Fish and chips, a one time staple of lenten dietsI see that a number of Anglican bishops are proposing the idea of a Lenten carbon fast to help the faithful mark this somber time of preparation for Easter. It all sounds very trendy; very with the times, but if the bishops really wanted to be hip with the jive as the kids say, they would be advocating a traditional Lenten observance such as abstaining from meat. Not eating meat appears to be the in thing in Cambridge, Massachusetts – the hometown of Harvard.

In a proposal from the Cambridge Climate Congress that is currently before council, the town is being urged to adopt a number of proposals, ranging from a congestion tax to encouraging citizens to abstaining from meat one day a week. Have no fear though, Cambridge is not encouraging its citizens to embrace traditional Catholicism with its fish Fridays; it wants Meatless Mondays to become the norm. In fact, one suggestion is that the council go beyond promoting that citizens abstain from meat one day a week, “Asking/mandating that local restaurants and schools institute ‘Meatless or Vegan Mondays’ to increase community awareness and reduce reliance on meat, dairy and eggs as food sources.”

The old Catholic habit of abstaining from meat may have faded away in many homes after Vatican II, but what was once taught as being good for your soul is now being promoted as good for the planet by the likes of David Suzuki. It truly does illustrate the point John Allen makes in his book (Mercatornet review here) that traditional Catholics and eco-Catholics may soon be bumping into each other while lining up for fish at the cafeteria, but they’ll be doing it for different reasons.

Now I say fish rather than miso-burger, because as a study done in Britain shows, going vegan and relying on foods such as lentils, tofu and chickpeas may not be as environmentally friendly as previously thought. The study, conducted by Cranfiled University for the Word Wildlife Fund, says that the amount of land needed to grow meat protein replacements such as soy, and the processing needed to turn them into something edible, may lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t think the good people of Cambridge are aware of the study, because they call for, “Instituting environmental disincentives against meat, especially beef, pork and lamb.” I think that is bureaucratese for, “tax meat.”

I don’t mean to poke too much fun at the people of Cambridge, after all I already abstain from meat one day a week, and being that I am writing this on a Friday, I can tell you that I have been craving hamburgers and smoked meat sandwiches all day. There is, however, a major difference between what I choose to do voluntarily out of religious observance and the coercive tendencies of the Climate Congress. Using the power of city bylaws to ban the serving of meat in Cambridge restaurants or school cafeterias is draconian. The proposal likely has little chance of carrying the day, but it does expose the difference between the Church and the environmental movement.

Whereas the Church suggests that you lay off the cheeseburgers on Friday and not covet your neighbour’s flat screen TV as part of your plan for eternal salvation, the environmental movement proposes to tax both the burger and the flat screen and force McDonald’s to sell falafels on Mondays all in the name of carbon emissions. The old saying is that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but some days I think the greens missed that lesson, and, assuming that honey was oppressive to both bees and flies, decided to force feed us a good dose of vinegar.

After years of trying to scare us with imminent doom, I think it is time for a rest. There has been no shortage of scares over the years – the hole in the ozone would fry us all, the bird flu (caused by poor farming conditions said the alarmists) would kill us all, swine flu (caused by factory pig farms said the alarmists) would kill us all. As for global warming, aren’t they calling for a new jury?

Ask the parents of any five year-old and they will tell you, it is easier to get Johnny to eat his falafel because he thinks it tastes good than to tell him that if he doesn’t eat one every Monday, the planet will burn and destroy itself. Radical greens, at least in North America, have lost the argument and so, unable to convince the public, they are turning to the power of the state to force people to do that which they don’t believe in.

Which brings us back to the carbon fast and the bishops, say what you will of the vicar of London and his idea of giving up his iPod on Wednesday and his mobile phone on Thursday as part of a Lenten sacrifice, his is a call to change our ways not a town ordinance to serve Jenny tofu for snack time at school. We could all do with a little less technology, with a simpler life and with more prayer time, which is why I’ll choose a carbon fast over a Climate Congress any day.

Brian Lilley is a political journalist and the Ottawa Bureau Chief for radio stations Newstalk 1010 Toronto and CJAD 800 Montreal. He is also the Associate Editor of Mercatornet. Follow Brian on Twitter.