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May 15, 2008


Sounds like you need more fiber in your diet.

but all of you: if you ingest meat and dairy, might as well stop riding your bikes as long as you keep eating those foods

You're wrong. Not completely, not entirely, not even mostly. And there's a good discussion to be had here. But this post sure makes it seem like you're more interested in flinging shit than having that discussion. So I'll just leave it at that.

The more shocking thing is that I never thought I'd read a post by you telling people to park their bikes.


Cute and clever response. Not being a fan of 'Cute & Clever' however... a few thoughtful moments at your keyboard, before applying finger tips to keys, might yield a more witty reply.

Try it next time...


chiggins said:

"You're wrong. Not completely, not entirely, not even mostly. And there's a good discussion to be had here. But this post sure makes it seem like you're more interested in flinging shit than having that discussion. So I'll just leave it at that.

The more shocking thing is that I never thought I'd read a post by you telling people to park their bikes."

I say:

Not flinging anything but thoughts and things I hear and see, and my honest take on them.

Concerning your last remark... dig the **asterisk** [my thoughts are framed by specifics and exceptions... re-read the entry].


Okay, here goes...

You are absolutely correct! The attempts to save the world are fruitless unless you have completely stepped into the realm of the unreasonable.

However, I have decided that I ride my bike as it fits into my life. Currently I eat meat and dairy (mostly chicken/fish as I do not like red meat and a fine wedge of cheese now and then along with skim milk) and will continue to do so as long as it affords me the kind of life I choose to lead. Vegetables not excluded.

I am amused that you have pulled yourself into the framing of the post by decrying the fact that you too are a hypocrite.

In order to avoid the "cute and clever" I shall persevere to do better from now on.


Okay, well, it certainly seems, despite the disclaimers, that you're painting in pretty broad, disparaging strokes. And I understand if you're trying to knock some of the smug off some people's faces, but the tone sure sounds like a purity-test. Apologies if I misread the intent or the tone.

I take exception to your assertion that ingesting meat and dairy automatically puts you into the Hummer world.

I know that, at least in this part of the country, there's a big movement towards local biodynamic farming where cows, chickens and pigs are raised on small farms, eat the things they were intended to eat, and pastured their whole lives long. Joel Salatin's PolyfaceFarm is probably the most noted example since the release of Omnivore's Dilemma, but he's not the only one out here doing it. There's also a groundswell of support for legalizing (that's right, legalizing) raw milk from small farms.

It makes meat and dairy more expensive and reduces the yield, but also makes it sustainable. Translation: there's going to be less meat in the diet, and it's going to be pricier, but it will be more nutrient dense, ethical to produce, and in Salatin's case actually leaves the land more fertile at the end of a cycle than it was at the beginning.

Industrial food production, from soy and corn to cows, pigs, chickens (which are mostly made of soy and corn by the time they're slaughtered) is a disaster. No two ways about that.

Cheers from DC, and again, sorry if my reaction was unnecessarily strong.

Right on. It's annoys me to no end that the environmental movement at large won't touch the factory farming issue. Why didn't Al Gore mention industrial meat production in "An Inconvenient Truth"? I think he's scared to go there; people might not mind commentary on their gas guzzling SUV, but talking to people about what they put in their mouths is an entirely different deal. I think it's high time the animal rights contingent and the environmentalists get together on this. Riding a bike for transportation is super, and I applaud anyone that does it, but if you really want to minimize your impact on the environment, go vegan!

Here's a tangentially related post I wrote last year that might be of passing interest:

Where Do You Get Your Protein?

I'm with you...sort of...and sort of not. I haven't eaten beef, pork, or poultry for years although I can't say I made those decisions...they just happened. However, we don't need to be perfect to be better. If you ride your bike to work, you made a cause. If you also avoid some animal products, even better. If you avoid them all, even better. At this stage, I'm inspired by improvement far more than perfection. If all Americans just cut their consumption of beef by half, the effect on the environment and fuel supplies would be nothing short of incredible.

If I recall, your meal plan in the Trib article mentioned 2 lbs of organic lettuce for dinner, in the middle of winter, in Minnesota. There's a whole lotta fossil fuel getting that meal to your dinner plate. Your diatribe is correct about industrial meat production but not even close to reality for sustainably raised beef, pork, poultry, etc. Industrial vs sustainable agriculture is just like comparing car transportation vs bike transportation.

Now that you've started this animated discussion, I have to toss this peeve of mine in. It drives me crazy to hear somebody say, "I'm a vegetarian, but I do eat seafood/fish." News flash! You're not a vegetarian!!

(Full disclosure: I'm an omnivore who eats about 50% organic/local food).

When I ask why they're veggies, they often say, "For environmental reasons." They believe (rightly) that big, factory feedlots and the infrastructure that support them are bad for the environment.

They seem to forget that the oceans are being overfished and are literally dying from habitat loss (dredging), 'by-catch' (throwing away the 'waste' fish/turtles/eels/etc.) and disease (aquaculture increases disease risk to wild fish).

I could go one here about the pros and cons of farmed vs. wild fish, but I'll leave you fine readers to use the links below to do your own research.

Lots of great resources about eating seafood here:
and here:

Why is it so difficult to comprehend -to no one particular respondent, by the way- that I am simply talking about those that brag about how hip they are, how Alt they are, and much more, by not driving a car and instead, riding a bike... and then partaking in food that is doing far more damage to the earth than gasoline & oil?

I know my writing skills are simplistic at best and that I should have never dropped out of school in the 3rd grade, but man the point of my entry is rather obvious.

Maybe it isn't...

[as Chloe mentioned after hearing about the stink this entry is causing, "Most of the angry people are people who haven't considered that you have a point and they aren't seeing it... and the others, well they're mad because they feel guilty".]

She needs to start writing for me.


CK Wrote:

"If I recall, your meal plan in the Trib article mentioned 2 lbs of organic lettuce for dinner, in the middle of winter, in Minnesota. There's a whole lotta fossil fuel getting that meal to your dinner plate."

Yep, indeed... and it saved my life, continues to save my life [and quite often fast food saves lives too, right?]. And at its source how much pollution, ground water, methane, etc did it create, pollute, contribute toward a negative end?

Great point though... while it takes fuel to get a hamburger, or 2lbs of organic romaine, to someone's/anyone's door: I guess a hamburger, and its origins, are that much more benign in the short, and long term of your point than romaine lettuce? Right? If I'm reading your words correctly apparently so, at least according to your thinking.


Nice post, Large Fella, but your butting your head against the wall, as I'm sure you already know. I started screaming this from the top of my lungs years ago to absolutely no effect (or at least no positive effect).

I did find something that works, however, and you're already doing it. I find that just being a big friendly(?) vegan who rides a bike and makes sure everyone knows about it is completely enough to have an influence. I have encouraged people to become veggie/vegan and to ride just by showing them that I can and do the same.

Keep on being the large fella on a bike and stay vegan proud.


I got a lot of shit from personal friends when I went car-free/lite in 2004. They said, "yeah, but you still take hot showers and live in a heated building, right?" Others pointed out: "you can't believe these things, your wife still drives around in a car!" When I took my crusade to the internet, in addition to repetitions of the previous arguments, at least one guy told me that transportational bicycling was little more than an empty statement unless I was living in some off-the-grid hermit cabin to back it up. It sounded more like they were trying to derail me from what I thought was the right thing to do, more than any genuine concern with the greenhouse gas emissions that were generated by various aspects of my lifestyle. Ok, Ok, I said, give me a minute, I just caught on to the whole concept of environmental responsibility and simple living. It's all pretty new to me. Rome wasn't built in a day, and so forth.

But cycling did give me an appreciation for distance and energy, and it made me look at food more as fuel than as recreation. I still eat meat and dairy, but much less than I did five years ago. The wife and I bought a CSA share this year, and I've always grown vegetables in the summer. This year we're going to be canning and freezing so we can enjoy our homegrown and locally-grown produce all year. My household is far from perfect, and in most ways never will reach some hemp-wearing vegan idea of moral purity, but we're conscious of ourselves now, and more careful. I attribute the progress we've made to the first day I rode my Huffy nine miles up the river to work and felt smug about it.

I came to post what Jim said above - there's always going to be someone who will criticize you because you drive a car, or use electricity, or don't compost your own feces. No matter how radical your actions are, someone's gonna outdo you (try googling "VHEMT" or "Gaia Liberation Front"). Pick your battles and make a difference where you can...

I should add that it's good to talk about the subject of food production and its environmental and social impacts because a lot of people don't know about the topic. Self-righteous cyclists aren't to blame for this condition, and are probably some of the more likely folks to adopt better eating practices.

Wow! I thought I was doing the right thing riding my bike. I guess I wasn't. Maybe I should just drive an SUV.

My antipathy to this post isn't that I think you're wrong about food production, or that I don't see your point, or that I feel guilty (though I'm sure there's truth in Chloe's observations). And I understand where you're coming from, and I note your caveats and exceptions.

My problem with it is this: the people you're calling out are folks that are on the path. They aren't as far along as you are, clearly, but they've gotten to the point where they're making a real effort, and they're deriving some pride and pleasure from it.

Many of these people are primed to hear your message about industrial food production, and to take the next step. If they're already feeling pretty good about themselves for ditching the wheels, then they're probably pretty receptive to hear the next part of the story about how much oil it takes to grow the corn that feeds the cow on the feedlot a thousand miles away. They're probably ready to see pictures like these to better understand the impact of consumption. They may very well be ready to feel good about doing more to change their consumptive habits.

But people who feel like they're being scolded, insulted, or attacked don't focus on the content of the message, they focus on that feeling. Often, they react to it be becoming hostile to the messenger and the message. We're gonna need those people, and the people that they'll reach in turn.

It's your blog and your thoughts and it's not my intention to try to tell you what to say or how to say it, and I'm a firm believer in the proposition that blogs were made for rantin' (and that that's just what they'll do).

I'm just making a couple counter-points, which is a measure of my respect for you, your accomplishments and your views. The vast majority of the internet doesn't even deserve a response.


our environmental problems are firstly a consequence of overpopulation. THAT is a message to which many people cover their ears. imagine all the resources that are saved by simply by forgoing an entire lifetime of human consumption.

so uh, add 'babyhole' to the list.


You are sliding down the brinkmanship path.

I don't agree that eating factory food is worse than daily car use, but it is well debateable, but you are putting too much into play here. I will argue that a single person with no kids who eats steaks and drives a hummer every day to work and dies at 45 is less environmentally harmful than a vegan with a kid who lives to be 75. Where do you want to stop the calculus?

You saved your life which is pretty impressive based on where you were a couple of years ago. But environmentally you made the wrong choice. You should have just stopped living. Much better for your carbon footprint.

I agree with some of your points, but I prefer living by example. I ride everyday as it improves my quality of life. I ride every day to show it can be done. We all have our reasons, there is a point where our reasons don't stand up so well under scrutiny at the next level.


Thanks for the reply, and I agree that dying is more cost/planet/carbon-footprint/Mama-Earthly effective but...

then I can't ride my bike [but maybe I could?] and piss people off too.
And that's -wagering a guess- not nearly as fun.

And the 4 people left in the world who don't find me annoying would miss me [maybe, I gotta check with them on that though, just to be certain].


I was vegetarian back in college, and when people asked me why, instead of giving a long winded environmental lecture, I just said "I Hate Plants..."

Oh how I do love a well-fired shot across the bow (handlebars?) The thing about bowshots, you don’t fire unless you’re prepared to engage in the full broadside that could result.

First, I will whole-heartedly agree with what I take to be the foundation upon which your argument is built, which is that a lot of what passes for “food” is bad for people & the planet. Good food is a resource, to be valued and consumed in thanks and with attention to the sustainability of our consumption. Some foods cost more than others, and by “cost” I don’t mean price in dollars & cents, but the true costs in labor, transportation, and environmental stewardship. By that measure, meat is among the costliest of foods, considering the square acreage needed to grow a pound of meat. I’m with you to this point.

And I think the whole mentality of “deserving” whatever – be it a pizza, a beer, 3 buck gas, a vacation in Italy, or a QBP discount (oh no…) is kind of dangerous. If good things come my way, I’m grateful for them. I may even court them. But the myth of privilege so prevalent in this country is just Manifest Destiny thinly disguised, and blindness in regard to the fact that for every cheap product we get because we “deserve” it, someone, somewhere has to pay the bill. The logical inverse of deserved prosperity is the belief that others (who pay the “cost”) deserve to be miserable, and that’s mean.

Where I must part with you is in your implication that eating meat and dairy is, inherently, wrong. “Industrial” meat and dairy is an evil, no doubt. I’m no PETA-phile, but the thought of eating flesh that suffered for my meal is revolting. But I do eat meat. And I try – and this has been an ongoing process – to make sure every ounce of it was grown responsibly. What does that mean in my case? Examples. The beef (and most of the pork) I eat comes from a grass ranch in NE Oregon, near Enterprise. I’ve been there. The cows look happy. They even have names. I could, I suppose, find out the name of the cow that gave his life for my tacos this week. I don’t say that callously. I am, in a religious way, deeply grateful for my daily bread and meat. My goal (working toward) is that if I’m going to eat meat, I should be able to meet and know the name of the animal I’m eating. I should be able to see with my own eyes that the animal is raised (and killed) humanely, and that the land used to raise the animal is healthy. That is, that it will be able to economically support its inhabitants for the foreseeable future without degradation.
My milk and cheese comes from Sweetwell farm in Scio. My wife drives there to get it. My kids have met Roxie, the cow from which we got our last batch. They’re pretty grateful to her and they say the farm is a nice place. Our eggs come from Sunny, Marshmallow, and Pepper. They live in a hutch in our backyard. Sometimes we let them out to eat bugs.
Do I eat “mystery” meat? Yes, sometimes I don’t know the source, and that’s wrong and I’m working away from it. I also have nothing but respect for those who choose to be vegetarians for the reasons I named, but it’s not my choice. But I would also encourage those (like you) who start down the path of pointing out the wrongness of other’s choices, to at least be aware of the specifics of their own hypocrisy. I’ve got a cup of (fair trade) coffee in front of me right now, and I just finished an (organic) banana, but how much petroleum was burned to bring these (unessential) products to me? One could argue that living in Minneapolis and eating vegetarian is an irresponsible choice because of the transportation cost involved in getting fresh produce most of the year (those Minnesota farmers had root cellars and canned for a reason).

Pointing the finger at myself again, I knowingly pay taxes that go, in large part, to fund a war I believe is immoral. How do I justify that hypocrisy? Well, if I stopped, I might lose my job or even be sent to jail, and the hardship this would impose on my children is not one I’m willing ask of them. So I pay.

My point, I guess, is that blanket statements of any sort are easy, but anytime one says “you” or “they” to a collective, it is, by definition a stereotype and that way lies prejudice, ignorance, and the dropping of bombs in all their forms.


exactly! Not as much fun for anyone if we slide down the slippery slope to just giving up and dieing. Thanks for taking that exactly the right way.

Now, I think you should take on some of those speaking engagements, spread your word as best you can and see how much in honoraria you can pull in before people stop inviting you back....


In reply to your comments, local & organic free range beef likely is less impactful than Mexican lettuce trucked into the Midwest in the dead of winter. I certainly wasn't comparing it to fast food. Local organic, local conventional, imported organic then imported conventional is how we should base our food decisions and sometimes we need to compromise. It's is much more complex than simply going vegan. Now, off to my 20 mile bike commute home...

How about beer? Can I still have beer? Because if not, then all is lost.

But seriously, there are so many things to consider. In this month's issue of the science magazine "Discover" there is an article about looking at the size of your "water footprint". Included in the article is a chart that shows the gallons of water needed to produce different veggies, fruits, and yes, wine and beer. It does actually help you make your point since meat requires huge anounts of water, especially beef. But the fruits and veggies suck it up too!

I think the only solution is for all of us to become Level 4 Vegans. You know, that's where you don't eat anything that casts a shadow.

Response to Chloe:

Yes I do feel guilty. I feel guilty for being a part of the biggest blight this planet has ever seen: humans.

If anything I just said has already been said by other commenters, I apologize. I couldn't read them all because I was going blind trying to read this light gray text on black background. One of the (many) hazards of aging.

I think I am making a difference by cycle commuting (not all the time, but whenever I can). And while I don't eat to American levels I'm closer to carnivore than vegan. But I'll agree with the posts above that putting your message out there like this actually harms your cause. Or let me put it another way:

"The very act of living in the US means you use far more resources than the earth can sustain. So if you do (and I know that you specifically do) then you might as well throw your bike away and give up"

Doesn't sound particularly reasonable, does it?


I ran across this video of Mark Bittman's "What's wrong with what we eat" presentation - it's a must see:

What's wrong with what we eat


Phenomenal conversation. I would think that, instead of finding all that's wrong with other folk's lifestyles, we might look at our own first. Then, we make one step at a time. The people writing (along with the instigator) sound pretty rational. Respect each for their efforts...none of us will ever be perfect. But we may be unique because we're still trying.

Is this post a shot at Kent Petersen? Seems like it could be. I hope not.

Brian Wrote:

"Is this post a shot at Kent Petersen? Seems like it could be. I hope not."

How could it be? Kent and me are friends, we've talked on the phone and via email many more times, he's blogged about me, me about him, and I'm part of his 'Blog Team' over at Veloquent.

Of course it's not.

It's about a very smallish, random group of conversations I've collected in my noggin over the years of over-hearing, reading, hanging, etc with folks who exhibit a certain vibe about their cause.


Well I am glad to hear it is not about Kent, as I enjoy his blog and respect his work greatly. That said, he rides a bike, advocates for bikes, lives in a "bike-centric world" if you will and openly admits to eating the types of food you posted about. I am just having a hard time discerning where the line is drawn?

Good food for thought. I agree with the hypocrisy of "green" people who have a big blind spot for one thing or another. The examples abound: the environmental bumper sticker, the vegan health nut who smokes, etc. In the face of how the other 90% of our culture lives, you have to give a lot of credit to anyone who is at all aware and trying. At least they're on a good path.

There's something called the crab theory where a crab trying to crawl out of a bucket full of crabs will get pulled back in by the other crabs also trying to get out. They're fighting each other so much that nobody escapes. We don't need to be purists to have an effect, and we're all trying to be better (and redefine what 'better' means).

I think many cyclists are vegetarians for that very reason. Also, it's damn healthy.

I love your story! Hey, thanks for trying to raise awareness about being green, being healthier, etc.

Re: Piehole...there's good points up in there and I do not intend to negate them. Just pondering out loud here, unless one lives in a monastery built with her own hands and grows her own pie, it is nae to impossible to be a "real" hippie these days. I'm sure, for example, you did not fashion mud-based circuit boards or the cable itself in order to send that post to the agora. Know I am on your side more than any, and also realize that our free enterprise system has a way to enslave each of us somehow. I hardly know where to start to capture any of what I'd like to say. Eating local! vegan! organic! costs more and simply stated, poor people cannot get a leg up. It's all so yuppie-fied living green. Anyhoo, we're all doing the best we can - and certainly, no matter what level we consider ourselves, we can do better.

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