Slightly Off Center

Meat your maker

By Dennis Hinkamp

Most days I do want to save most of the planet and most of the people residing on said orb, but there are so many choices. I’ve already made the biggest contribution to the planet’s health by simply not doing something: not procreating.

It is going to be hard for anyone to lower their carbon footprint to my level with reusable hemp grocery bags and any model of Prius. Our household does, by the way, also have a Prius and an electric Nissan Leaf. If I want to be especially smug, I drive the Leaf to the recycling center with all our spent box wine cardboard. I’m not sure if the boxes are better for the environment than the bottles but this is an experiment I can get behind. I think of it as sending financial aid to California vintners.

I know there is a plethora of people who are glad I didn’t pass on my genes, but it wasn’t much of a sacrifice for me. I never learned to take care of even a dog until I was in my mid-50s; I have spared many unborn children my incompetence. In all seriousness, not having children was a central aspect of my formative years.

The two influential books of my generation were The Population Bomb (1968: Paul & Ann Ehrlich) and Diet for a Small Planet (1971: Frances Moore Lappé). Both books assumed we had limited space and limited resources; which, of course, we do.

Not coincidentally, 1968 was the year the planet reached peak population growth of 2.1%. In that year the world population was 3.5 billion. It is now 7.7 billion.

Though the population has more than doubled, the rate is now only about 1% per year. The only problem with this analysis is that the available populatable space is increasing at 0% per year.

People who drive across Wyoming and say “there is plenty of space for triple the population” are the same ones who laugh at global warming every time the temperatures drop into single digits. All the great places to live in Wyoming have already been claimed. Climate is not weather; but you knew that.

Diet for a Small Planet got me interested in eating patterns and led me to become a mostly mocked vegetarian from 1976 to 1990. That’s why it was surprising to see plant-based meat substitutes being purported as a modern planet saver. The most famous is the “Impossible” burger. Another you can find in local grocers is called “Beyond Meat.”

Out of intellectual curiosity and boredom I tried both and can’t say they surpass my hippie days tofu and bean burgers. Anything tastes good if you put enough condiments and cheese on it. Of course, maybe I am being shortsighted. Maybe plant-based meat substitutes will lead to plant-based organ replacements that really do grow on trees. Innovation moves in mysterious ways.

In summation, I don’t have any answers. For now, live it up. Have 20 kids, eat meat-based plants, burn tires in your back yard and idle your  engine all night so you can be sure it is warm in the morning. Drive your F-950 through the drive-through to get your Impossible Taco.

Boomers care, but it is getting a little late for us to do anything about it other than get out of the way. Do what you like; just stay off my lawn.


Dennis Hinkamp thinks an Impossible Turducken for Christmas dinner must be on the horizon.

This article was originally published on December 1, 2019.