Re: Life Death & Denial

Richard Grant (
17 Sep 1995 13:51:52 GMT

In article <43fsqg$> Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin, writes:
>Yeah... cow methane is so much worse than buffalo methane...

Well -- strangely enough -- it is. In *quantity,* not in kind.
Different species, different digestive systems, different diets.
The presence of all those hungry cattle is also destructive of
whatever habitat formerly existed before it was turned into grazing land.
This is, as you ought to know, the very reason that much of the
Amazon-basin rain forest is being torched. In the U.S., fragile
high-plains ecosystems, especially riparian ones, have been pretty
thoroughly degraded. Soil structure is screwed, and waterways are
contaminated with the unpleasant byproducts of the digestive system noted
above. Much of this is happening on *public land*, which makes it even
more unconscionable.
As to methane, there's also the rice-paddy factor. In parts of the
world -- notably southern Asia -- where huge areas are planted in rice,
grown by the traditional method that involves periodic flooding of the
paddies, a *large* quantity of methane is produced which is then released
through the blades of the rice plants themselves -- they function like
straws, or tiny exhaust pipes. Again, this is a result of the large
human population straining the carrying-capacity of the planet.
And as to the larger issue of greenhouse gases generally, the primary
culprit is not methane but carbon dioxide. And the answer is *not* to
grow more wheat, as somebody implied above. Cereal crops, it's true, are
more efficient than trees at the rapid accumulation of carboniferous
biomass. But in the next season they are consumed, composted, fed to
hungry cattle (about whom we've heard so much) or tilled back into the
soil. Hence the stored carbon is quickly returned to the atmosphere.
A forest, OTOH, serves as a long-term storage facility for carbon.
In a mature forest, the carbon cycle is essentially in balance. In a
young, *growing* forest, carbon is being accumulated. We need more of
the latter, and we need to protect the carbon bank-accounts maintained in
the former.
Many of these issues are, of course, manageable to one degree or
another. Americans, for example, could consume less beef. Or they could
eat more buffalo, which in turn could be grazed on restored prairie
instead of imperiled western uplands.
But the first step in addressing *any* of these issues is to
acknowledge that they exist. They are not hysterical imaginings of
Democrats or eco-weenies or whoever it is you are trying to best in an
argument. The bad news is real, whether or not you personally care for
the messenger who delivers it.
Still hoping --

(.sig) richard grant (e)
(snail) treehouse coleman pond me us 04849 0269