Dealing with climate change is not like trying to lose weight, and that makes the notion of a carbon diet the crummiest of all metaphors for addressing the climate crisis, author Lisa Margonelli suggests in an essay on Slate.
The idea first made its appearance in 2000, she says, and “in short order, the low-carbon diet became more than just a household strategy; it became a whole meme,” amplified by climate icons like ex-U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like the myths around dieting, the notion of a carbon diet endures, “in part because it feels so ‘right’ to a country with Calvinist ideals, an adult population that is 34.9% obese, and a history of conflating God, graham crackers, and the avoidance of pleasure.”
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And now, “predictably, the idea has become a literal diet—based on the idea that agriculture, particularly beef, causes the emission of many greenhouse gases. Now we have enterprising fake beef entrepreneurs selling ‘top secret’ extruded powdered pea protein performance burgers for planetary improvement.”
But “the carbon diet is a miserable prescription for the world’s future because it contains no vision of a shared future and shared prosperity,” Margonelli writes. “Instead, it offers a default vision of a dog-eat-dog world where starving hordes will tank the planet.” (h/t to Smarter Shift Social Media Advisor Karen Irving for the link on diet myths)
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