Life After Graduation

FrontGradSorry for the time away my friends. Since last writing a few things have changed…to say the least.

I’ve finished university and graduated with concurrent degrees – a Bachelors of Science in Journalism: Public Relations, and a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies. That’s me there, in the green cap! (photo credit: Grace Helen Photography)

I’ve also moved – from rainy Eugene, Oregon, to foggy San Francisco, California. Apparently my pale skin and red hair have a vendetta against sunshine.
Finally, I’ve started a job! I’m the Sustainability Fellow at Ketchum PR in San Francisco. You can check out more in my interview with PR blog Coffee and Cardigans here.

But don’t worry. Just because I’m living the dream doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the good fight! Every week I report to my PR team the top news and trends in sustainability. I spearheaded the idea actually. It’s called “10 Things to Know by 10 a.m.” I carefully sift through papers and magazines and the web to find the most relevant stories, both for my clients and my team. All before 10 a.m. on Mondays.

I’ve decided that you too should be benefitting from these lists! So, starting next week, I’ll be posting far more regularly – once a week actually – to keep you up to date. The opinions are my own, and though I try to maintain some sense of objectivity, please feel free to spark debate. You’ll be hearing from me again very soon.

Petri Dish Patty

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 8.41.17 PMChicken or fish? Man, how I wish choosing meat was simple as it is on wedding RSVPs. Now you’re flooded with options like organic, hormone-free, cage-free or some other alternatives even I don’t fully understand. But what if the stores start carrying another option? Yes, like so many others right now, I’m talking about vitro meat.

I’m sure you heard of the alleged $330,000 hamburger tested out two weeks ago. And if you didn’t initially hear about the petri dish patty, I’m sure you heard the outcries coming from everyone from environmentalists to consumers to politicians. But in the midst of the sea of opinions, the facts are a little fuzzy.

First, let me just clear something up. Not every hamburger is going to cost $330,000 – it’s a concept in its infancy right now, and though that may seem obvious to some, you’d be surprised how many people are fooled by the price tag. Paying that much for a burger is impractical…but so are our current rates of meat production.

How impractical you may ask?

In the US, 70% of all our grain production goes to feeding livestock. Right now to produce one pound of beef, a farmer would need at least 13 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water. That is an inefficient system…and that’s not even looking at the environmental concerns. Livestock currently accounts for about 20% of the world’s green house gas emissions, and livestock runoff is the largest water pollutant in the US.

Close to ten percent of Americans are (or have been) vegetarians – it’s obvious we’re starting to care about where our meat comes from. Regardless, we can’t seem to kick this hamburger habit, and I think that’s where petri dish patties and test tube tacos is going to come into the picture. A few cells from a cow can produce 10 tons of meat. Now that is an efficient system…once we get the price down in 10-15 years.

I wouldn’t consider myself a vegetarian or a vegan, actually I wouldn’t even put a label on it (though perhaps in saying this I’m inadvertently labeling myself as a hipster), but I care about where my food comes from. I don’t eat meat unless I know where it came from, and call me crazy, but I think vitro meat might be a decent a solution. Yes it seems far-fetched and science-fiction-esque, but let’s celebrate the innovation here. We’re making something out of practically nothing…something I wouldn’t mind smothering in barbeque sauce on a bun.

Do It For The Animals

Animal-Picture-Mother-Tiger-Licking-Cub-HD-Wallpaper“You might not see the effects of climate change – but your grandchildren will!” It’s a lesson I’ve had drilled into my subconscious in every environmental class I’ve taken. “Make a difference, Mandy. Do it for future generations. Do it for mankind.”

But what about doing it for more than just our own sakes? If the studies pan out and the average temperature rises upwards of four degrees over the next hundred years, it’s not mankind that’s going to be affected first; we’re a versatile species, well adapted to everything from the Sahara’s heat to the Arctic’s chill…no, the first to go will be the animals.

It’s not that four degrees difference will make for that drastic of a change. The Earth and earlier generations of beasts have underwent larger changes in temperature and lived to tell the tale. The problem is the speed.

Many land animals aren’t going to be able to evolve quickly enough to match the rising temperatures. It all comes down to the timing. There won’t be enough time for species to change their morphologies and evolve. Their generations are too close together. The changes are too drastic. There simply isn’t enough time.

So maybe, rather than picking a few favorites to cling to and attempt to protect from the inevitable, we choose a different approach.

When it comes to endangered species and especially charismatic megafauna (aka those cute and cuddly mammals), we seem to have a soft spot. Why not make that work for us? What if rather than sporting ‘Save Our Pandas’ t-shirts, we fight the good fight against climate change? Right now, we keep treating the symptoms rather than the disease. I’m not saying I have the answers, I’m just saying we’re asking ourselves the wrong questions. And we’d better start asking ourselves the right ones, and quick…before we, or some helpless creature, run out of time.