With human populations already on the decline in the West, climate-conscious academics have now taken aim at carnivorous pets. But even if ditching canine and feline companionship helps save the planet, is the loneliness worth it?
A Swedish agricultural studies professor has joined the growing chorus of environmentally-conscious academics scolding pet owners about their four-legged friends' carbon pawprints. Cats and dogs eat meat, which produces significant emissions, and therefore should be replaced with herbivorous pets when possible, Sigrid Agenäs recently told Swedish outlet Expressen. While Agenäs does not join her more militant colleagues in insisting cat and dog owners attempt to feed their pets a vegan diet - a death sentence for cats, and a risk to dogs' health for the uninitiated in canine nutrition - anyone who owns a carnivorous pet can testify that it is not as simple as trading in Fluffy for a goat or rabbit. They aren't called "fur babies" for nothing - cats and dogs are increasingly the only living things keeping humans company in ever-more-atomized industrial societies.
Why are the climate militia setting their sights on pets? Birth rates are plummeting in Europe and the US, where record low fertility has long since dipped past the rate needed for the population to replace itself. While this trend was underway long before the climate brigade came along demanding women put off childbearing to save the planet, enough celebrities have taken up that line of argument that they can claim it as a victory and move on to people's four-legged children.
But if pets are one of the last things standing between an increasingly large slice of humanity and utter alienation - and if, as medical experts are saying, loneliness is truly worse than obesity in predicting future health problems - those who would replace our cats with goats are asking us to make a very difficult choice.
As we get used to the lonely green future without our furry friends, we can take comfort in the fact that we've kept planet-wide warming to a manageable level, though, right? Not quite - the carbon footprint of the world's domesticated cats and dogs pales in comparison to that of the US military, for example, which produces more emissions than most countries. Why, with elephants like this in the room, is the environmental movement setting its sights on dogs and cats? Aren't we already lonely enough?
It's not an idle question when nearly four out of five members of Generation Z report that they are lonely, more even than their notoriously disaffected older siblings the millennials ("only" seven in 10 of whom report feeling loneliness).More than any other issue, Generation Z is concerned with climate change, according to a December survey conducted across 22 countries in which 41 percent named the phenomenon as their chief concern; a further 36 percent named pollution. But while "eco-anxiety" likely contributes to the spike in depression and anxiety witnessed in Generation Z, the future presented as climate-friendly living, with no children, no pets, and an ascetic lifestyle that frowns on any form of carbon-emitting leisure, is liable to overwhelm them with feelings of loneliness.
But the misery that accompanies climate-change doomsaying is probably part of the attraction for some. Extinction Rebellion rallies have all the trappings of religious revivals - some play host to actual religious rituals - and the climate-change-obsessed preaching their low-consumption lifestyles can be likened to medieval devotees wearing hair shirts and whipping themselves in the public square. Guilt-stricken children of privilege can rush to absolve themselves in the eyes of some hypothetical Gaia by eating bugs, gluing themselves to trains, and renouncing the creature comforts their peers take for granted.
And with no children, no pets, and - apparently - no real-life friends to distract today's young adults from the all-consuming quest to save the planet, environmental groups have never had more fertile recruiting grounds. Political movements the world over have long known that alienation is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to filling their ranks with soon-to-be ideological zealots.
If ditching cats and dogs fails to save the planet, there's always a silver lining. Before our pets' carnivorous diets heat Earth beyond habitability, Big Business stands to make a killing in psychiatric medication.After all, loneliness kills - kills worse than smoking, if the experts are to be believed. Generation Z is going to need medical intervention on a grand scale when they come out the other side of this green ‘phase.'
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