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 Summer 2011


Bring Back Meatless Tuesdays?
Your insightful article, “Building a Better Burger” (Spring 2011), points out how raising beef cattle contributes significantly to climate change. As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I wonder why you don’t advocate that people consider shifting toward plant-based diets by at least giving up eating meat one day a week.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such a change would improve human health; reduce deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, water pollution, rapid species losses, and other environmental problems; use water, energy, and other resources more efficiently; and, of course, reduce the mistreatment of animals.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Staten Island, NY

The author responds:

We agree that reducing or eliminating our consumption of meat can have a significant positive impact on the environment, but we also recognize that not everyone will shift to a wholly lant-based diet, regardless of its many benefits. It is therefore important to educate policy makers, farmers, and meat eaters about the choices they can make to support more sustainable animal agriculture.

Across many of the issues on which UCS works, we advocate for solutions that emphasize both conservation and better purchasing choices (e.g., choosing pasture-raised and antibiotic-free meat.

UCS advocates for solutions that emphasize both conservation (e.g., eating less meat) and better purchasing choices (e.g., choosing pasture-raised and antibiotic-free meat). These complementary approaches could have a significant impact if more people adopted them and better policies supported them.

Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist
UCS Food and Environment Program


Fuel-Efficient Cars of Yesteryear
Jim Kliesch refers to “new vehicles that can go 40 miles per gallon [mpg] of gas on the highway using conventional technology, and for a reasonable price—an achievement that automakers dismissed as implausible only a few years ago” [“On the Road,” Spring 2011].

How can they dismiss as implausible something that has already been done? My 1991 Pontiac Firefly convertible still gets 45 mpg on regular gas. [It] cost less than $11,000. If they could make them then, why can’t they make them now?

David H. Owens
Ann Arbor, MI

The author responds:
Today’s cars and trucks are safer and produce significantly less smog-forming emissions than in the past (thanks in large part to state and federal regulations), but automakers have not made similar progress on fuel economy and global warming pollution. Instead they opted to use technology to make vehicles bigger and faster.

Industry lobbying kept fuel economy standards from being substantially improved for nearly two decades, starting in the late 1980s. Now that stronger standards are finally set to begin taking effect next year, we will see more smart engineering in engines, transmissions, aerodynamic improvements, and high-strength lightweight materials that help reduce our oil dependence and save us money at the pump.

Jim Kliesch, research director
UCS Clean Vehicles Program