What’s the financial gain of replacing animal agriculture? [Work in Progress]

I’m working on new content to roughly calculate the societal financial gain of replacing animal agriculture. Meat from microbial bioreactors solves not just ethical and environmental issues, but, as I argue in After Meat, also solves technological, biosecurity, and food security issues too.

Consider biosecurity. Most pandemics are of zoonotic origin because animals have similar physiology to humans. And the best evidence we have suggests the same for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is estimated to have costed humanity on the order of ten trillion dollars. Replacing animal agriculture with microbial and plant-based food would drastically diminish the risk for pandemics–I would estimate more than 90%. Therefore, we’d get at least 9 trillion dollars in benefit (0.9*10 trillion) by averting the next Covid-19. And strikingly, this figure is only factoring a sole pandemic. Replacing animal agriculture affects all future pandemics. In other words, 9 trillion dollars is the floor.

Consider environment. Climate change is anticipated to cost the world tens of trillions of dollars per year if there’s no intervention. And replacing animal agriculture is one of the best interventions to stem climate change because we get dual benefits: a bathtub-sized bioreactor can replace nearly 10,000 cows, thereby diminishing the greenhouse gas emissions and freeing up troves of land for sequestration. One paper suggests that replacing animal agriculture and rewilding land may be mostly enough. Using a present value calculation, I estimate roughly 40 trillion dollars in benefit.

Conclusion and Next Steps

So just considering two problems, we see that replacing animal agriculture is worth around 50 trillion dollars in benefit, or more than half of the world’s GDP in 2020. There are other factors too–namely suffering, technological, and food security–that will add to the total. So if it costs mere billions to develop replacers, then it’s an absolutely fantastic return on investment for governments and non-profits.

I hope you’re piqued. I’m still working on these calculations. If you would like to collaborate, or you know someone who would, then please let me know!

The Tipping Point Case for Vegan Advocacy

Finally some new content! I’ve written a post arguing that vegan meal-choice and advocacy are highly beneficial and impactful. Avoiding a beef burger for one meal is not just saving 1/1600th of a cow, it’s potentially saving thousands more by shifting the curve. The post is on the Effective Altruism Forum linked below. Moving forward, I’ll upload all written content there, but I’ll indicate here when I do.

Abstract

Animal agriculture is the most exigent problem of our generation. Diminishing animal agriculture would have the primary benefit of reducing colossal suffering as well as adjacent benefits such as improving biosecurity and significantly mitigating climate change. The good news is that a transition away from animal products will occur, but we can compel a tipping point sooner. An S-curve transition model suggests an underappreciated, significant benefit in advocating for steadfast veganism in consumers and institutions. Modest intervention can lead to substantial good, vastly more than the superficial consequences would indicate. When considering the tipping point case, vegan advocacy should be a foremost thrust for Effective Altruism because it can shift up the timeline for the vegan transition.

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/aMFFWhiQX5DvaZSDp/the-tipping-point-case-for-vegan-advocacy

Media Roundup – 01/14/22

Happy New Year! Some noteworthy media since the last post:

  1. Reddit AMA – This was a lot of fun, and I’m honestly so gladdened by the reception, even after my veganism was outed. The Internet is generally unkind to vegans, but sensibilities were strong here. That tipping point seems tantalizingly close.
  2. Interview with Gary Anderson of Night Dreams Talk Radio – Gary and I discuss the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the splendid options cropping up at our grocery stores, and John Wayne’s ignominious autopsy. Note: I admit that I’m having a hard time separating fact from fiction regarding John Wayne and the supposed amount of undigested meat in his GI tract.
  3. Interview with Karina Inkster of The No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast – Karina and I discuss the technological argument against animal agriculture and how it’s important to instill the intuition into a wider audience. We then examine how the environmental and ethical issues follow from that. Further on, we touch on the inevitability of a world where plant-based foods exceed animal-based products completely.

Looking for an editor

I’m soliciting an editor for a forthcoming non-fiction book The Future without Animal Products. If you know someone interested, please send this way.

Synopsis

Animals are terrible technology and will be replaced. They grow slowly, require a lot of resources, and are difficult to innovate. It is simply a matter of development before newer, better technologies displace animals entirely from our food and products. Most of the discussion regarding the shift away from animal products fixates on moral and environmental issues. In this book, I will pursue a largely unexplored angle to the debate – the technological benefits of curtailing animal usage. I discuss why using animals are susceptible to disruption in the same way that companies like Netflix eviscerated Blockbuster.

I’m not satisfied to merely convey information about the inferiority of animal products. I seek to rend the readers’ notions about animal technology, and in the resulting chasm, inculcate complete derision. Using animal technology should evoke cars powered by burning wood. First, I discuss how we humanity generate new technology and knowledge. Every technology has a ceiling, especially in the case of animal technology. The most optimistic technical outcomes for animal technology fall well short of the putative replacers. By propping such terrible technology, we stave off a future promising better, healthier gastronomical options; increased wealth; less suffering; a cleaner Earth; and an improved economy. While this future is inevitable, we should want to arrive sooner than later. We, humanity, should strive for The Future without Animal Products.

Status

I’ve rewritten over 50,000 words at this point, and I’m expecting to reach 75,000 to 100,000. If I’m a Pollyanna, the work hits the presses sometime over the next six months. But I’m an iterative writer, and I’m liable to making large scale changes that prolongs the writing. Furthermore, I’m juggling this project with a full-time job and other responsibilities. Nonetheless, it’s a suitable time to hire an editor to help progress and restructure the work if need be. If all goes to plan, we’ll have a sustained relationship over the next 6 months to 1 year for which you will be appropriately compensated.

What I’m looking for

In my view, the ideal editor is as follows:

  • You are excited about the project and would be interested to learn more.
  • You love to learn new topics and are intellectually intrepid, especially in unfamiliar, hard science territories sampling areas such as quantum physics to biological engineering.
  • You would be available and responsive for editing up to a year.
  • You don’t mind some controversy, and you value the best arguments/knowledge. Not sure how this book will fare in terms of reception, but I’m taking strong, unconventional stances (e.g. Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are a noble technology and will help us rid animal products sooner. Naturalism is a dumb, empty concept. Moral relativism is wrong and holds us back from making progress).
  • You have experience either conveying or helping to relate difficult, abstract ideas to a wider audience. Most importantly, the work should be clear, engaging, and educational.
  • You represent the target demographic well and have some-but-not-expert scientific knowledge (e.g. high school education in biology, chemistry, and physics); therefore, you help calibrate the abstract science explanations. I have the curse of knowledge. I will heavily rely on my editor’s vantage for all the pertinent topics.
  • You are honest, direct, and can explain how/push to make the manuscript better. Right now, I’m favoring someone who is better at development and tonal edits versus just for grammar/flow.

If you’re interested and potential budget

If you are interested, please send me a bit of your background (a portfolio website would be stellar), why you’re interested in the project, and a proposed initial financial arrangement. If I think it’s a good fit, then we would try a probationary period, which I would certainly pay for. Most likely, I’d send you a chapter or two and see how the feedback is. Happy to pursue this with multiple potential editors first.

Currently, I’m likely to self-publish the work. Though I will submit at least one book proposal, which I may have you edit too.