You may have heard about this eminently quotable nugget that passed from Michael Pollan's lips at this year's Pop!Tech conference: "A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius."Hell of a soundbite but, unfortunately, not actually true (both the fact itself, and the idea that there's a vegan out there driving a Hummer). Despite making its way across the web with blinding speed, it came to a screeching halt on the threshold of Adam Pasick's blog
, who took it upon himself to check the numbers. Ethan Zuckerman summarizes the analysis
thusly:Pithy as it is, you'd have to be eating a whole lot of beef for the statement to be accurate. [Pasick's] numbers come from a 2005 paper that finds that the carbon impact of a meat versus vegan diet is about two tons of CO2 equivalent a year, while the difference between a Prius and a Suburban (comparable to a Hummer) is 4.76 tons, given average driving habits.
So, pretty far off in the end. But you have to wonder how many more people are only going to hear Pollan's soundbite, and not the facts behind it. And then further wonder: given how polished and packaged this particular quote was, was it his intention to spread misinformation, knowing that it would further his agenda (an agenda I happen to support)? Pollan has responded
, apologizing for the inaccuracy and requesting that the video of his presentation not be distributed, which he hopes will "stop this meme before it hurts somebody." I fear the damage is already done.Via @sarahrich. Photo (CC) by Flickr user poptech.