Walk or Ride?

Is walking to the store "greener" than riding there in your car? Here's an interesting article from The Times UK arguing for the car. The upfront argument is specious. Consider:

"Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere," he said, a calculation based on the Government's official fuel emission figures. "If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

This is damning information regarding beef production, but only the most die-hard Atkins fan would try to "fuel" a three mile walk entirely on beef. It's a straw man argument. What about comparing the drive to someone who "fuels" their walk via a bagel? Further, if you're going to consider the emissions from the entire chain of beef production, wouldn't it be proper to also consider the entire chain of automobile manufacture and gasoline production and not just the drive to the store to be consistent?

Secondarily, this article gives people the impression that they shouldn't be going out for that healthy walk and should instead drive everywhere. What are the long term health consequences of that action taken to its logical extreme?

The article does bring up some good points (and some are raised in the comments section along with the usual nonsensical sludge concerning "scientists not knowing anything"). For example, it's sensible to eat "lower on the food chain", e.g. beans instead of beef or pork. Also, people need to start considering the source of their food and certain "convenience" factors. Is it wise to ship in produce from 1500 miles away that could be produced locally? Is it wise to create meals, freeze them, keep them frozen during shipment and storage, and finally have the consumer reheat them at home? That is very energy intensive. But consider the tricky combination: If an item cannot be grown locally (let's say strawberries in NY during January), which is less energy intensive, shipping strawberries 3000 miles away from California, or freezing locally grown strawberries for six months?

More like this

Because we all know that people who drive cars do not eat beef, breathe, or metabolize anything.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 06 Aug 2007 #permalink

The article actually refers to this loon as a "serious thinker."

The figure was based on Japanese methods of industrial beef production but Mr Goodall says that farming techniques are similar throughout the West.

I suggest Mr. Goodall get his ***** to an upscale market and check the prices on Kobe beef.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 06 Aug 2007 #permalink

I agree totally about choosing your 'reference food' carefully. Picking beef (esp. japanese-method beef) seems like a way to grandstand rather than to educate.

I mean, that famous bag of potato chips only requires 1/120th gallon of oil for its total production. You can munch it on your walk and I'm sure still put on weight.

Beyond that, we can ask how many Americans have that many calories to spare in their diets, already!

I once read that the amount of resources rquired to produce an amount of soy protein nutritionally equivalent to a similar serving of beef is something like 1/30th. So if you want to "fund" yourself on nitrates as you amble about and enjoy tofu, there you go.

Jim, please, it's just The Times - no designator. Unfortunately the article is typical Murdoch journalism and about all The Times is good for nowadays is wrapping fish and chips.
It is interesting, as noted above, that the metabolic cost of the driver is not accounted for, nor the CO2 load of the construction of the metalled road to carry the car (not necessary for a pedestrian), nor the CO2 load from transporting the car from Japan, South Korea, or Germany and the load from transporting the crude oil to the refinery, refining the the oil, and transporting the petrol to the petrol station. This doesn't even get into the discussion about decentralised shopping facilities - that, if nobody used a car the supermarket wouldn't be built 3 miles out of town.
Dominic Kennedy is a bit of a lightweight, and stuff like this shouldn't be taken as a serious piece, although it is somewhat disappointing that the idiotic ideas of someone like him gets such a large distribution.

By hopper3011 (not verified) on 08 Aug 2007 #permalink

The only reason I added "UK" was so some folks didn't assume I was referring to the NY Times. Next time I'll do it as The Times (UK).

Because we all know that people who walk are more likely to gorge themselves on Kobe beef than people who drive.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Aug 2007 #permalink