Monday, January 28, 2008

Who said people had to eat meat three times a day?

Mark Bittman (NYTimes, 01/27/08) ends his article by quoting Polan's question: "Who said people had to eat meat three times a day?" In his article, Bittman provides an empirical account of why we should revisit the assumption that eating meat is good. Here some of the data:

  • The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons
  • Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050
  • Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total
  • An estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production
  • If Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius
  • 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days
  • Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chicken
  • About two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption ... It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States
  • [Americans] consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein

Saturday, January 26, 2008

American economy

Wise words from Michael Kingsley on today's Time:

We need a "fiscal stimulus" the way a drunk needs another drink. Let's sober up first

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Italy's Malaise: La Vita Non É Cosí Dolce

On the columns of the New York Times, Ian Fisher wrote "Italy seems not to love itself." In spring 2007, the Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 47 countries, and on a variety of issues -- life satisfaction, national conditions, immigration -- Italians had a distinctively negative outlook.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Investment Banker Donates $20 Million to Fund Stanford's Stem Cell Research, Therapeutic Efforts

A California investment banker (and a Stanford alumnus) and his wife have donated $20 million to Stanford University for stem cell research.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


This week's Economist reports on Saviano's Gomorrah, which has been translated and published in English by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. You can read the first chapter here. I really enjoyed reading it because of both the factual details in it and the its impressive narrative style. Each page is full of language discoveries, and keeps you wanting for more. For instances, the female mobsters are called the "submarines" because of their invisibility. Moreover, the male mobsters, who enjoy a life of power, fame and likely and desirable death are called the "samurai of liberalism." A very enjoyable and instructive reading that I recommend to all readers interested in going beyond the surface of Italian society--the "underworld", as the NY Times refers to.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Will the Humanities Save Us?

Although I disagree with the thesis presented in it, this is an interesting NYTimes post by Stanley Fish. I am more on Kronman's side, as characterized by Fish:

The humanities do this, Kronman explains, by exposing students to “a range of texts that express with matchless power a number of competing answers to this question.” In the course of this program – Kronman calls it “secular humanism” – students will be moved “to consider which alternatives lie closest to their own evolving sense of self.” As they survey “the different ways of living that have been held up by different authors,” they will be encouraged “to enter as deeply as they can into the experiences, ideas, and values that give each its permanent appeal.” And not only would such a “revitalized humanism” contribute to the growth of the self, it “would put the conventional pieties of our moral and political world in question” and “bring what is hidden into the open – the highest goal of the humanities and the first responsibility of every teacher.”