Extending an argument that began with Eating Animals (2009), novelist Foer (Here I Am, 2016, etc.) traces climate change squarely to human deeds and misdeeds.
Our species, suggests the author, just isn’t very smart when it comes to thinking ahead and doing something about errant behavior. “We are good at things like calculating the path of a hurricane,” he writes, “and bad at things like deciding to get out of its way.” It behooves us to get better at the latter, since ever more intense hurricanes—and blizzards, droughts, and all the other portents of a drastically changing climate—are in the offing for the near-term future. There are things we can do to ameliorate the situation: For one thing, we “need to use cars far less,” but we also need to pat ourselves on the back a bit less when we do something virtuous of the sort, since there’s so much else to do. One critically important thing, writes Foer, is to eat lower on the food chain. A prominent driver of climate change is deforestation, and a prominent engine of deforestation is clearing ground for animal agriculture. As he notes, “sixty percent of all mammals on Earth are animals raised for food,” so lessening the number of animals slated to be eaten will decrease the rate and scale of deforestation. “It will be impossible to defuse the ticking time bomb without reducing our consumption of animal products,” reads a chapter title that scarcely needs supporting text. That’s a big, even revolutionary demand, but it’s not an impossible one by Foer’s estimation. After all, all of us humans got together and, at least for a time, cured polio because we took our vaccine, and even if we don’t want to hear it, the ticking is getting louder and louder. Foer is not likely to sway climate-change skeptics, but his lucid, patient, and refreshingly short treatise is as good a place to start as any.