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Author Topic: Why do strategies for greenhouse gas reduction ignore husbandry?  (Read 9255 times)

Offline iva

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I've read that the meat industry is the biggest contributer to global warming, due to big farms for meat and more farm space for farming their feed, both of these causing more deforestation.

I've also read that it is a bigger contributer to climate change than the entire transport industry, is this true?

If this is the case then why when environmental programs (like inconvenient truth etc) or speakers talk on global warming issues, they never mention this, and the typical things are only always brought up, ie use public transport instead of cars, save electricity and  recycle? They never mention reducing meat eating. Its become so common place whenever I hear conversations on the environment its always about recycling and saving electricity etc but nobody really ever brings up animal farming and the meat industry.
« Last Edit: 03/05/2010 20:56:34 by chris »


 

Offline LeeE

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I've read that the meat industry is the biggest contributer to global warming, due to big farms for meat and more farm space for farming their feed, both of these causing more deforestation.

What you have read is, as far as I'm aware, not true as stated because more animals are farmed for milk and wool than for meat.  However, all mammals that are farmed (I'm not sure about chickens/turkeys) produce a lot of methane, which is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2.  On the face of it too, farming animals would seem to be less efficient than growing crops but then a lot of the land used for grazing animals is poor quality and not suited for crop growing without excessive fertilisation, irrigation and maintenance.

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I've also read that it is a bigger contributer to climate change than the entire transport industry, is this true?

If meat production only accounts for only a relatively small percentage of the total number of animals farmed then that statement is not true.  However, I personally don't know if it's true for all animals farmed.

Therefore, I suspect that the main reasons that meat eating is not mentioned as a significant factor in environmental programs and films is because it doesn't appear to be such a factor.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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I work in an area where about the only thing that grows well is grass and people can't eat grass.
Sheep  and cattle can eat grass and, in doing so provide food for people.
While there's no doubt that eating meat is often crassly inefficient, it's sometimes the least bad option.
Of course, if you don't mind people starving then that's not an issue. And if you do mind people starving then we need to sort out the planet's human population growth sooner, rather than later.
 

Offline iva

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However, all mammals that are farmed (I'm not sure about chickens/turkeys) produce a lot of methane, which is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2.  On the face of it too, farming animals would seem to be less efficient than growing crops but then a lot of the land used for grazing animals is poor quality and not suited for crop growing without excessive fertilisation, irrigation and maintenance.

Hi Lee, i'm guessing then that this calculation has probably included the methane output and probably not just meat farming but all animal farming? Also (this may have been off one of those BBC documentaries) it talked of the main chopping of amazon forests are currently for the purpose of growing animal feed. So that is probably why animal farming was said to be the highest contributer.

 

Offline LeeE

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Does anyone have any idea of the ratio of farmed herbivores to 'wild' non-farmed herbivores?  I've simply no idea whether there are more 'wild' herbivores i.e. rabbits, wildebeest, mountain goats etc. than there are farmed herbivores.  My instinctive answer would be that there are more 'wild' herbivores than farmed herbivores, but it is a purely instinctive answer and not based upon any data.

I'm just wondering whether the total of all 'wild' herbivores produce more methane than the total of all farmed animals.
 

Offline kckuhns

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The reality of the beef/chicken/hog industry is that vast areas of farmland that once could efficiently grow diverse food crops for human consumption, now grow nothing but corn for livestock feed, or corn for fructose production for human processed foods. This mono-crop farming culture was created by and is still sustained by bizarre farm subsidies, and it has nothing to do with what could or could not be grown on the land.

The corn-fueled feedlot, industrialized meat production in our nation is an environmental disaster and an animal welfare horror. Animal manure treatment and handling is almost non-existent. Animals are heavily medicated with antibiotics so that they can cope with the extreme filth of the feedlot. This routine medication, high-density population of the animals gives rise to drug-resistant strains of viruses as well as providing an excellent incubation population for virus mutations, that can and have jumped to the human population.

There is nothing wrong with eating meat, IMHO, but other cultures around the world show us that it can be done in much more healthy, sustainable, gentle and moral method than ours.
In general though, if the question is about growing protein for human consumption, then growing legumes [soybeans, for example] will give about a 100 fold increase in protein yield per acre over feedlot beef production. Follow the money, it's all about subsidies and corruption, both government and corporation.

Kevin
I work in an area where about the only thing that grows well is grass and people can't eat grass.
Sheep  and cattle can eat grass and, in doing so provide food for people.
While there's no doubt that eating meat is often crassly inefficient, it's sometimes the least bad option.
Of course, if you don't mind people starving then that's not an issue. And if you do mind people starving then we need to sort out the planet's human population growth sooner, rather than later.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2010 00:57:14 by kckuhns »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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A few points.
Firstly it actually is difficult to grow anything but grass in bits of the North of England so all that stuff about US feed-lots is completely irrelevant to the issue I raised.
How well do soya beans grow in an area where it can snow in June?

Secondly the use of antibiotics doesn't have a lot to do with viruses.

Thirdly, as these unfortunate animals on largely mechanised farms barely see their human warders they don't do a very good job of spreading viruses to people. The new viruses seem to pop up from less industrialised places where the animals and humans mix.

 

Offline iva

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Follow the money, it's all about subsidies and corruption, both government and corporation.

I guess this is the bottom line, money. I don't know if all farms are as bad as the American farms in this video ( newbielink:http://www.goveg.com/factoryFarming.asp [nonactive]), but it makes me wonder about animal farming all over. If people get sick from meat or animal products then I guess one can make the assumption then that they are eating animals that were reared under non-ideal (and possibly shocking) conditions.
 

Offline LeeE

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If people get sick from meat or animal products then I guess one can make the assumption then that they are eating animals that were reared under non-ideal (and possibly shocking) conditions.

That is complete and utter nonsense.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Ok you all seem to be ill informed in this area. Factory farmed meat, which accounts for most  meat in your average supermarket, has a high carbon footprint. It also uses a high proportion of land which is a valuable resource. Beef is the worst thing to eat because it relies on a fast turn over, fattening up the animals quickly. This means you need to grow food for these animals using up a high % of land that could be used for human food. In rain forest areas trees are often cut down to provide land for cattle. These cattle need feeding so soya is grown and more trees are cut down. This has a massive effect on global warming.
I agree that buying local meat that is grazing on land such as Welsh hills is a better option. Also wild animals provide a more carbon friendly meat. If you have chickens in your garden and eat them when they stop producing eggs, then that's OK but cutting down your meat consumption is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Try this www.centreforglobalawareness.org.uk go to the resources to download and click on "The Real Price of Food." Have a go at the task. It is an eye opener. 
 

Offline iva

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This pretty much agrees with everything I've read/watched (besides Al Gores documentary).

That is complete and utter nonsense.

At least back your opinion with some information/discussion, which is all i'm looking for.
 

Offline LeeE

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That is complete and utter nonsense.

At least back your opinion with some information/discussion, which is all i'm looking for.

But it's become pretty clear that information and discussion is not what you're looking for.  There's been quite a bit of information and discussion already, which you've ignored, following which you've then gone on to assert that it can be assumed that people get sick from eating animals that were raised under non-ideal (and possibly shocking) conditions, which I repeat, is utter nonsense.

Where is the causality between animals being raised in non-ideal conditions and people becoming sick from eating them, and what constitutes non-ideal conditions anyway?  How does something that some people might find "shocking" make people sick?  There is no causality there but that is exactly what you are trying to claim, and that is why what you said was nonsense.
 

Offline LeeE

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Ok you all seem to be ill informed in this area.

Ok, we'll all shut up then  ;)

More seriously though, the problem with trying to discuss this issue is that hardly anyone seems to have an impartial view about it and will pick and chose which 'facts' they accept and which they'll reject.

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Factory farmed meat, which accounts for most  meat in your average supermarket, has a high carbon footprint. It also uses a high proportion of land which is a valuable resource. Beef is the worst thing to eat because it relies on a fast turn over, fattening up the animals quickly. This means you need to grow food for these animals using up a high % of land that could be used for human food.

I'm not sure that it's true to say that most meat is produced via factory farming.  According to figures (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_farming#History) produced by someone with an anti-meat farming stance, the proportions were reckoned to be 30% in 1995, rising to 40% by 2005, so even if one accepts the figures from someone who can't be regarded as totally impartial it likely that the current proportion it is only around 50%.  However, it is difficult to reconcile those figures with the global percentage of land given over to grazing and pasture (although a sizable proportion of that grazing and pasture land will be also used for dairy and wool production too).

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In rain forest areas trees are often cut down to provide land for cattle. These cattle need feeding so soya is grown and more trees are cut down. This has a massive effect on global warming.

What does 'often' mean in this context?  I'm afraid that it's insufficient to say that something 'often' happens because something may not happen just as 'often'.  If you're going to cite something as an argument for a case you really need some numbers that can be compared or to put things into some sort of meaningful context.  Similarly, a "massive effect" needs to be quantified if you wish to take your argument beyond emotional implication.

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I agree that buying local meat that is grazing on land such as Welsh hills is a better option. Also wild animals provide a more carbon friendly meat. If you have chickens in your garden and eat them when they stop producing eggs, then that's OK but cutting down your meat consumption is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

I think that most people would agree with the sentiment that producing meat 'free-range' is preferable to high-density 'factory' farming of meat but it would result in a large rise in the cost of that meat, putting it beyond the financial reach of the poorest sectors of society.

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Try this www.centreforglobalawareness.org.uk go to the resources to download and click on "The Real Price of Food." Have a go at the task. It is an eye opener.

While things like this are interesting and do improve awareness of the issue, coming from an unbiased source means that the figures it produces cannot be regarded as definitive.  Yes, meat production is certainly a valid issue, but because the vast majority of available data is all produced by parties with a vested interest, one way or the other, it's difficult to really know what is truly going on.

Just for interest, according to the beefsite.com web site (http://www.thebeefsite.com/articles/2190/world-beef-trade-overview-october-2009 for an overview dated October 2009), beef production has fallen consistently since 2007, and was projected to continue to fall through 2010.  Projected worldwide beef and veal production for 2010 was 56.4 million tons (down from just below 59 million tons in 2007), compared with 784 million tons of maize and 607 million tons of wheat produced in 2007 (maize and wheat figures from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat).

In 2007 then, we had 1391 million tons of maize and wheat produced compared with < 59 million tons of beef and veal i.e. 23.5 times more by weight.  Note that figure of 1391 million tons was just the total of maize and wheat, comprising the first and third largest cereal crops grown, and doesn't include other types of crop e.g. 315 million tonnes of potatoes were produced in 2006 ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato#Role_in_world_food_supply and current citrus fruit production is estimated to exceed 105 million tons ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrus_production#Countries_involved.

Soya production, an admittedly large proportion of which does go into animal feedstock, totaled 221.5 million metric tons in 2006, but the largest single producer was the USA, with 87.7 million metric tons produced (39.59%) , which didn't require deforestation.  However, Brazil and Argentina were the next largest producers of soya, with 52.4 and 40.4 million metric tons respectively (for a combined total of 41.89% of all production) and it is certain that some of the land area used for this cultivation did require deforestation. ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#Cultivation.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Lee, I'm so glad my post made you do more research. I must admit that I read tonnes of data for my job and although I know my stuff on this topic it is too much like a busmans holiday to find all the figures for you. I'll find one article I have read that explained it and post it later.  May I assure you that the figures on the global awareness website are impartial as they were researched extensivelly by my colleague. The figures are without travel and packaging so actually the carbon figures are a lot lower than they should be. Are you saying Lee, that you thick that there are more important ways of cutting your carbon footprint than this or are you a global warming sceptic?
 

Offline Make it Lady

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http://www.rainforestsos.org/book
Have a look at this. I hope you trust Prince Charles, he is our future king.

I think in the future the China effect will impact on the food market. As a fast developing country with a large population the wealth of the citizens means that meat consumption is rising there. This increase in demand will mean that the price of rice which is a majority world staple will go up. I predict more food riots like they had in Haiti before the earthquake. 
 

Offline LeeE

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Make it Lady: I wouldn't describe myself as a Global Climate Change skeptic (I prefer this term to Global Warming).  Far from it in fact, but I don't think anyone is in a position to be able to predict what will happen with any real degree of accuracy.

However, this hasn't stopped the vast majority of the human race turning the issue into a simple competition of words and arguments, rather than viewing the trend of what appears to be happening to the global climate as a simple fact that needs to be coped with.  No, instead people are more concerned with where to place the blame.

Yes, we can estimate, with a high degree of accuracy, how much anthropogenic CO2 has been released to the atmosphere over the last century or so, and while it's difficult to see how doing so could possibly be a non-significant act, we still can't establish clear and irrefutable cause and effect.

Now one of the interesting things I've come across is that historical records seem to show that increases of CO2 post-date previous global climate changes, which does not fit in with the arguments of most of the groups of people who are arguing for CO2 reduction to prevent global climate change.  However, if global climate change is occurring then having elevated levels of CO2 pre-dating the change doesn't seem like a very good idea, so CO2 reduction does seem like a good idea, but just not for the reasons that are being given.

There's also the risk too, that any results of CO2 reduction are likely to be misinterpreted, making what we think we learn from it worthless.  None of the CO2 reduction advocates are going to be happy admitting that historical elevated CO2 levels post-dates global climate change though, rather than pre-dating it, because it rather blows their main argument out of the water, even though what they are advocating does seem to be a good idea in the circumstances.

In fact, it's possible that the current trend in global climate change started a few thousand years ago, when huge areas of the Earth were deforested, just to be burned for heat and cooking, releasing all the CO2 bound up in those trees.

In the end then, while I certainly do think that we are going through a period of global climate change, and while in view of this I do think it's a good idea to do as much as possible to cope with it, I'm not interested in whether anyone is to blame for it - that issue is trivial.  I'm afraid I have to say that I think that those who blame anthropogenic CO2 for global climate change have rather held things up, rather than expediting them, by giving global climate change skeptics something to argue against;  without the argument that it is the fault of business and humans the skeptics could have only argued against measured facts but by blaming someone for it, and implicitly those who benefited from it, has meant that years have been wasted about who's fault it was, without even starting on the real issue itself.

It's sad to think that so much time and effort has been wasted when we're faced with something that has the possibility of killing billions.
 

Offline iva

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But it's become pretty clear that information and discussion is not what you're looking for.  There's been quite a bit of information and discussion already, which you've ignored...
Wow you certainly like to make a lot of assumptions, um what constitutes "ignoring" exactly? not giving Your replies enough attention or long enough responses?

Anyways ....RE the animal farming etc
 I heard on a Naked scientist podcast that hormones from our urine does not get broken down by the water purification plants, lands up in rivers and then in fish , causing them to become feminised. So are the hormones in our urine coming from food supplies, and which ones, meat or vegetables or both? Also, can there be knock on effects on fish supplies? How serious is hormones from food on our health, and where do they mainly come from?  I always heard about hormones in chickens and cows but never in vegetables/fruits.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Lee I'm not looking for anyone to blame. My job is to give people facts and figures and allow them to make life choices based on the data. I also advise on publications that are impartial to do with ethical investment and living. I never tell people what they should do but people who think they are saving the planet by using a bag for life....need the facts. The average person in the street can be incredibly ignorant of what will cut down their carbon footprint and even when they know choose to put their fingers in their ears and hum.
I heard Jonathan Porrit speak recently and he has been presenting facts and figures and trends to people for a very long time and only now are people listening because the threat is looking more imminent. Even if global warming is a nonsense the over use of the Earths resours es isn't and with a growing population to feed, what and how we eat and grow our food will be a very important topic. I don't think anyone could deny that. So what are we all gonna do about it then? I must say that I eat meat but I'm trying to cut down and eat wild caught or lamb from hills or old laying hens. But I'm only one person. 
 

Offline LeeE

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Make it Lady: whether something is ethical, or not, is subjective; different people will have different ideas about what is and what is not ethical.  In view of this, how can any issue that is of an ethical nature be addressed impartially?

Apart from that though, as I've already said, reducing our CO2 production seems like a good idea under the present circumstances.  I agree with you too, that we seem to be pushing the Earth's resources to, and in some areas perhaps even beyond its limits.

The trouble is, or at least so it seems to me, that I'm not sure that it's possible to fix the current situation from where we are now: we're sort of in the position of the lost traveler who, when asking a local country bumpkin for directions, is told "Oh no, you can't get to there from here".

If it can be proven that historical increases in CO2 have post-dated global climate changes, as seems to be the case, then global climate change will still occur even if all the possible CO2 reduction schemes are put into place.  Furthermore, even if all meat farming were to be stopped and the land given over to growing crops, we would need to plant all that land with only the most efficiently growing species to provide enough food for projected population sizes, which would largely result in us relying upon monocultures.  However, monocultures are incredibly fragile because a single climactic change or a single new disease (which may either affect the crop directly or via their pollinating mechanisms) would be capable of attacking that entire monoculture and wiping out a large percentage of the Earth's food resource at a single stroke.

To me then, the outlook seems inescapably bleak: I just can't see anyway that we can avoid an immense catastrophe.

Now while this attitude could accurately be described as defeatist I would counter that it is also realistic, and while a refusal to accept defeat might work in films, in real life it counts for very little if it means denying reality.

Funnily enough, but also troubling as well, the increases in control by government over what are ostensibly 'free' civilisations actually makes some sense if one assumes inevitable and widespread food shortages at some point in the not too distant future (Naturally, I intensely resent such controls over what I regard as my personal freedom).

In the end then, while I think that CO2 reduction schemes are a good idea, that's primarily because I think implementing them might mitigate, to a degree, what appears to be an inevitable and inescapable problem.
 

Offline peppercorn

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...if all meat farming were to be stopped and the land given over to growing crops, we would need to plant all that land with only the most efficiently growing species to provide enough food for projected population sizes...
This doesn't seem right - 'growing' meat is, by definition far less efficient per hectare than growing plants for food, is it not?
 

Offline LeeE

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Farming meat on land that could otherwise be planted with crops is indeed less efficient, in terms of weight of food produced, than growing those crops upon it.  However, even with all land turned over to farming crops it seems as though it will still be insufficient to meet the projected needs at some point in the future.  Remember too that not all of the land used for grazing meat animals is suitable for growing crops and if we're to return back to forest the land that was cleared for meat animal feedstock production, which would seem like a good idea from the CO2 reduction point of view, it seems as though there still won't be enough food for everyone.

On top of that, if global climate change is now inevitable it'll be likely to severely disrupt crop production.  Sure, as some productive regions become unproductive it is likely that some new regions will become productive, but even if the new regions do balance the regions that will be lost, and the new state is stable, allowing recovery, the transition period will see serious shortages.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Jonathan Porrit described this time as the tipping point. This means radical change now can help. But Lee, I think you are right in saying it could all end in tears. I'm hoping we can afford ourselves much more time in order to fix things. I'm affraid I don't hold out much hope but I'd like to go down fighting and I hold onto hope. The sad thing is that people are ignoring the problems and blaming others. Other people just shrug their shoulders and carry on regardless. Ho Hum.
 

Offline LeeE

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Jonathan Porrit described this time as the tipping point. This means radical change now can help.

No disrespect to Jonathan Porrit, but unless he's in possession of clear and unequivocal data to support his assertion that it's not too late for radical change to alter the outcome, and there appears to be no such unequivocal data, then I'm afraid that what he claims has no certainty of being true.  Mind you, if he is trying to gain support and get people to change their habits then it would do no good to admit that it may already be too late to avert disaster; people would be more likely to just give up than trying to fight a battle that they simply cannot win.

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But Lee, I think you are right in saying it could all end in tears. I'm hoping we can afford ourselves much more time in order to fix things. I'm affraid I don't hold out much hope but I'd like to go down fighting and I hold onto hope.

Well, I suppose that in view of the fact that no one knows what the outcome will be there is always hope, and that even if we cannot avoid the outcome then there is the possibility of mitigating the severity of the outcome, so it is worthwhile trying to do something.

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The sad thing is that people are ignoring the problems and blaming others. Other people just shrug their shoulders and carry on regardless. Ho Hum.

I'm not sure that people are just ignoring the problem because they don't care about it.  No, instead I think that most people feel impotent and believe that they are incapable of doing anything effective about it, and furthermore they feel this way not because of the scale or magnitude of the problem but because it is symptomatic of a feeling that they are increasingly not in control of their own lives, let alone the future of the world.

The problem, I believe, is that the master/servant model, where society is the master, and who is served by government and commercial organisations, has been turned upside down; people now feel that they are expected to serve and be controlled by government and commerce.  Borrowing a quote from 'V for Vendetta': "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people"...  but people are now scared of their governments.  By and large, I think the people, for society is nothing without the people who comprise it, now resent government and commerce and will do as little as possible to support them, especially if it means suffering increased hardship.

I think that all people have an innate sense of fairness, yet the world has become an incredibly unfair place, a fact that has not escaped many, even if they feel they can do nothing about it.  It's not because the majority of people don't care; it's because they've given up.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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Again, I agree Lee but even after talking to someone about the militia in the Congo exploiting farmers and their land where a mineral used in mobile phones is abundant, they still said "Well everyones got an i-phone. I work hard so I deserve one too. I explained that if people boycotted companies that had murky ethical backgrounds and wrote to companies stating their concerns things would get done. They still shrug.

I think people are more apathetic because of the current culture and climate but ignorance can no longer be bliss. Information and using that information is key. Children in most schools now are being introduced to global citizenship which teaches them how to look at information critically, how to make good life choices, what impact their choices can have and how the world works. It is also part of the OFSTED inspected community cohesion orders for all schools. This looks at the interdependence we have both locally and globally.
My hope is that our children won't just shrug and walk away.
Take a look at this:

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/gc/files/education_for_global_citizenship_a_guide_for_schools.pdf
 
 

Offline LeeE

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I'm not so sure that people are apathetic.  Rather, I think they're just being understandably cynical.  Their cynicism is understandable because just about all of the information available comes from one advocacy group or another, but because they're all advocacy groups none of them can really be considered to be impartial.

The CRU affair really highlighted this, when instead of being impartial it became apparent that it was being selective about what data it accepted and what it rejected because it was trying to prove one particular argument over another.  The work of the CRU may or may not still be valid, but that work is now pretty much valueless, as far as the general public is concerned, because the CRU was clearly not impartial.
 

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