TED Conversations

Kelly Witwicki Faddegon

Organizer, Speaker, Graphic Designer, Direct Action Everywhere

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It's easy to separate a product from its production process. What can we do to change that?

This came to mind with the question of factory farming: www.huffingtonpost.com/anjali-sareen/factory-farming_b_2904891.html

But further applies to our neglect to consider the ripple effects of our actions on, say, labour abuse in outsourcing, or the destruction of the air we breathe.

Branding has a significant role here, showing us the glamourized product and concealing everything about its production. We see a Prius in a cute pristine environment, so no one asks about the car's embodied energy or how the battery material was mined and produced. And even with advertising aside, you cannot see a child's sweat on your t-shirt, and steak looks nothing like a cow.

This makes us take our commodities at face value -- we think the cost is limited to the dollar sign on the price tag. In the interest of improving our farm health and humane conduct, worker treatment, environmental stability, and so forth, how can we remedy these disjunctures?

To start, I think ecological footprint stickers and taxes could do a lot, but can we find a way to learn to see the dominoes without our governments regulating our ability to?

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    Mar 21 2013: More on this (part of some research I'm doing for a paper, so I have agriculture on the brain): Basically every one pound of beef we eat (a few hamburgers) costs 2.5k gallons of water (100x as much as tomatoes or wheat, or enough for 1 person to drink for 8 years), 10 pounds of feed, up to .15 grams of antibiotics (this number is sketchy, but ultimately 80% of our antibio use is in daily-pumped livestock), and 8x as much fossil fuel energy as a pound of vegetables, and livestock cause 10x as much water pollution as humans otherwise, and the typical meat-eater requires nearly 20x as much land as a vegan (see the references of earthsave.org/pdf/ofof2006.pdf for more).

    Don't worry I'm not preaching, note that I left the typical moralizing animal-rights ethics arguments aside -- this is about how easily we disjoin a product from its process. Our meat consumption is responsible for a substantial part of the world's dehydration and starvation (not to mention the rippling ailments and crimes that come with that poverty), as well as the rise of superbugs, polluted water, and rapid climate change (and all of those dominoes!). And all when vegetable consumption is more energy efficient within the body of the person eating too. BUT because we do not experience these "side effects" immediately/directly, we think instead of the instant gratification of a cheap steak that is super easy to buy right in front of us at the market. So is information enough? Case in point: did that information make you decide to change your meat consumption habits? If not (which I am willing to bet), why is information not enough? What can we do to make me less acquiescent about this MacBook I'm typing on?

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