Shimer College is a community of egalitarians, contrarians, and yes—vegetarians! These mindful readers and eaters come together to deepen their understandings of the world in our liberal arts, social sciences, and natural sciences courses.
If you’re curious about the world around you and interested in how scientific principles and advancements lead to transformative social change, natural science studies might be right for you. In natural sciences courses, liberal arts students encounter evolution, genetics, animal behaviors, chemistry laws and models, modern scientific revolutions, and much more.
One modern trend influenced by the natural sciences is a global decline in meat consumption. Here’s why, and how this trend can be understood by students of the natural sciences.
Global Recognition of the Meat Industry’s Impact on Climate Health
Researchers project that the biggest decline in global meat consumption will come from China, which recently announced plans to decrease national meat consumption by 1 billion tonnes by 2030. Chinese government officials say this goal is inspired by the meat industry’s impact on the health of our climate.
Climate science is becoming an increasingly important field as nations struggle to find ways to keep people happy and the planet healthy. While emissions from cars, planes, and the transportation industry in general have received a great deal of attention, the impact of greenhouse gases from methane-producing livestock is even larger and less well known.
Cutting meat consumption is one way for China to reduce its national carbon footprint on an individual basis.
“Tackling climate change involves scientific judgement, political decisions, entrepreneurial support, but at last, it still relies on involvement of the general public to change the consumption behavior in China,” explains Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center on Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. “Every single one of us has to believe in the low-carbon concept and slowly adapt to it.”
Natural Sciences College Students Understand Meat’s Links to Physical Health
At a liberal arts and natural sciences college like Shimer, students learn to ask significant questions that link the sciences with the humanities. Another major link between scientific reports of declining meat consumption and broader social trends is the growing awareness of certain health risks.
A widely-reported study by the World Health Organization recently tied consumption of processed meats to raised risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Further research by the Journal of the American Medicine Association recently found that vegetarians generally live longer than their meat-eating peers (experiencing a 12 percent lower rate of premature deaths).
Understanding these links between meat consumption and society will require continued scientific research, analysis, and review, a process you’ll explore in greater detail in natural science courses.
Grappling with the Ethics of Meat Production in Natural Sciences Courses & Beyond
Many of the reasons for meat’s unhealthiness come from the ways it is produced. Poor animal living conditions like factory farms, where poultry or livestock are kept in unsanitary and crowded pens, are reported to encourage the development of new strains of influenza. Excessive use of antibiotics in animals can also create superbugs resistant to treatment, like avian flu.
So how can our societies get important animal nutrients like vitamins B12, D3, Creatine, and Carsonine without relying on harmful meat production practices? How can we take part in the broader mindful eating trend?
Research suggests health risks can be mitigated and consciences can be cleared when ethical farming practices are employed (think buzzwords like “free-range,” “locally raised,” and “ethically sourced”). You can dive deep into these complex ideas and more in natural sciences classes grounded in dialogue and discussion, found at liberal arts colleges like ours.
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