Happy Earth Day!

I am vowing to make some changes this week in an effort to make my lifestyle a little more green. And there is plenty of information out there to get me started. Recycling, composting, reducing and reusing, eating locally—you can learn about the best personal choices for the environment on any number of websites. But I am astounded—absolutely stunned—by how many people who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint don’t have any idea about the effect of meat and fish production on the planet. And clearly they are not going to learn about it from most of the national environmental organizations.

I checked the websites of some of the major groups working to reduce global warming. Some, like Greenpeace and EarthFirst!, make specific recommendations about vegetarian diets or link out to articles that tackle the issue of meat-eating and global warming. But most of the environmental giants ignore the issue altogether. Both The Sierra Club and The Union of Concerned Scientists have lists of ten things you can do to slow global warning. Neither suggests reducing meat consumption (let alone adopting a vegetarian diet). Instead, The Sierra Club recommends shopping locally and choosing organic foods, and the UCS promotes “sustainable” choices like grass fed beef.

While this is disheartening, it isn’t all that surprising. It’s fun to shop at the local farmers’ market, and it’s easy to feel good about spending a little bit more on organic foods. Giving up meat, on the other hand—well, that requires real lifestyle change and it can certainly feel like an un-fun, inconvenient sacrifice to many. And the last thing any organization wants to do is alienate its members.

Unfortunately, by ignoring the issue altogether, these groups allow people to believe that eating organic and eating local is enough. And it isn’t—not for those who are really serious about reducing global warming and saving habitats.

For people who aren’t ready to give up meat completely, a program of gradual reduction might be the most realistic approach. The environmental community needs to take a stance on meat-eating and the environment and help their members move beyond simplistic half-way measures to the changes that really matter.