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posted by janrinok on Monday December 11 2017, @10:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-cold,-dead-animal dept.

Like tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar, we can expect the harm to human health and the environment caused by the production and consumption of meat to be mitigated by 'sin taxes'in the next five to ten years.

"Sin taxes" on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China's government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016.

Would you pay a "meat tax" or would you change your eating habits?

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:48PM (7 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:48PM (#608955) Journal

    So, while the best curve-fit for population growth since 1950 might not be exponential, I'd call an increase of 3x in 70 years to still be worringly fast - and I'll note that all these graphs that show an inflection point turning over to decreasing growth rate

    At this point, you are merely arguing from ignorance, namely, that there could still be some unknown parameter that messes things up. Such things happen. For example, demographic predictions changed substantially (with Africa peaking out later at a higher population) when HIV treatments became available. But it's a surer bet with demographics than other sorts of predictions.

    The future is never knowable, but what I do know is that 7 billion people spread around the globe under hundreds of separate nations are hard to control, and have all the same basic animal tendencies as human animals have had for the last thousand years.

    Yes, most human populations aren't under control except at the individual level. People are animals, sure. And yet we have massive decline in human fertility. Your model is not working.

    So, unless we manage to effectively starve the vast majority of the world population with resource limitations like prior to 1500, or provide them with sufficient DINK incentives to dissuade them from prolific procreation, there's a pretty good chance that the bulk of the world is going to behave like humans always have when they get enough to eat, free time on their hands, and a lack of war to fight.

    We already know that assertion is false. Try again.

    Many potential solutions to the problem, few of them pretty or socially acceptable by today's standards.

    We don't need many solutions, we just need solutions that work. We have those - developed world wealth with empowered women who have alternatives to making babies.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:14PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:14PM (#608969)

    Your royal we amuses us.

    The empowered women argument sounds nice... travel a bit in Latin America, Asia, and even the UK and tell me just how empowered the women are there? Better than 1800, sure, but "in control" of their reproductive destiny? Hell, half of the US wants to ban abortion clinics, and a quarter want to ban all contraceptives. If even one quarter of the world is running on misogynistic power trips, that's going to be 2 billion people soon, and as they continue to proliferate their attitudes will gain in popularity.

    We on this side of skepticism will begin to believe the predictions of population control when a few sustained years of population decline have happened, the Earth is already too damn crowded for sustainability - singing "kumbaya, every little thing gonna be alright" is simply ignoring the root cause of the sixth mass extinction event.

    Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (5 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (#608974) Journal
    Sigh, I should have read your other reply [] before responding. My apologies for coming in strong.

    Moving on, to summarize, here's my opinion on this overall matter. We want the world to be a mess because we have solutions looking for a problem. For example, the meat tax idea is one such. They want it so they're coming up with health and environmental rationalizations a priori to justify this. But like most such things, there just isn't a problem that needs fixing here.

    We have done some things right, sometimes spectacularly so. It's amazing that after the tremendous conflicts and surprisingly beneficial resolution of the last century, that the idea that we're doing well is such a radical concept. But humanity has never been comfortable with prosperity or security. It's always looking for the worm in the apple. Even a slight amount of relative deprivation (for example, when one does less well than one's parents in some developed world countries over the past few decades) is seen as the wheels falling off the car.

    My view on this is that in order to understand the world and its problems, we need not only to understand what we are doing wrong, but also to understand what we are doing right. Too often, assumptions are made without looking at the overall context. That can result, for example, in creating greater problems to solve lesser problems (and explains my continued [] opposition [] to climate change mitigation). It can result in crazy ideas which solve nothing.

    In particular, I realized that we could fall asleep at the wheel and do more to solve poverty and overpopulation in an ethical manner than any deliberate population control scheme could, and that most of our striving to intentionally make the world better is mere wriggling on the hook, to little effect. Of most of the rest of that striving, we would do better by resisting them than not, such as the meat tax or outlawing strong encryption.

    Anyway, that's where I'm coming from on this.
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:51AM (4 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:51AM (#609073)

      meat tax ... there just isn't a problem that needs fixing here

      So, at a population of 2B, I wholeheartedly agree. At a population of 60B, the point is moot, we're screwed even without meat farming. Somewhere in the middle, meat matters, and we're in the middle now. It's not a problem yet, but it could become one if total population settles in around 20B or so, regular consumption of Tuna for the Japanese, filet mignon for the top 10% income earners (and pretenders), brisket for Texas, etc... if those trends spread to Asia and South America along with relative wealth parity with the US, the environment just can't produce enough to sustain that.

      Even a slight amount of relative deprivation

      Born and raised in Florida, over the last 50 years I have personally witnessed what happens when population of an area increases by a factor of 3 - and the relatively amazing thing, to me, is that the world population has tracked that trend fairly closely, Florida's population isn't growing much faster than the world at large. Empty spaces are shrinking, becoming much more fragmented. Places that used to be enjoyable are now smothered in a sea of humanity and development. There's still open space, but so very much less than when population was 1/3 of what it is today - and if you roll back another 20 years to when my father was born, there is another factor of 2.4 in population growth in just those 20 years, yes: the baby boom, but also a very clear demonstration of how tomato fields become suburban housing, forest and swamp become tomato, citrus and cattle production, and only the really really bad lands are left to nature.

      We've got more money, faster cars, shopping malls, restaurants - none of that is lacking compared to 1950 or 70, what is in deprivation now are natural spaces, living coral reefs, beaches without condominium development, oceanfront without McMansions.

      we need not only to understand what we are doing wrong, but also to understand what we are doing right.

      We've been doing an amazing amount of "right" in the last 50 years - so much less war, so much more automation, mechanization, efficient labor and transportation, communication, education - by the old metrics we're killing it. Unfortunately, the old metrics don't measure environmental destruction, and on that side of things we're approaching an asymptote: as the untapped resources approach zero, the crisis will ramp up a hyperbolic curve. I don't think we're much past the corner of that hyperbola today, but I do think we're on the wrong side of it.

      crazy ideas which solve nothing

      No shortage of those, but in my mind the craziest idea of all is laissez faire: hands off the wheel doesn't work when the individual actors making decisions only see a millionth of the big picture. We're doing better at communicating the global picture to the masses, but it's still coming through a distortion of the presenters on both sides of the issue - neither seems capable of stepping back from Scopes Monkey trial levels of rhetoric and posturing.

      In particular, I realized that we could fall asleep at the wheel and do more to solve poverty and overpopulation in an ethical manner than any deliberate population control scheme could

      Possibly... I realized that we passed a point, perhaps 20 years ago, where the present course with "hands off the wheel" is going to devastate the world I was born into into an unrecognizable state. If you can withstand some hippie commie presentation of documentary video about what we've accomplished with industrial progress in the last 10 years, try watching Chasing Coral []. It's just a bunch of dead rocks at the bottom of the ocean, what do we care, right? I snorkeled on those reefs in the 1980s, and they're 99% destroyed now. Sure, the corals are sensitive and we are passing their tipping point - they've died out before and come back, yes they have, but not on this scale since the last ice age, and then it was because of falling water levels instead of rising temperatures.

      AGW is just one piece of the problem that is packing too many people on the surface of the earth. Hands off won't solve it, or many of the other problems. Population reduction would make almost all of these problems trivial, virtually self solving without regulation. Without some kind of population capping, no amount of technology - not even unlimited clean energy from controlled fusion, can sustain 3x growth every 50 years for the next 500. If we reach that level of mastery of physics, we may well colonize the asteroids and beyond, but there is one area of progress that has been virtually stalled for almost 40 years now: manned spaceflight.

      So: meat tax? Meh, maybe tax it like alcohol and see what happens. Pragmatically, I'll tell you what happens in the US: the Beef industry laughs the proposition straight out of Washington D.C.


      Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:34AM (1 child)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:34AM (#609129) Journal

        No shortage of those, but in my mind the craziest idea of all is laissez faire: hands off the wheel doesn't work when the individual actors making decisions only see a millionth of the big picture.

        They don't need to. For example, if natural beef causes a lot of problems, then it'll get more expensive naturally and those billions of individual actors will see only the millionth of the big picture that matters, namely, how much they're willing to pay for beef that causes problems. Markets are very powerful for communicating problems of scarcity or unusual costs to those involved directly in the trade. Things like pollution are more difficult, but we seem to have fixed that.

        Meanwhile we could have top down people make ham-handed decisions that make the problem worse. That would be better than laissez faire, right? /sarc

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:03PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:03PM (#609197)

          The markets aren't going to communicate the true cost of beef until the forests are gone, converted to pasture. While that conversion is taking place, the cost of beef is subsidized by the sale of tropical hardwoods - tropical hardwoods that take hundreds of years to grow and used to house a tremendous biodiversity. Cow pastures grow cows, grass, fire-ants, and not much else.

          It's great for the people living in the age of exploitation (us) - gonna suck for the next generations.

          Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
      • (Score: 2) by gottabeme on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:06AM (1 child)

        by gottabeme (1531) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:06AM (#609166)

        Your argument seems to go like this:

        1. Producing beef requires X resources per eater, when consumed at a rate of Y beef per eater.
        2. The number of beef eaters is increasing.
        3. At some future point, there will not be enough resources to produce enough beef to meet the extrapolated demand.
        4. Therefore we should artificially restrict beef consumption now.

        It does not follow. This is what the law of supply and demand solves. As beef demand increases, beef supply decreases, and beef price increases. The back-and-forth feedback continues as production and consumption incentives are adjusted.

        If beef were to eventually become too expensive for most people to eat (as can be said now of many foods), so what? Isn't that what you (they?) want anyway?

        Why don't you just be patient and let it happen naturally? But this reveals the true motive: it's not about the beef at all.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:09PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:09PM (#609200)

          The problem is the externalized costs and temporary subsidies of beef production today. The subsidies (sale of timber when converting forest to pasture, for one - tax incentives for ag-conversion of wild spaces for another) are temporary, and serve to ramp up demand in the short term, demand that will persist into rising prices. The externalized costs include the destruction of biodiversity, pollution emitted in the process of production, and more that I'm not in the mood to dig up because, yeah, everybody here is right, meat is a small thing in the bigger picture. Whether each human needs 1 acre of productive land to sustain their consumption, or 10, is really moot - soon enough the population will rise to a level where the market forces start the squeeze.

          If we could manage to start that squeeze before we totally consume the available resources of the planet, it would be good for our children, and amazingly good for theirs.

          Україна досі не є частиною Росії.