GOB 130 – Flexecology

This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine May 2020

Suddenly the world and its dog are eating mock meat and planting trees to save the planet. I hear you raise a cheer. Mine is rather more muted.

I’ve not eaten meat in more than thirty years and dabble with the vegan way. As my decision was a geopolitical one I can’t really embrace veganism. Is there any moral difference between exploiting animals and exploiting plants?

If the chicken is free to run the length of the barn and isn’t having its bits clipped off for the company’s convenience I’m going to go on eating eggs. On the other hand, dairy production needs to scale back or cows will continue to be a big issue for the climate. I’d like to eat cheese and spread butter, but only if the world cuts back on cows.

Despite the fact that almost every bit of mock meat I eat tastes the same (like a sausage for the most part) it’s nice to get a burger and fries dressed with pickle and hamburger sauce rather than the veggie burger version (why do BK and MacD assume I don’t like pickle because I don’t eat meat?). Its nicer when the taste fits like Greggs’ vegan sausage roll. Seems I’ve been a trendsetter all these years.

Its terrific that flexitarians are fashionable… I just hope it sticks as we have to change what we eat or the world suffers.

I just read that our real salvation lies with flour made from bacteria. Apparently, it can be produced using a tiny fraction of the planet’s least hospitable climes and uses a miniscule amount of water compared with traditional agriculture. Bring on huge vats of goop in the desert I say. (Although I fear it will all taste like sausages).

Tree planting is now as fashionable as tattooing and body piercing. The trouble is, like the latter it is often the wrong thing in the wrong place.

A grant is helping locals plant a few thousand trees. Just as well as I live where there is the least canopy of any local authority in the UK! Well-meaning people deserve credit for their action. The thing is that it’s an exercise in ‘pretty’ rather than in ecology. So far, the trees have been planted in avenues in my local park and I’m pretty sure they were chosen for their blossom. There is nothing wrong with pretty or blossom – ask any bee – but we could do better. At the same time the council is still clearing the understory in that same park as if shrubbery is an enemy, and mowing the verges to make them tidy, which is a nonsense – ask any bee.

We need to plant millions and millions of trees. We need to plant them everywhere and we really need them to be native so that they support wildlife. Using a risky metaphor, we have to kill more than one bird with each stone. Our motivation may be selfish – combatting climate change for our own sake – but doing it the right way can also increase wildlife habitat. I want the trees planted and not strimmed around. I want the whole concept of tidy lawns and parkland challenged. We need wild meadows and scrubland in our towns and cities.

Selfishly, I am greatly pleased that the flexitarian trend is happening. I got my carnivorous partner to try some vegan mayo yesterday. For the first time ever, and she agrees, it tastes exactly like the fully leaded one, and it comes in a glass jar with a tin lid, not a squeezy plastic bottle!

Rant it out!
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