PopTech Science Fellow Gidon Eshel does the math on meat

When you’re writing up a post about the guy who refuted Michael Pollan’s now infamous PopTech quote about vegans and hummers, you don’t really want to get the facts wrong. PopTech Science Fellow Gidon Eshel is a statistician who grew up working on a dairy farm in an Israeli Kibbutz: a rather curious combination that’s led to a deep knowledge of how what we choose to eat affects our planet.

Gidon Eschel

Last year, when journalist Adam Pasick of New York Magazine questioned the math behind Pollan’s on-stage, rapidly re-tweeted, statement that “A vegan in a hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef-eater in a Prius.”, it was Eshel’s phone that rang for an answer. As Pollan himself quickly admitted, that statement, while arresting, was not correct. And it was Pollan who suggested that Eshel be a presenter at this year’s PopTech, perhaps as a sort of virtual mea culpa.

Facts aside, Pollan did raise a important point about food choice. Using some simple math, Eshel showed the PopTech audience how a meat-based diet far exceeds the carbon emissions of a plant-based diet, and calls most people’s usual way of eating MAD (actually an acronym Mean American Diet). His recommendation is to eat plants, avoid animal products, and favor laws that promote the first and second suggestions.

Eshel calls switching to a plant-based diet “low-hanging fruit” for reducing carbon emissions — no pun intended.

(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)

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