Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I am cow

Today in lecture when discussing chronological primitivism, Professor Tantillo mentioned that the transition from vegetarianism to meat-eating could be described as a sin or fall of humans. In response to this, (and after hearing the Ape Man song), I am posting a link to a song that kind of highlights this point. It's called "I am cow" by the Arrogant Worms.

I think this song (aside from having pretty good harmonies) highlights some of the important environmental consequences of eating meat. For example, the second verse talks about cows' contribution of methane gas to the atmosphere and its effect on the ozone layer. A 1988 article writes, "Humans are responsible for increased methane levels because they are raising more cows, growing more rice and chopping down tropical forests, which provides food for more termites".

A more recent report shows that methane gas accounted for 14.3% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2004 while CO2 fossil fuel use consisted of 56.6%.
IPCC Report:

The third verse also hints at the fact that there are a lot of cows living on the land. From an environmental perspective, this would mean that land needs to be cleared for the cows to have pastures to graze on, etc.

I hope the song and NYT article give a perspective to the concept of "chronological primitivism" being " the primitivism that looks backward to a “Golden Age” and sees our present sad state as the product of what culture and society have done to them". (definition taken from


Jim Tantillo said...

nice post. love the cow song!!

Laura Martin said...

Really cool post. Here is an example of an article that refutes the idea of vegitarianism as the "natural state":

Penelope said...

That's really interesting. The article makes a good point, and definitely a new perspective. Especially with the point about our body's preference for heme iron (from animals) versus non-heme iron (from plants), and how a little bit of meat can really help improve the absorption of non-heme iron in the body. From a nutrition and maybe even environmental perspective though, I think that although humans might be a habitual meat eater according to the journal article, we are eating too much of it and making it such a large part of our diet that both our health and the environment is affected negatively by it.

Laura Martin said...

All good points, I'd agree, the scale at which Americans consume meat is staggering (and more than in other cultures)

Megan said...

I agree with all the comments made thus far, it's about finding a balance. Michael Pollan has written some really good stuff on the subject and in one article he points out that, from a sustainability perspective, we DO need to eat less meat, but some meat is still good. A lot of land is unsuitable for crops but is available for grazing, so raising animals makes sense. This also relates back to Hughes in a couple ways. He explains that part of the problem with deforestation in the Mediterranean was that overgrazing prohibited re-growth. In South America today, rain forest is cleared for cattle pasture and, due to overgrazing, only lasts for about 6 years as viable pasture before it is abandoned. On the other hand, Hughes also points out that it was the smaller farms with multiple kinds of crops and vegetation that would have actually been sustainable. This could potentially include livestock to graze hillsides or to provide manure for crops. In sum, it seems we need to think of balance in the way we use the land, cutting down on overconsumption of meat, but allowing for grazing where it is appropriate and sustainable.