Yesterday I was running around Pike/Pine with my 5-year old son (yes, kids are allowed on Capitol Hill) looking for something to eat, and we ended up at Po Dogs, the new hot dog joint on Union between 10th and 11th. All kids are picky eaters, but almost all kids like hot dogs. Just like grown-ups, they cannot resist the sublime combination of fat, salt, and blood sugar rush (from the buns) that built our fast food nation.
I knew that I was getting into ironic slumming, but it was still a bit stunning to find that the cheapest stripped down hot dog on the menu was $5. You can get pretty much the same thing for $2 at the Home Depot walk up window. But I decided to go all out with the BLTA, because, in case you've been out of the loop, in "creative class" cities like Seattle it is widely accepted that everything is better with bacon. And okay sure, it was tasty.
But then, contemplating the scene on my table shown above, my pesky little brain couldn't ignore the contradiction between the Greenware cup and the food on the table next to it.
Because the environmental impact of eating that hot dog outweighs the benefits of that "eco-friendly" cup many times over. Eating less meat is arguably the most effective way average Americans could reduce their impact on climate change.
Then a couple with two small children came in, the dad wearing an "Earth Corps" t-shirt.
Then as we were leaving a Prius pulled up, and out jumped another family with two small children, heading in for some dogs (click image to enlarge):
My, but we humans are a complicated lot.
Presumably, by purchasing a Prius, that family made a significant financial commitment to lowering their carbon footprint. And presumably, the "Earth Corps" guy cares about the fate of the planet. And yes, presumably, given all the bloviating I do about climate change, one might expect that I would strive for a low-impact lifestyle.
So then, what the hell is wrong with all of us? Why is it so hard to make a simple dietary change?
Short answer: Emotion is more powerful than logic. And food is deeply embedded in our emotional cores. That's why it's called comfort food.
The other big factor at play here is that the price we typically pay for meat at restaurants and markets is significantly lower than the true cost, for two key reasons: Meat production is heavily subsidized, and the environmental impacts are externalized from the price. But plenty of people manage to get beyond purely rational market-driven decisions when it comes to all sorts of other choices that have moral implications.
What's it going to take for a lot more of us to confront our denial about meat? I don't know, but maybe if enough commenters yell at me I'll commit to becoming a vegetarian.