Chain Reactions

Kill (but don't eat) a Cow and Save the Planet

Although health care and Afghanistan seem to be dominating the news lately, there is some fascinating, if underreported, news concerning the environment lately. For instance, did you know that the single best thing you can do to prevent the spread of global warming is to stop eating meat and become a vegetarian?

Since the methane gases emitted by livestock is largely responsible for global warming, obviously the answer isn't merely to stop eating these animals, but rather to eat every last one of them, and not allow them to reproduce. In other words, the complete eradication of cows and pigs from the planet will eventually save the planet. Of course, all those whose lives depend on these animals might suffer a bit (farmers, dairy products, restaurants, leather goods, ranchers, not to mention those whose primary diet is in fact meat), but if Lord Stern (who is neither an environmental scientist nor a licensed dietitian but is, in fact, an economist) is correct, going without pizza, ice cream and meatball subs is a small price to pay to ensure the sustainability of Planet Earth.

While you, errrrr, digest that news, on the opposite side of the political spectrum comes the revelation that we have the ability to stop global warming, right here and now, and it won't involve much more than a really big helium balloon, a few miles of hose and a supply of sulfur dioxide. The basic premise, according to the authors of the new book, SuperFreakonomics, is that a single volcano erupting sulfuric ash into the air back in the early 1990s resulted in the entire planet's temperature dropping one full degree. So if we recreate that type of activity, circumventing the whole messy lava flow business and going straight into the clouds with the sulfur dioxide, we can similarly reduce the planet's temperature.

The good news, say the folks who dreamed up this idea, is that the "seeding the clouds" idea would cost only a few hundred million dollars, rather than the trillion dollars per year that a full-scale "reinvention of the way we live" plan advocated by those in the global warming-prevention business. The bad news is that this idea sounds a little too much like the scheme of Hugo Drax in the James Bond film "Moonraker" to make me feel like this project wouldn't go horribly wrong. But then again, even if it does fail, we'll still have our hamburgers cooking on the grill, so the sulfur dioxide plan at least has that going for it.

TAGS: Supply Chain
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