Animal, Vegetable, or E. O. Wilson

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Buoyed by the equal parts of derision and support I received for writing in “I am So Tired Of Malthus” about how humans are better fed than at any time in history, I am foolishly but bravely venturing once again into the question of how we feed ourselves.

In a book excerpt in the February 2002 Scientific American entitled “The Bottleneck”, the noted ant entomologist Professor Edward O. Wilson put forward the familiar Malthusian argument that humans are about to run out of food. He said that we are currently getting wedged into a “bottleneck” of population versus resources. He warned of the dangers of “exponential growth” in population, and he averred that we will be squeezed mightily before the population levels off.

His solution? In part his solution was that everyone should become a vegivore.

Wilson: “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land would support about 10 billion people.

Figure 1. Vegans are not aliens from the star Vega. They are humans who are strict vegivores, as the food chart above shows. They are known for their barbaric habit of boiling and eating the unborn fetuses of rice and wheat. And don’t get me started on what they do to the poor baby carrots, with their so-called … but I digress …

 

 

Is this correct? Would we have a net gain in carrying capacity if all the human carnetarians agreed to become vegivores?

Wilson gets his figure of 10 billion people by taking the total amount of the grain that is being fed to animals, and then figuring how many people that grain would feed. In 1999, about 655 billion tons of grain were fed to animals. That’s a lot of grain. At the world average of about 150 kg of grain per person per year, he’s right, that’s an increase of 4 billion more people who would have enough grain. There were 6 billion on the planet in the year 2000, so that makes a total of about 10 billion people.

So up to there, he is correct. But wait. Although he stops the calculation at that point, there’s a few things he is leaving out of the calculation.

First, that’s just grain, which is not enough to keep a person alive. The extra 4 billion people would need additional nuts, seafood, fruits, vegetables, cotton, root crops, and all the other varieties of food and fiber. So the increase would have to be less than 4 billion people.

Second, people have a number of misunderstandings about where animals fit in on the farm. They believe that animals eat lots and lots of food that could be eaten by humans. Their claim is that if we just ate what the animals eat, we could eliminate the inefficiency, and feed many more people than we are feeding now. In other words, their claim is that having animals on the farms reduces the amount of food coming from the farm.

This is what Wilson is repeating here (although he has gone further than others by claiming that this would increase the carrying capacity of the earth by 2/3 again as much as the current population).

I grew up on a ranch where we had both animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) and field crops (hay, alfalfa). I can assure you that anyone who thinks animals reduce available food on the farm is what in my youth we would call a “city slicker”. Farmers around the planet keep animals for meat and milk. What, are farmers all stupid around the planet and only E. O. Wilson and his fellow vegetactivists are smart? Farmers would not keep animals if it were not a net gain.

While in some industrialized countries the cattle get up to 15% of their lifetime nutrition from grain, the vast majority of animals on farms worldwide live on a variety of things that will not or cannot be eaten by humans. Pigs eat garbage, hens eat bugs and grass and kitchen scraps, goats eat leaves, and cows have four stomachs, so they can turn cellulose, which humans cannot eat, into nutritious milk and meat.

If we got rid of all of our chickens worldwide, would we have more food available for humans? Not unless you like bugs and kitchen scraps better than you like eggs. Chickens are the poor woman’s Rumplestiltskin, spinning insects and weeds and melon rinds into golden eggs and tasty meat … I’ll let E. O. Wilson tell her she’s ruining the planet, not me.

If we call the goats down off the steep hillsides where they are grazing around the world, will we be able to put vegetable farms up there? Not unless you can farm sideways without water.

Cattle in the US eat thousands and thousands of tons of cottonseed meal annually, turning it into meat and milk. Would you prefer to eat the cottonseed meal yourself? Sorry, you can’t, it’s mostly cellulose.

The presence of livestock in a mixed farming economy does not decrease the amount of food that a farm can produce. That is a city slicker’s professorial fantasy. Animals increase the amount of food the farm can produce, otherwise farmers wouldn’t have them. Millions of tons of agricultural and processing leftovers, which would otherwise be wasted, are fed to animals. The animals in turn produce milk and eggs and meat, and then go on to enrich the soil through their urine and manure, just like they were perfected to do on the plains of Africa so long ago … what an amazing planet.

Which is why farmers everywhere around the world keep animals — farmers are not dumb, and they haven’t had the benefit of a college education, so they haven’t forgotten that goats eat leaves, pigs eat garbage, cows eat cellulose, and chickens eat bugs. They know the value of chicken manure and pig manure.

With that introduction, let’s see how we might best estimate the change if everyone became vegetarian. We can do it by looking at the land involved. Here’s the numbers: according to the FAO, out of all the land cultivated by humans, about a quarter of the land is used to grow food for animal consumption. This can be further broken down by the type of animal feed grown:

Figure 2. Area of arable land used for human crops, and for animal crops. Image is Van Gogh, “Ploughed Fields”.

Now if we all became vegivores tomorrow, and we converted all that quarter of the cultivated land to growing food and fiber for human use, what is the possible increase in the number of humans?

Looking at the chart, you would think that humans could increase by about a third of the current number. The land used for animals is about a third of the land used for humans. That would be about two billion more people, not the increase of four billion claimed by Wilson. However, the number cannot even be that large, because we have only looked at one side of the equation. We also have to consider the losses involved. By becoming vegivores, we have freed up the 23% of our cropland used to produce animal food, but we have lost the food coming from the animals. Now how much do we have to give back just to maintain the status quo, to make up for our dietary and other losses? These losses include:

•  We would have to replace the loss of the dietary protein provided by the 200 million tons of meat we eat each year, along with 275 million tons of milk, 7 million tons of butter and 47 million tons of eggs. Vegetarians say, “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.

However, to do it, you need to eat more grains to get this protein, and in a twist of fate, to replace the total amount of meat protein in our diet with protein from grains would require about 50% more grain than we are currently feeding to animals. This is because animals eat many things other than grain, and we need to replace all that lost other-source protein with grain-source protein as well.

So immediately we have to devote about 18% of the total land to replacing lost protein for the existing world population. Subtracting this 18% from our original 23% of freed up land leaves us with only a 5% possible gain. Remember, this is all just to keep the world even, to maintain the world food status quo. We’re not talking at this point of feeding anyone extra. We’re just maintaining the current nutritional supplies of protein for the current population.

• We would also need to replace the amount of fat provided by the aforementioned animal products. While too much fat is a bad thing, dietary fat is an essential necessity of human nutrition.

The weight of dietary fat provided by animals is about a third of the weight of protein provided by animals. In addition, it takes much less land to produce vegetable replacements for the animal fat than for the animal protein. This is because there are vegetable products (oils) which are pure fat, while vegetable products are generally low in protein.

In the event, in order grow the oils to replace animal fat in our diet, we’d have to plant about 3% more  of our arable land to sunflowers or the equivalent. Deducting that from our 5% gain in available land, we are down to a 2% gain.

• Next, the land worldwide would be less productive because in many areas, animal manure and urine is the only fertilizer. We could easily lose more than a couple of percent that way, especially in developing nations. And once we do so, we are at zero gain, meaning we couldn’t add one single person to the world by voluntarily becoming vegivores. But there are several further losses yet.

• There is also a giant hidden loss of food in the change to vegevorianism, as tens of millions of tons of agricultural waste would have to be disposed of, instead of being converted by animals into millions of tons of human food. In many cases (e.g. oilseed residue meal) these wastes are not directly consumable by humans.

• In addition to losing the food animals make from waste, without animals to eat the waste we add the resulting problem of disposal of the agricultural waste, which is expensive in terms of time, energy, and money.

• We’d have to do without leather, hide, hair, horn, wool, and feathers. Especially in the developing world, these products are often extremely important to the health, warmth, clothing, and well-being of the local people, and there often are no local substitutes. This would be a huge cost of foregoing animals. In places where jackets are made of local sheepskins to keep out the frozen wind, explaining to some poor shepherd why he should go vegivore and trade his sheep for soybeans could be a tough sell …

• Finally, about half the land currently used for growing animal food is being used to grow grasses for animals. In practice, this land will mainly be the poorest and steepest of each country’s croplands (or else it would be planted to a field crop), and thus is not likely to be suitable for growing much more than grasses.

All up?

You’d lose by not having animals in the world’s farmyards. I don’t think you’d even come near breaking even — and neither do the farmers all around the world. They know what the numbers have just shown — we can support more people in a planet, a region, a country, or a farm if animals are part of our agricultural and dietary mix.


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269 thoughts on “Animal, Vegetable, or E. O. Wilson

  1. No one on any USDA approved, large chicken farm (read egg) serves there chickens scraps.

    Additionally, salmon are fed on herring, and dont covert it well, thus eat herring, not salmon.

    I agree it is more complex than Wilson states, but it also more complex then you state…

  2. So we have another great philosophical scientist, Professor Edward O. Wilson, trying to impress his peers with what a great thinker he is.

  3. From the post

    =================
    Vegetarians say, “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.

    However, to do it, you need to eat more grains to get this protein, and in a twist of fate, to replace the total amount of meat protein in our diet with protein from grains would require about 50% more grain than we are currently feeding to animals
    =====================

    People wouldn’t replace meat protoein with more grain. This is a common problem faced by the many people who cannot eat any or much animal protein due to a health condition.

    The best source of protein would be any from of yeast extract. people from the UK are familiar with Marmite which is a spread produced from yeast. it is a far higher source of protein than any animal product. Teriyaki sauce is another familiar product that is based on yeast. If one wanted vegetables that contained protein then one could eat cruciform vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower etc

  4. There isn’t anywhere near enough water to convert the millions of acres of ranches in West Texas to cropland.

  5. Eating lots of bread, rice and pasta (carbohydrates) makes people fat and is the source of numerous health problems. A lot of the nutrition “truths” (cholesterol, fat, calories, salt…) with which we are bombarded daily by the media rest on nothing or are false.

    I recommend the following book to those who want to understand the scientific story of the nutrition vs. health debate.

    Gary Taubes: “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

    http://www.amazon.com/Good-Calories-Bad-Controversial-Science/dp/1400033462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284256585&sr=1-1

    There are a lot of similarities as to the ways inconvenient truths have been established, for both climate and nutrition.

  6. Just think how much cheaper fruit and vegetables would be if we didn’t have to feed all the vegans! That’s enough to feed several million more beef cattle! 8-P

    natch.

  7. E. O. Wilson – wow – I thought the guy was brighter than that – I have been misinformed. I am not engaging in Ad Hominem argument, and I do not want to hijack this website or post, but I am convinced that the evolutionary past for humans leads to us being omnivores with a strong bias to meat.

    Google paleolithic diet if you are interested, but veganism is not what our bodies are designed for in my opinion. I believe that the evidence for the health and utility of veganism is less strong that that in support of AGW. Hey, whatever floats your boat – pass the bacon.

    Feeding the world is a real challenge and doing it while promoting health and vigor is more daunting. As the post indicates, animals do a pretty wonderful job of converting food of low or non-nutrition (for us) into tasty and nutritious food for us humans. Early humans weren’t feeding their ravenous brains with huge amounts of primitive grains and veggies – they were using those metabolically expensive brains to hunt and kill animals to eat the high value meat and organs. Poor nutrition was not an option for our ancestors – we can only get away with it now, but the results are obvious even so – obesity and premature aging, decline and the diseases of civilization.

    Very good post – E.O. Wilson should stick to insects.

  8. In general, do croplands yielding foods directly for human consumption require more or less energy to cultivate than croplands for animal consumption? Considering grain fields for humans vs. rangeland for cattle, it would seem that it would take more energy and thus more natural resources and humans would have to be devoted to provide that energy.

  9. Ruminant animals are superbly equipped to convert cellulose to protein. This also in poorly arable dry land capable of supporting only grasses which ruminants thrive on. In developing countries, cattle sheep and goat raising is compromised by parasites—if these are controlled, the sky is the limit to what the grasslands can provide for the human population (especially if we could somehow get the CO2 level up to 1000). As has been stated before, less than 0.1% of the earth’s land masses are occupied by humans. I would not quibble with earlier authors that the earth could support greater than 100 billion humans. In the sea, fish convert algae to protein. It would be better if we began to limit and control the top predators, like sharks, whales, and seals so that the herring to tuna and salmon species columns could expand. If not for the fact that dolphins seem to have a perpetual smile on their faces, we wouldn’t have anthropomorphosed them into the inedible food category.

    Save a cute little baby Nemo today! Eat a shark steak!

    Eat more beefsteak and less soy—reduce the toxic phytoestrogen intake that is wimpifying the human race!

    Balance is everything.

  10. Nice logical, step by step rebuttal. I particularly agree with the point that there is a perception that “poor farmers” are uneducated. This could not be furthest from the truth.

  11. Oh, and these are some of the same vegan eco-clowns who have maneuvered the addle-pated politicians into converting corn to ethanol, starving millions.

  12. Thank you for a very clearly written post, Willis.

    After suffering through his 1998 book Consilience; and reading his views on the hypothesized anthropogenic species extinction ongoing now- “As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year.”; and now this Malthusian garbage disguised as vegetarian carrying capacity of the planet, I have concluded that E. O. Wilson is either incompetent or a self-loathing human-hater. Or both.

  13. If there are no farm animals to feed, there are also no farm animals, such as oxen or water buffalo, to use as farm implements to raise grain. Would he have all the South Asian rice farmers use tractors instead.

    Where do the wild animals fit into the equation? How much of the land would be given to them instead of being used to grow the vegan diet?

    Like any equation, it’s usually not just a simple substitution of one variable for another.

  14. Even in the harsh conditions of the Viking’s more northern settlement in Greenland up to 100,000 sheep and goats required roughly 400,000,000 kg of hay a year. Gathering that hay was a lot of hard work during a short summer, but in return the sheep and goats provided milk, meat, leather, wool, tallow and lastly dung, which was good for both fertilizer and fuel.

    I doubt vegetarian Vikings could have survived the harsh winters.

    The people who want to return us to “the good old days” would do well to reserch what life was like back then. (Also they ought reserch problems inherant in cultures where human manure must be used.)

  15. Nice job of explaining things. Sure it is way more complex but what isn’t. The human animal has evolved as an omnivore. It is largely a result of our omnivores nature that humans have been able to adapt to almost every environment nature has provided. Some would say our species is probably the most successful to have ever existed. The appropriate adjective aside, the obvious success of humans can only be a result of being, if not the most, one of the most adaptive species. No pure herbivore or carnivore could possibly as adaptive as an omnivore.

  16. Thank you, Willis, I enjoyed reading this account, and I agree with your general tenets.

    However, there are a couple of points I think you could expand upon.

    First, where I live (New Zealand), the land used to grow grasses for animals is definitely not the poorest and steepest. And I suspect this will be the case in a lot of other places as well.

    Second, there is no taking account of the arable land that is used to grow food for animals, where those animals are not themselves for providing food. Racehorses, pets, beasts of burden, and animals kept for other purposes.

  17. “— farmers are not dumb, and they haven’t had the benefit of a college education,”

    I’m unable to recall a measure of farmer-dumbness but think it might exhibit a somewhat normal distribution if one exists or is developed. Many of the folks farming with degrees from the “land grant” colleges in the USA and similar institutions world-wide might want to argue the second part of the above premise.

    Moral: Colorful writing is not necessarily good writing.

  18. By the way, Willis, I also enjoyed your characteristic fiddle with the words carnetarians and vegivores. Cute.

  19. Wonderful funny story at saturday night. Nicely writen,beside the facts. I’ve had something to laugh.
    I mean, eating just grass and nuts, I may have similar stupid ideas as Prof. Wilson has.
    The annoying part is, these people are convinced they have to make anybody else as “happy” (=crazy) as they are. No, thanks.

  20. Great article.
    Oil is bad, CO2 is bad, meat is bad…. humans are bad.
    In the mean time india is wasting millions of tons of grain.
    Instead of distributing this grain among the poorest of the poor they rather let them starve.

    An incredible country where the holy cow has more value than a human being and coal is king.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LI11Df02.html

  21. A lot of cattle, sheep and goats are grown on land that is too arid for agriculture. A lot of tilapia are grown in rice paddies. Ducks provide eggs, down, and meat and help control mosquito larva and snails. Chickens provide eggs and help control insects. My chickens eat grain out of horse crap that would otherwise feed rats. Pigs can be used for landclearing, pasture renovation, compost turning, and eating farm and kitchen scraps that would otherwise go to waste.

    A lot of folks think that cattle, sheep and goats eat the same things. They don’t, unless they’re starving. Cattle prefer grass, sheep prefer forbs, and goats prefer browse. Pastures shouldn’t be monograzed for optimum production. Grazing different species breaks parasite life cycles as well as making better use of the forage.

    I grow sheep, chickens and ducks on swampy clay soil absolutely unsuited for veggie and/or grain production.

  22. The biggest bottleneck in a pure vegan diet is Vitamin B-12, rather than protein. If we American omnivores didn’t take supplements of any kind, we’d get essentially all of our B-12 from meat and dairy products. Unlike most other water-soluble vitamins, B-12 can be stored in the human body to some extent. If you go 100% vegan–and 100% natural–it’ll take several years for the pernicious anemia to kill you. Not a fun way to go.

    That’s why many vegans, who aren’t eager to collect their Darwin Awards prematurely, take B-12 supplements. Or they eat commercial breakfast cereals that have been fortified with B-12.

    What about seaweed and fermented soy? My understanding is that these items sometimes test positive for B-12. So what? Sometimes people test positive for illegal drugs that they’ve never taken. The point is that many tests commonly used in analytical chemistry have limitations: interferences, false positives, and false negatives. I’d be more confident in a B-12 positive claim on a plant-source food if it stemmed from two or more independent tests. Until that day, I’d advise caveat emptor on any vegan B-12 claims.

    That said, our evolutionary cousins, gorillas–who unlike chimps, are strictly vegetarian in their native habitat–have gotten around the B-12 conundrum in an interesting way: coprophagia. Why? Some bacteria in the large intestine manufacture B-12 from plant-based food. Unfortunately, by then, it’s too late for mammals to absorb this vitamin from the GI tract. Thus for gorillas, some creative recycling is in order.

    I’d advise naturalistically-oriented vegetarians, who believe that eating meat and dairy products is equivalent to murder, to give serious consideration to coprophagia. If this posting saves even one innocent human life, it will have been worth the effort.

  23. Kevin says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Yes, but Vegan Soylent Green has little flavor and is full of estrogens and mercury from the curly light bulbs.

  24. Willis – Great food for thought! For mine its o.k. whichever way you feel comfortable in feeding. As long as its your free choice, or you adapt your lifestyle to suit your choice of the available food supply. However, I reserve the right to refuse compulsory conversion on the whim of either side!!

  25. John F. Hultquist says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    “— farmers are not dumb, and they haven’t had the benefit of a college education,”

    I’m unable to recall a measure of farmer-dumbness but think it might exhibit a somewhat normal distribution if one exists or is developed. Many of the folks farming with degrees from the “land grant” colleges in the USA and similar institutions world-wide might want to argue the second part of the above premise.

    Moral: Colorful writing is not necessarily good writing.

    John, I am writing in response to people around the world who want to claim that if we became vegetarians we could feed more people. In other words, vegetactivists who want to tell farmers that what they are doing is wrong, and how they could feed more people if they just wised up and got rid of the animals …

    This, of course, assumes that farmers are too stupid to figure it out for themselves. That’s the idea that I’m objecting to, that a third world farmer who is squeezing every last calorie out of her meagre fields, including meat and milk and eggs and anything else, is somehow too stupid or blind to make the choice that will yield the most food for her kids.

  26. One of those agricultural wastes that animals eat is distiller’s dried grains, the stuff that’s left after fermenting alcohol. I for one am willing to make the sacrifice of eating a steak so that the beer and distilled spirits can keep flowing.

  27. Steve Schapel says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    By the way, Willis, I also enjoyed your characteristic fiddle with the words carnetarians and vegivores. Cute.

    Thanks, Steve. It is sometimes a valuable tactic because, as in this case, it dodges the emotional baggage that the original words contain.

  28. In the USA Midwest, the best bottom ground is reserved for crops destined for human consumption as they draw the best prices, the more marginal land grows the livestock feed stuffs, and what cannot be cultivated is left in pasture / hay crops to get some income out of it.

    One of the local questions that the farmers all ask is how to get the most income out of things people cannot eat, which has resulted in the pasture / hay answer with multiple animal types, sheep, goats, and cattle and rental for horse grazing areas has dropped off due to the lack of lawful slaughter houses to dispose of the excess stock.

    Thank PETA for that, now the residual price for horses is dropping, as the base price of their meat value, has been dropped out of the calculation. Lots of the time you can see ads for free horses, “come pick them up, free to a good home”. As the cost to dry lot feed one, in an urban environment, with out access to open pasture is more than the horse is worth, young and untrained to be ridden.

  29. At least vegans follow their own advice, which is more than you can say for the majority of CAGW hysterics.

  30. John Campbell says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Google paleolithic diet if you are interested, but veganism is not what our bodies are designed for in my opinion. I believe that the evidence for the health and utility of veganism is less strong that that in support of AGW. Hey, whatever floats your boat – pass the bacon.
    Very true; and in some modern countries as well. My grandfather was raised with a diet of olives, grapes, goat, chicken, beef, game bird, squid, fish and shell fish. I’m sure that Vegans would tell you that’s a very unhealthy diet, but how many of them will die at 110?

  31. And, may I point out, that these species would likely be pushed to the verge of extinction if they we ate their food or started using the land they live on to grow food.

    Food for thought…

  32. Surely with crop rotation you have to leave a section of land allow to let it recover and that, in England, is what grows the grass for the animals to eat, humans are not herbavores (allthough the small brain function assosiated with hebavores is there in vegiterians) so there is a loss for a start, I thought the grain bit is factory farming and not essential.
    So far every vegiterian I have met has been a control freak who wants to controll the rest of us, says it all.

  33. I grow beef, even though most of the property is flat enough for arable farming.
    I grow beef because I get paid far more for a kg of beef than I would for a kg of grain.
    If the property was converted to arable, I’ve no doubt it could feed more people.
    I grow about 1000kg/ha (hook wt) of beef a year (grass fed) I understand crops typically grow 4000+kg/ha/of grain a year, but grain is 90% dry matter, beef I think about 15% dry matter, so in terms of feed value, growing grain instead of grass could feed about 20 times as many people per hectare, and that’s being conservative because only about half the carcass weight (hook weight) actually gets to the supermarket shelves.

    But I’d still prefer meat in my diet.

  34. Another important point that vegetarians frequently miss is that cattle grazing to take one major example is primarily on range land that is nearly useless for any other purpose. In Central California the piedmont and foothill region along the eastern side of the Great Valley frequently has less than 2 inches of soil over country rock. It can’t be farmed. It is however very good grazing land for cattle and sheep, which is what it supported historically. The bottom lands along the major streams were farmed and some still are, but not far off the stream valleys the hills are dry and waterless all summer.

  35. A diet of high calorie meat consumption was necessary for Homo sapiens sapiens to evolve and sustain the present brain mass and corresponding human intelligence and speech. Arbitrarily returning to low calorie non-meat diet comparable to the other primates past and present is a step backwards towards de-evolution and the loss of human intelligence. But you already knew that instinctively…right?

  36. John Campbell says: “…I am convinced that the evolutionary past for humans leads to us being omnivores with a strong bias to meat.”

    You cheated, John. You looked at E. O. Wilson’s teeth and found nippers, tearers, and grinders–the hallmarks of an omnivore.

  37. Animals also provide a buffer against crop failure – full or partial. In the case of partial failure, the withered plants can be stored to feed livestock. For instance, corn stalks are baled in drought years.

    Livestock are also portable and can be moved to areas with more forage or sold to get food or other things people need.

    Both of these create more options for farmers.

    One thing that I’ve thought about a lot is that many ecologists do not study humans and their decisions from an ecological perspective. On the one hand, foraging patterns of birds have been reduced to mathematics that predict carrying capacity quite well, and detailed painstaking studies back this up, but on the other hand, the same detailed study of people is not done.

    Many claim that civilization is not sustainable when we now know that agriculture has been around for 10,000 years and human society has survived quite a bit. Seems to me that history shows that it is quite sustainable.

  38. Oh, yeah, and BTW, the line at the bottom of the “Vegan Food Pyramid” that says “Water 8 to 10 glasses a day…” is more Vegan/New Age/Urban Lore misinformation. Dr. Heinz Valtin, a nephrologist, conducted an exhaustive literature search aimed at finding the original research paper(s) that established this 8 to 10 glass minimum. Result? No such research was found. See the article at:

    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2002/aug/080802.html

  39. I am not getting the purpose of this post. You almost acknowledged the existence of such thing as carrying capacity (or at least you mentioned it twice without rejecting the notion) which is a big step forward from the previous post. Yet you proceeded to write a lot of words that really have very little to do with the question of what the long-term carrying capacity of the planet is and whether we’re way past it or not, you were simpply talking about the relative contribution towards increasing carrying capacity that a strictly vegetarian diet vs eating meat could make.

    By doing so you entirely missed a very important point that was discussed at length in the previous thread – it doesn’t matter at all how many people we can support now, if the means of supporting them now cannot be sustained in the long-term, which is exactly the case. There is absolutely no way we can produce the amount of grain we’re producing now without oil and fertilizers (what we’re really doing is using soil to convert oil, natural gas and phosphate rocks into food), and the soil will be destroyed in the medium to medium-long term anyway (it already is to a large extent in many of the main agricultural regions of the world). So the whole discussion is moot after you consider that simple fact.

    Even then, you simply throw away all of ecology out of the window by focusing on how domestic animals can convert biomass that’s otherwise not accessible to humans into human food. You forget that the goal isn’t to take out as much primary productivity as possible out of the ecosystem for human use in the short term, the goal is to take out only as much as possible without harming the ecosystem. Everything else is overshoot that will catch up with us in a very bad way later. The goats eating plant mass on mountain slopes you mentioned are a perfect example. The goat is probably the single most ecologically destructive domestic animal – the vegetation on those mountain slopes will not last very long if you let goats feed on it, then erosion comes in, whatever marginal soil was there is gone and you end up with no vegetation and no goats.

    Unless you do agriculture that uses no non-renewable resources, that closes the nutrient cycle and doesn’t destroy the surrounding ecosystem (it has to be integrated in it in fact), you are guaranteed to overshoot and collapse. Which is exactly what we’re doing. The problem is that such an ecosystem only allows for a much smaller fraction of the primary productivity to be diverted towards humans that currently is (by some estimates, nearly half of the total primary productivity of the planet is in some way diverted to human use, whether it is directly through crops, through domestic animals or through fishing), which is absolutely unsustainable.

    You have made a tiny progress since last time, but you still have a very long way to go.

  40. Sorry about the length of this link..

    But using “waste heat” from “winter climate” power plants is an old idea. If we were to come up with a “food crunch”, I’m rather certain we could utilize such artifices and generate a sizable amount of EXTRA food. Again, Malthus must yield to the Engineer. Only FOG HEADED ACADEMICS need “worry” about “shortages”. (But they can go back to their 19th century “perfection” and I’ll gladly let them perish in their own “utopian” limitations!)

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mQAAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=waste+heat+hothouse&source=bl&ots=jiuAPsyTzs&sig=Y8YSv9wWXql5o_ppSCuTde1W6bo&hl=en&ei=2WKMTOfkIMWBlAe-s5Vg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&sqi=2&ved=0CDsQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=waste%20heat%20hothouse&f=false

  41. In case you haven’t fully grasped the idiocy of vegan extremism:

    Vegan Couple Starved Toddler, Cops Say

    “The Swintons, who say they approach veganism as a religion, fed the child a diet of ‘ground nuts, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, herbal tea, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil…'”

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,51494,00.html

    Their daughter was 16 months old and weighed ten pounds. But that juice was “fresh squeezed!”

  42. Willis, really, really good and very needed post, on the spot. You do have a way with thoughts and words. In agreement everything you raised. If I say anymore on this topic I won’t be able to stop ☺.

  43. Great news. Since the philosophy to become unitarian vegetarian has been spoken, so let it be done.
    The animals will soon get in the way, and the society of the grainers will weaken. The resulting era will be known as the Return of the Barbarians, who will descend upon the Vegetarians, bringing thier sheep, goats, cows, chicken & pigs with them.
    Maybe that’s what happened to the Neanderthals: They got forcibly herded into extinction by the superior ominvore, Modern Man.

  44. Seems that George Monbiot may agree with you about this one:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation

    He writes in review of “Meat: A Benign Extravagance” by Simon Fairlie, “He demonstrates that we’ve been using the wrong comparison to judge the efficiency of meat production. Instead of citing a simple conversion rate of feed into meat, we should be comparing the amount of land required to grow meat with the land needed to grow plant products of the same nutritional value to humans. The results are radically different.”

  45. Willis scores again! My farmer friends will all thank you as soon as they get the latest bumper crop out of the fields. With local reports of 250bu an acre corn coming in already, (think GMO) and ongoing shortages of storage facilities we will soon be seeing those pictures of mountains of corn on the ground again.

    But then we get comments like this one!

    bubbagyro says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm
    Oh, and these are some of the same vegan eco-clowns who have maneuvered the addle-pated politicians into converting corn to ethanol, starving millions.

    Bubba! I challange you to show me exactly how converting corn to ethanol starves millions. While the economics of ethanol plants might be dependant on subsidies, the production of ethanol is a useful way to turn a relatively low value product (corn) into a variety of higher value products such as ethanol. Other coproducts produced with ethanol are a clean CO2, DDG’s for animal feed and corn oil for people food just to name a couple.

    Ethanol production facilities will continue to add new products made from corn and its byproducts as the industry matures. Fertilizers. Plastics. Who knows what these simple uneducated farmers might come up with.

    And yet you have pinned the starving of millions (did you even read the first post on this subject)? on one and only one thing, corn to fuel production! Wow, thats one heck of an assumption.

    I await your answer.

  46. I think of all the rich and well off people in the world,take away half of what they eat and drink,how many more billions could you feed?Of course I don’t want to do that because their consumption creates employment,but there is no doubt we actually over produce food.
    One day we may be eating a piece of bread manufactured without corn,but tastes like it and gives the same benefit.
    The world is our oyster,and I will not let you wowsers tell me otherwise.

  47. Willis: you note in your essay, “In a book excerpt in the February 2002 Scientific American entitled “The Bottleneck”, the noted ant entomologist Professor Edward O. Wilson put forward the familiar Malthusian argument that humans are about to run out of food.
        In the comments to your previous essay, “I Am So Tired of Mathus“, RW said: (September 9, 2010 at 1:33 am) Willis, I usually love your contributions but I take some issue with this one in that I am extraordinarily tired of people who have missed the bulk of what Malthus said.
        Have you had time to read and consider this comment in its entirety? I believe it may modify your thoughts, and thence comments, on Malthus, to the value of us all.
        It seems to me we have another King Canute (no… he did not set out to stop the tide) furphy (Australian slang for a rumour, or an erroneous or improbable story) here which it would serve us all well to kill.
        (And don’t forget to keep on with the eight glasses of water a day…)

  48. thanks for explaining why goats went extinct, GM, and why the mountains crumble to the sea.
    I guess if you expect a shortage in the future, you recommend creating an artificial one in anticipation? Others have a different strategy. You buy your groceries from them…lol

  49. Very true; and in some modern countries as well. My grandfather was raised with a diet of olives, grapes, goat, chicken, beef, game bird, squid, fish and shell fish. I’m sure that Vegans would tell you that’s a very unhealthy diet, but how many of them will die at 110?

    Well, my grandmother lived to 104, her mother to 101. Her daughter, 52. My mother didn’t stick to the plan.

  50. Tom Grey above says we should eat Marmite but hey, one question: Aren’t yeasts aimals too? After yeasts have done their duty in the brewing industry they should be released back into the wild. Eating them would be morally bankrupt.

  51. So we are supposed to ship veggies from Chile to feed vegans in Bemidji in January using ships running on what?

    Eating cattle IS vegetarian in my opinion. We are taking grass we can not digest, feeding it to an animal that CAN digest it and eating the product. Same with sheep and goats. The animal is just a protein processor, consider it part of the process of the digestion of grass.

  52. Rattus Norvegicus says:
    September 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Tropic [sic] levels? This is the point which you are missing…

    How am I missing trophic levels (which I think is what you mean)?

  53. Great post Professor E! You are my favorite teacher.

    Larry Fields says:
    September 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    “I’d advise naturalistically-oriented vegetarians, who believe that eating meat and dairy products is equivalent to murder, to give serious consideration to coprophagia.”

    Brilliant! I once explained to a vegan that the reason many colobus monkeys are coprophagous was due to their poor, vegetarian diets. I never thought to use the B-12 angle and stopped short of suggesting that they become one (although I have told a few people to eat $#!+ and die). You have emboldened me.

  54. Dear Willis!
    You said “The land used for animals is about a third of the land used for humans”.
    Isn’t it about a fourth (23% / 77%)?

    Thanks for an interesting post,

  55. Very entertaining thread, thanks Willis!

    Swampie: Informative
    Larry: Funny

    GM: It’s condescending people like yourself who will ensure the disappearance of the warped world view you represent, well done.

  56. I don’t get your “farmers aren’t dumb” argument. Of course they aren’t, but when they’re selling what they produce, they will of course maximize the money they earn rather than the amount of food. And if meat costs more than grain, it can pay off for them to produce “less food” (as measured in calories, or even protein).

    I’m sure you’re right that there is less to be gained from eating less meat than is often claimed, but I’m not convinced that it’s so little as you suggest. On the other hand, I wouldn’t suggest trying to change people’s diets to increase the food supply unless or until there is real, empirical evidence that the world is producing too little food for the total population. That may never happen.

  57. Sorry skip my comment, wrong reasoning, I thought of the land used for animals is about a fourth of the land used for both animals and humans.

  58. This is my take on the whole issue for what its worth.

    In the beginning man was just another animal in the ecosystem.
    The creation of an all-powerful God by man was a fundamental change which also allowed the belief that God created man. This simple act of creation elevates the status of man from lowly animal to the all important role of God’s agent on earth. In the process God becomes dependant on man almost as much as man is dependant on God. (“I created Man that he might worship Me.” The Koran)
    Then along comes Charles Darwin. “No”, he says “No God, No separate creation. You’re just animals”.
    Now that leaves man denied a premier position. Enter the Greens.
    They exploit a need for man to re-elevate himself to a pre-eminent position separated from the animal kingdom. Man again has higher moral duties. Killing animals for meat has now become morally wrong. Man has custodianship of the planet. He must preserve it exactly as it is. Or as it was, as if it has already attained some form of perfection. Man must save the whales, preserve the ecosystems, prevent species extinction, stop evolution, stop climate change, and stop continental drift.
    It’s a yearning to restore Eden, and reverse the disgrace of the expulsion. Its all about denying our genetic history, the burden carried in our genes.
    And joining the Gods.

  59. Gnomish says:
    September 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm
    thanks for explaining why goats went extinct, GM, and why the mountains crumble to the sea.
    I guess if you expect a shortage in the future, you recommend creating an artificial one in anticipation? Others have a different strategy. You buy your groceries from them…lol

    The word “ecosystem” was heavily present in my post. For those who can read, of course. In a functioning ecosystem, goats never reach the kind of numbers that threaten the existence of the ecosystem because there are plenty of predators that keep their population in check. In a world where everything is seen as existing for humans to devour, those predators are eliminated (Why? Because they eat goats) and the number of goats is maximized (which usually ends up in the overshoot scenario I described). Again, sustainability is all about having functioning ecosystems, overshoot is about maximizing the short term at the expense of ecological capital and not taking the long term carrying capacity into account.

  60. Tom says:
    September 11, 2010 at 8:36 pm (Edit)

    One of those agricultural wastes that animals eat is distiller’s dried grains, the stuff that’s left after fermenting alcohol. I for one am willing to make the sacrifice of eating a steak so that the beer and distilled spirits can keep flowing.

    Tom, animals aren’t stupid enough to want to eat grains which have had all the goodness taken out of them. A lot of it gets converted into ‘low calorie’ breakfast cereals and sold to dumb humans at a premium price.

  61. A Crooks of Adelaide said on Animal, Vegetable, or E. O. Wilson
    September 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    In response to Willis Eschenbach on September 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm:

    Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach Buoyed by the equal parts of derision and support I received for writing in “I am So Tired Of Malthus” about how humans are better fed than at any time in history, I am foolishly but bravely venturing once again into the question of how we feed ourselves. In a […]

    This is my take on the whole issue for what its worth.

    In the beginning man was just another animal in the ecosystem.
    The creation of an all-powerful God by man was a fundamental change which also allowed the belief that God created man. This simple act of creation elevates the status of man from lowly animal to the all important role of God’s agent on earth. In the process God becomes dependant on man almost as much as man is dependant on God. (“I created Man that he might worship Me.” The Koran)
    Then along comes Charles Darwin. “No”, he says “No God, No separate creation. You’re just animals”.
    Now that leaves man denied a premier position. Enter the Greens.
    They exploit a need for man to re-elevate himself to a pre-eminent position separated from the animal kingdom. Man again has higher moral duties. Killing animals for meat has now become morally wrong. Man has custodianship of the planet. He must preserve it exactly as it is. Or as it was, as if it has already attained some form of perfection. Man must save the whales, preserve the ecosystems, prevent species extinction, stop evolution, stop climate change, and stop continental drift.
    It’s a yearning to restore Eden, and reverse the disgrace of the expulsion. Its all about denying our genetic history, the burden carried in our genes.
    And joining the Gods.

    While you make a good point that we made up God in our image which enabled us to see ourselves as the masters of the universe with everything in it existing for us to feast on it, the rest of your post is absolute nonsense.

    Has it ever occurred to you that the primary reason for why we need to preserve the ecosystems is that without them, we’re dead? Yes, our genes urge us very strongly to be fruitful and multiply, which is what all other animals do too, but all other animals eventually come against the limits of their environment, and we are no different. Fortunately for us (one would naively think), we have brains that allow us to see a little bit further in the future and realize that maximizing our numbers in the present is a very poor evolutionary strategy in the long term because it may lead ot our extinction if the whole overshoot and collapse thing unfold really badly, as there is a good chance it will. A realization, which would only occur if the majority of us had basic reading comprehension skills and used them to read the relevant scientific literature and invest some time into understanding its implications. Which is not the case, unfortunately…

  62. “Tom, animals aren’t stupid enough to want to eat grains which have had all the goodness taken out of them.”

    Wrong, brewers grain is commonly used as an animal feed.

  63. BernardP says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    “Eating lots of bread, rice and pasta (carbohydrates) makes people fat and is the source of numerous health problems. A lot of the nutrition “truths” (cholesterol, fat, calories, salt…) with which we are bombarded daily by the media rest on nothing or are false.”

    Absolutely correct. Civilised humans are the only the only chronically sick animal on the planet. Diseases such as obesity and diabetes have really ‘taken off’ since ‘healthy eating’ was introduced in the 1980s. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE; these are classic cases of cause and effect.

    http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/

  64. GM says:
    September 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm
    In a functioning ecosystem, goats never reach the kind of numbers that threaten the existence of the ecosystem

    It just needs a few goatherds and fences to keep them off the stuff you don’t want them to eat. Voila, functioning ecosystem.

  65. Has it ever occurred to you, GM, that when the Mayan calendar runs out we will suffer a shortage of Mayan days until somebody produces a new one?
    Perhaps your talents would be best put to use on that- you could have an age of global destruction from Getting Eaten By Goats, and age of global destruction from Lack of Goats and 11 other disasters (or goats) of choice.
    Goats are cool because I have 17 years back issues of Mother Earth News and every one has an article on how to raise goats in my basement!
    What Gary Larson did for cows, you can do for goats!
    I’d love to see your Mayan Goat Calendar!

  66. As any mixed farmer (one who grows wheat and meat) knows, more animals have died in the course of growing the wheat for the bread in your beef sandwich than have died to make the meat. They’re not cuddly, that’s all.

  67. “Has it ever occurred to you that the primary reason for why we need to preserve the ecosystems is that without them, we’re dead?”

    Has it ever occurred to you that your condescending tone is an extreme turn-off and even if your ideas were presented in a scientific manner (rather than your vagaries about “ecology”) you’ve already alienated a large part of your target audience?

    “Fortunately for us (one would naively think), we have brains that allow us to see a little bit further in the future and realize that maximizing our numbers in the present is a very poor evolutionary strategy in the long term because it may lead ot our extinction if the whole overshoot and collapse thing unfold really badly, as there is a good chance it will.”

    Or, you know, we could use those brains to maximize quality of life and still choose the number of children we want to have.
    Why do you assume we’re rapidly approaching the theoretical bounds set-forth by people like Malthus? Why do you assume we can’t use our brains to deal with ecological challenges as they arise (rather than manufacturing doomsday scenarios and non-crises as a means to proselytize)?
    Where is your evidence?

  68. “In 1999, about 655 billion tons of grain were fed to animals”
    ————-
    I should be million there not, billion.
    The math is simple; 0.15 ton per year for each human gives 0.15 billion tons per billion humans and 0.6 billion tons for four billion humans.
    0.6 billion Equal 600 million

    It’s still a lot of grain though

  69. Has it ever occurred to you that your condescending tone is an extreme turn-off and even if your ideas were presented in a scientific manner you’ve already alienated a large part of your target audience?

    If the reality is unpleasant to some people it is those people where the solution to this problem should be looked for, not reality, because reality isn’t going to change

    (rather than your vagaries about “ecology”)

    Ecology is well-respected branch of the natural sciences, one that has revealed more about the human condition than any other human intellectual or pseudointellectual activity ever will. Knee-jerk rejecting its results is nothing more but simple-minded and very misguided anti-intellectualism

    Why do you assume we’re rapidly approaching the theoretical bounds set-forth by people like Malthus?

    Because that’s what the data shows. And we aren’t approaching them, we’ve passed them at this point.

    Why do you assume we can’t use our brains to deal with ecological challenges as they arise (rather than manufacturing doomsday scenarios and non-crises as a means to proselytize)?

    Because, as has been explained at great length, the nature of the problem is very similar to Wile E. Coyote running of the cliff, remaining suspended in mid-air then realizing he’s past the edge and falling down. I.e. once the problems become sufficiently visible for us to pay attention it is way too late to do anything about them. Our brains are uniquely unprepared to deal with long-term crises – when our ancestors were faced with the choice “Do I eat this antilope now even though I am full”, those who said “I eat it now, I don’t know when I’ll find another one” generally did better than those who said “I am full, I will leave it for later” because the latter typically found it already eaten by someone else when that later moment when they became hungry again arrived. It’s a strategy that works well in the wild, it doesn’t work well at all when the species has acquired the capability to destroy the whole planet

    Where is your evidence?

    In thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles, hundreds of books and the consensus of the whole scientific community across many disciplines. Where is your evidence to back up your faith that “everything will be fine, no need to worry”?

  70. Austin says:
    September 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Animals also provide a buffer against crop failure – full or partial. In the case of partial failure, the withered plants can be stored to feed livestock. For instance, corn stalks are baled in drought years.

    Excellent point. One of the beautiful parts of of the human – animal – grain interaction is that it helps protect us from famine. Grain harvests are notoriously fickle, often good one year and bad the next. In the good years, we eat the highest quality grain and feed the medium and low-quality grain to animals. In bad years, there is enough slack in the system to allow us to feed less to the animals and more to the people. This insulates us from some of the vagaries of varying harvests by allowing us to over-plant without fear of wastage.

    Livestock are also portable and can be moved to areas with more forage or sold to get food or other things people need.

    Both of these create more options for farmers.

    True all. Besides being portable, livestock are also relatively rain-, mildew-, and rodent-proof. Grain is subject to all of those ills. Leave a cow and a basket of wheat out in a field and see which lasts longer …

    In many cases livestock can be seen as a place to safely store the food value of the grain against future need. This can be of immense value to a farmer, particularly where storage facilities for food are sketchy. Which is most of the world.

  71. Larry Hulden says:
    September 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Dear Willis!
    You said “The land used for animals is about a third of the land used for humans”.
    Isn’t it about a fourth (23% / 77%)?

    Thanks for an interesting post,

    The land used for animals is a fourth of the total land. But it is a third of the land used for humans. So if it were used for humans, the human share would go up by 1/3, not 1/4.

  72. Laplanders ate a diet of almost 100% meat and animal fat as did Eskimos. Neanderthals also ate mostly meat as far as I can tell. Laplanders would trade for the occasional onion or carrot but what they really loved were tallow candles … which they ate.

    One can get by on a diet of meat and onions and maybe a little pine needle tea from time to time. Maybe some fish, too. Humans evolved eating very few vegetables because their availability was fleeting. We ate what we could find when we could find it. Most vegetables have seasons and are “in season” for only short periods. Berries might last a few weeks, other herbs now and then for a week or two, etc. As far as I know all vegetarian cultures have appeared only in the late Holocene after agriculture was developed. The human body evolved eating meat. Veggies are good for you, sure, but you shouldn’t make them your only source of nutrition. We aren’t built for that diet no matter what you might feel about it.

  73. Andrew W says:
    September 12, 2010 at 12:17 am
    Wrong, brewers grain is commonly used as an animal feed.

    Andrew, sorry, I didn’t realise anyone would take my joke seriously.

    “Brewer’s spent grain (also called Spent grain, Brewer’s grain or Draff) is a byproduct of beer brewing consisting of the residue of malt and grain which remains in the mash-kettle after the mashing and lautering process.[1] It consists primarily of grain husks, pericarp, and fragments of endosperm.[2] By mass, spent grains consist of about half carbohydrates, and the rest being mostly proteins and lignin. Carbohydrates include traces of starch, cellulose, β-Glucans, and arabinoxylans.[2] Spent grain is considered to be a good source of un-degradable protein and water-soluble vitamins in animal feed.[3] It is quite palatable and is readily consumed by animals.[3] Spent grains can also be used as fertilizer, whole grains in bread,[4] as well as in the production of biogas. Spent grain is also an ideal medium for growing mushrooms, such as shiitake, and already some breweries are either growing their own mushrooms or supplying spent grain to mushroom farms.[5]. This, in turn, makes the grain more digestible by livestock.[6]”

  74. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 12, 2010 at 1:07 am

    In many cases livestock can be seen as a place to safely store the food value of the grain against future need. This can be of immense value to a farmer, particularly where storage facilities for food are sketchy. Which is most of the world.

    We need to store more food. The ‘just in time’ agriculture favoured by stockbrokers is a very bad way to run a human ecology. Pharoah knew this, and had 7 year grain silos in 2000BC.

  75. Because, as has been explained at great length, the nature of the problem is very similar to Wile E. Coyote running of the cliff, remaining suspended in mid-air then realizing he’s past the edge and falling down. I.e. once the problems become sufficiently visible for us to pay attention it is way too late to do anything about them.

    The common refrain amongst evangelicals like yourself is that “we have to deal with these non-problems now, because by the time we see there’s a problem, it’s too late.”

    So…we don’t see the problem yet because it isn’t too late. But when we do see the problem it will be too late. So we better do what some you tell us, or else it could all come true!
    You honestly don’t understand how ridiculous that sounds?

    And predictably, you provided no evidence for your claims, preferring the good old appeal to authority. Which doesn’t happen to work on those who are scientifically literate and inquisitive.

  76. Chickens are generally fed a mixture of grain (usually corn) meal with ground up parts of chickens that are not edible by people. Yep, in the industrial agriculture system chickens are cannibals. This is in contrast with free range chickens, which are fed as Willis describes, but they are pretty expensive compared to your industrial Purdue-type chickens (this industrial process is also why the salmonella problems can get widespread rather easily, going from chicken to chicken and farm to farm following the chicken feed supply chain).
    Cows, at least dairy cows, are generally fed a mixture of grass from grazing, silage (ground up feed corn plants, ears, stalks and all, which tends to ferment in the silo which makes the cows nice and drunk for easy handling during milking) and commercial feeds which generally includes a LOT of waste cereal from human breakfast cereal factories (protip: don’t let the feed sales guy sell you any cinnamon flavored cereals to feed your cows, or the flavor winds up in the milk). As Willis says, these are all types of feed that no human is going to munch on any time soon, however, EO Wilson is slightly correct in that the feed corn crop can be switched for breeds of corn that humans consume, or other crops, and grazing fields can be planted with alfalfa or legumes to do the nitrogen fixing that the grass and manure normally provides the soil, and those crops are edible by people.
    However, most land that is grazed by cattle, at least in the US, is totally unsuitable for planting crops. It is primarily western arid land that would not hold soil if it is plowed annually, and would not support much of anything if it were not being fertilized by the cattle grazing upon it. So most of that grazing land would go to wilderness that would support deer, elk, moose, and wild fowl that could be hunted (if the tree huggers allowed it). So EO Wilsons suppositions are much more off base than Willis’ are.

  77. “The ‘just in time’ agriculture favoured by stockbrokers is a very bad way to run a human ecology.”

    Absolutely agree! The US currently has no grain surplus anymore. One killing frost at the wrong time is going to put a LOT of people in a world of hurt.

  78. Willis Eschenbach (September 12, 2010 at 1:07 am ) & Austin

    “livestock can be seen as a place to safely store the food value of the grain against future need.”

    Animals: nature’s batteries. Well, single use.

    Somehow it is horrible to say it like that, but Willis and Austin make good points.

  79. “Our brains are uniquely unprepared to deal with long-term crises – when our ancestors were faced with the choice “Do I eat this antilope now even though I am full”, those who said “I eat it now, I don’t know when I’ll find another one” generally did better than those who said “I am full, I will leave it for later” because the latter typically found it already eaten by someone else when that later moment when they became hungry again arrived. It’s a strategy that works well in the wild, it doesn’t work well at all when the species has acquired the capability to destroy the whole planet”

    bal-der-dash

    why you want to scare the kids with bedtime stories like that?
    anyhow, there are 11 million square kilometers of savannah available for domestic grazing whenever there’s a population ready to want it.
    come to think about it, there are a couple of continents that are practically fallow.
    if it should actually get warm, there are a couple more unused continents.
    did you see how lettuce is grown these days?

  80. “Vegetarians say, “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.”

    Only if don’t mind eating many times more carbs than you need whilst you’re getting the proteins you need. (this is what often causes diabetes in later lafe)

    And yes, you can certainly survive unhealthy food for many years, just not as long and well as you’d thrive on proper nourishment. Then again cynical people would point out there that the younger people die after reproducing the more young can live.

    Still, I don’t think that Vegetarian Soylent Green is the answer… ;-P

    REPLY: Vegetarian diets also cause a high incidence of anemia in people with certain blood types, regardless of their discipline in trying to obtain plant based proteins, these protiens are less digestible by these people with certain blood types (my cousin is a recovering vegan tree hugger). – Mike

  81. It’s a little confusing as to what Wilson is actually saying, there’s “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land would support about 10 billion people.” but there’s also “In 1999, about 655 billion tons of grain were fed to animals. That’s a lot of grain. At the world average of about 150 kg of grain per person per year, he’s right, that’s an increase of 4 billion more people who would have enough grain. There were 6 billion on the planet in the year 2000, si that makes a total of about 10 billion people.”

    Feeding the 655 million tons of grain that’s fed to animals each year to people would still leave most of the worlds farmed for meat livestock with an adequate diet and available for human consumption, so most of the meat supply would remain, hardly requiring that we all become vegetarians.

  82. Verity Jones says:
    September 12, 2010 at 1:55 am

    “Willis Eschenbach (September 12, 2010 at 1:07 am ) & Austin

    “livestock can be seen as a place to safely store the food value of the grain against future need.”

    Animals: nature’s batteries. Well, single use. ”

    Did nobody ever tell you about the birds and the bees? Animals reproduce… and just keep on going.

  83. There is another element that is greatly misunderstood when it comes to raising meat vs. grains; water.

    I often hear people saying that raising animals uses soooo much more water than growing crops. The only way I can see that to be true is if the water needed to grow feed crops is included in the total needed for animals.

    I grew up on a largely self-sufficient mixed farm. We had a small herd of cattle and were usually able to grow enough feed/maintain enough pasture to not have to buy supplemental feed.

    Cattle, of course, need water. The only place we could keep fountains and pumps for water was near the house and barn, where we had a well and electricity to pump the water and operate the fountains. Everywhere else, we had to either use existing ponds or create dugouts. Thanks to the geology of our area, they held water year round, even during the driest of years. This meant water not only for our cattle, but for wild animals and birds. They also supported plants, insects, amphibians, snails and tiny fish. I spent many happy childhood hours slogging through the ponds, watching all sorts of interesting creatures living in them (then pulling the leeches off my legs later on. *L*). Providing water for our cattle also supported entire ecosystems that wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t have cattle.

    Since we only grew crops for our own use, we didn’t plow under a whole lot of land. Most of our property was pasture and bush. Some of our neighbours, however, were grain producers. They plowed every inch of soil they could. In a dry year, they’d easily loose an inch or two of topsoil to the winds. Those who irrigated lost a lot of moisture to evaporation. With the land needed for crops, ponds and marshes would be filled in. Being on a migratory route, that left a whole lot of waterfowl with fewer places they could stop to rest on their journeys.

    The partnership between humans and the animals we eat benefits the local ecology in ways many don’t seem to realize.

  84. GM still out there?
    Preserving ecosystems is a middleclass aspiration of those on welfare, retirement benefits or the public teat. Fine and noble, but the rest of the world is just too busy getting on with it to have those fantasies. As the truely rational said to Canute “Good luck, mate!, We’ll see you in the morning”

  85. You know why a vegetarian will allways have a much lower IQ than a carnivore?

    It doesn’t take much IQ to sneak up behind a straw.

  86. Tom says September 11, 2010 at 8:36 pm;

    Yeah better that you feed the leftovers to livestock… in Oz they turn the sediment into vegemite. Between you and me and the lamp post I prefer a steak to vegemite any day (I may get deported somewhere for saying that).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegemite

  87. A Crooks of Adelaide said on Animal, Vegetable, or E. O. Wilson
    September 12, 2010 at 2:35 am

    GM still out there?
    Preserving ecosystems is a middleclass aspiration of those on welfare, retirement benefits or the public teat. Fine and noble, but the rest of the world is just too busy getting on with it to have those fantasies. As the truely rational said to Canute “Good luck, mate!, We’ll see you in the morning”

    [Snip. Nothing but name-calling. ~dbs, mod.]

  88. Bigotry arrives cloaked in hyperbole and fallacy to claim the moral high ground. You can accept it or question it as has been done here. But what is causing more of it to arrive every day? The resources needed to counteract this disinformation are, I am sure, far in excess of its production and therefore a burden on the simple pursuit of happiness for the open-minded recipient. Thankyou Mr. Eschenbach for taking the time to apply reason to this piece of nonsense. I hope I may be able to return the favour one day.

  89. See also of interest:

    The Vegetarian Myth [Amazon]
    by Lierre Keith.

    Keith was a long time vegan who eventually began to think hard about what veganism was doing to her health and the environment. She began to research and discovered many of the beliefs about vegetarianism (good health, good to the environment, reduces killing) were all myths.

    Perhaps because she’d been a long time vegan and feminist, but had changed her mind after doing her research, at a book signing some idiots (three men) threw cayenne laced pies in her face.

    I’m off to buy a second copy.

  90. Dagfinn says:
    September 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I don’t get your “farmers aren’t dumb” argument. Of course they aren’t, but when they’re selling what they produce, they will of course maximize the money they earn rather than the amount of food. And if meat costs more than grain, it can pay off for them to produce “less food” (as measured in calories, or even protein).

    Your comment makes me realize that I have not been clear. When I say farmers, I mean the world average farmer. However, there is a common misconception. The world average farmer is not a guy with a tractor and a truck, or a guy with a mule.

    It is a woman with a wooden digging hoe and a sack full of plants and too many kids. She has a few chickens, or maybe she has a pig. Why does she keep livestock? Because she has kids. She knows that her kids need the protein from the chickens and the pigs. She knows that the kids will never get that protein by eating what the chickens and the pigs eat. That’s what I mean by farmers are smart.

  91. What? Now there is a shortage of verbiage? Somebody has hit Peak Vapors. You’ll find a chamber pot of eloquence right next to the swooning couch.

  92. RE: GM says:
    September 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm
    “…The goat is probably the single most ecologically destructive domestic animal – the vegetation on those mountain slopes will not last very long if you let goats feed on it, then erosion comes in, whatever marginal soil was there is gone and you end up with no vegetation and no goats…”

    Not true for the stony hills of New Hampshire. Goats are great for removing the “puckerbrush,” and then this stuff called “turf” grows to replaces the brush and trees. Believe it or not, goats are “browsers” and not all that happy with a pasture that is pure turf. At that point sheep are happier, as sheep are “grazers,” so at some point you need to switch from raising mostly goats to raising sheep.

    Around 1900 New Hampshire was only 10% forest, and supplied wool for New England’s mills, and hay for the “horsepower” of vehicles in big cities. Now New Hampshire is 90% overgrown. The trees seemed to have no problem retaking the “eroded” hills.

    I visited the Western Ghats of India in 1974, and again in 2000, in the area around Ahemednagar, and it was amazing to me how the hills had been reforested. The landscape had been more or less treeless back to the time of the earliest photographs. In that case goats and overgrazing might get some of the blame, however the biggest change seemed to be the introduction of propane as a cooking fuel. In 1974 the fuel was largely wood and dung.

    Part of the reforestry effort involved educating the boys, who herd the goats, not to climb up in young trees and break off branches for their goats. Because the local population was enlisted, (rather than overruled,) the project was a success and the hills have greened to an extent where there is even a slight increase in rainfall, especially during the dry season. They still have their goats.

  93. Nature has remade herself in completely novel and unimagined ways time and again throughout all of the history of the planet.

    Humans might be wiped out, but novelty is unpredictable.

    Novelty is where we will find answers or defeat.

    “Conservation”, going back, reducing, is the opposite of novelty. It is hoarding what little we have and keeping future generations from having more. Think about where that leads.

    Why did nature create humans when “she” already had so much? Why is Nature so interested in novelty? Why is Nature so interested in things that break the paradigm? Why does Nature keep throwing out new changes to the established order? Why does nature have COMPETITION between species? Why do the species that innovate their way out of Nature’s limits thrive?

    What is Nature doing? We are so obsessed with humans, and yet the whole world around us is in constant change.

    Whatever challenge Nature throws at us, we will have to do something NEW to survive. Not something “old”. Not something we did before. But something new. Something none of us today can imagine.

    People talk about the “anti-intellectualism” or “anti-science” of skeptics. I say people forget the NOVEL creative leaps that are completely created by Nature and all her species, HUMANS included. We are Nature. It is in our nature to leap forward and innovate. Resources scarce? Innovate your way out of it with novel creative passions, dare to believe that we could house 50 billion people on this planet. Anything less is failure in Nature’s eyes. Our nature; we are nature; we are a creative force.

  94. Another Vegan load of rubbish! In the UK it has been estimated that if we remover animals from farms we would loose 60% of agricultural land. Why? Because most land used for pastoral farming is too steep, too rocky or otherwise unsuitable for growing crops. In Africa much of the protein eaten is from animals browsing in sub desert conditions. Crops will not grow in these areas unless irrigation is used and there is not enough water for this.

  95. The average city dweller just does not understand what ranch land is and does not appreciate that much of the world’s beef is produced with nary a grain of maize. A true rancher regards his counterpart who feeds cattle as a “feeder” or “feed lot manager” and not a true cattleman at all. The city dweller dropped by parachute on to ranch land would assume that he has been stranded in a desert, albeit one with extremely sparse annual grass cover. (Perennial grasses have insufficient mineralisation to do the job) Our marooned parachutist would have an immediate problem – water. There isn’t any, or none that he will easily locate. It is ranch land because although it will support some annual grasses, cattle and antelope, it will support little else of any interest to man. The rancher, who may need twenty acres or more to support just one animal has only two options as to how to make a living. He can ranch cattle, or (in Africa at least) he can “ranch” wild animals for wealthy Americans and Germans to come and shoot. He spends his days hoping for rain. There are countless millions of acres of such land in South America, Africa and the U.S., which will never produce any consequential vegetable crop – unless the local climate changes very drastically and for the long term.

  96. A study on the relative costs of grain and meat vs. vegetables would be interesting as well. Most comparisons of the energy and fertilizers used for grain (“they use lots omg we’re gonna all die!!!1”) typically misses (by accident…?) the fact that vegetables are mostly water weight and the parts that aren’t water are most fiber. Then add on the fact vegetables need to be harvested, handled, transported and stored with great care and costs. One needs to look at the input costs per unit of dry matter output which will give a better idea of the economic utility.

    Grain (Yay, maize!) oilseeds and meats are all durable goods that enable a division of labor trade economy of scale.

    And ethanol bashers: Grain ethanol enables an artificial protein balancer for livestock rations along with the fuel ethanol.

    Soybean crop: Protein, Fat + Fiber (in the USA approx. 45 corn equivalent bushels per acre. Displaced acreage being low-yields of 10-20 bushels per acre. No, they aren’t moved the the Amazon Basin.)

    Corn crop: Ethanol, Protein, Fat + Fiber (US average 160 bushels per acre, the extra weight being starch.)

  97. Kunoichi (September 12, 2010 at 2:14 am)
    Good points about the broader benefits of cattle raising. That was a point I was going to made also, but you have said it much better and with much more depth of explanation.

    I can only add that, apart from the most highly managed and fertilised seeded pastureland perhaps, gazing land has much greater benefit for biodiversity than arable cropping. Ploughing up grasslands wholesale would have environmentalists jumping up and down in protest.

    Willis Eschenbach says: (September 12, 2010 at 3:02 am)
    “The world average farmer is not a guy with a tractor and a truck, or a guy with a mule.
    It is a woman with a wooden digging hoe and a sack full of plants and too many kids.”

    Plenty in the “guy with mule” (or oxen) category too. Even for arable farming these have to be kept and fed and watered, so many farmers, even to produce vegetarian food could not dispense with animals.

  98. My wife went vegetarian before I met her 47 years ago. She was 11 years old, so it was not trendy. She studied the possible problems and decided to supplement with fish products, mainly for protein. Although the argument by Willis is largely about land, sea fish are part of the equatuin, which is complex enough already.

    Which leads me to a pet hate, namely, that all kinds of benefits can flow from incorporating seaweed in agriculture. Rubbish. If the world trends towards food shortages, don’t look to seaweed for help. Just kelp. See http://www.geoffstuff.com/Kelp.doc

  99. There is one great fact that all vegetarians ignore: it is not healthy. You can only get vitamin B12 from meat. Synthetic vitamins are hard for the body to process; most of those vitamins go out of your body when you go to the bathroom. That is why multivitamins are a waste of money. The best way to get the nutrients you need is by food and drink, and both have to be based on something that grew and not on something that was made in a factory. To be healthy, you must eat right and that requires eating meat. All of the other nutrients can be found in veggies, except vitamin B12.

    Professor (used loosely) Wilson should have a big hamburger and then ask why corn is being used for ethanol. Why isn’t other plant matter used for ethanol? Why is America investing in ethanol when there is no shortage of oil nearby? Especially since the energy in ethanol is less than than the energy in gasoline. All of that wasted land paid for by taxpayer subsidies which could be used to feed people but instead is being used to lower our fuel economy. Professor Wilson is asking all the wrong questions, on purpose.

  100. Hitler, who was a vegan, was known for his uncontrollable flatulence according to Janzen’s biography of him.

  101. Vegetarians, and anyone who puts irrational restrictions on their diet, are WRONG. They are making two, related, philosophical errors.

    1. They are in denial of their humanity. The canine tooth exists for a reason.

    2 The ability to eat a wide diet is a boon to evolution, assisting survival and development of the species. Any restriction in this ability is to reduce survival opportunities.

  102. Regarding ranch lands in the western US, I just read Sandra Day O’Connor’s memoir “Lazy B”, about growing up on a cattle ranch. It really gives you an idea of the day to day life, along with the strong suggestion that not much else could be done with that land. A good read for the curious.

  103. Geoff Sherrington says:
    September 12, 2010 at 4:18 am
    “My wife went vegetarian before I met her 47 years ago. She was 11 years old, so it was not trendy. She studied the possible problems and decided to supplement with fish products, mainly for protein. Although the argument by Willis is largely about land, sea fish are part of the equatuin, which is complex enough already.”

    Vegans avoid fish. Vegetarians who eat fish should have no problems at all. That’s what i do as well, most of the time, plus some eggs. Not out of principle but it’s just what i like best.

    Willis mentioned proteins. The problem about veganism and proteins is that no single plant food source contains all the amino acids you need. As an omnivore, do some eggs and you got it covered, but as a vegan, you really have to know your plants contents.

    Many vegan pages about this, like here,
    http://www.vegsoc.org/info/protein.html

    but as we know from the news especially child-rearing vegans… oh well, that’s a contradiction in terms. Being vegan is too risky. They all make mistakes with their nutrition and after a few years you have a serious malnutrition and didn’t see it coming when some eggs or fish could have saved you. Stupid.

  104. Thank you Mr Eschenbach, that was a great read, not least because I am a committed carnivore who is delighted to hear that steaks will still be on the menu in a generations time, but also because this kind of work does much to destroy the lunatic policies resulting from climate science, proposed as they are by people more interested in the utility of ideology than implementing science informed policy.

    http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/at-the-gates-of-climate-hell-%E2%80%93-the-fifth-ipcc-report-will-hold-the-answers/

  105. Willis Eschenbach says:

    The world average farmer is not a guy with a tractor and a truck, or a guy with a mule.

    It is a woman with a wooden digging hoe and a sack full of plants and too many kids. She has a few chickens, or maybe she has a pig. Why does she keep livestock? Because she has kids. She knows that her kids need the protein from the chickens and the pigs. She knows that the kids will never get that protein by eating what the chickens and the pigs eat. That’s what I mean by farmers are smart.

    That seems about right, although I think you exaggerate the protein issue. Her kids are probably getting a lot less protein than some of us affluent meat-eaters, but still enough to satisfy the minimum requirement.

    Although it’s an over-simplification, I have a sense that the issue divides almost cleanly into two. Animals that are eating stuff humans can’t eat are clearly a net positive contribution to total food supply. If we all became vegans and let all the herbivores in the world be eaten by predators instead, that contribution would be lost. In fact, my impression is that most environmentalists are aware of that. On the other hand, animals that are fed grain or other human-edible foods are likely a net negative for total food production. Although it may well be less than some think.

    I see this as an anti-malthusian argument. Even if the worst predictions of food supply per capita should come to pass, there is an emergency measure available which will help alleviate the problem.

  106. Someone else may have said this. I didn’t stop to look. Humans may be able to get all the protein they need from plants (though I would argue it’s not as good as protein from animals), but they can’t get all the *nutrients* they need. Essential case in point is vitamin B12 which is only available from animal sources. I suppose it is ‘synthsised’ for vegans. Never understood what drives veganism so the fallacious arguments destroyed in this article were interesting. I wonder if some of it is fear of recognising that humans are just one of innumerable animal-eating animals and if some of it is just politically ‘correct’ garbage.

  107. My human anatomy professor 35 years ago was named Bill Cotter. In the section on nutritional needs he gave us the pneumonic “Bill Cotter Eats” to stand for the essential vitamins that the body doesn’t synthesize – B, C, and E.

    That said, only bacteria actually synthesize B12. The rest of us living things that need it get it directly or indirectly from that source.

    This raises the question of how vegetarian animals meet their B12 needs.

    Generally speaking it comes from gut flora picked up from a diet of raw unwashed foods, not being afraid to get a little dirt in your mouth, and especially not taking antibiotics that wipe out good flora along with the bad. Only a few micrograms per day are needed. In the modern world many people don’t have habits that foster healthy natural gut flora.

  108. Willis,

    Very nice post. Clear and well written.

    But really, how dare you? Do you not understand that plants are morally good, as are wild animals, but domesticated animals are morally bad. And the most domesticated animal of all is simply morally repugnant, so most of this species should be ‘humanely’ destroyed…… for the good of Gaia. Gee, where does that word ‘humanely’ come from? Oh well, who cares?

    You need to work on your morals Willis.

  109. Wade says:

    Synthetic vitamins are hard for the body to process; most of those vitamins go out of your body when you go to the bathroom.

    This is mostly a myth that has been perpetuated by nutritionists. Synthetic vitamins typically have the same chemical structure as natural ones. The fact that some vitamins are excreted unchanged in urine does not mean that they do nothing useful while they are still in your body (this is true of water also, by the way). Vitamins typically catalyze important biochemical reactions and remain unchanged (as catalysts do), but need to be present in a certain concentration and to be replenished since they are excreted.

  110. I’m so embarrassed. I didn’t mean to say my human anatomy prof gave the class a disease (pneumonic). I meant to say he gave us a learning aid (mnemonic). On the other hand I can’t categorically say he didn’t give us any pneumonics, just none that I’m aware of… :-)

  111. Where do vegans get their B12 from? Found this on a German vegan site:
    “Cyanocobalamin wird normalerweise direkt aus Bakterienkulturen gewonnen, ist also normalerweise vegan; Hydroxocobalamin ist allerdings meist ein Leberextrakt und daher in der Regel nicht als vegan zu bezeichnen.”
    Engl.:
    “Cyanocobalamin is typically obtained directly from bacterial cultures, and is therefore usually vegan, however hydroxocobalamin is usually a liver extract, and therefore generally not be described as a vegan.”

    IOW, if you want to be a true vegan (and healthy), you have to add B12 gained from bacterial cultures to your diet.

    Source (German):
    http://www.vegan.at/warumvegan/gesundheit/vitamin_b12.html

  112. That E. O. Wilson sounds like he could be a Public Intellectual.

    Public Intellectuals write books about something bad that’s going to happen by a certain date if everyone keeps doing what they’re doing. The main problem they have is when the date comes round and there are still copies of the book lingering in remainder bins, in amongst the copies of The Road Ahead and Queensland Pineapple Recipes.

    Apart from that, there is very little risk or exertion involved in being a Public Intellectual.

  113. I’m not a vegetarian but soybeans are a regular part of my diet and they are a complete protein source. I prefer them still in the pod boiled in saltwater for about 8 minutes and served hot or cold in a bowl along with beer as you would a bowl of peanuts in the shell. Way better for you than the usual bowls of salty gubers served up with beer and quite tasty too.

  114. My wife and I have a lot of native American blood. We eat a largely low-carb, “Caveman”
    diet. She tried a Vegan diet years ago and it damn near killed her, The practitioner who prescribed it was a nationally known Doctor.
    When your ancestors hunted bison and ate Salmon, with nuts and berries, (the Indian
    side) and rowed longboats (the Viking in the woodpile) Or chased George the 3rd’s troops to outside London (the Highlanders on both sides of the family) hard, physical labor is in my opinion is nearly impossible on a vegan diet.

  115. DirkH says @ 7:47 am
    “I’ll never say a bad word about bacteria again!”

    The devil is in the details. For the second time in 15 months my wife is in the middle of a daily dose of antibiotic (each day at 3 pm for 5 weeks) to rid her blood of bacteria. The first weeks there were two drugs – took and hour via a PICC line. Now just one drug in 30 minutes – not counting travel time and set up time. Those little buggers on your heart’s valves can ruin your day!

  116. Brad says:
    September 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    No one on any USDA approved, large chicken farm (read egg) serves there chickens scraps…..
    _________________________________________
    You left out the WHY. Industrial chicken raising squashes the animals in a small area where disease is rampant if it gets a foot hold. A US chicken farmer will not let you set foot on his property or visit another farm with chicken for this reason…. and because of GOVERNMENT REGULATION.

    The rest of the world is not as regulated as the first world although the World Trade Organization is doing their darnedest. And even in the USA chickens free range and eat bugs and what ever else they can find.

    Also up until the 1970’s or later pigs were fed human garbage. The supervisor of our plant’s maintenance shop used to do a “garbage run” for his Dad’s pig farm and Fort Jackson NC sold the waste food from the base to pig farmers when my hubby was stationed there.

    One other comment to add to Willis’s fine article. When a crop field is worn out it is often turned into pasture to revitalize it. I have added 4″ of topsoil to a worn out crop farm by doing just that. Pastures also act as much needed filter strips to prevent topsoil and fertilizer run off into waterways. If a area is not grazed/mowed it often turns into woods and trees do not do as good a job of filtration as grass does.

  117. Hexe,
    I will prove you wrong quickly on this, being vegetarian (not vegan anyway, but I do prefer vegan meals except for cheese) myself:
    Vegetarians say, “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.”

    Only if don’t mind eating many times more carbs than you need whilst you’re getting the proteins you need. (this is what often causes diabetes in later lafe)

    Now, I will admit first that finding proteins is not very easy. Netheless, you can get enough proteins using soy products (tofu, soy proteins) and combine them with other vegan source of proteins (grain, nuts – note that pure soy proteins are not enough since they lack some of essential amino acids). But yes, it can be done, although it really takes some more time.
    If somebody is lacto* vegetarian like myself , things get a little bit easier, since whey is even one of the best protein source (according to many body builders/fitness experts sites). And I am very much sure that my diet is healthier than ordinary hamburger and fries diet. But having a good quality vegan diet is really hard to accomplish on daily base – mostly, because if you are busy person, you have to eat outside and in restaurants it is hard to get a decent meal which is not just meat, eggs and milk removed, which is a diet you don’t want to have.
    *Lacto vegetarians use milk + all allowed things vegan diet, but are avoiding eggs.

  118. GM

    You once again demonstrate just how over your head you are, on this topic at least. Consider your assertion that goats denude the mountain and hill sides of vegetation to the point of massive errosion because the farmer controls the predators that would have otherwise limited their numbers. The problem here is that you only seem to understand half of what the farmer does to manage his livestock. S/he doesn’t simply protect the goats from predators, good farming practices also protect the slopes from the goats. Just as grain producers rotate their crops and in some years leave them fallow to ensure that the quality of the soil is not just maintained, but improved, livestock producers are well aware that they must move their herds from time to time so that the vegetation doesn’t get denuded. In some cases this may include reseeding areas that have been inadvertantly damaged or other steps to ensure that not only does the hillside not erode, but that a continued source of fodder be available upon which to raise goats. The notion that control of predators exposes us to an errosion problem over which we have no control isn’t just missing half the equation, it is downright silly.

    The fact of the matter is that even if there were no human beings at all, the biosphere itself would arrive at a balance between animals and vegetation. There are processes carried out by animals that are beneficial to plants and vice versa. Remove one and the other withers, humans or no humans. Farming is nothing more than maximizing the production of those aspects of the biosphere that are beneficial to humans. The notion that we can, for example, control predation of goats but can’t control the goats themselves is either intentionaly misleading or the result of ignorance.

    When I was a young lad on the farm we were visited by some of those proverbial “city slickers” one of whom was a body builder. I was perhaps 160 pounds and this guy topped me by at least 6 inches and had biceps as thick as my leg. When it came time to feed the cattle he volunteered to help. I warned him we were talking 60 pound bales and an eight foot fence which earned me a smirk and a condescending laugh.

    So along he came and I began pitching bales over the fence. He pitched in and within 10 minutes I had three times as many bales over the fence as he did. In thirty minutes he had to take a break because he was winded. I finaly took pity on him and showed him how to hoist the bale just a few inches, get your knee under it, and then push the bale into the air with your knee and lower thigh while guiding it over the fence with your hands.

    You GM, could learn something from this. When you see the possible negative consequences of a particular action, farming or otherwise, ask how those consequences might be mitigated. You may be surprised at just how many solutions to what you see as impending disaster already exist and are known to those who deal with them in practice every day. That city slicker body builder could see that a youth with a fraction of his strength was working him into the ground, but he was too proud to ask how I was doing it. If I had told him I was stronger than I looked he might even have bought it. Instead I tought him the simplist of techniques that almost any farm boy knows and makes what looks like a back breaking task a simple exercise.

    So I suggest GM that you cease pontificating on that which you know little about and ask a question or two. Every farming practice has a consequence, and for each consequence, another farming practice must be considered to manage it. It is just a process, not looming disaster.

  119. BernardP says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Eating lots of bread, rice and pasta (carbohydrates) makes people fat and is the source of numerous health problems. A lot of the nutrition “truths” (cholesterol, fat, calories, salt…) with which we are bombarded daily by the media rest on nothing or are false….
    ________________________________________
    I did the experiment.

    Eating only meat and veggies without starch/high carbs for six months. I dropped 20 pounds and my blood pressure dropped from 178/144 to 116/63. The lower number Diastolic dropped a lot slower than the Systolic. This was backed up by blood work showing a drastic drop in the “bad” cholesterol. The Doctor said “What ever the heck you are doing, keep it up.” It got rid of the nightly reflux problem too.

    I find now if I eat grains I get sick.

  120. John F. Hultquist says:
    September 12, 2010 at 8:36 am
    “[…]Those little buggers on your heart’s valves can ruin your day!”

    I suffered from the same condition a few years back; antibiotica helped me to a full recovery. I hope the same for your wife; all the best to the both of you!

    Let’s just say i will not overgeneralize again when it comes to bacteria ;-)

  121. Lowell says:
    September 11, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I can’t believe how behind the curve you are on the corn to ethanol folly (nay, crime!). Here is one of the myriad of articles on this topic:

    Feeding Cars and Starving the Poor
    On March 29, 2007, Cuban leader Fidel Castro berated Bush’s economic initiatives for ethanol production in the Cuban Communist party newspaper Granma, stating that using corn, or any food source, to produce ethanol could result in the “premature death” of upwards of three billion people. He explained that the drive to produce corn-based ethanol would hike up food prices around the world, adversely effecting poverty in developing countries. Castro then restated his beliefs in a second article, also published in Granma, on April 3. Although the ailing Cuban president is known for adamantly and automatically opposing U.S. foreign policy initiatives, it would be foolhardy for the U.S. to ignore his foreboding message on this subject.
    As a result of the Washington-backed initiatives, an enormous volume of corn is being consumed for ethanol production. Consequently, the decreasing availability of it as a food crop and for livestock has contributed to the rise of corn futures from $2.80 to $4.38 a bushel. This recent price hike occurred over the course of several months and is said to be the sharpest increase in the past ten years. Thus, fewer low income consumers are able to purchase corn-based products, which is a very serious detriment to countries where corn is a staple of a population’s diet.
    Mexico already has been significantly affected by the rising costs of corn. Because 107 million Mexicans rely on corn as their main source of sustenance, its soaring price increase has sent shockwaves throughout the country’s corn-related industries. The price of tortillas in Mexico has risen by 100%, resulting in mass protests by tens of thousands of enraged consumers last January. Recently inaugurated Mexican President Felipe Calderon stated that the price increase of corn is unjustifiable and “threatens the economy and millions of families.” In response to the strike, Calderon signed an accord that limited the price of tortillas to 8.50 pesos per kilogram, and increased the quota of duty-free corn products imported from the United States. Despite Calderon’s efforts to regulate corn prices, the situation remains unresolved, since the accord expired in May.
    The rapidly changing international corn market also has affected the prices of other produce. Due to the high demand for corn, farmers in the U.S. are now planting more acres of the commodity. This has decreased the production of other crops, such as wheat, soy and rice, making them more expensive and less available. Beer prices also have risen due to the substitution of barley for corn. Even the price of meats and poultry such as turkey, chicken, pork, beef as well as eggs and dairy products are beginning to increase due to the high cost of feeding farm animals. Fidel Castro may have a point; current U.S. economic policy seems to indicate greater interest in fueling cars than feeding people.

    Ref: Maize of Deception: How Corn-Based Ethanol Can Lead To Starvation and Environmental Disaster Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 12 Jun 2007.

  122. bubbagyro says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Ruminant animals are superbly equipped to convert cellulose to protein. This also in poorly arable dry land capable of supporting only grasses which ruminants thrive on. In developing countries, cattle sheep and goat raising is compromised by parasites—if these are controlled….
    _________________________________________
    If you can get rid of the blasted internal parasites you do not have to feed grain. The only reason for feeding grain is to bring the animals to market weight quickly and because tax payer susidized grain is cheaper than feeding grass.

    Just for those who think animals are eating human food here is a list of ingredients from a bag of feed I just bought.

    All stock sweet mix in order of quantity:
    Processed grain by-products – the junk left over after milling and fermination processes
    Roughage products – Stuff like beet pulp left over from making sugar
    Grain products
    molasses
    vitamins and minerals.

  123. The “FIRST” Mistake is, always, the “WORST” Mistake.

    We could, easily, double the amount of land in “production,” worldwide.

    Second Mistake: Not accounting for modern science/technology. We’ve doubled corn yields in less than 50 Years. Next, we turn our attention to Wheat, Soybeans, and Sorghum.

    We have problems on the horizon, but “being able to grow enough food” isn’t one of them.

  124. John F. Hultquist says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    “— farmers are not dumb, and they haven’t had the benefit of a college education,”

    I’m unable to recall a measure of farmer-dumbness but think it might exhibit a somewhat normal distribution if one exists or is developed….
    __________________________________________________
    The USDA in a much despised pamphlet tell staff to address US farmers at the sixth grade level. That really ticked off the farmers
    http://www.dailyyonder.com/speak-your-piece-tag-every-animal

  125. Bubbygyro, don’t you even read your own links. The answer to the Mexican Tortilla “Crisis” was to IMPORT CHEAP NORTH AMERICAN CORN.

    Since they started doing that you haven’t heard another peep out of’em.

  126. I would second the recommendation of the very informative site by Barry Groves: second-opinions.co.uk. His books, especially his mostnrecent, Trick and Treat…., do an excellent job of adressing many of the nutrition issues raised this article.

    The one point that os missing is the value of animal fats in terms of both energy and the processing of fat soluble vitamins. Animal fat is both high in energy content, and you can’t eat too much because it will make you sick when you reach the limit. Groves addresses these matters in great detail on his site and in his books.

    I would add, look at what recent arctic and Antarctic Trekkers are using for food. Not vegetarian, and very high in fat. Look at the story of Endurance when a group of explorers were trapped on the ice flows for merely two years. They returned healthy without eating a single vegetable for more than a year. Would they have been as lucky on a vegetarian or vegan diet? Not likely.

    I eat a meat and high fat diet, animal fats, and avoid vegetable oils at all costs. I have never been stronger, more fit, retained and built muscle more easily, and been less sick (virtually never) than now. Vegans and vegetarians provide me with endless evidence of the efficacy of my dietary approach and the fallacy of theirs.

  127. Vegetarians: The Scourge of the Earth

    By Charles E. Kay Ph.D., Utah State Univ.

    From Mule Deer Foundation Magazine No.30:42-47, April 2009. Posted by permission here:

    http://westinstenv.org/wildpeop/2010/05/23/vegetarians-the-scourge-of-the-earth/

    In debates over the future of hunting in the United States and around the world, animal-rights groups claim that they have the moral high-ground because they are vegetarians. Hunters are portrayed as a lower lifeform because they kill and eat animals, while vegetarians are depicted as harmless because all they eat are plants. Unfortunately, the general public and the national media have accepted these assertions without careful study or reasoned thought. They have done so, in part, because most people have a poor understanding of basic ecology or human evolution. Hunters it turns out are the epitome of civilization, while vegetarians are the scourge of the Earth. Virtually all the world’s environmental problems, from the loss of biodiversity to carbon dioxide emissions, can be traced to vegetarians, not hunters. …

    There are few environmental problems around the globe that cannot be laid at the feet of vegetarians. …

    Vegetarian’s hands are also covered in blood, lots of blood. There is not much biodiversity or wildlife in a cornfield, a wheatfield, or a ricefield. More wildlife habitat has been destroyed in the name of agriculture than any other human activity. Then too animals, termed agricultural pests, have to die to keep food on our tables. Have you ever seen what elk, or elephants, can do to a cornfield? There is a reason there are no elk or other large herbivores in our, or any other country’s, agricultural heartlands. In Africa, more elephants are shot each year to protect agricultural crops than are ever killed by safari hunters. …

    In the eastern United States, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of hunter-gatherers, early agriculturalists, and late agriculturalists. By careful examination and measurement of those aboriginal skeletons, physical anthropologists have amassed data on early human health and lifespan. As aboriginal peoples in the eastern woodlands went from hunting and gatherering, to early agriculture, to more intensive agriculture — that is as the people went from being hunters to vegetarians — both human health and longevity declined, often precipitously, while work effort, especially for males, increased dramatically. Why humans ever made the switch to agriculture is an interesting question, and all I will say here is that while it allowed human populations to increase, individuals would have been better off to have remained hunter-gatherers. …

    People, like deer, require a diet of high quality food to produce large, robust individuals. Why are Chinese and Japanese, on average, so short-statured compared to Americans? Because people from Asia are primarily vegetarians with little high-quality animal protein and fats in their diet. Animal fats and protein that are needed to fuel human growth and development. Since World War II, the average height of adult Japanese males has steadily increased, as their culture has switched to a diet with more red meat and animal fats. The same is true of Americans. We, on average, are taller than people of earlier generations, as our diets have improved over the decades. That is to say, height, like antler growth in mule deer, can be used to determine which humans had superior diets and lifestyles. …

    Furthermore, in all pre-agriculture and early agricultural societies, hunters had preferred status and were held in the highest regard. It is only during recent times that hunters have experienced a fall from grace, at least among certain members of our society. But then, what would you expect from vegetarians, who have overrun the planet and became the scourge of the Earth. THEY are the real problem, not hunters. Hunters, afterall are the ones who protect wildlife habitat, while vegetarians turn wildlife habitat into agricultural fields and ever increasing human populations. You cannot blame hunters for the world’s problems. If anyone has sinned, it has been vegetarians.

  128. Kum Dollison says:
    September 12, 2010 at 9:36 am

    A little knowledge can be dangerous…

    It is only cheap by contrast. A little knowledge can be dangerous. The price of corn in Mexico is up 15% year-on-year. This will only get worse as more corn is diverted to booze production, but true, they are getting supplies now. Also, we have had good production years recently in the US and Canada, and good wheat yields in Russia. What happens when the cold comes and rain decreases? You are only considering the short-term, I’m afraid; it is short-term mentality that has gotten us in such trouble before. The people really taking it tough right now are those in sub-Sahara Africa who have had a severe reduction in corn and wheat imports and are beginning to see the pinch. No extensive famine yet, except politically caused, because of the warm cycle of the last two decades that has enabled domestic farming to at least reach subsistence.

  129. bio-fuels are madness. They increase the number of arable hectares required to feed your average human.

    Smaller gut, larger brain is the result of eating cooked animal flesh.

  130. Another thing that the vegans should ponder as they consider their relative ranking on the food chain. Most humans eat the flesh of non-human vegan species.

  131. This is why I love WUWT. Every article is pure quantitative analysis and logic. After reading an article like this I have always learnt something of value.
    So different from the ‘handwaving’ arguments which seem to predominate in some other places…

  132. Dr Mr. Eschenbach,

    Thank you for an excellent article. My one quibble would be that the paragraph on the benefits of animal manure could be expanded. Waste from bovine ruminants is superb fertilizer and I suggest its use is not limited to marginal soils. In fact the export of cow and sheep maunure to us “city slickers” is the basis for most urban gardens.

    The loss of cheap excellent fertilizer would be a disaster for grain yields throughout the unindustrialized world and for small and medium farmers in the developed world. One solution could be the purchase of artificial chemical fertilizers if the farmer could afford it. These are energy intensive to fabricate and increased oil consumption appears to be at odds with Vegan sensibilities. In any event even on factory farms it is my understanding that chemical nitrogen is used as a supplement to, and not a complete substitution for, manure.

    The other alternative is to use human waste. While this is possible human feces contain many pathogens dangerous to people that are absent from animal manures, with the possible exception of pig manure. Think punji sticks. The act of turning the grain fields of the world into latrines filled with human feces appears problematic from a health perspective.

    I am sure those more knowlegable than I could make a whole article out of this one subject alone.

  133. Willis said:

    “Your comment makes me realize that I have not been clear. When I say farmers, I mean the world average farmer. However, there is a common misconception. The world average farmer is not a guy with a tractor and a truck, or a guy with a mule.

    It is a woman with a wooden digging hoe and a sack full of plants and too many kids. She has a few chickens, or maybe she has a pig. Why does she keep livestock? Because she has kids. She knows that her kids need the protein from the chickens and the pigs. She knows that the kids will never get that protein by eating what the chickens and the pigs eat. That’s what I mean by farmers are smart.”

    Willis, I suspect yours is the misconception.
    I haven’t any peer-reviewed lit. to link to but I’ll betcha there’s a lot more agriculture done in the world with machinery and draft animals than with pointy sticks. I’ll bet your average pointy stick farmer has no clue about protein and amino acids, nor vitaminB-12. Diets of mealie and tapioca are well-known in Africa and there are some pigs, but not many compared to the technologically more advanced China and the hog-averse Indian sub-continent. Supposedly, protein content of cassava is comparable to eggs, btw.
    It’s a bit of a platitude to say that “farmers are smart”, especially when the implication is that the most primitive are the smartest.

  134. “Our brains are uniquely unprepared to deal with long-term crises” – GM

    Thank God that the world has GM to get everything squared away for us long term. Anyway I get a kick out of watching old movies from the 60’s & 70’s. One theme that comes up occasionally in early 70’s & late 60’s films are hippies living on commumes coming up with plans to save humanity from inevitable extinction by cultivating fungi or some such. The hippies are also developing solar energy, which is just around the corner, as the world will be depleted of conventional fuels by the year 2000. Meanwhile the world keeps on turning.

  135. The FAO stated that there are 1.3 Billion Acres that we could plant on, Tomorrow.

    In the U.S., alone, we used to row-crop 400 Million Acres. That’s now down to 250 Million Acres. We Pay farmers NOT to plant on a little over 30 Million Acres. There are 150 Million acres of Fertile soil lying fallow in Brazil’s Cerrado, alone. The rest of Brazil could probably kick in another 300 Million Acres.

    Russia has 120 Million Acres of Excellent Black Land lying fallow. No one knows how much more across the rest of the largest country on earth.

    Africa. My Goodness. The Republic of Congo, alone as much as Brazil.

    These places don’t grow much for several reasons. Most important, probably, is that grains are so cheap on the world market (thanks to us) that they can’t compete. 1.7 Billion of the undernourished in the world are “subsistence” farmers. They’re in trouble because they don’t have a “cash” crop, they’re too poor to buy fertilizer, and equipment, and they are governed horribly.

    Corn is still bouncing around between $0.06 and $0.08/lb by the way.

  136. I would suggest that EO Wilson spend a winter in Mongolia – a land of carnivores that would be unhabitable without meat. All they would have left to consume would be the vodka.

  137. Oliver Ramsay says:

    I haven’t any peer-reviewed lit. to link to but I’ll betcha there’s a lot more agriculture done in the world with machinery and draft animals than with pointy sticks.

    Well, the agricultural production of Willis’ “average” farmer is just possibly close to the median but probably far below the mean. Meaning that there may be many of these farmers, but even if they’re a majority their contribution to the total production is less because there are many others producing more per farmer. Or, in other words, producing in a less labor-intensive way. And since we’re trying to look at the global statistics here, that’s significant.

  138. “Vegans avoid fish. Vegetarians who eat fish should have no problems at all. That’s what i do as well, most of the time, plus some eggs. Not out of principle but it’s just what i like best.”

    Are you aware that from strictly scientific point of view cows are fish? No, I’m not crazy, the whole class Tetrapoda (mammals, birds, crocodiles, lizards, frogs, salamanders) is just one single branch in the fish family tree (though they are admittedly rather different from the other fishes).

  139. I’m reminded of the words of the Texan cattleman who is quote as saying:

    “Vegetables ain’t food. Vegetables is what food eats”.

  140. For our Vegan friends – 7g of Marmite gives you 100% RDA vitamin B12.

    Please don’t overdose, as it has a very high salt content…(.4g Na/7g serving)

    My own view on this issue is that Vegans, Veggies et al, have every right to follow their own feelings on the matter of diet – as for me, there’s nothing I like better than a nice juicy, running with blood, Scotch rump steak!!!

    Any attempt to try and stop me enjoying my preferred food will be met with the strongest resistance.

  141. Willis,

    Thank you for a very interesting article. I am glad I did not grow-up on a farm, too much goo and stinking stuff to tread in!

    It is also worth mentioning that the Economist ran an article earlier this year about rice boutiques in Japan. Asides they mentioned that just like in the EU, farmers in Japan are paid not to produce too much of that darned stuff! About one third of Japan’s rice fields are lying fallow!

    I like vegetarians, they keep meat prices affordable.

    Excuse me, after reading your article and comments, I need to go and fry a staek, whilst I still can!

  142. If we got rid of all of our chickens worldwide, would we have more food available for humans? Not unless you like bugs and kitchen scraps better than you like eggs. Chickens are the poor woman’s Rumplestiltskin, spinning insects and weeds and melon rinds into golden eggs and tasty meat … I’ll let E. O. Wilson tell her she’s ruining the planet, not me.
    =====================================================
    Ha Willis – I love this. BTW the N.Z. agricultural economy is based on grass. 4m people virtually live off the animal’s back –and they eat grass!

    Cheers
    Doug

  143. It’s been over 30 years since I took biochemistry but as I recall you can find ALL essential amino acids in non-meat sources. There are a few (or at least 2) amino acids which have not been deemed “essential” that are found only in meat. These amino acids are believed to play a role in immunoregulation. Just south of where I grew up there is a large population of Seventh Day Adventists, many of whom are strict vegans. I remember all of them seemed to be skinny and have very pasty complexions.

    The human diet is largely determined by what tastes good, what’s available and finally by cultural mores and folkways. China exports a lot of dog food and more specifically dog treats. My dogs love “chicken jerky” and most of this is a product of China. This seems bizarre to me. We import dog treats from a country that eats dogs and has enough chicken left over to manufacture dog treats for export.

    I was recently schooled about Vegemite on the excellent Aussie website liberygibbert.com. Down in OZ most of the population absolutely loves Vegemite (yeast paste). I’m told that unless you grew up eating this stuff you will find the “flavour” disgusting. This may be the case as I have yet to find a jar of the stuff in any local grocery (I agreed not to deride Vegemite until I had at least tried it). The English have their Marmite and in OZ they have their Vegemite. Here in the USA we have no appetite for either.

    Humans eat meat because it tastes so good. Have a nice meal of slowly smoked ribs, brisket or pork tenderloin. How about a slice of prime rib or grilled beef tenderloin. Perhaps a grilled swordfish filet or shrimp or lobster or…Alaskan King Crab legs in drawn butter. You get the idea. This stuff tastes great! Our bodies “know” this is good for us. I absolutely love asparagus, beets and brussels sprouts, but given the choice between my favorite veggies OR a finely cooked filet mignon the meat will win every time.

    Willis understates the problem of grams of essential protein. Sure…you can get there with soy beans and yeast but the necessary volume is huge relative to 6 oz of beef. Vitamin B12 is also a valid issue. A deficiency results in megaloblastic anemia. You don’t need much B12 to survive and the human body stores a lot of it. Clinical deficiency states usually only occur with strict meatless diets or conditions which affect the ability to absorb B12 from the gut (i.e. diminished intrinsic factor).

    Perhaps we eat too much meat in our modern diets. Any excess protein is simply converted to calories. We consumed far fewer grams of protein in our diets 100 years ago. Then again…100 years ago our average life expectancy was only about 50 years. Surely an improved protein diet contributed to this (along with greater access to potable water, modern sanitation, greater access to energy and modern medicine).

  144. Nice post, Willis.

    [Without farm animals] “tens of millions of tons of agricultural waste would have to be disposed of…”

    I’m assuming it (most anyway) could be composted and then used in fields or am I completely mistaken? I’m not suggesting this is feasible, nitrogen fixed from the air makes more economical sense.

  145. I’ll say it again, simpler this time: most of the livestock rearing on the planet does not happen on what is categorized as arable land, so E.O. Wilson is right that taking the grain fed to cattle and making it available to humans would allow a lot more people to be fed. From what I’ve found, it looks like about 80% of livestock rearing (most grass farming) wouldn’t be affected by such a change. So he’s wrong about us all needing to become vegetarians for the planet to support 10 billion people.
    On balance I’d say he’s much closer to the mark than Willis.

  146. My old pal bubbagyro is absolutely right on the ethanol issue. Not even considering the rest of the world just look at the impact it has in the USA. Corn ethanol would not exist were it not for government subsidy. This alone should be a deal breaker. Any industry or technology that requires taxpayer subsidy to exist is by definition a non-viable technology or industry in a free market society. So what happens when corn is converted to ethanol? First off, more energy is consumed producing a gallon of ethanol than the energy you derive from it. This is just hard, physical reality. It bites. It’s even worse when you consider the amount of water used to produce each gallon of ethanol. Then the economics kick in. Because of government subsidy it is more profitable for the farmer to sell his corn for ethanol production than as feed grain. This drives up the price of feed grain which subsequently drives up the cost of meat from animals maintained on said feed grain. So the consumer is screwed three times. First we suffer from the taxes required to pay the subsidy. Ten we pay higher prices for meat. Finally we are forced to use gasoline diluted with ethanol to get fewer miles per gallon of fuel.

    Who benefits? The corn farmer. Corn ethanol is a purely political enterprise. Without forced taxpayer subsidy it would die a natural death.

  147. I like my dead animal meals to much to go veggie!
    A charity I support gives animals and farming training to people to help them grow food for themselves and to sell. They use a great range of different methods to improve the lives of many and the land where they live. See sendacow.org.uk for more information.

  148. Mike D. (20910-09-12-1026)…(deleted)…
    Agree. Some animal has to occupy the top predator position. It might as well be Homo sapiens. E.O. Wilson errs, here. He also errs in the (implied) assumption that adoption by humans of a vegetarian diet will address overpopulation. Wilson correctly observes that human population growth cannot continue indefinitely.

    1) The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition).
    2) Value is determined by supply and demand. Therefore, a world in which human life is precious is a world in which human life is scarce.
    3) The Earth’s human population cannot grow without limit.
    4) The Earth’s human population will stop growing when (a) the death rate rises to meet the birth rate or (b) the birth rate falls to meet the death rate.
    5) The Earth’s human population will stop growing as a result of either (a) deliberate human agency or (b) other.
    6) Deliberate human agency is either (a) democratically determined or (b) other.
    7) All human behavioral traits are heritable.
    8) Voluntary programs for population control selectively breed non-compliant individuals.
    9) Humans who will reproduce at high density have a selective advantage over humans who require lots of open space.
    10) Human misery is like heat: in the absence of insulators (barriers to immigration), it flows until it is uniformly distributed.
    11) The Earth’s maximum possible instantaneous human population is greater than its maximum possible sustainable human population. Absent a reduction the human birth rate or a gradual increase in the death rate, expect a sharp increase in death the rate and a sharp drop in the human population from its maximum value.
    12) The Earth’s maximum possible sustainable human population leaves little room for wilderness or biodiversity. Absent a reduction the human birth rate or an increase in the death rate, expect a sharp reduction in biodivesity.

  149. I have presented the above argument at libertarian sites (Samizdata, Bizzy), Christian sites (Baldilocks, The Common Room), __Prospect__ magazine (in response to a Fred Pearce essay on Malthus), a Feminist/Socialist site (Reclusive Leftist) and Breitbart’s Big Journalism. Although I attempt a civil discussion the other side, except for Christians and the Brits at __Prospect__, does not and I get insulted, banned or censored, or all of the above.

    Without ad hominem, where do you disagree?

  150. tty says:
    September 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm
    “Are you aware that from strictly scientific point of view cows are fish? ”

    As i said, i have no principle reasons to avoid meat. I had a very nice piece of bœuf in France two weeks ago, medium. It just happens that i rarely run across a good piece of meat; i don’t want to do too much Döner.

  151. bubbagyro says:
    September 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Kum Dollison says:
    September 12, 2010 at 9:36 am

    A little knowledge can be dangerous…

    It is only cheap by contrast. A little knowledge can be dangerous.
    __________________________
    Kum also missed the fact that after NAFTA Mexico lost 75% of its farmers (or more) and therefore can no longer produce the corn it needs to feed its people.

    Here is the information again:
    2002 Effect of policies on farmers in USA and Mexico: 33,000 small farmers in the US have gone out of business— more than six times the pre-NAFTA rate.

    In Mexico, the price farmers receive for corn has plummeted 45 percent At least 1.5 million farmers have left their land. 900,000 people leave Mexico’s land every year, a U.N. program says. According to a study by Jose Romero and Alicia Puyana carried out for the federal government of Mexico, between 1992 and 2002, the number of agricultural households fell an astounding 75% – from 2.3 million to 575, 000 http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/ftaa/topten.html

    Notice the typical large corporation tactics.
    #1 Move in to the area with very low prices and undercut the prices of the independent small business people.
    #2 Small business bankrupt.
    #3 After all or most of the competition is gone jack the prices up – usually to 1.5 to 2 times the previous rate.
    #4 Move on to “new territory”

    In 2008 when there were food riots all over the world, Monsanto and Cargill (grain trater) posted record breaking earnings.

    “A look at the figures for 2007, when the world food crisis began, shows that corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, which control the cereals market, saw their profits increase by 45 and 60 per cent, respectively; the leading chemical fertilizer companies such as Mosaic Corporation, a subsidiary of Cargill, doubled their profits in a single year” [9].

    “The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world’s richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn…. The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that 37 developing countries are in urgent need of food. And food riots are breaking out across the globe from Bangladesh to Burkina Faso, from China to Cameroon, and from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates. Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement, called the escalating earnings and profits “immoral” late last week. He said that the benefits of the food price increases were being kept by the big companies, and were not finding their way down to farmers in dhe developing world.” Multinationals make billions in profit out of growing global food crisis” In fact, “Monsanto … has gotten farmers to accept seed prices twice the level of a decade ago” [8].” http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto_and_the_World_Food_Crisis

  152. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:
    September 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm
    “[…]10) Human misery is like heat: in the absence of insulators (barriers to immigration), it flows until it is uniformly distributed.[…]”

    Man, you should see a doctor.

  153. I like eating meat. It’s one of my few pleasures in life.

    If Dr. Wilson has a problem with it, perhaps he would like to take his turn on my plate.

    Eating carnivores puts one too high up the food chain. Vegans, on the other hand…

  154. Speaking of grain traders and profit. Here is another side of the vegan push:
    A bag of whole corn, packaged and inspected, sold for cows is about $ 7-$8 per fifty pounds. If you buy tortillas whole sale it was between $125 and $150 for fifty pounds wholesale (the last time I looked) Tortillas are made of ground corn and water and dried.

    Taking the corn, grinding it and making tortillas gives the corporations one heck of a mark up on that fifty pounds of corn. Think about it. You pay almost as much for a one pound loaf of bread as you do for a pound of chicken or ground beef but you are going to need to eat a lot more nonmeat products to meet you nutritional needs.

    No wonder corporations want us to not eat meat.

  155. Being an ant expert, it is a bit surprising the Mr. Wilson bypassed the real logical alternative to meat products in the human diet, which is , to paraphrase Marie Antoinette, “let them eat bugs”. Despite humanity’s persistent efforts to obliterate many of them, there are untold billions of tons of the critters scurrying about, just waiting to add their nutritional excellence to human menus. Perhaps Mr. Wilson’s involvement in the scientific study of ants has left him with sentimental prejudices against exploiting this most obvious dietary alternative.
    Up here in the Great White North of Minnesota, the natural reproductive capacity demonstrated by local mosquito populations suggests that, with the application of fairly minimal insecticulture techniques, our state could on its own provide for much of the protein requirements for the entire country. And that is not even considering the ants, termites, flies, maggots, cockroaches, grubs, caterpillars, etc., etc.

    BTW, for those espousing the nutritional glories of Marmite. I succumbed to curiosity a couple of years ago, and purchased a, thankfully, small jar, although even then it was fairly expensive in the local grocery. Over time I made a number of attempts at eating it, on the theory that it might take a bit to acquire a taste for it. I should add that I am very much an omnivore who has very seldom refused to at least try to eat whatever has been served to me, including at some fairly exotic Chinese banquets arranged by my sister’s in-laws, where , as an honored guest I was often offered first shot at things I had never imagined as part of the human food chain. To cut to the chase, after many months and repeated attempts I just recently sent the remainder of that small jar of Marmite to the landfill, although to grant it one positive, after banging about the fridge for more than 2 years, it didn’t seem to be any worse tasting when I threw it away than when I first opened it.

  156. D. Patterson says:
    September 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    A diet of high calorie meat consumption was necessary for Homo sapiens sapiens to evolve and sustain the present brain mass and corresponding human intelligence and speech. Arbitrarily returning to low calorie non-meat diet comparable to the other primates past and present is a step backwards towards de-evolution and the loss of human intelligence. But you already knew that instinctively…right?
    _____________________________________________________________
    I have read the actually studies done on vegans and brain weight loss…..

  157. Stop Global Dumbing Now says:
    September 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    … I once explained to a vegan that the reason many colobus monkeys are coprophagous was due to their poor, vegetarian diets. I never thought to use the B-12 angle and stopped short of suggesting that they become one (although I have told a few people to eat $#!+ and die). You have emboldened me.
    ____________________________________________________-
    I prefer “act environmentally, eat recycled food” (copyrighted)

    It sounds so much more politically correct.

  158. GM:
    …..Where is your evidence to back up your faith that “everything will be fine, no need to worry”?
    _____________
    The evidence is 200,000 years of human existence. As those who post here from other countries attest, there is no lack of brain power in “Third world” countries where the birth rate is high. Given decent living conditions and educations they will also drop their birth rates to 2.0 or below.

    By the by we always hear screaming about birth rate by what about the much more critical number, the number of offspring that live to reproduce in Africa???

  159. tallbloke says:
    September 12, 2010 at 1:34 am

    …..We need to store more food. The ‘just in time’ agriculture favoured by stockbrokers is a very bad way to run a human ecology. Pharoah knew this, and had 7 year grain silos in 2000BC.
    ____________________________________________________
    Amen to that. It is one of the reasons I curse the name of Dan Amstutz who wrote the legislation that destroyed the US grain reserves, the “freedom to farm act”

  160. I’ve come upon this post relatively late and haven’t got time to go through all the responses. So if my point has been raised already I apologise. It seems to me that there is a flaw in the calculations. Consider the following from the post:
    1. “By becoming vegivores, we have freed up the 23% of our cropland used to produce animal food.”
    2. “So immediately we have to devote about 18% of the freed up land to replacing lost protein.”

    Now 18% of the “freed up” land is (18*23)/100 or something less than 5% of the total land. The author subracts the 18% from the 23% when he should be subracting the (close to) 5%.

    Comments?

  161. Malcolm Kirkpatrick

    1) Incorrect as government is by definition not a “person”. I expect that your intent was that governments can and do commit violence orders of magnitude beyond what a person can, and from that perspective you are correct, save that in the modern world religious extremism enacted through non state actors is growing in proportion.

    2) Human life is prescious regardless of the “supply”. This is a judgment that we as human beings can make. If you should suddenly lose your life would the number of people who morn your death, your friends and family, change appreciably if the world population is 5 billion or 25 billion? I would venture to say that your chances of death from violence in medieval times as a percentage would be much higher than it is today.

    5) The death rate has not changed in thousands of years. It has remained static at precisely one to a person. Life span on the other hand has increased dramaticaly and birth rates fall with education and affluence. Since birth rate falls below the level to maintain population levels at education and affluence levels long since exceeded by the western world, it seems clear that a determined effort to increase education and affluence in the rest of the world will curb population growth long before we exceed the planet’s capacity to support us.

    9) The opposite is true. The birth rates in densely populated cities are far lower than those of rural communities. In large western cities, an only child is common, three children are considered a large family. It is the rural communities where an only child is the exception and a large family is more than three.

    11 & 12) The point being you assume that human beings will reach that level if unchecked in some fashion. The fact is birth rates in first world countries have long since fallen below the replacement rate, and the second world is not far behind. As the third world makes progress toward similar standards, there is no reason to believe that the result will be any different, or that it won’t happen long before we get to maximum sustainable population.

    That said, my personal vote is for interstellar space travel. Way more fun and every ideology can have their own d***ed planet to run their way. Until that becomes available, readin, riting, and rithmatic combined with access to low cost energy (read fossil fuels) is all that is required for the global population to be held within limits that will ensure no catastrophic episode of global starvation occurs. Asteroid impacts on the other hand are not so easily thwarted.

  162. I have a few vegetarian friends. None of them are militant (i.e. they don’t expect to be a vegetarian because they are). One guy is a Seventh Day Adventist physician. When he told me he was a vegan I asked him about his leather belt and shoes. He said, “I don’t care if you kill animals. I just don’t want to eat them.” He also told me he was a vegan not because he loves animals, but because he hates plants.

    Another old friend of mine discovered, quite by accident, in his early 20s that if he didn’t eat meat his allergy symptoms went away and he felt better. This guy loves meat and misses it. Once in a while he’ll fall off the no-meat wagon and eat a steak but he claims he pays for it for several days afterward. He is a vegetarian only because it works for him. It’s not a religion.

    I can go for days without eating meat. In fact, I get “veggie hungry” once in a while and eat salads, fresh veggies, rice and beans for days. Then I get “meat hungry” and it’s steaks, burgers and chops. If you listen, your body will tell you what you need to eat.

  163. Eugene McDermott says:
    September 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    ….The other alternative is to use human waste. While this is possible human feces contain many pathogens dangerous to people that are absent from animal manures, with the possible exception of pig manure. Think punji sticks. The act of turning the grain fields of the world into latrines filled with human feces appears problematic from a health perspective….
    _____________________________________
    Dried, sanitized human waste from sewage treatment facilities has been considered as fertilizer. The only problem is the ” household and industrial chemicals” that go down the drain and could poison the fields.

  164. OK, a generally great overview of the ‘issues’. FWIW, while I’m an omnivore, I’ve got two vegetarians and a piscivore (vegetable and fish eater…) that I cook for. We have a vegetarian menu about 3/4 of all meal (ovo-lacto leaning).

    What I’d add is mostly odd details. Things like: There are aquaculture systems where various farm wastes are piled in a corner of the pond and ‘stuff’ grows on it. Algae and bugs. Higher forms eat the ‘stuff’.Prawns especially, but also some carps and tilapia eat the ‘stuff’ and various algae that grows. The ‘end game’ is that you end up turning crap and sunlight into fish and prawns. Kind of harder to eat pond scum and fermenting pig poo yourself….

    Per the “goat” thread: I’ve forgotten the name of the guy, but a Ph.D. (I think in agronomy) in India developed a simple system to maximize food and minimize land degradation with goats. Pen the goats. The system plants a ‘bean tree’ (leucaena leucocephala? something like that) which fixes nitrogen into the soil.

    People harvest the limbs in a coppice operation and feed the leaves and twigs to the goats, using the wood for making things and fuel. The goat poo is fermented to make “gobar gas” that is used for cooking (saving the women’s eyesight from dung burning and the forest from cutting for cooking fuel). The gas digester product and pee is spread on the coppice forest and vegetable garden for maximal yield of vegetables.

    End result? He’s turned land undergoing massive erosion and some desertification into lush forrest. Farms have thrived with a surplus of food, fiber, and fuel. They have enough excess to sell cheeses and soap for money, and have started up the path to modernity with micro scale solar power and a TV for entertainment AND educational use. A stellar result. Not achievable without the goat in the system.

    Oh, and health and IQ have increased markedly as well. Prosperity and a good diet does that…

    A simple thought example: Grow a field of corn and beans. Harvest the corn and the beans. Now, what do you do with the stems, leaves, stalks, silks, cobs, … A vegan farm would let mold eat them and turn them into compost. An omnivorous farm runs them through meat, milk and eggs on the way to fertilizer… with more total production along the way.

    I have ‘free range bunnies’ in my garden as my ‘ruminants’. (They are ‘hind gut’ fermenters and one of the smallest ruminants you can get). While I don’t eat them (in the traditional system, they are eaten. I take pictures of them and pet them instead as I have meat from chickens and fish and don’t need the pelts…. but want to practice the system. As a kid we did ‘dispatch’ them and use the whole critter. With modernity has come the luxury of a ‘toy farm’…) They are an important part of my agronomy system as they bypass the compost heap in a day or two instead of weeks or months.

    One sidebar (on the coprophage issue) is that bunnies as part of the hind gut fermentation have a special organ that traps and ferments plant bulk. They then poo out a very special poo that they eat. (How they managed to keep it separate from the daily non-fermented poo is interesting, but beyond the scope here). If they can’t eat that biscuit, they die, as it provided needed vitamins. FWIW, our ‘appendix’ is a vestigial form of the same organ… We evolved from such hind gut fermenters. Think about it…

    So while it’s quite possible to become a vegetarian and live a full and happy life, there are some ‘issue’ you have to deal with. It is NOT an easy or natural thing to get full nutrition that way. (Even Chimps hunt for monkey meat from time to time…) One of the trickiest is to get enough omega-3 fatty acids (easiest from fish). So flax seeds and flax oil are on the shopping list…

    OK, the flip side: It IS possible to feed more people with a PARTIAL move toward vegetarian diets. In particular, the ‘feed conversion ratio’ matters. Cows are about 10 to 1, while pigs and chickens are about 3 to 1 and fish can be about 1 to 1. To the extent you move away from cows and towards fish you get more total food and more efficiency. In an optimized system you would have goats and cows for milk and cheese (and the inevitable veal and kid goes on the menu…) fed the plant parts we can not eat, but with as much plant waste as possible fed to fish, then chickens, then pigs (who also eat things like the fish guts and chicken guts…).

    This would only really work in the highly industrialized and wealthy west, though, as most non-industrialized societies are already doing something along those lines.

    Why politicians and yuppies think they can design an agronomy system is beyond me though. I’d wager not a one of them has run a manure spreader or shoveled out a barn… Nor even ploughed a field. And I’d really like to see them chop the head off a chicken and clean and pluck it. (Kudos to Her Majesty for demonstrating that she knows the proper wrist flick for wringing a chicken’s neck.)

    One of the most efficient systems on the planet is run in Asia, where pigs are fed ‘stuff’ while penned over a pond. Pig poo falls into the pond, where algae grow. Carp eat the plant growth and ducks eat the bugs and small fish. End result? A LOAD of pork, fish, and ducks. More that the plants fed to the system as the sunlight on the pond adds to the total productivity. Excess ‘productivity’ is spread on the vegetable garden along with ‘night soil’… “Everything but the squeal” comes to mind…

    The only downside is the disease risk from the species chosen as pigs, people, and birds can all share the flu. So that’s where we get the new varieties evolved as the virus ‘does laps’ until it gets the gene mix right…

  165. On the issues of salmon, herring, etc. and chicken scraps…

    The western industrial farming system is so efficient that we have millions of tons of production that is notoptimized. Drove by a harvested field of celery a month or so ago. It was still significantly green from all the rejects, trimmings, and just run over and crushed plants left in the field to rot. If we were ever in need of added food supply, a ‘by catch’ system would catch those scraps and feed them to pigs or chickens (as is done on family subsistence farms in much of the world.)

    Purina makes a wide variety of “chow” including various “fish chow” blends. Much of what is in them is other fish. We harvest a load of stuff that gets turned into ‘fish chow’; but along with it is often a fair amount of soy and corn. Depends on the target species.

    BTW, protein is not a significant problem on a vegetarian diet. Just mix some beans and leaves with the grains. (Spinach and beans can have higher protein content than meat). The bigger issues are omega-3 (best in grass fed beef and sheep) fatty acids. Grains are omega-6, so a grain rich diet is too low in omega-3 (and grain fed beef is too rich in omega-6 too…) and various vitamins. Protein is just not much of an issue.

    That we choose not to do it does not mean it could not be done.

    THE biggest problem for most farm products is GLUT not scarcity.

  166. Feeding to pigs is actually a large scale waste disposal practice.
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an143
    “The primary waste products fed to swine are plate and kitchen waste, bakery waste, and food products from grocery stores. The primary sources of plate waste are restaurants, institutions, schools, and to a small degree, households. Food waste originating from restaurants, institutions, and schools has traditionally been referred to as garbage and has been regulated as such. According to the USDA there are over 2,200 licensed garbage feeders in the United States and nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico (USDA-APHIS, VS, 1995)”

    In lots of places-
    http://observers.france24.com/en/content/20091023-sanitation-cairo-qalyubiyah-pigs-rubbish-waste-collection-swine-flu-cull
    “The pig slaughter severely affected the entire system of waste collection. This decision, which was taken hastily and arbitrarily, brought about today’s sanitation crisis.
    For the last two months, heaps of rubbish have been growing in the provinces of Cairo, Giza and Qalyubiyah, which portends a higher risk of illnesses and epidemics.”

  167. Willis says;
    “Second, people have a number of misunderstandings about where animals fit in on the farm. They believe that animals eat lots and lots of food that could be eaten by humans. ”
    ———–
    I think, more often they say that land used to raise fodder could be used to raise plants for humans.

    “Farmers would not keep animals if it were not a net gain.”

    As previously pointed out, it’s about financial gain, not pounds of blueberries as opposed to parsnips. It’s not just about survival; there are aesthetic preferences.
    ———-
    “The animals in turn produce milk and eggs and meat, and then go on to enrich the soil through their urine and manure, just like they were perfected to do on the plains of Africa so long ago … what an amazing planet.”

    This is a simplistic argument with a hint of intentional design. If you start out with a very fertile soil and sell produce away from the farm year after year you’re going to have to import manure from somebody else’s critters to feed your land ‘cos the city slicker eating your cow is sending your farm’s fertility down the sewer. You say farmers aren’t dumb but you’re suggesting agronomists are.
    ———-
    “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.

    However, to do it, you need to eat more grains to get this protein,…”

    More grains than what? It’s widely known that populations of the developed world consume far more protein than is necessary, and maybe more than is healthy.
    ———–
    Final Quibble; the suffix -vore is used to denote an animal that is biologically equipped to eat certain things, rather than one that makes an intellectual decision to do so. -arian carries more of that sense; e.g. libertarian or breatharian!
    Personally, I find the human population density a little displeasing and hope that animals will continue to abound.

  168. Gail Combs says:
    September 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks to others and you for filling in the corn-ethanol debacle argument. I was fatigued on this, thinking that others would have seen the simple logic that fermenting grain to produce ethanol is pure insanity. I overestimated many people’s understanding of the issue.

  169. Oh, and on B12, remember, it’s found in beer.

    http://www.brewersofeurope.org/docs/publications/pdf-Mei04.pdf

    Like bread, which is also made from cereal, beer is a good source of many
    vitamins which are essential for life. To make beer the barley is sprouted first
    (malted) which actually increases the nutritional value of the cereals used. Beer is
    particularly rich in most of the B type vitamins for example niacin, riboflavin (B2),
    pyridoxine (B6) folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12). For those vegetarians who enjoy
    drinking beer this is a natural source of B12. (Table 1 shows the percentage of the
    recommended daily intake of certain vitamins and minerals found in half a litre of beer.)
    As well as adding to a healthy diet, the vitamins and minerals in beer may confer
    additional health benefits. Recent research suggests that the B vitamins (B6, B9
    and B12) may give beer drinkers additional protection against cardiovascular
    disease compared to drinkers of wine or spirits59. Population studies in USA, UK,
    France, Spain and the Czech Republic all confirm that moderate beer
    consumption, in contrast to other alcoholic drinks, reduces homocysteine levels
    and suggest that this may be due to beer’s high B vitamin content60,61,62,63,64.
    High homocysteine levels, like “bad cholesterol” (LDL), are associated with a
    higher risk of heart attacks. Clinical research is underway to examine whether the
    folate in beer can reduce homocysteine levels.

    I make it to be a liter or 2 of beer per day (best as ‘live beer’ not the filtered stuff), but just to be safe, you might want to double that ;-0

  170. During my hippie stage, I visited communes in NY and Vancouver. It was the beginning of an epiphany. Very sad lot for these few. My wife and I were vegetarians for 7 years afterwards in PA, during which we spent a good part of the day growing food and cooking it. I am and was then a biochemist as my day job. It is true that veggies can produce the array of AA we need to survive, but that required quite an array of different beans and lentils to complete the picture. Legumes that are complete with the 8 essential AAs are quite unpalatable, so one had to really blend like crazy. As for B12, we needed oral vitamins because the sublingual forms of B12 were not widely known back in the 70s. But, later to find out that the oral B12 pills are much less bioavailable than those in complexed sources (like Marmite, Vegemite, or red meat). Yes, we ate these yeasty dregs from the brewery too (I had Aussie and British friends) and my wife and I pretended they were delicious! A few years later, I found that heavy metal toxins, like lead, mercury, thallium, and cadmium, not to mention chlorinated pesticides were concentrated in these dregs of the distillery.

    As an aside, it is really hilarious to see Vegans scrutinize for minutes on end and reject the majority of the “organically grown” apples and peaches that have a spot or two from insects on them. Great spectator sport! You can time them and bet on the outcomes! Check that out for yourselves next time at the “Organic” market.

  171. Mr. Hoffer,
    1. I did not say that government was a person.
    Of all the violence dealerships in your neighborhood, “government” is the name we give to the largest. My usage follows Max Weber, approximately. See also Edwardo Zambrano “Formal Models of Authority” (__Rationality and Society_) and Randall Holcombe “Government: Unnecessary But Inevitable” (__The Independent Review__) .
    2. Value is determined by supply and demand. This is not a principle of capitalist economics or even human economics; it is a fact of life. See (e.g., E.O. Wilson, “The Ergonomics of Social Insects”, American Economic Review). Observe the relation between sunlight intensity, rainfall, photosynthetic area, and root surface area in plants. Observe the relation between wage rates and population (wages rose after the Black Death). “Callous big city versus friendly small town” is real.
    5.
    a) Get real. Death rates, as measured by demographers, vary.
    b) The observed relation between education and wealth, on the one hand, and fecundity, on the other, is not so simple. First, within societies, corr(wealth, reproductive rate) is usually positive. In the US it is U-shaped, due to subsidization (AFDC, government schools, etc.). Inter-temporally, over the long haul, it is positive (consider the relation between moderate climate and population growth).
    c) Consider the evolutionary implications of “all human behavioral traits are heritable” (google the entire phrase). The current observed relation between aggregate wealth across societies and population growth cannot last.
    9. According to Wrigley (__Population and History__) cities have historically been population sinks, and do not reproduce themselves. This cannot last (“all human behavioral traits are heritable”+”humans who will reproduce at high density have a selective advantage over humans who require lots of open space”).
    11, 12.
    “11 & 12) The point being you assume that human beings will reach that level if unchecked in some fashion. The fact is birth rates in first world countries have long since fallen below the replacement rate, and the second world is not far behind. As the third world makes progress toward similar standards, there is no reason to believe that the result will be any different, or that it won’t happen long before we get to maximum sustainable population.”

    The reason human population will not stabilize without either compulsory means or a crash are those I have given. Sci-fi is not the answer. We are many decades (probably centuries) away from space travel to Mars as cheap as bus travel to Cleveland, which is what even that stop-gap would require. “Science will provide” is no more responsible a policy than “The Lord will provide”. No policy at all.

  172. Mark Sokacic says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Here is a source. Sorry the columns did not work right, but you can get the drift. Leuwenhoek was the first, and came up with 13.8 Billion. It looks like the mean of the “reasonable” estimates is around 20 Billion. Of course, epidemics and wars are the wild card.

    What will be the Earth’s maximum population?
    Posted on 2008 December 12 by probaway

    The book by Joel E. Cohen, “How Many People Can the Earth Support?” in Appendix 3 (p.402-18) lists many authors’ answers to that unanswerable question. Perhaps a better question would be, looking back from the distant future after humanity has passed on into oblivion, “What was the maximum population of humans the Earth ever achieved?” Ultimately, that will be a very specific number which in fact may be known at some time in the not to distant future by people now living, whereas the book’s title has a huge number of imponderable variables built into its question which can never be answered even after the fact. It was a poor question from a scientific point of view. Below is a list of various authors attempts to put a number to that question. Numbers are in billions. The current world population is approximately 6.8 billion.

    Minimum Maximum Author Year Comment
    Billion ~ Billion ~ 13.4 Leeuwenhoek 1679 First known estimate
    6.3 12.5 King 1695
    4.~ 6.6 Sussmilch 1741
    13.9 Sussmilch 1765
    6.0 Ravenstein 1891
    8.1 Fircks 1898
    10.9 Pfaundler 1902
    2.3 22.4 Ballod 1912
    132.~ Knibbs 1917
    5.2 Edward M. East 1924
    2.~ Pearl & Reed 1924
    6.- 12.~ Wickens 1925
    7.7 15.9 Penck 1925
    6.2 Fischer 1925
    5.7 Warren D. Smith 1935
    2.6 Pearl & Gould 1936
    13.3 Hollstein 1940
    5.6 13.3 Boerman 1940
    .9 2.8 Pearson & Harper 1945
    7.0 8.6 Mukerjee 1946
    5.~ Salter 1946
    6.5 10.~ Fawcett 1947
    1.8 7.2 Spengler 1949
    6.- 10~ C. Galton Darwin 1952
    50.- Brown 1954
    3.7 7.7 Brown, Bonner,W 1957
    28.~ Clark 1958
    30.~ Baade 1960
    16.~ 800.- Kleiber 1961
    10×10 raised 18 Fremlin 1964 Heat dissipation limit
    10.~ Cepede 1964
    30.~ Schmitt 1965
    41.~ Zierhoffer 1966
    47.~ 157.~ Clark 1967 Americans/Japanese
    79.- 1,022.- De Wit 1967 Total usage
    1.- Hulett 1970 American style
    40.- 60.- Austin & Brewer 1971
    0.5 1.2 Ehrlich 1971 Permanent & stable
    35 40.~ Muckenhausen 1973
    100.~ Lieth & Blaxter 1973
    38.- 48.~ Revelle 1974
    6.7 Buringh 1975
    5.~ 7.~ Whittaker & Likens 1975
    40.~ Revelle 1976
    17 Eyre & Blaxter 1978
    1,000.~ Marchetti 1978
    14 Kovda 1980
    4.5 Mann 1981
    2.0 3.9 Westing 1981
    12.~ Gates 1982
    7.5 Gilland 1979
    4.0 32.8 Higgins 1983
    6.1 Ferrell, Sander, Vo 1984
    300 Hardin 1986
    22 Calvin & Hudson 1986
    9.8 19.3 Hudson 1989
    2.8 5.5 Chen 1990
    5.3 Raven 1991
    7.7 Meadows 1992
    23.8 Tuckwell & Koziol 1992
    much less 5.5 Ehrlich 1993
    12.- 14.~ Heilig 1993
    10+ Waggoner 1994
    3.~ Pimentel 1994
    10.~ 11.~ Smil 1994
    11.~ 44.~ Dutch Gov. 1994
    — — — — —
    11.6 Daily & Ehrlich 1992
    ~12.~ WikiAnswers 2008
    2.0 Pimentel 1999 At American style
    2.7 OPT 2008 Optimum Pop.
    As you can see for yourself there is little agreement among these projections and that is why the question is flawed. If each of these researchers was asked “What is the maximum number the population the Earth would reach before retreating,” there would probably be a number much nearer Leeuwenhoek’s first prediction of 13.4 billion made back in 1697. He may have been looking through the first microscope but surely he had a reasonably clear distant vision also.

  173. I like how he ends the article:

    Pick a number, any number at all from 0 to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 for the maximum number that the Earth will support and there will be a scholarly supporter for that number. This is especially true if you fund a univiersity chair for that scholar.

  174. Lew Skannen says:
    September 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

    This is why I love WUWT. Every article is pure quantitative analysis and logic. After reading an article like this I have always learnt something of value.
    So different from the ‘handwaving’ arguments which seem to predominate in some other places…

    Thanks, Lew. That’s why I do not simply quote other articles, I do my own research and run the numbers on my own, and every expedition into the bowels of the climate I learn a bit more and bring back what I learn.

  175. Imagine, some people even think that cats can live on corn. Most cats I see that are forced to eat corn or rice or any other grain based cat food are obese and end up with diabetes. Some people actually give their cats insulin shots every day but yet still feed their cats corn. A cat in the wild would never eat corn no matter how hungry it was. I feed my cat raw ground turkey and raw eggs. She is 7 years old and looks like a teenager (1 year old cat.)

  176. Malcom Kirkpatrick;
    The reason human population will not stabilize without either compulsory means or a crash are those I have given.>>

    There are so many holes in your last post I hardly know where to begin. The hour being late and I have a very early start in the morning so I will only address this last comment of yours because in the end analysis it is the only one that matters.

    If you truly believe that the only options for the human race are either compulsory population control or a crash, then if you have an ounce of humanity in you, your only choice is to risk the crash. The prospect of government authority on a global basis with that kind of power, and the corruption that would inevitably result is a thousand times more frightening than a “crash”. Even if I bought into your arguments (which I do not), I would still risk the crash.

    My comment about space travel was meant to be sarcastic, not a real world proposal, but my intention also was that the comment be read in context with my additional comment regarding asteroids. Allow me to be more blunt. The chances of an asteroid striking earth with devastating consequences are real, there have been several near misses in the last few years alone. A major war in the middle east involving even a small number of nuclear weapons would interrupt a major portion of the world oil supply, devastating the world economy. A reversal of the last few decades of warming due to natural factors that have repeatedly sent the earth into an ice age would have a major negative impact on the world food supply with only a change of a few degrees. The earth is overdue for a magnetic field reversal that would leave an interim period during the reversal process of several centuries without protection from harmful radiation that the magnetic field currently provides. I could go on for hours with potential events that would devestate the human population, and I can make the case that each of them is more likely to happen in the next 100 years than a population crash. I will take my chances with them, and with the crash you suggest is inevitable because a government with that kind of power would wind up making the dark ages look enlightened.

    BTW – some time ago, my brother and my sister, both of whom moved to the big city early in their careers, suggested that my mother move there frome the city she currently lives in, a 15 minute drive from my house. Their argument was that 2/3 thirds of her childred lived in the big city. I calmly observed that 75% of her grandchildren lived a 15 minute drive from her current residence, and thus the debate was ended. The merits of global compulsory population control is not a debate that can be ended with a wry observation. Should someone attempt to put such an obomination in place, then I can only observe that the most likely outcome would be the very crash you fear. The affluence and freedom our society enjoys is so great that the we complain incessantly about the increased intrusion and control governments seek in our economy and personal lives, but very few of us are so agrieved that we would pick up a gun to fight for a revolution. The phrase “give me liberty or give me death” has lost much of its meaning as the current generation has grown up with the horrors of the world wars nothing more than recent history. Todays generation is too comfortable, too priviledged to enforce the meaning of that phrase until an issue so serious comes along that they are prepared to fight for their beliefs and put their lives on the line to defend them.

    I’ll take my chances with the crash. And I will fight for the right to do so. To the death.

  177. Oliver Ramsay says:
    September 12, 2010 at 11:22 am


    Willis, I suspect yours is the misconception.
    I haven’t any peer-reviewed lit. to link to but I’ll betcha there’s a lot more agriculture done in the world with machinery and draft animals than with pointy sticks. I’ll bet your average pointy stick farmer has no clue about protein and amino acids, nor vitaminB-12. Diets of mealie and tapioca are well-known in Africa and there are some pigs, but not many compared to the technologically more advanced China and the hog-averse Indian sub-continent. Supposedly, protein content of cassava is comparable to eggs, btw.

    It’s a bit of a platitude to say that “farmers are smart”, especially when the implication is that the most primitive are the smartest.

    Yeah, Oliver, you’re right … college professors are smart, and farmers are dumb. All of those farmers should just stop pretending that they know what they are doing, sell all of their animals, and become vegetarian. I mean, they are so “primitive” that they still use pointy sticks, how smart can they be?

    Do you realize how your post makes you sound? Arrogant, full of contempt for “primitive” people, and with a host of cheap advice. You sure you’re not a college professor yourself? I spent years working in the third world with those “primitive” women farmers. I can assure you that they are not stupid (although many are uneducated), and I’ll take their knowledge and experience on farming over E. O. Wilson’s good intentions and fatuous advice any day.

  178. There’s always tension and misunderstanding between farmers and city slickers.

    “A cowboy named Mark was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.

    The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you give me a calf?”

    Mark looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, Why not?”

    The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his iPhone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location, which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

    The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg , Germany . Within seconds, he receives an email on his iPhone that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his iPhone and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

    Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the cowboy and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

    “That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Mark.

    He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

    Then Mark says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

    The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

    “You’re a Congressman for the U.S. Government”, says Mark.
    “Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

    “No guessing required.” answered the cowboy. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter you are than I am; and you don’t know a thing about how working people make a living – or about cows, for that matter. This is a herd of sheep. ….

    Now give me back my dog.”

  179. Andrew W says:
    September 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I’ll say it again, simpler this time: most of the livestock rearing on the planet does not happen on what is categorized as arable land, so E.O. Wilson is right that taking the grain fed to cattle and making it available to humans would allow a lot more people to be fed.

    I’ll say it again, simpler this time. You didn’t read what I wrote, and besides, you’re wrong. Wilson didn’t say “stop feeding grain to cows”. He advised that all humans become vegivores, which is an entirely different thing.

    Even if Wilson had said what you claim, it is still nowhere near so simple as humans just eating the grain. Among other things, if we did not have animals to soak up any grain surplus, farmers would plant less grain since they could not depend on selling any excess … and so as a result of not feeding grain to cows, people would be forced to plant less grain, and populations would be at grave risk of famine. You ready for that?

    I despise these Professor-approved, easy answers that fly in the face of thousands of years of practical farmer wisdom. They are trivial, childish fantasies that could only be dreamed up by someone who has never lived through a hard winter on a farm.

    We feed grain to cows for time-tested reasons. It is a joke to think that with a few minutes thought some antomologist can come up with a you-beaut brilliant plan like “don’t feed grain to cows” and have that prove to be better than the millions of real-life experiments done by farmers all over the planet for thousands of years. Farmers raise livestock for a host of very good reasons. Yes, the farmers don’t know about protein and amino acids, as Oliver points out above … so what?

    What they do know, and what E. O. Wilson doesn’t seem to have noticed, is that in an uncertain world, a mix of livestock and plants gives the farmers’ kids the best chance of living to adulthood. The farmers don’t care particularly if some other method might put a bit more food in their mouths in a good year. They are concerned with long term survival, not publishing some nonsense in the Scientific American that is meaningless if it happens to be wrong. Farmers aren’t Professors, they can’t afford “wrong”, they can’t afford “oops”. As a result, they use what has proven to work best, which is plants plus animals.

  180. Patrick Kelly says:
    September 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve come upon this post relatively late and haven’t got time to go through all the responses. So if my point has been raised already I apologise. It seems to me that there is a flaw in the calculations. Consider the following from the post:
    1. “By becoming vegivores, we have freed up the 23% of our cropland used to produce animal food.”
    2. “So immediately we have to devote about 18% of the freed up land to replacing lost protein.”

    Now 18% of the “freed up” land is (18*23)/100 or something less than 5% of the total land. The author subracts the 18% from the 23% when he should be subracting the (close to) 5%.

    My apologies for my lack of clarity. Both the 18% and the 23% are percentages of the total amount of land. I’ll fix it above.

    Thanks,

    w.

  181. E.M.Smith says:
    September 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    BTW, protein is not a significant problem on a vegetarian diet. Just mix some beans and leaves with the grains. (Spinach and beans can have higher protein content than meat).

    Never heard anyone make any of those claims. Here’s what I find about protein in meat, beans, and spinach, ranked from highest to lowest:

    PROTEIN CONTENT, PERCENT
    Venison, 34%
    Veal fillet (roast), 30%
    Goose (roast), 30%
    Pheasant (roast), 30%
    Partridge (roast), 29%
    Pork Chops (grilled), 28%
    Turkey (roast), 28%
    Corned beef canned, 27%
    Rabbit, 27%
    Pork Leg (roast), 27%
    Chicken Calories (average), 26%
    Lamb Leg (roast), 25%
    Beef Calories (average lean), 25%
    Hare, 25%
    Offal (average stewed), 24%
    Bacon Calories (average rashers), 23%
    Lamb Cutlets (grilled), 23%
    Lamb breast (roast), 22%
    Lamb Chops (grilled), 21%
    Pork Belly rashers (grilled), 21%
    Lamb Shoulder (roast), 20%
    Pork Trotters (boiled), 20%
    Duck (roast), 20%
    Beefburgers (average), 18%
    Meat Paste (average), 15%
    Ham & Pork canned, 14%
    Sausage (average), 13%
    Pigeon (roast), 13%
    Luncheon Meat canned, 13%
    Red Beans, 10.5%
    White Beans, 10.5%
    Pinto Beans, 10.5%
    Black Beans, 7.5%
    Navy Beans, 7.5%
    Chickpeas, 7%
    Lima Beans, 7%
    Blackeyed Peas, 3.5%
    Spinach, frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt, 3.1%
    Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt, 3%
    Spinach, raw, 2.9%
    Spinach, canned, drained solids, 2.8%

    Doesn’t look like protein from either beans or spinach can hold a candle to turkey. Or to bacon. Or to “offal”, for that matter, which the dictionary defines as “Offal is a culinary term used to refer to the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal.” Not sure I want to try that no matter how short of protein I get.

    However, even animal guts have much more protein than either beans or spinach. For example, to get the protein in a half pound of pork chops, you’d have to eat about five pounds of spinach, or a pound and a half of beans … remind me to sit upwind of you when we try that experiment.

    In addition, the protein in plants is generally not “complete”, meaning it does not contain all of the amino acids. As a result, you either don’t digest all the protein, or you have to eat some other protein (beans with corn for example) that provides the missing amino acids.

    So no, it is not easy to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet. I was vegetarian for some three years, and I also created the menu and cooked vegetarian meals for thirty people for a year. I found I had to put serious thought into getting enough protein into the food to keep people strong and healthy, so this is more than theory … like I said above, it can be done, but it’s by no means automatic.

  182. Mark Sokacic says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Can anyone here calculate the estimated maximum carrying capacity of the earth for humans or point to a link which does perhaps?
    Thanks in advance

    Your question cannot be answered as posed. It depends on the level of technology. If we had dirt cheap fusion power, for example, we could support many more people than we could on wood power …

  183. Gnomish says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Feeding to pigs is actually a large scale waste disposal practice.
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an143

    “The primary waste products fed to swine are plate and kitchen waste, bakery waste, and food products from grocery stores. The primary sources of plate waste are restaurants, institutions, schools, and to a small degree, households. Food waste originating from restaurants, institutions, and schools has traditionally been referred to as garbage and has been regulated as such. According to the USDA there are over 2,200 licensed garbage feeders in the United States and nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico (USDA-APHIS, VS, 1995)”

    Indeed. And just think of how many more people we could feed if instead of giving the partially eaten restaurant food to pigs, we gave the partially eaten restaurant food to humans!

  184. If you have so much corn (and the ability to produce more) that it, routinely, sells for $0.06/lb, why wouldn’t you ferment out some of the starch (sugar) to produce fuel?

    Especially, when you can produce it for $1.60/gal, and gasoline is selling for $2.10 to $2.30 Wholesale?

    You ethanol-haters are missing two things. 1) We can raise enormous amounts of it very cheaply, and 2) We only use the Starch, not the proteins, oils, etc.

  185. Oliver Ramsay says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm
    Willis says;

    “Farmers would not keep animals if it were not a net gain.”

    As previously pointed out, it’s about financial gain, not pounds of blueberries as opposed to parsnips. It’s not just about survival; there are aesthetic preferences.

    For most farmers on this planet, the issue is most definitely survival. They are subsistence farmers who live off of what they grow. To think that their issue is dollars simply tells me that you have not spent time with them.

    “The animals in turn produce milk and eggs and meat, and then go on

    to enrich the soil through their urine and manure, just like they were perfected to do on the plains of Africa so long ago … what an amazing planet.”

    This is a simplistic argument with a hint of intentional design.

    This is a stupid opening statement with more than a hint of intentional nastiness.

    If you start out with a very fertile soil and sell produce away from the farm year after year you’re going to have to import manure from somebody else’s critters to feed your land ‘cos the city slicker eating your cow is sending your farm’s fertility down the sewer. You say farmers aren’t dumb but you’re suggesting agronomists are.

    Gosh, you mean that farmers actually need to fertilize their land to make up for lost nutrients? That’s something I’m sure no farmer ever thought of, good thing we have agronomists …

    I didn’t say agronomists are stupid, although I’ve known one who definitely was dumber than a box of hammers. I’m saying E. O. Wilson is talking out of his fertilizer production orifice …
    ———-

    “You don’t need animals, you can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet”, which is certainly true.

    However, to do it, you need to eat more grains to get this protein,…”

    More grains than what? It’s widely known that populations of the developed world consume far more protein than is necessary, and maybe more than is healthy.

    Dude, if you think too much protein is a significant problem on this planet, you really should get out more in the developing world. Go eat a few cane rats, get a real world perspective …

    But in any case, if people stop eating meat protein, they will have to consume more of some other kind of protein, … is that really so hard to understand? “More grain” means “more grain than you’d have to eat if you were also eating meat.”

    Final Quibble; the suffix -vore is used to denote an animal that is biologically equipped to eat certain things, rather than one that makes an intellectual decision to do so. -arian carries more of that sense; e.g. libertarian or breatharian!

    You might not have noticed, but some people engage in what is called a “play on words” … look it up sometime.

    In any case, “carnivore” comes from “carne”, meat, and “vorare”, to devour. The dictionary lists its meaning as “any animal that eats meat”. I find nothing about whether it eats meat by choice or not.

    The same is true with “omnivore”, which is defined as “any animal that eats both meat and vegetable substances.” Again nothing about choice.

    Now, you say that the “vore” part “is used to denote an animal that is biologically equipped to eat certain things, rather than one that makes an intellectual decision to do so.”

    Humans are biologically equipped to eat both meat and vegetables. That means that we are omnivores. By your carefully parsed definition, a human being who chooses to eat meat would be called a “carnetarian”.

    But since nobody calls anyone a “carnetarian”, your interesting definition (which I did not find a mention of in a single dictionary) must not be the one that is commonly in use.

    In any case, I was simply playing with the words to try to disconnect the emotional content of some of the things being discussed from the names of the things themselves. A bit of word play, in other words …

    Personally, I find the human population density a little displeasing and hope that animals will continue to abound.

    Couldn’t agree more.

  186. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Yeah, Oliver, you’re right … college professors are smart, and farmers are dumb.

    College professors know that farmers are dumb in theory, and farmers know that college professors are dumb in practice. ;-)

  187. Richard Sharpe says:
    September 12, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Simon Singh thinks we should trust the experts, but you have made a good argument, Willis.

    Anyway, where did you learn to say “you-beaut”?

    Did you ever notice what a doctor will tell you about any type of difficult diagnosis?

    “Get a second opinion”.

    That’s how far I trust the “experts”. I trust them as much as I trust any opinion, I trust them as much as my doctor tells me to trust him. Simon Singh says:

    Wired: What about nonscientists? How are we supposed to know what’s true?

    Simon Singh: Don’t come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it, and then say, “Look at this, I must be right.” Start off by saying, “Who do I trust?” On global warming, for example, I happen to trust climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates, and certain science journalists. You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.

    Well … let me start and finish by saying I don’t trust Simon Singh. A person stupid enough to blindly trust anyone as he recommends deserves what they get, and they will get it in spades if they trust “climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates”. Simon is as thick as two short planks if he trusts anyone in the world of mainstream climate science. He’s too stupid to know that climate science is badly broken. I wouldn’t trust him to babysit my pet rock.

    And I learned to say “you beaut” from my Aussie and Kiwi mates, during the nearly 20 years I lived in the South Pacific.

  188. Mark Sokacic says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm
    “Can anyone here calculate the estimated maximum carrying capacity of the earth for humans or point to a link which does perhaps?
    Thanks in advance”

    It depends on the size of the humans.

  189. Kum Dollison says:
    September 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    If you have so much corn (and the ability to produce more) that it, routinely, sells for $0.06/lb, why wouldn’t you ferment out some of the starch (sugar) to produce fuel?

    Especially, when you can produce it for $1.60/gal, and gasoline is selling for $2.10 to $2.30 Wholesale?

    You ethanol-haters are missing two things. 1) We can raise enormous amounts of it very cheaply, and 2) We only use the Starch, not the proteins, oils, etc.

    “Ethanol-haters”? Whenever someone writes that thoughtful opposition to ethanol comes from “ethanol-haters”, I know that we have left science and are lost in emotion.

    However, I persevere. I oppose the conversion of grain (including corn) to fuel alcohol because:

    1. Alcohol is a very poor fuel. It doesn’t contain a lot of energy, it absorbs water, and it is hard on engines. There’s a reason that it has never been used historically as much of a fuel … because it isn’t much of a fuel at all.

    2. You say you only use the starch so there’s no problem. So perhaps you could tell us how we can make a tortilla out of what’s left over?

    3. Something on the order of a third of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, and about half of those live on a dollar a day or less. So you can fold your paternalistic “sells for $0.06/lb” and gently place it someplace safe. To start with, today’s price is about a third higher than that, $0.08 per pound. But that’s the price if you are buying a trainload of shelled corn. For the poor shlub at the sharp end of the stick who is buying corn by the half kilo, her price will be perhaps four times that, and often more. As a result, you are TAKING FOOD OUT OF HER MOUTH. I’m not sure how you can live with that … I couldn’t. Since you clearly think that you gassing up your car to run to the corner for groceries is worth taking food from the poor for, I don’t really know what to say to you.

    Net result is that for lots and lots of people in the world, buying a paltry pound of corn meal costs a third or a half of a day’s wages. So while you can make a first world wage and wear nice clothes and own a car and sneer at the cheapness of corn at six cents a pound, most people on the planet do not have that luxury. Turning perfectly good food into third-class fuel is simply stupid, not to mention arrogant and anti-poor folks.

    4. It is not economical. It has to be supported by the taxpayer. Why should I pay for your fuel, as I am forced to do today? Seriously, where do you get the … … the nerve to force me to pay for your freakin’ fuel? I should send you a bill.

    5. Depending on how you measure it, it might save a little CO2, it might add a little CO2, or perhaps no change. Big whoop.

    6. The artificial demand for ethanol has led a number of countries to chop down tropical forest and plant ethanol plants. The birds and the animals of the forest thank all of you “ethanol-lovers” for that, I’m sure.

    So you are supporting a system that chops down tropical forests; takes food from the poor; provides a third-rate, low-energy, corrosive fuel; makes no difference to the CO2 situation; and forces me to pay to gas up your car.

    And you probably think you are a sensitive, environmentally conscious guy … when you are not insulting people who have very good reasons for thinking that your idea sucks.

  190. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 12, 2010 at 11:11 pm
    “[…]1. Alcohol is a very poor fuel. It doesn’t contain a lot of energy, it absorbs water, and it is hard on engines. There’s a reason that it has never been used historically as much of a fuel … because it isn’t much of a fuel at all.”

    Energy density, various fuels:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg

    Ethanol is worse than Diesel or Gasoline, but not that much worse.

  191. My argument is with your claim that rearing less meat would make little or no difference to how many people the planet could support given current farming technology, most of your post was built around that claim. I think you’re wrong, outside of places with industrial farming like North America and Europe, grain is rarely fed to livestock, and indeed even in North America and Europe grain as a subsistence feed for livestock is a relatively recent development.
    Grain stores well, it’s probably the easiest of foods for a subsistence farmer to store, any surplus not sold is normally stored for following years, the idea of subsistence farmers feeding a valuable grain surplus to livestock is ridiculous.

    “I despise these Professor-approved, easy answers that fly in the face of thousands of years of practical farmer wisdom.”

    Having been a farmer my whole life I’ve started to get that feeling lately.

  192. GM says: September 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm
    The word “ecosystem” was heavily present in my post. For those who can read, of course. In a functioning ecosystem, goats never reach the kind of numbers that threaten the existence of the ecosystem because there are plenty of predators that keep their population in check. In a world where everything is seen as existing for humans to devour, those predators are eliminated (Why? Because they eat goats) and the number of goats is maximized (which usually ends up in the overshoot scenario I described). Again, sustainability is all about having functioning ecosystems, overshoot is about maximizing the short term at the expense of ecological capital and not taking the long term carrying capacity into account.
    =============================================================

    GM now I know who you are – Sheldon Cooper – you fit the description perfectly of course you WOULD have to show up here – see below.

    Sheldon is distinctive for his overtly intellectual personality: he is calculating and cynical, he exhibits a strict adherence to routine, a lack of understanding of irony, sarcasm and humor, a habit of constantly expressing admiration for his superior intellect (which is sometimes found offensive by the other characters), and a complete lack of humility; these characteristics are the main sources of his character’s humor and the center of a number of episodes.

    Can’t wait for your next show –erm – sorry – post!

    Doug

  193. I can attest to Willis’s statement that alcohol isn’t much of a fuel. Back in the day, when speed was king for me, a bunch of us played around with running alcohol fuels in racing motorcycles and the hassles alcohol brought were huge, though interesting in a perverse kind of fashion. Its only real benefit was its cooling properties, which enabled tuners to do more radical stuff with valve timing and compression ratios, etc. When production watercooled two-strokes came along, life for the hobby bike racer/tuner became very simple – set ’em up, then leave ’em alone!

  194. Another great post, Willis :-)

    A couple of things the veggies/academics/deep-greens/theorisers [delete whichever is inapplicable] forget.

    1. Ploughland is subject to topsoil erosion. Inexpensive production of grain staples relies on the nutrients in topsoil. Topsoil loss rates exceed the geologists’ estimates for topsoil creation. Shifting the balance of farmland from pasture to more ploughland is contrary to the principles of sustainable agriculture. It makes no sense to *decrease* the productive lifespan of farmland.

    2. Animal manure consists of mostly bacteria. Those bacteria are food for the beneficial soil bacteria compete with fungi that are diseases of our staple grains, for example take-all in wheat. Some see virtue in purchasing a “cure”, others see virtue in prevention.

    Mark Sokacic said @ September 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm
    “Can anyone here calculate the estimated maximum carrying capacity of the earth for humans or point to a link which does perhaps?
    Thanks in advance”

    We don’t know the rate of topsoil loss with any great accuracy. Topsoil creation rate has recently been revised downward by the geologists. The next great glaciation will lower sea levels and create an increase in available land, but at the cost of much lower rainfall. What do you want to feed these humans on? One of our ancestors (h. robusta IIRC) ate grasses and similar stuff. Presumably the GMO technicians will be able to engineer “people” to do the same again. Lots of room for speculation there…

  195. “BTW, protein is not a significant problem on a vegetarian diet. Just mix some beans and leaves with the grains. (Spinach and beans can have higher protein content than meat). ”

    Spinach, leaves and beans do not have a higher content of protein than meat. (!)

    Soy is the only veg that has not only a useful amount of protein, but also, low enough carbs so in theory is could be used as a ‘meat’ component.

    However, many people are allergic to it and lots of others just don’t like the taste, and there is an issue with soy being suspected to be unsafe to eat.

    So whilst that is not settled, for now, soy is something to feed the livestock and to treat as an elective secondary food — it’s not a staple.

    Btw, if you eat a chicken every week throughout your life, you will have made an extra 420 years of chicken life possible in your time. ;-D

    Choose life, eat meat!

  196. GM really goes to great lengths to widen the pool of bs! Most of the agricultural environments in the developed world in which goats are a minor factor have few or nil predators interested in or even capable of killing and eating goats. His nonsense about farmers and their sole role of keeping predators at bay is the stuff of fairytales for children dating from the long-ago. I know full well that predators preying on livestock in the Third World can be a problem, but GM’s silly generalisations are just that. Much of the world has passed the stage wherein lonely goatherds keept watch over their charges.

  197. I’d just like to say THANK YOU! to Willis Eischenbach for once again doing his homework and coming up with a brilliant piece. I fully intend to crap the arrogance and poor common sense of the vegan nuts down their throats the next time I get a pamphlet at my Catholic services about why Jesus would not eat cows (never mind the fact that he DID…LOL)

  198. Gail Combs says: September 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm
    Dried, sanitized human waste from sewage treatment facilities has been considered as fertilizer. The only problem is the ” household and industrial chemicals” that go down the drain and could poison the fields.

    Somewhere I learned that human waste concentrated heavy metals, lead, cadmium, etc., and that is the reason it isn’t widely used. I can’t find a reference to look this up easily.

    DirkH says: September 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm
    Energy density, various fuels:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg
    Ethanol is worse than Diesel or Gasoline, but not that much worse.

    According to your wiki source, ethanol has 35-40% less energy than Diesel or Gasoline, or conversely the latter two have 50% more energy than ethanol. That seems significant energy-wise.

  199. There is no disease or condition caused by a lack of protein in one’s diet. Unless you are a bodybuilder, you can get by on just a tiny bit of protein. Notice the USDA does not have a recommended daily intake of protein…because it’s not needed.

  200. Well we started out as vegivores as I recall; well actually fruitivores. We spent about every waking minute that wasn’t used for sex, on climbing around in fig trees gathering our daily food. But we wre too big and heavy to get out to the thinner branches where the best figs grew in more sunshine; so we had to just watch while the smaller monkeys, and other primates got those prime figs. So fruitivores were kind of stuck sizewise, as you can see. And while were up in the trees we noticed that there were huge herds of much bigger things down on the ground that were neither fruitivores nore vegivores; more grassivores. And we had truied eating that grass ourselves and it tasted like; well you know what it tasted like.

    Then we go the bright idea that we should let those little monkeys gather the figs for us, since they were so much better at it. Well of course they ate the figs, instead of giving them to us.

    So we bashed their brains in with a stick, and then we at them instead. And we found they were a lot more nutritious overall than just living on figs.

    Then one day, a big lightning storm set a big grass fire, and it trapped a bunch of zebras and gnus and roasted them to medium well. As good as those raw monkeys tasted; they weren’t a patch on roasted zebra; which came in alternate layers of white meat and dark meat; so we could choose which we liked. So we figured out how to keep lighning in a pot so we could roast zebras any time we wanted to; so we became omnivores, so we could eat anything even grass’by letting it pass once through the zebra and then eating the zebra.

    But it was the stored chemical energy and the means of releasing it through fire; which really solved our food shortage problems and let us grow in numbers beyond our wildest dreams.

    So how can you grow vegies to make ethanol; when you need the energy input to grow and process the food. Total world food production is linearly related to total agricultural energy input; and it has always been thatway. The world will get just so much food for so much (other) energy; so these vegie pyramid worshipers are living in a dream world. Their food pyramid depends for its existence on the reay availability of energy; most of it coming from fossil fuels in one form or another; besides of course the very slow collection rate of free clean green renewable solar energy; that requires too much land area to collect efficiently.

  201. Exactly why would anyone believe I should stop eating burgers so that a couple in India can go ahead and have 4 children instead of two?

    We have two children and then we stopped. I really have trouble seeing myself as part of the problem. I’ll eat all the beef I want thank you.

  202. Mr. Eschenbach, here’s the argument I’ve always made as to why meat-eating – especially by Americans – is not the cause of world hunger as many claim; it’s a little different than your take and I’m curious if you think it is valid. Thanks!

    1. Americans eat a lot of meat because it’s cheap compared to our incomes.

    2. Meat is cheap in America because the corn used to feed most cattle is cheap. This is a direct result of American farmers having access to inexpensive and highly efficient technologies like artificial fertilizers, hybrid seeds, harvest machinery, inexpensive fuel, effective and (when used properly) safe insecticides, and good infrastructure (roads, transportation, warehouses, etc.).

    3. If Americans decided to eat less meat, American farmers would grow less livestock feed (corn). They might grow some other grain for human consumption, but we already export tons of grain. Countries that can’t produce enough food for themselves can’t afford to buy our current excess grain production, so they wouldn’t be helped by a farmer switching from livestock feed to something humans could eat.

    4. The U.S. government already buys tons of grain every year and gives it away. However, such aid does not help a country to develop their own agriculture. In fact, it may very well be harming countries when we giving them long-term food aide (which is very different from immediate assistance in response to dire food emergencies). When a country is flooded with free food for an extended period of time, it undermines the local agricultural economy.

    5. American consumption of beef is just Americans eating excess (cheap) corn in another form. Not eating meat in America will just remove the economic incentive for American farmers to grow that crop, so they’ll switch to something else. Regardless, it will do nothing to help the malnourished of the world.

    6. Meat consumption always increases in countries as they grow economically. People like meat. And we know that it is harmful for young children to live on a vegan diet, so increasing meat consumption — from a third-world level — should correlate with increased health. And that appears to be the case: more wealthy countries, which eat more meat than poorer countries, have much longer life spans.

    7. In third-world countries, domestic livestock is not normally fed grain that could feed humans. This is for a very good reason: it is too expensive. Most livestock in developing countries eat plant fibre humans cannot consume, like grass and woody plants. In fact, worldwide, goats provide more meat for human consumption than any other type of livestock.

    8. Livestock perform important functions in third-world agriculture: they produce the highest quality protein from marginal land — that is, land that is not suitable for growing human consumable crops — and they provide valuable fertilizers for crops.

  203. Maybe this has already been mentioned, but much of the food stuffs given to impoverished countries is lost in distribution. Rations are either taken by government bureaucracies and little makes it’s way down to the needy, or warlords steal it for political purposes.

  204. Doug says:
    September 13, 2010 at 9:02 am
    “There is no disease or condition caused by a lack of protein in one’s diet. Unless you are a bodybuilder, you can get by on just a tiny bit of protein. Notice the USDA does not have a recommended daily intake of protein…because it’s not needed.”

    Actually, there is an RDA for protein. See page 6 of this PDF: http://iom.edu/en/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRISummaryListing2.ashx

    There are ten essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized, and must be consumed as protein. http://www.uic.edu/classes/phar/phar332/Clinical_Cases/aa%20metab%20cases/PKU%20Cases/essential-nonessential.htm
    Apart from muscle development, they are needed for healing, forming connective tissue, and generation of key hormones and enzymes.
    Vegetable sources of protein do not contain all ten essential amino acids in one source, and must be eaten in the right combination. Meat protein does contain all ten.

  205. Doug says:
    September 13, 2010 at 9:02 am
    There is no disease or condition caused by a lack of protein in one’s diet. Unless you are a bodybuilder, you can get by on just a tiny bit of protein. Notice the USDA does not have a recommended daily intake of protein…because it’s not needed.

    Unfortunately, Doug, the condition you are experiencing causing you to write foolishness is apparently caused by a lack of protein, aka, amino acids.

    Vegans might not meet their protein needs, resulting in a loss of muscle mass and/or reduced immunity, if:

    Food intake does not meet energy needs such as in cases of anorexia nervosa, depression, poverty, lack of appetite due to illness, or dieting.
    Higher-protein plant foods are not included in sufficient amounts. This can happen when:
    Most foods eaten are low-protein, junk food such as French fries, potato chips, and soda.
    Protein is believed to be unimportant and/or higher protein foods are avoided (such as in some fruitarian or raw food diets).
    Legumes are avoided. (Other high-protein foods should be used.)
    High Quality Protein

    Proteins are made out of chains of amino acids. Some amino acids can be made by the body (generally from other amino acids), but some cannot. The ones that cannot are known as “essential” or “indispensable.”

    Twenty amino acids are used to build protein, but they are not the only amino acids. Carnitine and taurine are amino acids that our bodies make and use, but which are not building blocks of protein. The discussion below is limited to the amino acids needed to build proteins.

    Because some amino acids are essential, the RDA for amino acids should be as important as the RDA for protein. But because the RDA for protein takes into account the RDA for amino acids, the RDA for amino acids is rarely mentioned. As it turns out, essential amino acids are found in fairly consistent amounts in various foods and, thus, the RDA for protein is calculated with typical diets in mind.

  206. Willis, I certainly hope you know more about “climate science” than you do about ethanol.

    You said: 1. Alcohol is a very poor fuel.

    The Truth: It was an ethanol-fueled car that won the X-Prize Competition (over 100 mpg normal driving in a “producible” car.) Ethanol has an Octane Rating of 114 -compared to 84 for the RBOB that it’s mixed with. The new Buick Regal gets within 5% the mileage on E85 as it gets on gasoline, and produces Much More Power on the high ethanol blend.

    You said: 2. You say you only use the starch so there’s no problem. So perhaps you could tell us how we can make a tortilla out of what’s left over?

    The Truth: Mexicans don’t make their tortillas out of yellow field corn; they make their tortillas out of white sweet corn. A totally different product, grown in totally different fields, by totally different farming methods.

    But, in case they wanted to we have about 1.3 Billion Bushels in storage, and a new harvest (that will yield 13.2 Billion Bushels) underway.

    3) I don’t know what to say. Silly, emotional, non-scientific babbling, perhaps?

    The Truth: You can buy all the corn you want at the farmgate in any midwestern state for approx. $0.07/lb. That is Not “Paternalistic,” nor will I put it where “the sun don’t shine.” It’s simply a Fact.

    I don’t believe you can give me an example of anyone who has ever starved to death because corn went up $0.03/lb.

    You said: It is not economical. It has to be supported by the taxpayer. Why should I pay for your fuel, as I am forced to do today? Seriously, where do you get the … … the nerve to force me to pay for your freakin’ fuel? I should send you a bill.

    The Truth: Maybe I should send you a bill for Iraq, and all other military operations in the Persian Gulf.

    You can produce ethanol, today, w/o subsidies, for about $1.80 gal. After transport, blending, and taxes you can drive your Buick Regal for less money, with More performance, on unsubsidized ethanol than on gasoline.

    5) I could care less about CO2

    You said: 6. The artificial demand for ethanol has led a number of countries to chop down tropical forest and plant ethanol plants. The birds and the animals of the forest thank all of you “ethanol-lovers” for that, I’m sure.

    The Truth: You’re confusing ethanol with something else. There is no case of a sq. foot of forest ever being cleared to plant crops for ethanol.

    I’m just a reasonable guy that understands that oil is going to be getting in shorter supply one of these days, and that people are more apt to starved from the inability to “make a living” than they are from in increase of $0.03/lb in the cost of corn in Iowa.

  207. Doug says:
    September 13, 2010 at 9:02 am
    “There is no disease or condition caused by a lack of protein in one’s diet. Unless you are a bodybuilder, you can get by on just a tiny bit of protein. Notice the USDA does not have a recommended daily intake of protein…because it’s not needed.”

    I hope you don’t reproduce. You’re setting yourself up for a failure in that respect.

  208. “”” Kum Dollison says:
    September 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm
    Willis, I certainly hope you know more about “climate science” than you do about ethanol.

    You said: 1. Alcohol is a very poor fuel.

    The Truth: It was an ethanol-fueled car that won the X-Prize Competition (over 100 mpg normal driving in a “producible” car.) Ethanol has an Octane Rating of 114 -compared to 84 for the RBOB that it’s mixed with. The new Buick Regal gets within 5% the mileage on E85 as it gets on gasoline, and produces Much More Power on the high ethanol blend. “””

    So why is it that the heat of combustion of virtually any alcohol is less than the heat of combustion for the alkane precurseor of that same alcohol; and less by just about the heat of combustion of H2 to make H2O.

    http://www.webmo.net/curriculum/heat_of_combustion/heat_of_combustion_key.html

    Methane has one of the highest heats of combustion of any hydrocarbon; yet it also has one of the lowest Octane ratings. And Octane rating doesn’t have anything to do with power output anyway. Premium gasoline typically has less energy (heat of combustion) than does regular fuel.

    So Octane rating is no measure of fuel efficiency. Yes it is true that for an ordinary internal combustion engine of the Otto cycle kind; a higher Octane rating permits using a higher compression ratio for an engine; and that higher compression ration engine can produce more power because it runs at a higher thermal efficiency by operating at higher peak Temperatures and pressures. And those higher peak Temperatures and pressures are what results in the engine burning “air” to make NOx; which is why US Octane ratings are restricted to reduce the NOx formation. Those saem high P&T peaks is also what causes the engine to run out of crankshaft bearings; because the peak loads skyrocket with compression ratio.

    Superchargers; and Turbochargers Reduce the formation of NOx and also reduce bearing loads but they do so at the expense of thermal efficiency; which means that an automobile runs out of radiator cooling capacity. Well the turbo of course recoups some of the wased energy; but at the expense of increased complexity.

    But I’m all for progress; so I look forward to a day without fossil fuels; so we can all live clean and energetic on cheap clean green renewable alcohol fuels that simply grow themselves; without much help from us.

    How many gallons of water does it take per gallon of ethanol production?
    California has a big surplus of water and electricity that we can use to make ethanol, and electric cars.

  209. Steve Keohane says:
    September 13, 2010 at 7:34 am
    “According to your wiki source, ethanol has 35-40% less energy than Diesel or Gasoline, or conversely the latter two have 50% more energy than ethanol. That seems significant energy-wise.”

    Significant, yes. But it’s not like an order of magnitude; so it would be less of a problem than battery- or supercap-powered cars. I know, nobody talks about supercap powered cars, but in fact supercaps are used in certain electric vehicles – they have the advantage of a very fast recharge. Good enough for going up and down factory floors, for instance. If you would have the choice of running an alcohol-powered fuel cell car with an electric motor or a gasoline-powered ignition engine car, you would probably even gain power as the electric motor is about 3 times as efficient.

    Please mind, i’m not recommending anything. I just want to point out that “30% less” would not be a killer criterion for such a technology. “90% less” would kill it outright, IMHO.

  210. The fact is, E.M. the new Buick Regal (with the 2.0L TDI Engine) will get within 5% the same mileage on ethanol (E85) as on gasoline (and, with a 15% increase in Horsepower.)

    That is a Fact.

    GM says the next iteration will get the Same mileage (will probably have heated injectors.)

    Ethanol burns “Cooler” than gasoline, not hotter.

    Octane is everything. It allows higher compression. Higher Compression means more power. Ethanol allows much higher EGR (exhaust gas recirculation.) That means when the little turbo DI engine is loafing around in town it is utilizing more EGR, and using less fuel. Under load the turbo kicks in, and increases the Compression using max fuel (DI,) and air.

    An ethanol biorefinery uses less water than an oil refinery, and 96% of the corn that is turned into ethanol is Not irrigated. There are a few corn ethanol refineries still under construction. When they are online that does it for “corn” ethanol. From here on out it is all “cellulosic” ethanol. ‘s all good. :)

  211. “”” Kum Dollison says:
    September 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm
    The fact is, E.M. the new Buick Regal (with the 2.0L TDI Engine) will get within 5% the same mileage on ethanol (E85) as on gasoline (and, with a 15% increase in Horsepower.)

    That is a Fact.

    GM says the next iteration will get the Same mileage (will probably have heated injectors.)

    Ethanol burns “Cooler” than gasoline, not hotter. “””

    BINGO ! read up on Carnot efficiency and then explain to us how burning cooler gives better efficiency; I already explained why it burns cooler one of the H2 in the CnH2n+2 has already been burned up in the factory that makes the alcohol out of it.

    California farmers would be very interested in your waterless crop growing technology; they have thopusands of acres of fallowed ground because of the lack or irrigation water for their crops (including corn; whcih we grow a lot of in California.

    But I am all in favor of the entrepeneurial spirit; so sell your house and invest all the money in Ethanol and enjoy the fruits of your new found wealth. Just don’t ask me to go in with you though; either voluntarily or involuntarily.

    As to the Buick Regal; why not just settle for the same horsepower rather than the 15% excess which we don’t need; and then you would (presumably) get 10% better fuel mileage than gasoline.

    And I didn’t see your solution for the Higher NOx that your higher compression engine will generate.

  212. “Ethanol is worse than Diesel or Gasoline, but not that much worse.”

    About 30% less.

    If you all of a sudden started getting 30% less gas mileage (say from 30 mpg to 21 mpg) would you say it wasn’t that much worse.

    Me I’m annoyed that I’m down 2.5 mpg or about 10% from my previous car (same make and model)

  213. George, the fact that you live in a goofy state that would rather flush fresh water out into the Ocean than use it to grow crops isn’t my problem.

    I don’t like our government wasting almost a Trillion Dollars, and 4,000 Young Americans’ lives in Iraq, or the money we spend protecting the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf States, and their Royalty, or the $300 Billion, annually, we spend on imported oil, or oil spills destroying hundreds of miles of beaches, and thousands of business,

    but, That is not your problem.

    But, the economic damage that will be done to our Country by declining oil flow, multiplied by increased demand from China, India, and the rest of the developing world is My problem, and Your problem. I’ll try not to inconvenience you any more than is absolutely necessary while I’m keeping your economy running.

    Oh, and the fact is that 2.0L engine in the Buick Regal easily gets 220 HP when using E85. That’s just the way it is. It gets a little less than 190 HP on gasoline. That, also, is the way it is. That is because when running ethanol the turbo cranks up higher which raises the effective Compression, producing more power. If you cranked the turbo up that high on gasoline it would cause pre-detonation, and if the knock sensor didn’t kick in in time it would blow up the engine. If you made the engine smaller gasoline wouldn’t produce enough power to satisfactorily push the 3,600 car around.

  214. Anthony, great subject matter. Willis, great post on it.

    Malthus, Ehrlich, Holdren, Club of Rome. They never learn.

    Simon had it about right. The only thing of value likely to be scarce in the future is human ingenuity. I’d add common sense, property rights, and the rule of law given present trends since Simon passed.

    Any of you ever wonder what good could’ve been done for humanity with the $100 billion western governments have spent on “climate change” since in the last decade?

  215. Willis says:
    “Do you realize how your post makes you sound? Arrogant, full of contempt for “primitive” people, and with a host of cheap advice. You sure you’re not a college professor yourself? I spent years working in the third world with those “primitive” women farmers. I can assure you that they are not stupid (although many are uneducated), and I’ll take their knowledge and experience on farming over E. O. Wilson’s good intentions and fatuous advice any day.”

    ———–
    You’re right that I had no idea that my comments made me sound like that, but I’m always interested to hear what facile inferences people can make on the basis of their own pre-conceptions.
    In a subsequent comment you reveal a certain admiration for the authority of “the dictionary”. It’s a shame that you didn’t resort to it before taking umbrage at the words ‘primitive’ and ‘simplistic’, which obviously push your buttons and launch you into paroxysms of indignation.
    If you can hold your self-righteousness in check long enough, you will discover that ‘primitive’ means “belonging to an early stage of technical development; characterized by simplicity and (often) crudeness;”.
    You will also learn that ‘simplistic’ means ”
    The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.”
    Your bilious response to my comments reveals to me that you have no interest in discussion.
    I will deign to add one more word to those that you should look up in your cherished dictionary and try to understand; ‘morpheme’. Its meaning might help you to see that a dictionary is a rather ‘primitive’ tool in the understanding of linguistics and that sole reliance on such a crude implement will lead you to ‘simplistic’ conclusions.

  216. “Kum Dollison says:
    September 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    George, the fact that you live in a goofy state that would rather flush fresh water out into the Ocean than use it to grow crops isn’t my problem.

    I don’t like our government wasting almost a Trillion Dollars, and 4,000 Young Americans’ lives in Iraq, or the money we spend protecting the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf States, and their Royalty, or the $300 Billion, annually, we spend on imported oil, or oil spills destroying hundreds of miles of beaches, and thousands of business, But, the economic damage that will be done to our Country by declining oil flow, multiplied by increased demand from China, India, and the rest of the developing world is My problem, and Your problem. I’ll try not to inconvenience you any more than is absolutely necessary while I’m keeping your economy running.”

    You aren’t keeping the economy running. E10 is a tiny percentage of the hydrocarbon fuel used to power our vehicles, heat our homes, and cook our food. The government is taking my money to support certain technologies in the energy marketplace like wind, solar, and ethanol. The government is supposed to wage wars, etc. not pick winners in any market – and none of the technologies they’ve picked will be winners for long. We don’t have any money to subsidize anything and soon China will start demanding more interest for buying our treasuries because of the declining value of the dollar and the increasing risk profile of our skyrocketing debt (true debt, btw, not what’s on the books) vs our ever-more fragile tax base.

    If ethanol can succeed as a fuel, it should do so on its own merits and risk the capital of individuals, not on money stolen from tax payers such as myself.

    Oh, and we’re not running out of oil, btw:

    ‘…we could see persistent surpluses and an oil price drifting toward $50 a barrel or even lower.’

    ‘New oil supplies are coming primarily from Central Asia and Iraq, where nearly a dozen major contracts have been finalized with foreign producers in 2010. The largest prize is the Rumaila Field, in southeast Iraq near the head of the Persian Gulf, with proven reserves 18 billion barrels. BP and China National Petroleum have signed a contract to jointly develop Rumaila. A report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, issued in July, said that Iraqi production, currently around 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd), could reach 12 million bpd by 2017. Saudi Arabia currently produces around 8 million barrels a day.

    In Central Asia, the grandiose predictions for the Caspian Sea basin heard in the late 1990s – “another Saudi Arabia” – are finally approaching reality. Kazakhstan, home of the two largest oil finds in recent decades — the super-giant Tengiz and Kashagan fields – is building more pipeline capacity heading east, to the vibrant markets of East Asia, rather than west, through the tangled pipeline politics of the Caucasus.

    Even Israel, long one of the biggest oil importers in the Middle East, is getting into the act. Last year the U.S. Geological Survey reported that Israeli waters in the Eastern Mediterranean contain more than 120 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves — and new discoveries have added another potential 24 trillion or so since that report came out.’

    ‘…the looming oil surplus calls into question the concept of peak oil, at least in the near future, along with the whole science of forecasting future oil supplies. Adam Brandt, a professor at Stanford’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering, released a study last month examining the various models that have been used to predict the future of world oil supplies. “Data do not support assertions that any one model type is most useful for forecasting future oil production,” Brandt concludes. “In fact, evidence suggests that existing models have fared poorly in predicting global oil production.”‘

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/09/07/news/economy/coming_oil_glut.fortune/index.htm

  217. Kum Dollison says:
    September 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Willis, I certainly hope you know more about “climate science” than you do about ethanol.

    You said:

    1. Alcohol is a very poor fuel.

    The Truth: It was an ethanol-fueled car that won the X-Prize Competition (over 100 mpg normal driving in a “producible” car.) Ethanol has an Octane Rating of 114 -compared to 84 for the RBOB that it’s mixed with. The new Buick Regal gets within 5% the mileage on E85 as it gets on gasoline, and produces Much More Power on the high ethanol blend.

    Near as I can tell, the X-Prize has not been won yet. There is a car in the running using a mix of ethanol and gasoline. You have not said anything about the corrosive effects of alcohol, the fact that a litre of alcohol only contains about 60% of the energy in a litre of fuel, or the fact that it picks up water and generally gums up an engine. Sure, as you point out, you can mix up to 15% alcohol with gasoline and your car will run almost as well as on pure gasoline …

    So?

    You said: 2.

    You say you only use the starch so there’s no problem. So perhaps you could tell us how we can make a tortilla out of what’s left over?

    The Truth: Mexicans don’t make their tortillas out of yellow field corn; they make their tortillas out of white sweet corn. A totally different product, grown in totally different fields, by totally different farming methods.

    But, in case they wanted to we have about 1.3 Billion Bushels in storage, and a new harvest (that will yield 13.2 Billion Bushels) underway.

    You seemed to be claiming that because you only removed the starch from the corn, it could still be used as food. Perhaps I misunderstood you.

    And you seem to be impressed that we have about 1.3 billion bushels in storage. You seem to think that makes a difference. The reality is that every hectare that is used to grow fuel reduces the amount of food produced.

    3) I don’t know what to say. Silly, emotional, non-scientific babbling, perhaps?

    The Truth: You can buy all the corn you want at the farmgate in any midwestern state for approx. $0.07/lb. That is Not “Paternalistic,” nor will I put it where “the sun don’t shine.” It’s simply a Fact.

    I don’t believe you can give me an example of anyone who has ever starved to death because corn went up $0.03/lb.

    The price for corn when I wrote the post (yesterday) was $0.08 in carload lots. But let’s use your numbers. If the price of corn was $0.07 and it goes up by $0.03, it has gone up by 43%.

    This 43% rise, of course, gets passed on to the consumer. If you think a 43% rise in a staple foodstuff does not lead to hunger in the third world, you’re not following the story.

    You said:

    It is not economical. It has to be supported by the taxpayer. Why should I pay for your fuel, as I am forced to do today? Seriously, where do you get the … … the nerve to force me to pay for your freakin’ fuel? I should send you a bill.

    The Truth: Maybe I should send you a bill for Iraq, and all other military operations in the Persian Gulf.

    You can produce ethanol, today, w/o subsidies, for about $1.80 gal. After transport, blending, and taxes you can drive your Buick Regal for less money, with More performance, on unsubsidized ethanol than on gasoline.

    A buck eighty a gallon without subsidies? Plus blending, transport and taxes? And it is cheaper than gasoline? I’d have to see some citations for those claims. Corn ethanol subsidies totaled $7.0 billion in 2006 for 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol. That’s $1.45 per gallon of ethanol (and $2.21 per gal of gas replaced).

    So I greatly doubt your figures.

    You said: 6.

    The artificial demand for ethanol has led a number of countries to chop down tropical forest and plant ethanol plants. The birds and the animals of the forest thank all of you “ethanol-lovers” for that, I’m sure.

    The Truth:You’re confusing ethanol with something else. There is no case of a sq. foot of forest ever being cleared to plant crops for ethanol.

    Oh, right, all of those sugar plantations for ethanol in the Amazon, there was never any forest where sugar is growing now …

    I’m just a reasonable guy that understands that oil is going to be getting in shorter supply one of these days, and that people are more apt to starved from the inability to “make a living” than they are from in increase of $0.03/lb in the cost of corn in Iowa.

    I agree that oil will be in short supply. However, I’m not foolish enough to want to subsidize a replacement until it is marketable. When oil gets short enough, ethanol will become economically viable, and at that point, hundreds of production plants will arise. Until then, based solely on your fears that oil will be in shorter supply “one of these days”, you are just robbing my pocket to pour money down a hole. Not appreciated.

  218. Willis, E85 is 85% Ethanol, 15% gasoline.

    You Must understand that btus are only Half of the equation. Just as important is “how efficiently” a fuel “gives up” its energy. Due to ethanol’s extremely High Octane, it can be compressed to a huge degree, thus giving off a much stronger “explosion.” Btus are the end-all, be-all for boiling water; Octane is equally, or more, important if you’re in the business of creating power utilizing an internal combustion engine.

    Of course, the remaining DDGS are used for food. In fact, they are much superior food than the original corn. Look, field corn is, primarily, “cattle feed.” The DDGS remaining from alcohol production replace, not only a greater weight than their own in corn , but also a significant amount of soy meal in cattle diets. We, also, remove the corn oil for human consumption. Figure it this way: you get about half of the “food value” back when you remove the starch for alcohol.

    Car manufacturers have not used any ethanol-corrosive parts in their automobiles since the late seventies, and ethanol Does Not “gum up” any engines. In fact, it does just the opposite.

    I don’t think we produced 4.9 Billion Gallons of ethanol in 2006, But, if we did the the subsidy would have been $0.51 X 4.9B or about $2.5 Billion. How much did the War in Iraq, and the Defense of the Persian Gulf cost?

    As for Brazil: The Sugar Cane area is 1,000 km South of the Amazon. Willis, that is a Very Large country. Almost the size of the United States.

    Willis, you have an obligation, as one who speaks from a position of “authority,” to be better informed on such things before you pontificate. These are important subjects, and the future of our country, and the world, rests on not making too many Very Large mistakes. You are taking your responsibility much too lightly.

  219. Larry Fields says:
    September 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    DirkH says:
    September 12, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Several people touched on, but no one has written a couple of needed clarifications.

    Larry clarified the issue of Vitamin B-12. You cannot get enough B-12 via a strict Vegan diet reqardless of your intent (you can with a vegetarian diet).

    Which brings up point 2 that DirkH touched on that needs clarifying.

    The terms “Vegan” and “Vegetarian” have been used interchangeably. They are not. For the record:

    Vegan: No meat, dairy, egg or fish can be consumed (or any product made with any of the former).

    Vegetarian: No meat (some include fish).

    In other words, Vegans have to get their B-12 supplements from basically an animal derivative (far enough derived that they ignore that aspect). Vegetarians can get adequate protein and all vitamins from their diet.

    The shortcomings of the Vegan diet is due to the simple biological fact that homosapiens evolved as an omnivore. Perhaps another type of animal can live a healthy and happy life as a Vegan, but not man.

    As for the article, an excellent mental exercise! Thanks for the contribution Willis!

  220. “””” Kum Dollison says:
    September 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm
    George, the fact that you live in a goofy state that would rather flush fresh water out into the Ocean than use it to grow crops isn’t my problem.

    I don’t like our government wasting almost a Trillion Dollars, and 4,000 Young Americans’ lives in Iraq, “”””

    Well Kum, you are so good with numbers; so how come you missed on that one.

    The Congressional Budget Office says that we spent precisely $709B on the seven odd years of the Iraq war(which is now over); and they should know since the Congress approves every penny of it.

    Only in Climate Science would 709 billion be almost a trillion. In contrast the Congress spent something like $757B in an instant for the TARP program; and even agreed to not ask where it went or who got what; so nobody knows where all that money went to. In less than two years of the Present “Yes we Can” government the deficit has grown to something in the 1.3 to 1.6 Trillion range.

    There is one thing though; the US Constitution; in Article 1 Section 8 clause 1 tells the Congress that they are allowed to raise taxes to pay for defense; and of course to pay the debts of the USA. Doesn’t say one word about collecting taxes to run up the debts of the USA. Nor does it authorize spending money on growing ethanol; which is the domain of private businesses.

    As for your ethanol becoming much more competitive as fossil fuel shortages run up the cost of gasoline; I can remember when a barrel of oil cost $2, and the oil shale barons said if oil ever went to $6 , they would be making money hand over fist off their shale oil. Well oil did go to $6 a barrel, and the shale barons said if oil ever went to $11 a barrel they would be making money hand over fist off their shale oil. Well oil did go to $1 a barrel, and they still aren’t making a ton of money off oil from shale.

    So stand by to watch the exact same sequence happen with your ethanol.

    Why wait for Arabian Crude to become expensive; simply stop using it; how easy is that ? Use your ethanol output to fuel your entire process from bare ground to fuel at the pump, then it doesn’t matter what the price of Arabian Crude is; so then you can sell your remaining ethanol for whatever the market will bear. So nobody is stopping you from getting rich off ethanol; so have at it.

    But stop with the lame claims that we “waste” money and defense personnel protecting our national interests. And our national interests DO include an orderly environment, for world commerce among ourselves, and the other civilized nations of the world; who just want to live their lives peacefully and not harassed by international trouble makers.[spelling corrected . . mod]

    So work on your ethanol project and make a lot of money at it; but don’t ask me to assume the risks of your idea. If it works and you succeed; I’ll be happy to become one of your customers; that’s what free enterprise is all about.

  221. Oh by the way Kum, I’m quite impressed by your information about the Buick Regal engine performance.

    You said they get 220 HP from 2.0 Litres on E85 or 190 on gasoline. I’ll take your numbers; I’m sure you do your research.

    Is that a 4 or a 6 cyclinder engine ?

    It is interesting because I once owned a 1956 XK-140 Jaguar; with its 3.4 litre twin overhead cam straight six XK engine; just about the last real Jaguar. I had the high performance high compression (8.0) engine, which got 210 HP with twin SU carburettors.

    That generally was not considered a particularly powerful engine; and a lot of American hot rodders were quick to replace the XK engine with a big American V-8 .

    But that gives some sense of how far the internal combustion engine has progressed. I don’t remember what sort of gas I used to use; I don’t particularly recall using anything but whatever regular was; and in those days of course it had Tetra-Ethyl Lead in it.
    210 HP seemed a hell of a lot of power in those days. I can’t for the life of me see why a modern passenger sedan needs 220 HP; or even as much as 150. The 5.0 litre Mustang still sells like hot cakes.

  222. Kum Dollison says:
    September 14, 2010 at 8:07 am

    As for Brazil: The Sugar Cane area is 1,000 km South of the Amazon. Willis, that is a Very Large country. Almost the size of the United States.

    Willis, you have an obligation, as one who speaks from a position of “authority,” to be better informed on such things before you pontificate. These are important subjects, and the future of our country, and the world, rests on not making too many Very Large mistakes. You are taking your responsibility much too lightly.

    Oh, please. Before lecturing someone on being better informed, it would be a good idea to become better informed yourself. Here’s what the Brazilians say about the Amazon and sugar cane:

    From the International Harold Tribune:

    BRASILIA, Brazil: Brazilian agricultural officials and biofuel industry representatives defended using already devastated parts of the Amazon rainforest to grow sugarcane for ethanol, denying such cultivation would harm the region.

    Brazil’s part of the rainforest, covers 1.6 square miles

    Brazil’s extensive use of ethanol and other biofuels has put it at the forefront of global efforts to fight climate change. But the country is also home to most of the Amazon rainforest, which scientists say plays an important role in cooling the Earth Brazil’s share of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, covers an area of about 4.1 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles); 20 percent of that land has been razed.

    Environmentalists say that runoff from sugar mills will pollute the region regardless. And, because it’s cheaper to raze virgin forest than recover already-devastated lands, they warn illegal deforestation will be hard to control once Amazon sugar cane production reaches wide support.

    Brazilian Official Comments

    “Environmentally protected areas must be protected, but there are natural niches and others that man has already exploited that can be used to grow sugarcane,” said Frederico Duraes, head of agro-energy at the government’s agriculture research institute.

    So the Brazilians know that there is sugar grown in the Amazon. Jane Goodall knows it too, saying:

    Primate scientist Jane Goodall said on Wednesday the race to grow crops for vehicle fuels is damaging rain forests in Asia, Africa and South America and adding to the emissions blamed for global warming.

    “We’re cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now,” Goodall said on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative, former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s annual philanthropic meeting.

    Stupid woman, what would she know about tropical forests … and that idiot from the United Nations Environmental Program has the same problem:

    On Monday, Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, added his voice, saying that growing international demand for ethanol threatens the Amazon if safeguards are not put in place because the world’s largest remaining tropical wilderness is a target area for agriculture.

    Brazil’s ethanol is made from sugarcane. And while sugarcane cultivation is minimal now in the Amazon, some environmentalists fear growing demand for the fuel could push cane growers there.

    Nor is the lack of extensive sugarcane in the Amazon any indication of whether the demand for ethanol is damaging the Amazon. From Time Magazine:

    In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars. More deforestation results from a chain reaction so vast it’s subtle: U.S. farmers are selling one-fifth of their corn to ethanol production, so U.S. soybean farmers are switching to corn, so Brazilian soybean farmers are expanding into cattle pastures, so Brazilian cattlemen are displaced to the Amazon. It’s the remorseless economics of commodities markets. “The price of soybeans goes up,” laments Sandro Menezes, a biologist with Conservation International in Brazil, “and the forest comes down.”

    In other words, the issues surrounding ethanol are far from being as settled as you want to claim. Please stop with your inane and puerile claims about what my “obligations” are. Just because you may disagree with me does not mean that I am shirking my obligations.

  223. Willis, you are trashing an entire industry of which you have virtually No knowledge, and doing it from a “position of authority” on a website that is read by millions. Call me “inane, and puerile” if you wish, but that is irresponsible.

    There is not a single ethanol plant in the entire Rain Forest. There’s a reason for that. It’s a lousy place to grow sugar cane on any commercially worthwhile scale. Loggers “Log” the Rain Forest to get the “Logs.” The Amazonian hardwoods are incredibly valuable. Those that want to raise soy beans (that’s the jist of the indirect land use argument) will raise them in the Cerrado where there is 150 Million Acres of Fertile Land Lying FALLOW.

    BTW, Soy Bean production is DOWN in Brazil. They raised 58 Million Acres of Soy Beans in 2003, and 53 Million acres in 2008. One reason for this is “Soy Bean Exports are UP in the U.S.” Corn, and Soy Bean acreage is about the same, here, but yields are rising every year. Last year was the record corn yield (on 5 Million less acres than 2007, and this years crop will surpass last year’s.

    I’m sure Jane Goodall is a wonderful person, but I’ll guarantee you she can’t point to an acre of Rain Forest that’s been cut down to produce ethanol. (Some Indonesian rain forest has been planted in oil palm for making biodiesel; perhaps, that’s what she’s thinking of.)

    George, it’s a 4 banger. The key is that you can really “crank up” the variable turbo when running 85% Ethanol. I think their effective compression ration would be in the 14:1 range under full load. Of course, when loafing around the turbo is dialed down, and the VVT allows more exhaust gas to be sucked back into the chamber when running E85 which has the same effect as reducing the volume inside the chamber, and, once again boosting compression. All Hail the High Speed Computer Chip.

  224. Oh, and about “Iraq:” It is Not “Done.” We still have 50,000 troops there at a cost of, at least, $50 Billion/Yr.

    We, also, have the equivalent of Two Carrier Groups in the Persian Gulf, and Indian Sea, and we have Huge support operations in Kuwait, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain. That Oil is Not “Unsubsidized.” We, also, gave the oil companies a $13 Billion Tax Credit for “Deep Water Gulf” operations, and of course, the Oil Spill is going to end up costing the fisheremen, resorts, and other businesses along the Gulf Tens of Billions more.

    And, even though I use, mostly, ethanol in my Flexfuel Chevy I still pay for all that through MY taxes.

  225. Oh the vanity of you people. You really think you run things. We trained you, to come out of the trees, to slash and burn. To poke a stick in the ground and put our eggs in them. When you were better trained we taught you to level large areas for us. We taught you to terrace slopes to support us. We taught you to transport water from miles away to give us drink. When you were sufficiently developed we taught you to build ships to transport us.

    We taught you to use those ships to go to far off places to brings us food from bat caves. Later we had you build factories to produce urea for us to eat. You have been trained so well, you will go to no expense to keep us free from lice and other bugs. We have you kill or remove noxious plants from around us.

    We now control far more land than you, but; we always need more space and we will have you travel to the stars to get us more room to spread. We are the Grasses and we have domesticated you. You do our bidding, even surrounding you homes with us and taking pains to care of us.

    We will never let you die for we need you to do our bidding. Our families: the Rice, the Wheat, the Barley and our cousins, the Corn, and the Milo are your benevolent dictators.

    (Think about it- smile)

  226. Kum Dollison says:
    September 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Willis, you are trashing an entire industry of which you have virtually No knowledge, and doing it from a “position of authority” on a website that is read by millions. Call me “inane, and puerile” if you wish, but that is irresponsible.

    There is not a single ethanol plant in the entire Rain Forest. There’s a reason for that. It’s a lousy place to grow sugar cane on any commercially worthwhile scale. Loggers “Log” the Rain Forest to get the “Logs.” The Amazonian hardwoods are incredibly valuable. Those that want to raise soy beans (that’s the jist of the indirect land use argument) will raise them in the Cerrado where there is 150 Million Acres of Fertile Land Lying FALLOW.

    Well, let’s start with Australia …

    Throughout the tropics, and more specifically in the Northeast Queensland (NEQ) wet tropical region of Australia, extensive forested ecosystems have been deforested for sugar-cane, banana, and pasture, both for dairy and beef cattle production (Tucker, 2000; Tucker and Murphy, 1997; Aide et al., 1995; Crome and Bentrupper- baumer, 1993; Hecht, 1993).

    and

    Deforestation and Sugar Cane Growing in Eastern Australia, 1860-1995

    Deforestation associated with the cultivation of sugar cane in the coastal lands of Eastern Australia commenced in the 1860s. Beyond the initial large-scale clearing of the native vegetation to create arable land, the growing of sugar cane placed other demands upon the native forests. The vegetation was cleared to provide timber for buildings, railway sleepers, to supply the firewood for the sugar mill boilers and in some instances to supply the timber used in at least half a dozen Australian sugar mills that were adapted to manufacture lumber in the non-crushing season.

    Sugar cane mills in the Australian rainforest … imagine that. Moving on to Brazil (emphasis mine):

    Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change DOI 10.1007/s11027-008-9164-3
    Environmental, land-use and economic implications of Brazilian sugarcane expansion 1996–2006
    Gerd Sparovek & Alberto Barretto & Goran Berndes & Sergio Martins & Rodrigo Maule
    Received: 19 June 2008 / Accepted: 30 October 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008
    Abstract Governments are promoting biofuels and the resulting changes in land use and crop reallocation to biofuels production have raised concerns about impacts on environment and food security. The promotion of biofuels has also been questioned based on suggested marginal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, partly due to induced land use change causing greenhouse gas emissions. … Occurring at much smaller rates [than in non-forested areas], expansion of sugarcane in regions such as the Amazon and the Northeast region was related to direct deforestation and competition with food crops, and appear not to have induced economic growth. These regions are not expected to experience substantial increases of sugarcane in the near future, but mitigating measures are warranted.

    Regarding Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest:

    The second wave of deforestation came from the introduction of sugar cane plantations in the late 16th century. The demand for land, to expand sugar cane cultivation, and for fuelwood, required for the boilers in the sugar production process, resulted in a strong deforestation pressure in the more fertile areas near the shore.

    Now, you have claimed that not a single acre of rainforest has been lost to sugar cane, because cane won’t grow in the rainforest … the historical record begs to differ.

    So please, spare us your claims about how I have been irresponsible. I may be wrong, but I’m wrong with citations and supporting arguments …

  227. Wow, truth hurts so you censor me.

    “Mark says:
    September 12, 2010 at 3:39 am
    And ethanol bashers: Grain ethanol enables an artificial protein balancer for livestock rations along with the fuel ethanol.

    Soybean crop: Protein, Fat + Fiber (in the USA approx. 45 corn equivalent bushels per acre. Displaced acreage being low-yields of 10-20 bushels per acre. No, they aren’t moved the the Amazon Basin.)

    Corn crop: Ethanol, Protein, Fat + Fiber (US average 160 bushels per acre, the extra weight being starch.)”

    NONE of that grain was ever destined to be “human food” other than the meat you people are yapping about. Hippy permaculture microfarms in everyone’s backyard isn’t a realistic replacement anytime soon for the division of labor economy enabled by grain. The energy used to dry the DDGS is actually energy that would have been used to make roasted beans, roasting being a process required to make beans NON-PIOSONOUS and chemically modify the protein so it’s more than just expensive fertilizer for the rumen.

    Also, feel free to censor this again (your website after all) and don’t the math:

    http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/mf/link.html

    And why do you ethanol-bashers ALWAYS compare ethanol to “gasoline” when ethanol is a small part of the market which competes with another small part (10%) of the market called premium gasoline? If you drove a car that only required standard “gasoline” would you pay the premium for premium grade? Then why compare standard gasoline with ethanol? Shouldn’t it be compared to high-octane plus and premium, or even better, the tiny market of diesel cars with much higher performance requirements? Most people with BIG AMERICAN TRUCKS don’t own them because they have small wangs, they need them to get the job done.

  228. NO, Willis; I said,

    “There is not a single ethanol plant in the entire Rain Forest. There’s a reason for that. It’s a lousy place to grow sugar cane on any commercially worthwhile scale. “

    Of course, some sugar cane is raised in the Rain Forest. As your post showed, it started in the 1600’s. I said there is not a single Ethanol Refinery in the Rain Forest. That would be a silly place to try to raise “Commercial” quantities of Sugar Cane – especially when you have so much Good sugar cane land lying unused in the South.

    And, btw, if you’re going to pontificate on the “Rain Forest” you should at least look at “up to date” numbers. The amount of Rain Forest that has been cleared has dropped dramatically, and I Do mean “Dramatically” in the last few years. You’re taking outdated, hysterical opinion pieces from up to 17 years ago, and “Calling it Science.” Sound Familiar?

  229. The article and comments here are very interesting. Is there a consensus among AGW skeptics that it is good and right for humans to eat other animals?

    The fact is that there are numerous health, environmental and moral reasons that humans should not eat other animals. For instance, human meat-eaters have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and a variety of cancers compared to vegetarians; human animal-eaters have higher mortality rates compared to vegetarians. (E.g., see the studies here: http://www.thevegetariansite.com/diet_stud.htm And: http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php) These higher rates of morbidity and mortality are not the mark of an animal that is biologically adapted to eat such a diet. Carnivorous and omnivorous animals do not suffer such adverse effects from eating a meat-based diet. Humans do not have the biological adaptations of either carnivory or omnivory. Humans belong to a Family, Hominidae, none of whom have the characteristic biological adaptations of carnivorous or omnivorous mammals. To suggest that any member of Hominidae is a biological omnivore or carnivore is sheer nonsense.

    The inefficiency of producing an animal-based diet for humans compared to a vegetarian diet has been demonstrated in a variety of ways in the scientific literature, and it remains merely logical. There have been no data presented here to suggest that producing an animal-based diet for humans is an equally or more efficient use of land, water or energy compared to producing a vegetarian diet. The direct contamination of the environment due to factory farming is also well documented.

    And of course there is no moral justification for causing the needless suffering and death of creatures, or for doing unto other creatures what one would wish would not be done to oneself. At least no one here has pointed out any moral problem with the Golden Rule.

    If there is a consensus among AGW skeptics that it is good and right for humans to kill and eat other animals, then that would certainly be a fact worthy of examination. I am entirely confident that no one would be able to argue from the evidence that it is good or right or healthy or environmentally beneficial for humans to raise and slaughter other animals to eat. And I am entirely confident that no one would be able to demonstrate from the evidence that humans are biological omnivores or carnivores.

    So if anyone has any sort of argument that it is good or right or healthy or environmentally beneficial for humans to be raising and slaughtering other animals in order to stuff one’s face, I would like to hear that argument.

    Reply: This blog is not the place to start a discussion on the moral rights of animals. Let’s stop now ~ ctm

  230. “We would also need to replace the amount of fat provided by the aforementioned animal products.”

    In the case of protein: if one is getting adequate calories from vegetables, grains or nuts, one is virtually assured of getting adequate protein. For instance, even if one were getting one’s entire caloric requirements from potatoes–a relatively low-protein vegetable–one would still be getting more protein and more of all the essential amino acids than the RDA. Protein deficiency among those getting adequate calories is basically never seen (sometimes among people whose calories come mostly from alcohol). Certainly no one currently eating the modern American diet needs to “replace” any protein found in animal flesh and organs in order to eat a healthy vegetarian diet. E.g., Table 1 in Pimentel and Pimentel (Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. AJCN, 78 (3), Sept. 2003), here:

    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/660S?ck=nck

    shows that merely subtracting the amount of protein supplied by “Meat” (41.1g) and “Fish” (4.7g) consumed by those eating a meat-based diet in the US still leaves these people with greater protein intake than the RDA for a 150-pound adult male. (Note that the estimate of protein intake for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian is also in excess of the RDA for a 150-pound adult male. Subtracting the amount of protein gotten from “Dairy products” and “Eggs” in the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet leaves one with approximately the RDA protein intake for a 150-pound adult male.)

    You can find further information on protein and nutrition here: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.htm

    Also, a healthy vegetarian diet does not replace or need to replace the amount of fat of a meat-based diet. It’s just quite incredible that someone would suggest such. It obviously isn’t an idea that arises from any scientific evidence.

    Despite your repeated claims about livestock being garbage recyclers, you haven’t presented any data to suggest that feeding livestock garbage that they are not biologically adapted to thrive on makes raising animals for food an efficient use of land, water or energy compared to growing crops.

    You haven’t shown that there are any conditions in which raising animals for food is as efficient use of land, water or energy for calorie production as growing crops.

    You haven’t shown that humans raising animals for food benefits the environment in any way.

    You haven’t shown that a meat-based diet benefits humans over a vegetarian diet in any way.

    And you certainly haven’t given any moral justification for humans inflicting suffering and death upon any creature merely because that is what the human wants to put into his belly.

    Why would one even concern oneself with the efficiency of producing calories from animals compared to crops when one can’t point to any evidence of health benefits from a meat-based diet over a vegetarian diet? Cyanide might be relatively efficient to produce, but that isn’t a reason that we should consume it.

    Given that: (a) the scientific evidence contradicts the hypothesis or idea that a meat-based diet is healthier for humans than a vegetarian diet; (b) the scientific evidence contradicts the hypothesis or idea that humans have the biological adaptations characteristic of omnivorous or carnivorous mammals; (c) the scientific evidence contradicts the hypothesis or idea that “efficient” factory farming is environmentally beneficial; and (d) there is no moral justification for inflicting needless suffering and death, then what would be the premises of a meatarian argument?

    Reply: This blog is not the place to start a discussion on the moral rights of animals. Let’s stop now ~ ctm

  231. It is interesting that animals like ruminants (regurgitators like cows and goats), horses, and kangaroos have digestive systems well suited to breaking down vegetation like grass, leaves, and such. Multiple stomachs (ruminants have) or special extra intestines or such that horses have, for example.

    (I was looking up some of them because of the big fuss in BC these days about “urban ungulates” (in plain language hooved animals, and specifically deer and moose) coming into conflict with humans and transportation devices like cars and even bicycles. Deer really like suburban areas – irrigated lawns, a variety of plants, what a feast. Suburban areas often have brush to sleep in, especially in SW B.C. where ample shrubbery growth fills ravines. Environmentalists like to claim the deer are being forced out of their natural habitat by developement, but wildlife conservation people disagree – they point to lots of good food without large predators. Interestingly, in Kimberly B.C. there is a correlation between sighting of cougars and complainst about negative interactions with deer over the last few years – cougars find goof food too. ;-)

  232. Jerzy says:

    … Despite your repeated claims about livestock being garbage recyclers, you haven’t presented any data to suggest that feeding livestock garbage that they are not biologically adapted to thrive on makes raising animals for food an efficient use of land, water or energy compared to growing crops.

    Right, all of those farmers around the world are just stupid to feed their garbage to pigs and chickens, those animals didn’t evolve to eat garbage so it’s all a waste of time … have you ever been to the developing world? Go tell some poor lady in Botswana that her chickens are a bad idea, that they aren’t “biologically adapted” to provide eggs and meat at virtually no cost by eating watermelon rinds and bugs and the like …

    But when you tell her that she’s doing it all wrong, don’t be surprised if she looks at you like you’ve gone insane … you see, she doesn’t have your brilliant insights into how to keep her kids alive by feeding them watermelon rinds and bugs.

    And if you think that the food yield from raising a pig in a small pen in the backyard on household waste could be bettered by using those few square feet of pen space to grown beans, you may have gone insane. You really should get out into the real world and see how most of the people live.

  233. Ok, I don’t think I have read one comment from a true vegan on this thread. Well I am Vegan and let me share with you the benefits that I have experienced ( long side note: We don’t feed the whole population on a meat diet either… And well…we’ve seen the destruction of our specism ways by depleating and killing animals in factory farms. Want to know what really happens on old mc’ donalds farm??? go visit one…watch earthings and testing one two three and then get back to me with how you feel about eating meat. Imagine that were you in those videos.)

    B12: I take a Vegan supplement sometimes, but I can get this from nutritional yeast

    Protein: studies have been done. We only need half the amount of protein that we think we do. You can get this from most common foods. Just do some research.

    My tension, anxiety, agressive nature and gone away by half…I have only been vegan for 5months…I was vegetarian before that…to transition.

    I sleep deeper, think clearer, and love more than I ever have.

    I have lost weight by adopting this diet plus yoga, however any form of exercise is good.

    I feel more at peace with what is….isn’t that the point of living?

    Learning new recipes and cooking has become so much more exciting. I don’t carry the guilt of eating another being and it’s suffering so that I may survive. We can survive without needless suffering.

    Oh a vegan diet from what I have researched helps to get rid of disease.

  234. Merissa says:
    October 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Ok, I don’t think I have read one comment from a true vegan on this thread. Well I am Vegan and let me share with you the benefits that I have experienced …

    Merissa, I think that it is great that you have found a way of eating that works for you. The problem is not that people find that vegetarianism or Veganism works for them, that’s wonderful. Now perhaps it’s something in the vegetables that does it, but all too often they then feel compelled to tell me how much better the world would be if everyone ate, not what works for me or for someone else, but what works for them. Right, the whole world should do what they do …

    For the host of reasons I listed above, people around the planet have found it advantageous to domesticate and keep (and eat) animals. Maybe some random Vegan knows more about how to scratch out a living in a hostile world than do all of the billions of poor farmers and householders around the planet, maybe they’re all wrong to keep animals, maybe we might be able to feed more people if we were all vegetarians … but I doubt it very much.

    You see, most people on the planet are already vegetarians most of the time. For most people, meat is not on the menu very often. Once when I was working in Africa, they were burning the sugar cane fields. The whole village came out with clubs, and when the fire chased the cane rats out of the burning cane, they killed the rats and ate them. Fried up in slightly aged oil palm oil (no refrigeration), it was not bad, although I belched rancid oil fumes for a couple days … and of course it is considered a delicacy.

    Here’s the reason why it is a delicacy, why kids lined up to get some of the meat. The villagers that eat that meat are stronger and healthier and more resistant to disease and quicker to heal and grow more than the villagers who don’t eat that meat. Our bodies know that. You could see it in the kids’ eyes. Meat makes you stronger, it provides a host of vitamins and minerals, it is powerful food. Which is why people eat meat, in Africa and around the planet. It ups the odds of survival.

    One late afternoon, through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences, I found myself sitting in the welcome shade of some trees in a railroad yard in Mexico, waiting to jump on a freight train. Two young boys came by, brothers they said, perhaps four and seven years old. The older boy had a slingshot made of a tree branch “Y” fork, with a dozen or more ordinary rubber bands of all sizes and colors attached to each fork of the “Y” and to the leather pouch.

    I asked what they were doing. The older boy said they came to the railroad lines because there were perfectly round stones for his slingshot in the railroad bed. He showed me how hard it was to pull his slingshot. Oh, you are the mighty hunter, I suppose, I jested.

    Si, Señor, yo soy, he explained very soberly in Spanish, yes, Sir, I am.

    “Mira”, he said, watch.

    He searched around, picked up and discarded a few stones, finally settling on the right one. He put it in the pouch of the slingshot, and started walking around and gazing intently up into the tree branches above us. He stopped, pulled back and let fly.

    There was a “poof” sound up in the tree, and a bird the size of a small robin, that I didn’t even know was in the tree, tumbled down at my feet. He and his brother jumped on it, and he twisted its neck in an economical, practised fashion.

    With my mouth hanging open, I hastened to assure him that I was wrong to doubt his word, and said he was indeed a skilled hunter. I asked what he would do with the bird. Oh, para comer, señor, it’s for food he said. I said are you going to take it home to your mamá to cook it? Oh, no, Señor, somos siete … oh no, Sir … there’s seven of us kids … I nodded understanding.

    He and his short confederate immediately scurried off, and found some grass and twigs. In no time he had plucked that bird, gutted it, skewered it, and had it cooking over the fire. I went to the old lady around the corner with the dished-top tin can stove and bought a few potato tacos the size of silver dollars, and brought them back. I gave them most of the tacos. And God damn it, they wanted me to take half the bird, but I could see their eyes caressing it. So I told them I could only eat a small bite on account of my liver. That being the common explanation there, the older boy nodded sagely, and agreed that a man has to take care of his liver, and they happily polished off that bird. I bought another round of potato tacos to celebrate. They ate those as well.

    And you know, as they sat there content under the tree, sucking on the bones, somehow I just didn’t have the heart to tell that small man just how much better off he and his little bitty buddy and the rest of the world would be if only everyone became Vegans, and how lucky his brothers and sisters were that didn’t eat meat that day …

  235. Even if we stipulated in the face of all of the above article’s tight and well reasoned logic that this dramatic change would in fact “let us feed 4 billion more people,”… this would do nothing except create an even larger number of people falling in the percentage who perpetually teeter on the edge of starvation.

    Producing more food has never decreased the number of malnourished people on the plant; it has only ever expanded it. The only force known to have ever (temporarily) reduced the number of people near starvation, has been starvation.

    Anyone believing otherwise needs to study the facts first. There are far more poor, starving people on this plant today than there were 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, or 100 years ago. Because even if food sources are improved, the population expands to the limits of available resources, and NUMBER of people teetering on the brink is a pretty invariant percentage of that total.

  236. “were 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, or 100 years ago” should have read “were 1000 years ago, or 200 years ago, or 100 years ago.” Apologies for typo.

  237. I think the FAOSTAT are underestimating the amount of grass acreage, note its not counting non arable land in deserts etc, nor is it counting bush meat and game (hunting for meat). It may be out by 20% or more. The desert grazing lands of the world are huge. Many forest and jungle systems are also not counted as arable and yet these are sources of much meat and other food.

  238. We can’t rule out some smart boffin coming up with a genetically engineered plant that ‘meats’ the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of proteins, fats and minerals or the perfect milk substitute in a fruit. The fun bit starts as the vegetarians wind up arguing about whether its a world food break through or a Franken food. lol.
    I’d eat it.
    We are domesticating one new plant species every two weeks now. Some have the potential of turning desert, swamp or the seas themselves into ‘arable’ land.
    There is even a way I’ve proposed but have not yet been able to test yet, to grow vegetables on the open ocean.
    http://vacoyecology.com/Bubble_ponds_fluke_boats.html
    I need a lab.

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