million ringed seals. Assuming that every one of those seals is at the top end of the weight range given by Wikipedia for each species, which they obviously aren’t, and that every pound of animal weight can be turned into a pound of marketable meat, which it obviously can’t be, by my math at any rate, that adds up to a hypothetical meat supply of a few million tonnes.
Or, put another way, if Europeans did what Rex Murphy is telling them to do, they’d eat their way through the entire Canadian Atlantic seal population in a couple of months.
Which is where Rex Murphy, curiously, runs into the left-wing environmental denialists. These ones aren’t like him. They embrace climate change. Believe in it, even. But they also think that the way forward for humanity is to get simpler: organic food, country living, small farms, no more nuclear power plants, 100 mile diets, etc, etc.
It won’t work, folks. There are too many of us now. Like it or not, at its present population level and given present growth projections, humanity requires large-scale industrial production just to stay alive, just to keep treading water. Given presently used and foreseeable future technology, said production will send us careening into an existential crisis in very short order. Left to its own ends, evolution is inexorable, inescapable, and inevitable. We’re committed to our present course, just as surely and for the same reasons as a few lost migratory birds “decided” a few million years ago that on the small islands they were marooned on they didn’t really need wings anymore. Those birds became dodos. What we will become remains to be seen.
So far the only difference between us and them is that a few of us can see the trainwreck coming, which is enough to qualify us as unique. Actually stopping the train requires us to pull off two miraculous exceptions to the natural order of things. Now there are actually quite a number of people who have won the lottery, but I’m not sure how many of them have won the lottery twice.