The yob factor in conservation

29 09 2008

I believe that I am like most people when I say that I am generally annoyed by, but can live with, the yob (a.k.a. bogan, booner, westie, bevan, chigger, chav) culture pervading our society. I can live with the hooning (Why do they believe that pressing the foot 1 cm closer to the floor increases their perceived virility? I extend my curled little finger in response), bad music, mullets (indeed, those are just plain entertainment), their appalling diet, smoking and fashion statements (even more entertaining), and I can even live with their conservative political perspectives. After all, we live in an open and democratic society where one can choose to live anywhere within the yob-wanker spectrum (apologies to T.I.S.M.).

What I find more problematic is the overt anti-environmentalism the yob culture embraces. Sure, every time the petrol price notches up, I smile inside just a little bit at every unheard curse emanating from yobs around the country as they painfully fill their petrol-sucking yob cars with the latest in potential GHG emissions (small justices are hard won). But the real problem lies in the over-exploitation of our already stressed environments from some of our less-than-conscientious fisher friends. Not all recreational fishers are the kind that sport the classic ‘I Fish and I Vote’ stickers (also very amusing1) on the back of their utes, nor are they all convinced that fishing is an inalienable right granted by Poseidon himself. But a lot are.

Case in point, I found this little nugget in a certain state government’s ‘Recreational Fishing Guide‘ by a prominent producer of those petrol-guzzling yob cars:

Excuse me? Yes, you read correctly, the STATE GOVERNMENT’S Recreational Fishing Guide.

Is this really the kind of mentality that the state government is trying to promote amongst its recreational fishing community? Do we really believe that recreational fishing is so innocuous that plainly ridiculous acts that flout even the state’s own regulations are to be encouraged? I’d like to think otherwise, but I am clearly aware that there is high probability that I’ve hit the nail on the head.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fished many times myself and grew up with a father who would avoid any lake where another person was fishing just to have another lake to himself. I like fish and enjoy eating freshly caught ones when I can (which is not very often because I do not own a boat or fishing gear).

So, what’s the problem? This brings me to the core of this post and the reason I started with the uncharacteristic rant. Most fisheries around the world are already in big trouble (see previous post on this subject here), so when the number of intense-use recreational fishers is high, we have recipe for disaster.

A paper by Cooke & Cowx that appeared in 2004 entitled The role of recreational fishing in global fish crises gets my vote for the Potential list here at ConservationBytes.com. This paper identified that recreational fishing could account for as much as 12 % of the global fish harvest and lead to severe declines in fish populations, especially where participation is high and commercial fisheries operate in tandem. Again, a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. Lewin and colleagues in 2006 reiterated the point and demonstrated that recreational fishing must be tightly managed and good practices encouraged to avoid localised depletions and population declines.

So when state agencies encourage yobs to behave in ways our little advert implies (I can hear the ‘YEAHS and ‘WOOHOOS’ too clearly), we are failing to manage our tragic common goods correctly and to promote good practice. Indeed, for the very reason that good behaviour ensures a longer and more fulfilling future of angling for everyone, shouldn’t we be promoting the ‘less-is-more’ mantra more aggressively?

CJA Bradshaw

1I’ve always wondered about how people who put ‘I XXXX and I Vote’ stickers on their cars work through the logic. I eat toast and I vote, and I like rugby and I vote, and I detest listening to country music and I vote. I just ‘vote’ for the least idiotic of the choices presented before me at each election.

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14 responses

26 01 2009
Marine conservation in South Australia « ConservationBytes.com

[…] I really like this one. It seems South Australia is the only state in the country that doesn’t have mandatory recreational fishing licences. Absolute madness. Given the capacity of recreational fishing to outstrip commercial harvests for some species (e.g., King George whiting Sillaginodes punctatus), we need vastly better monitoring via licences to determine local impacts. Not to mention the necessary generation of money to support monitoring and research, which to the average recreational fisher, would not be such a hefty price to pay. The political drive to keep the status quo is woefully outdated and counter-productive. See one of my previous posts on the potential impacts of recreational fishing. […]

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10 10 2008
Fishing | Sport Experts

[…] The yob factor in conservation […]

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4 10 2008
gjrussell

1) My claim that eating meat “invariably involves
pain and suffering” for the animals was obviously an
exageration. But for the majority of commercially produced
meat, pain and suffering is a part of the production
process. Chicken meat is the most popular meat in Australia
these days. A study on broilers earlier this year (Knowles
et al PLOS ONE) found that only about 2% percent of birds
had completely normal gait at the end of their growing
period. The average score was 2 on a scale of 0 to 5,
where 0 is normal and 5 is “unable to stand”.

2) Nice to have some agreement about reductions in
meat. However the reason that fast food will be hard to
reduce/eliminate is that factory farms aren’t inefficient
relative to traditional methods of producing meat. The rise
of hamburgers as a food was predicated on the increased
yields you get from mincing the meat and incorporating
the fat. Take the fat out and you have less meat and a
increased disposal problem. The meat waste disposal problem is
already quite large and has serious consequences. When
the EU banned feeding bone-meat-meal to ruminants in 2001,
soymeal imports doubled to 6 million tonnes between 2001
and 2003 — unhappily there was plenty of capacity in
the Amazon to fill the shortfall.

3) The global spread of McDonalds and the rise of factory
animal farms in developing countries is reasonable evidence
of my “dominant culture” claim. India is an exception. The
torching of the odd McDonalds tends to slow the spread
… now that’s really extreme.

3a) Energy efficiency, as a strategy, is full of holes best
exemplified by Barney Foran a couple of years back. He was
being interviewed about his super duper energy efficient
house in Sydnay, solar panels and so on and the reporter
asked how much money he saved on power bills. Barney gave a
big grin because he realised exactly what he was about to
say and why it was a problem: “enough to take the family
on a holiday to the gold coast” :). The economists call it
the “rebound” effect and it bites into the savings, for
example, of any vegan — because the food is (or can be)
cheap, people can spend the savings on items which might
be even more polluting than food. Far too many people
think we can buy our way our of climate change.

4) I never said vegans are “somehow in harmony with it
all”. I don’t go much for spiritual/religious mumbo-jumbo
and don’t happen to have children. I do claim that vegans have
less impact on biodiversity than anybody eating anything
remotely like a normal Aussie diet. Could I lower my impact
on biodiversity by killing ferals? Probably, depending
on the impact of shooters driving round in a 4WD shooting
them. A roo shooter friend of mine (strange but true!) once
told me that he shot the first 35 each night just to pay
for the Toyota. Caring about individual animals as well as
about biodiversity does create problems for me. I suspect
there aren’t any pareto optimal strategies.

Hansen has argued for deep (40%) cuts in anthropogenic
methane to buy time for CO2 cuts to come on line. He has
said that the second biggest thing any individual can do
to reduce their load on the planet is to “move toward”
a vegetarian diet.

Am I zealous and pious? I guess I don’t mind being called
zealous but, as an athiest, pious is a bit annoying. When
somebody says that air travel has a huge carbon footprint,
then it isn’t long before somebody works out the obvious
corollary — no air travel is best. We
can’t all manage it, but it is obviously true. People who
cite this obvious corollary are generally not denounced
as zealous extremists until they start blockading airports.

5) Neither ethics or science are done with opinion polls
and an aboriginal living a traditional lifestyle may not
think much of veganism. But if you check out the NUTTAB
Nutrient Tables, you will find that some traditional bush
tucker plants have astonishing nutrient profiles. Would
a plant based bush tucker diet be healthier than one with
plenty of animal foods? That’s an interesting scientific
question. I’d be guessing yes.

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1 10 2008
Corey Bradshaw

As an interesting and slightly (and darkly) amusing corollary to my previous comment, I wonder how your proposition of veganism might be viewed by Australia’s Aboriginal community?

“Let’s see, you can’t eat any more fish, turtle, dugong, roo, wallaby, goanna, magpie goose, etc., etc., etc., because white fellas say so. Trust us – it’s better for you.”

I reckon that would go down about as well as genocide did.

Propose, however, a shift towards higher consumption of buffalo, camel, rabbit, goat, banteng, deer, etc., you might actually get (some) participation and a net positive benefit.

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1 10 2008
Corey Bradshaw

First, ‘invariably’ is a plainly incorrect, biased and sensationalist call. Most countries have strict protocols for dispatching animals. However, the main reason for treating animals well is that the meat simply tastes better. Have a read of anything by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Second, I’m certainly agreeing with you that least meat consumption would be a good thing, especially if we could get rid of the low-efficiency, high by-product, low-health components of fast food.

Third, the ‘dominant’ culture is a complete furphy. There is no such thing. Each country, sub-culture and society chooses what it wishes to do. If you want to change a culture’s general performance, you don’t promote extremism; rather, you promote viable alternatives that are less destructive. Sure, everyone choosing to live in complete darkness at night and eating cold vegetables will be the most effective at reducing resource demand (in this case, electricity), but it’s a plainly ridiculous proposition. Promoting energy efficiency, alternative power sources and responsible living will bring the best long-term result.

Fourth, you have ignored my major proposition – if you really want to make a difference, eat more feral animals and stop touting the line that vegans are somehow in harmony with it all. You still eat, you still shit, and you still have an impact. How many children do you have, Geoff? By far and away the biggest driver of environmental degradation is over-population so with two or more children, you have already committed the biggest environmental ‘crime’. Climate change isn’t going to be slowed by sudden (intangible) shifts to veganism – carbon emissions on the industrial scale need to change before we have any hope of mitigating our woeful prognosis.

In the spirit of ecological triage, let’s hit the meaningful and biggest contributors first, and avoid petty arguments over the largely inconsequential. I reiterate, though, fundamentally we have similar views – I disagree entirely however with your zealous delivery and pious hypocrisy.

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30 09 2008
Geoff Russell

Corey,

I don’t eat animal foods because it isn’t necessary and invariably
involves pain and suffering to the animals involved. Most people aren’t
interested in such matters, so I don’t discuss them unless people are
interested, and if they are, they should read Peter Singer.

On the other hand, I also aim to minimise, as far as reasonable,
my destructive impact on the planet. Plenty of other people and
organisations claim to have similar goals. So this is what I tend to
spend time arguing/discussing/… because these are matters of fact and
amenable to normal scientific methods.

For example, you say that if the human population became vegetarian then
we would need “vegetable matter farmed at much higher intensities and over
broader areas than currently”. This is a testable claim and using figures
from “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (its downloadable) and FAOSTAT, I think
it’s clearly false. I’ll deal with the vegan case, because its simpler.

Globally, 1/3 of all cropland is dedicated to feeding livestock. The
global production of animal products (meat, milk, fish etc) is 16% of
total calories (477 calories of 2808). So providing those 477 calories
uses 1/3 of all cropland, plus 34 million square km of pasture plus the
ocean fisheries, plus rivers, etc. The other 2/3 of croplands provide
2331 calories of plant food. If we were all vegan we could use that
1/3 which is now producing feed, allocate about a third of it to produce
what meat currently produces and release 2/3 back to wildlife. We could
release the entire 34 million square km of pasture, we could stop fishing.

If you want a more careful treatment looking at a particular region,
then have a look at “Sustainable Protein Production and Consumption
Pigs or Peas” — Aiking et al. I can lend it to you if it isn’t in
the Barr Smith. It deals particularly with Europe and looks at a range
of environmental indicators: Acidification, CO2eq, Eutrophication,
Pesticide Use, Fertiliser Use, Water Use and land use. It compares
protein production using either pork or peas on these indicators.
Pork is typically between 3 and 6 times worse on all measures and 61
times worse in terms of acidification.

There will be some regions where my reasoning falls apart (e.g, up
in the arctic circle), but it will hold in most places.

How likely is it that people become vegan? Most of the planet doesn’t eat
much meat anyway — but they would definitely like to, because this is what
the dominant culture does. I think that if we are to have any chance at
preventing run-away climate change, we need to change the dominant culture and
meat eating has a lot to do with deep seated attitudes of dominance over
nature and control.

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30 09 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Fang,

Thanks for the nice words. Flannelette – one of those fashion statements I was talking about. Add black beanie, Acca-Dacca t-shirt, ugg boots and black jeans, and you have yourself a winning combo.

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30 09 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Geoff,

I think you’re forgetting several important components here.

First, even if by some unfathomable turn of events the entire human population switched to vegetarianism, from where do you think the extra demand would be supplied? Of course, it would be vegetable matter farmed at much higher intensities and over broader areas than currently. The SW of Australia didn’t become a biodiversity hotspot because of cattle (it was wheat – I assume you eat bread, don’t you, Geoff?), SE Asia’s top-ranking deforestation is driven mostly by rice and oil palm, and great expanses of the NA prairies grow maize and wheat.

You are stuck in the fallacy that demand somehow drops when people switch diet, when in fact, demand just takes on a different form. It’s partly the problem associated with Joseph Wright’s mistaken belief that tropical urbanisation will reduce land clearance rates (see Brook et al. 2006 for discussion).

This is also embodied by the protein-switching phenomenon. Justin Brashares showed conclusively that protein intake merely shifts to alternative sources once policy/market forces drive declines in another. Bushmeat over-harvest and over-fishing are the unfortunate consequences of switching from livestock, so perhaps we should consider the sacrifice of already destroyed terrestrial habitats to avoid continued natural harvest crises.

More importantly, extremist views like yours don’t tend to convince people to change their ways – it likely breeds resentment that is counter-productive. Rather than impose what most (especially the yobs) might consider green totalitarianism, doesn’t it make more sense to preach a reduced meat intake, switch to more environmentally friendly meat sources, and to consider the health implications? You go some way to doing that, but your hard line McCartney-like stance is entirely counter-productive. Indeed, if you really wanted to make a difference, Geoff (apart from killing yourself), you’d eat Australian feral animals like gorging tick (goats, camels, deer, buffalo, rabbits, etc.). We should convince every Australian to eat a feral a week, not embrace misplaced vegetarianism.

CJA Bradshaw

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29 09 2008
mike seyfang

I wear flanalette shirts and I vote!

Maybe there’s room for an offset trading scheme here – tank of avgas for a cupla trees and a quarter pounder or three.

Just a thought.
Nice post and awesome blog by the way!!

Fang

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29 09 2008
Geoff Russell

2 of 2.

Hamburger mince has a high level of saturated fat. Its the beef in a Big Mac
that makes it junk food — its not the bun, or the lettuce, or … anything else …its
the beef. BUT, from an environmental perspective the mince in a big mac is
more friendly than the lean red meat so beloved by the CSIRO diet. Why?
How do you get lean red meat? You remove the high calorie
fat. This means you need more animal per kg of edible meat and a lot
more animal per food calorie. A study last year (Peters et al,
“Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems”, 22 (2),145–153. estimated
you need about 70% more land for the same amount of edible meat.
A similar result holds for low-fat dairy products.

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29 09 2008
Geoff Russell

1 of 2

Most of the world’s soy is used as feed, not food.

Below is part of a response from Prof. Erik Millstone’s (Penquin Atlas of Food) in
response to a query I sent him about soy figures:

—————————————————————
In May 2005, Mark Ash [mailto:MASH@ers.usda.gov], of the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, emailed saying: “Exact figures are not available, but I would estimate that 99 percent of the soybean meal processed from soybeans in the United States is used for feeding animals. Worldwide, the percentage fed to animals would probably be a bit lower to around 94 percent due to greater soyfood use in Asia.

…Since nearly all of the oil is used for human consumption, the percentage of U.S. soybean production used in animal feed would then be only about 80 percent; and 76 percent globally.” referring to the ERS Soybeans and Oil Crops Briefing Room at http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/soybeansoilcrops/
———————————————————————-

I.e., The/A way to reduce the clearing of tropical forests for soy is to
reduce demand for pigs and chickens — cause that’s whose eating the
soy. Soy figures are complex, the oil has multiple uses, but the resulting
high protein soy-meal is all feed. Australia imported about 2 million tonnes
of feed grains — mainly soy-meal — in the year before the world food
crisis.

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29 09 2008
Corey Bradshaw

P.S. I think you’ll find that ‘logging’ and ‘livestock’ are equally dirty words in the conservation literature. Both destroy habitats (and ‘lost’ habitats can be restored to a certain degree, hence the term).

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29 09 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Fair cop – a billion fewer macca burgers scoffed by yobs would certainly help deforestation resulting from pressures to increase livestock production. I must say though that the demand for soy in the Amazon is one of the principal drivers of deforestation and NOT, as implied, livestock production. Thus, vegetarian demand is as, if not more, problematic than meat demand. There are ways to reduce one’s footprint, but if you have a mouth (and an anus), I’m afraid you’re part of the problem. The only way to reduce one’s footprint in any real sense is to top oneself.

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29 09 2008
Geoff Russell

No, Corey, you can’t live with their appalling diet, because it is diet which largely determines environmental impact. I’ve often wondered why environmentalists talk about “habitat loss” like if you looked under a rock you’d find it again. Habitat is destroyed by lifestyle choices, not by the agents of those choices — farmers, loggers, and miners. I’m sorry I missed your talk in Barry’s Q&A, but I’ve just looked at the slides. In particular the Amazon slide hit me like a brick. Why are the logging areas marked “logging”, but the meat production areas not marked “meating” or “steaking”? Similarly, missing from that particular map are the “pigging” and “chickening” areas. These are customarily called “cropping” or “soy”, but if you trace the causal chain back, it ends on somebody’s plate.

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