Lent's no meat Fridays good for planet Earth

With Ash Wednesday comes the Lenten Season, a time of sacrifice and penance in preparation of the great celebration of the event that changed human history: Easter.

For Catholics, Lent means many things (or should, anyway). From those cardboard “rice bowls” to collect our spare change for charity, to abstaining from sweets, or wine, or what have you. But the biggest Lenten observation is giving up meat on Fridays (and, technically, on Ash Wednesday and other days, too.)

The history of giving up meat is a long one, and it's often a cause for not-so-friendly jokes aimed at Catholics. But behold, Catholic abstinence of meat not only helps us control our appetites, but it helps the planet, too.

A recent report published in Environmental Science and Technology dissects the damage of the beef industry to the ecology of South America, and, by extension, the globe. The study looked especially hard at how changes in land use from a bio-diverse rainforest to pasture comes with big problems. But, alas, the market makes all this profitable because our love of beef brings in big bucks in places like Brazil.

All this makes the Catholic reduction of beef by 14% during Lent (one day a week) a sacrifice that brings real ecological benefits, and could do so much more if it spread beyond Holy Mother Church. Moreover, back in the day, every Friday was a meatless day. Imagine if we still held to that standard?

Well, suffice to say that when we humans make small sacrifices, they can add up to big improvements for Earth—not to mention our souls.

For more on Lenten abstinence, visit the US Conference of Catholic Bishops page on Lent 2011. For more on the beef industry’s effects on ecology, check out here, and here and here.

And Happy Lent to all Catholic brothers and sisters . . . and remember, thou art dust, and unto dust shall ye return. (Which makes that Easter promise down the road such a meaningful one: Rejoice, He is Risen!)

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.