Cow farts: I remember the lesson clearly. My high school chemistry teacher was explaining global warming and the hole in the ozone and blamed some of it on cow and termite farts. We all got a good laugh and couldn’t decide if he was serious or not. Apparently he was. According to the EPA, methane traps 20 times the heat that carbon dioxide does, which heats up the atmosphere. The farts of cows, swine, and yes, termites, are a major contributor to the world’s methane, this article puts it at 28%. That’s a lot of flatulence. I know, I know, one more thing to worry about – but wait, there’s hope on the horizon…it’s curry.
The good news is that coriander and turmeric – two main ingredients of curry spice – when added to the feed of sheep and cows, cuts down on gas passed. It seems that the spices kill certain methane producing bacteria in the digestive process. The spices might reduce farm methane emissions 40%! (I’m not sure why they don’t mention pigs, maybe they don’t care for curry). Thanks to the Good News Gazette for the tip about this bright spot.
News like this supports the idea of moving away from factory farms and into a diversified farm that more closely mimics a natural diet. Treating animals as static commodities disrupts natural checks and balances in our system. The planet may have been trying to balance itself with Mad Cow Disease or Swine Flu, but we humans will not let such an epidemic happen unchecked.
The melting permafrost presents a whole new (worse) problem around methane – it has sequestered thousands of years of methane in ice. It is still cause for great concern, but today, we focus on the good news of a natural remedy to one tiny piece of the global warming problem. It is curious that the food that helps reduce gas in farm animals may increase gas in humans…but I digress.
Another positive tidbit of good news on the environmental front: roof whitening. We’ve known that the color black absorbs heat while the color white reflects it – so what the heck are our roofs doing in black? When it comes to global warming, we have connected some more dots for a solution. This also from the Good News Gazette:
(Rebecca Boyle, PopSci.com) Whitening the world’s roofs would offset the emissions of the world’s cars for 20 years, according to a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Overall, installing lighter-colored roofs and pavement can cancel the heat effect of two years of global carbon dioxide emissions, Berkeley Lab says. It’s the first roof-cooling study to use a global model to examine the issue. The study used a global land surface model from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which contained regional information on surface variables like topography, evaporation, radiation and temperature, as well as on cloud cover, Berkeley Lab says. Lightening-up roofs and pavement can offset 57 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, about double the amount the world emitted in 2006, the study found.
Offset the world’s emissions for 20 years!!! Again, this is one small thing that can be done by everyone. The upfront cost may still be prohibitive since so many are living hand to mouth, but if there was ever a community investment that made sense, it would be in the purchase (or production) of a few million gallons of this reflective paint. Perhaps whitening the roofs of the world could be one way energy giants pay to offset their contributions to global warming. While they’re at it, they should provide turmeric and coriander to our sheep and dairy farmers.
The progressive approach is understanding that multiple causes got us to the situations that we find ourselves in, and multiple causes (solutions) will help us get out. There is no one answer, there is no one product, there is no one leader. We are not going to be able to maintain our disposable laden lifestyle and continue to fiddle while the planet “burns”. However, thinking about changing our lifestyles does not amount to living in caves as some Republicans have suggested (though there are some really lovely caves out there). We might need to make some sacrifices, but we can still be comfortable and stylish as we figure out our new environmentally healthier, sustainable surroundings.
Take heart, there is good news out there. We can do this.