Monday, May 3, 2010

It's a gas

The EPA has spent some $15 million and a couple years studying the impact of cow "emissions" on climate change. As someone who has more cows than people for neighbors, I am more than a little interested in cow farts. Well, the numbers are in and the handy map below ranks states by bovine flatulence. California, always a national leader, has the highest emissions followed by Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Virginia ranks #18. More.
The numbers, of course, are certainly affected by the number of cows in a state and many other factors. For example, does the type of feed or even the type of pasture grass change the amount of gas? Intake affects output as Mel Brooks famously reminded movie goers in 1974s Blazing Saddles:
And how about the breed - who is the biggest farter - Jerseys, Holsteins, or Guernseys? There are definite differences between people so there must be differences in cattle too. How about other animals - pound for pound, how do cows compare to pigs, to goats, to humans? Do chickens fart?
Probably more environmentally damaging than gastric gasses are the solid wastes of livestock (and humans) that find their way into our precious water resources filling them with e-coli. As my nostrils were reminded following a manure hauler the other day, many farmers responsibly use animal wastes as fertilizer on their fields. I tilled some into my garden a few weeks back. But, when there too many cows and too much waste for the land to use beneficially, or waste flows directly into creeks and streams from cattle (or faulty septic systems), we risk impairment of our waterways and ground water. We all live downstream.
I guess this should remind us that there are environmental consequences to all human activity. We can't eliminate all of the negative impact, but we owe it to Mother Earth and our children's children to minimize our harmful footprints. The costs shouldn't be borne by just the farmers, but by all who enjoy milk, grilled chicken, or a cheeseburger in paradise.

No comments: