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Does it matter whether grass is transformed into chemical milk in a laboratory, or whether the cow does the conversion? You can determine and predict a lot with calculations, but where is the awareness of the quality of the products, apart from their composition and taste? Does the preparation process play no role? And can you calculate the effects on the climate without quality awareness? By replacing the miracle of nature with, for example, artificially produced dairy, we lose sight of the value and importance of nature - its quality - for human existence.Watch video on YouTube
The attention for quality versus the attention for quantity has been completely lost sight. And that because of the calculation, which is of course a quantitative activity, we have in fact almost exclusively ended up with the quantity, with the numbers, with the quantities, with the statistics, with the predictions for the future, with the calculations of what it will be like, scenario 1, scenario 2, up to and including scenario I don't know, but everything quantitative. And the loss of awareness of quality is at least as alarming as the whole issue of the decay of the earth. A few weeks ago, in the NRC, the newspaper, there was a long piece about cheese. And that piece triggered a whole series of memories and thoughts in me that I would like to share with you today. I remembered from my youth - and these memories are often triggered recently by such reflections and by wondering where the thoughts come from - a memory from my youth, in which a report by the Club of Rome was suddenly in the public domain. Now, I have never been a newspaper reader, nor will I be, but I sometimes do so somewhat dutifully, and that was certainly the case when I was young. But there was a news item that a report had been published by the Club of Rome. Now, I haven't read that report, but there was a lot to do, as anyone who lived in those days, 1968, knows, a lot to do about it, that if things were to continue as they were on earth, the earth would perish. And that was illustrated with all kinds of calculations and I only now understand that that was the first report, or one of the first reports, in which the computer was used to make calculations. But in any case, what it actually came down to was that if the world's population growth continued as it had been doing, then the biggest problems would arise. And I remember that it caused a great deal of commotion, that report, and I also remember my own feelings about it. Of course, when you are 17 years old, you tend to believe public publications on the one hand and be critical of them on the other. On the one hand, the report, insofar as it was released into the world, instilled fear, a feeling of: the earth on which I live is finite, it is in danger of being exhausted - and on the other hand, a very strong impression of: what is this really about? I did not have the opportunity at the time, nor did I feel like it, to look into what this was actually about. But when you then see how it has developed in the course of the decades, you see, of course, that the concern for the viability of the Earth has only increased in a certain sense and that it is no longer so much concerned, this care, with the question of how do we limit population growth, but more with the question: what is going on with our climate, and how long can it all continue as it is; what are we doing as inhabitants of the Earth and what should we do to counteract the acceleration of degradation on Earth. Now, of course one can share in that concern. But on the other hand, what strikes me very strongly when I look back, is that in the decades in which this concern has been constantly expressed, the attention for quality versus the attention for quantity has been completely lost sight. And that because of the calculation, which is of course a quantitative activity, we have in fact almost exclusively ended up with the quantity, with the numbers, with the quantities, with the statistics, with the predictions for the future, with the calculations of what it will be like, scenario 1, scenario 2, up to and including scenario I don't know, but everything quantitative. And the loss of awareness of quality is at least as alarming as the whole issue of the decay of the earth. Because we humans can also decay and we decay because we forget that it is not only about numbers, but that quality is so important. And with quality I do not mean, as it is usually used, that word, in the sense of a good or a bad quality, but I mean quality as it was originally used in philosophy, that word, and then it actually means more capacity, attribute. So the way something presents itself and not only quantity, that is also a category in which you can think. But that's not the only one, we have that category of concepts, that whole world of quality, we have that too. And that is what I became so painfully aware of in that article in the NRC about cheese, that there is in fact another dying process going on, and that is the dying process of quality. Public opinion is being formed in such a way that we attach our opinions and judgements solely to quantity. You can calculate it and you can also predict it by means of calculations. For example, you can speak of exponential growth, because you see it, you see the impetus for it, and then you can predict that it will go this way, and you can also think of other scenarios whereby it can be deflected so that it becomes this way and not that way, but it is all quantitative. And that's where we come in very strongly, of course, when we talk about a climate crisis, because there, too, the state of nature is considered, and that is a qualitative consideration, but when we look for causes for the deterioration of the state of nature, then we really plunge into the quantitative calculations, and we are of course very much determined by the numbers we hear about co2 and nitrogen. And then an appeal is made to our sense of norm, to our ethics, to our moral attitude towards that wonderful creature Earth - that is my qualitative determination of the Earth, but of course it is also a planet that is deteriorating in its state of life and it is clear that man is the culprit there. When we think of CO2, well we all know: man breathes in oxygen, and in the body that oxygen is used and carbon dioxide is breathed out. So I always have the feeling, if you want to help the planet, we should all stop breathing out, then the whole problem would be solved quickly, but then of course the home, yes, would also be devoid of inhabitants. So it is a quantitative problem but you have to be able to solve it qualitatively. And the solutions that are devised - because it is really a devising - are generally based on calculations. You then get a moral sense, you could say, namely that as a human being you have to start living in such a way that - you can still breathe out, but otherwise you have to start restricting yourself very intensively in all kinds of things, so that those carbon dioxide emissions are limited and that the nitrogen in the air is also reduced. And that is why it is time, they think, that livestock farming is gradually reduced and preferably abolished, that we stop consuming meat but also dairy products, and that efforts are made to allow people to still enjoy what was once meat and once was, for example, cheese, by applying technology, biotechnology, as a result of which artificial meat and artificial cheese can be produced. At school, pupils were given assignments to write essays, usually with three options, and at one point there was the option of writing an essay on plastics, and then all sorts of thoughts come to me and I wrote them down - then thoughts came up that when certain substances were exhausted and we had to replace them with artificial ones, we actually had to make sure that it was something completely different, and that it didn't resemble what it originally was, because that would be a big lie if we did that. So one could very well imagine that, if one could no longer eat cheese or meat, one would eat something else. But that one would then want to eat the same thing in an artificial form, that is a very strange thing. And that was in the article, and the biochemist who gave the tour in the factory that started it all said the following:
Milk is in essence little more than grass fermented in the cow's paunch. That a cow does not produce beer is simply because the micro-organisms signal the bacteria and yeasts in the paunch not to make alcohol and carbon dioxide from grass, but milk.'
Yes, so what do we do? We look for certain micro-organisms that can give a signal to the bacteria and yeasts in the paunch of the cow - but you can do that in the laboratory, you don't need the paunch anymore - to make milk instead of grass. So you have to look for a technique - called precision fermentation - whereby you can influence grass with micro-organisms in such a way that it is converted into something like casein, from which you can then make cheese. And then, ideally, it has to be chemically identical to the cheese, not 'art' in the sense that it is something else that looks like it, but that it is really identical, but it does not come from the cow, it comes from a laboratory. And then I saw a meadow before me with grazing cows and how they lie there ruminating and I had to think of a lecture by Rudolf Steiner, and then I think: you could very well solve the climate problem if governments would read Steiner, but then of course I laugh at myself when I think that. In this lecture by Steiner, that is exactly the picture, that you see cows grazing in the meadow and then you see them ruminating and then you see how unbelievably great the process is by which the cow makes milk from the grass. The cow carries within it a heaviness that is, you might say, earthly, while the whole process of transformation is, as it were, the whole cosmos itself, which acts upon the earthly, the earthly heaviness of the cow, gradually preparing the contents of its stomach to form milk. What a beauty of nature, what a quality. This is not about how many litres the cow produces, but about the processes that take place in nature within such an animal, of which you as a human being are actually allowed to make use with grace. But no, what does the cabinet say? It allocates 60 million euros from the national growth fund for investments in training and research, for the development of cultured meat and precision fermentation, not for individual companies but for shared facilities and knowledge. And then you can find a paragraph like this where you are morally challenged to actually stop eating cheese, because you are making an environmental impact per person that is truly impossible to measure. You would not dare to eat any more cheese, would you? When you know that for that kilo of cheese you bought, ten litres of milk were used? And old hard cheese requires even more than cottage cheese or cream cheese. Cheese has a greater climate burden than pork or chicken. One kilo of Gouda mature cheese generates ten kilos of CO2 emissions, according to milieu centraal. The Dutch eat an average of 360 grams of dairy products per day, 9% of which are cheese. 16% of the greenhouse gases in the Netherlands are emitted by agriculture. Almost 70% is caused by livestock farming. And that is mainly methane from, well, cow faeces and suchlike. The Dutch livestock sector emits about 3.9 million tonnes of CO2 per year and, according to the 2019 climate agreement, that should be reduced to 2.7 million tonnes by 2030. Well, these are figures that should make us frown upon the mention of natural cheese, which is slowly becoming almost criminal, and the strange thing is that at the end, it says that the population has actually started to eat more natural cheese in recent years, so it is high time that artificial cheese came along, which of course should taste so good that you do not notice it, you can still hope that it is still on the packaging. That - yes, for me this is a caricatured solution to earth's problems, and this is now the example of cheese, but you can find yourself confronted almost daily with such articles on solutions to the climate crisis, and I would now like to assert that it is not only CO2 emissions that are a cause of climate change, not only the increase of nitrogen in the air, but that there are parallels in the consciousness of mankind. And therein lies the big problem. Man is indeed the spoiler of life on earth, but why? It is not because you breathe out or because you eat cheese, but it is because you only count quantitatively and you completely overlook the beauty of nature. Yes, you may see a beautiful rose here and there, but the realisation of what you see when you see a grazing and ruminating cow in the meadow ... Stay with it and let it take effect in your mind, your heart, then you know why you have to eat cheese, why you have to drink milk. How do you want to keep the connection with the earth when you exclude the living creatures that have been placed on the earth by the creator? I would say: read a lecture by Steiner.Cheese and Climate by Mieke Mosmuller