Imagine going to a family party where you are the only non-smoker. The room is filled with smoke as everyone around you is puffing away at their pipes, cigars and cigarettes. The smoke gets in your clothes, your hair, your lungs and you feel like you are suffocating, but you don't want to leave because you love these people even as they behave like chimneys. Your host suggests that since you are the only exception in the family party, you might as well light up and offers you a cigarette.
We have come a long way since scenarios like this are even plausible. The harmful effects of second hand smoke have become so well known that the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff just signed a comprehensive tobacco control law this week banning smoking in all enclosed public places in Brazil. The new law will make Brazil the largest country in the world to go smoke-free!
A good friend of mine who is desperately trying to go organic vegan after reading Carbon Dharma, used a similar family party scenario to explain why he sometimes eats meat and dairy, since requesting vegan fare would inconvenience the hosts. Second hand diet is not such a well known social behavioral issue even though the harmful effects of second hand diet are far worse than the harmful effects of second hand smoke. With second hand diet, the addicts are literally snuffing out all Life on Earth with their habit and yet, we continue to turn a blind eye and even indulge in their addiction.
And Brazil figures prominently in this unfolding extinction catastrophe. An area of the Amazon rain forest, the size of Florida, is being razed down every two years and converted into agricultural land or pasture land in order to feed the burgeoning meat and dairy demands of the nouveau rich. Even prominent environmentalists are silent about this unfolding catastrophe even as they fulminate and organize marches over the prospect of oil companies razing down the Boreal forest the size of Florida, not over two years, but over the next few decades. This is because even prominent environmentalists are addicted to the same habit and appear to have a special filter in their minds to ignore the cognitive dissonance that occurs as a result of their addiction.
I was reminded of that cognitive dissonance this morning as I read Alex Zwissler's first article on his new blog over at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the same function where Bill Nye's climate change exhibit was inaugurated at the Chabot Space Center that Alex describes, I had trouble convincing the servers that cheese was inedible to me, but I persisted and wound up eating a plate of pasta with tomato sauce. Steak was the standard fare served for dinner that night and everyone was indulging in it. Of all the prominent environmentalists present at that function, very few seemed to be aware of the harmful effects of second hand diet.