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In the West the cowboy way of life has ruled since the first pioneers and their covered wagons.

After a generation living out here, I can vouch that the earth and snow pack have changed. It feels as if everything is geared to the cow, setting up the kind of environment that dissolved the Anasazi people a thousand years ago. Our current drought is the worst in 1200 years. One reason is that the average American eats more meat than anyone on earth – nearly 500 pounds of meat a year -- followed by the Australians. The pollutants and gases discharged into the atmosphere by meat production are killing the planet. If we changed the way we eat worldwide, the forests of the world might have a chance.

Everything seems to bow to cows out West, from fences and water waste to alfalfa fields that could be used for far more efficient food, all for cattle. The condition in which cows and livestock are raised in the factory farms is a horror story. Predators are killed in the thousands in the name of saving cows, although domestic dogs do far more damage to heifers than coyotes or wolves. When the dustbowl erupts again in the Midwest, and there are signs that it is, people will remember this warning.

America has been built on beef and pork since the beginning as a measure of good health and social standing. After World War II, the hamburger craze exploded. Nearly half of all meat consumed after 1990 was hamburgers. We see the consequences in the obesity rate. Already in the late seventies we were warned of the cholesterol, cancer, diabetes and coronary complications of eating a diet rich in red meat . Today we have became a country of chicken eaters primarily because it has less fat, but the bird flu affecting tens of millions of chickens is a clear sign that we are treating domestic animals with untold cruelty and abhorrent living conditions. Humans and Big Ag animals account for 96 percent of the mammalian biomass on earth. Only four percent is wildlife. The earth will simply not be able to feed 10 billion carnivores. We will cannibalize ourselves long before that.

Forty percent of the world’s land area has been degraded since America’s inception. The flaying of the old growth forests is a crime for which we cannot atone. Much of the deforestation in the Amazon is due to America’s and the world’s meat consumption. The Amazon is close to dieback, the point at which the great green miracle with the greatest biodiversity on earth, will become savannah. We are insane. Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has given free rein to illegal logging and miners to promote cattle ranching and other exploitive activities. How much of this devastation was abetted by our banks such as JP Morgan-Chase and the average American consumer? Listen to the scientists who protested at Chase Bank in LA, one of them gluing his hand to the bank’s window, exclaiming,” We will lose everything.”

Meat consumption, with its methane producing by-product, is also melting the Arctic and Antartica. We are losing 1,2 trillion tons of ice every year. The cooling system of the planet is collapsing. We have seen it up close. It is a horror story.. If those who don’t believe in climate change take charge again in the midterms and 2024, we may well lose the planet…for good.

Only a few years ago, climate change felt like science fiction. Those who still disbelieve the scientific and ecological realities are sacrificing their children’s future. The economic fallacy of endless growth is costing us the lifeline to existence. Perpetual growth on a finite planet is a fallacy and going to the moon, Mars, or Enceladus will not solve our dilemma. We have precisely this decade to turn things around or our civilization politically, financially and ecologically may not make it to 2030, let alone 2050.

Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson have been bearing witness to the interaction between tribal people and wildlife in Africa for over a generation. They have published four books on Africa including the latest with their son Lysander, Lords of the Earth -The Entwined Destiny of Wildlife and Humanity. Their most recent film is Walking Thunder- Ode to the African Elephant.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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