Apocalypse Cow: TEOTWAWKI
Did you know that
- many Midwestern US states are economically dependent on the livestock industry
- there is a trend toward larger feedlot operations
- at one time, Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois were the top cattle feeding states in the Midwest but now Nebraska and Kansas have also assumed a bigger role
- Nebraska and Kansas are 2 of the largest states with processing facilities
- In the late 1990s, annual beef consumption per person was highest in the Midwest
- Beef cattle production is the sixth largest enterprise in Michigan's agricultural sector and Michigan's rank in cattle on feed has improved from sixteenth in 1980 to its current position of fourteenth (1998)
Why am I telling you all of this you might wonder.
It is well-known that Windsor's "biggest problem remains transboundary pollution from the U.S. midwest, Zug Island and other U.S. industrial sources." It has always been considered that the pollution comes from heavy industry such as coal-fired power plants, manufacturing, steel mills, waste incinerators, oil refineries and chemical manufacturers.
All of this Windsor Star stuff on tunnels and pollution got me doing some research. Lo and behold, I found out that cars and trucks may not be the big concern that we always thought they were. There may be a greater source of concern for us that so far has not been discussed in the border crossing debate. I have seen no proposed DRIC tests to confirm or deny the problem as it may apply to Windsor. No one has proposed setting up a conference to discuss it or ran on an election platform to eliminate the problem.
Yes I am talking about bovine flatulence: cow farts to you! I found the BLOG headline in an Australian article and thought it appropriate.
Did you know that:
- "According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation...
- the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
- And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
- 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed as in decline, with livestock identified as a culprit.
- global livestock grazing and feed production use ‘30 percent of the land surface of the planet."
Where are our Government leaders in Windsor demanding answers. Why hasn't the Star undertaken an investigation into this major world issue. Why are they focusing on cars and trucks when Midwestern cows may be our problem never mind local herds! I did not hear Eddie talking about this environmental problem during the election. Surely, as the head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, don't you think he should have known of this issue. When is the last time you read about cattle in a Gord Henderson column?
Stop snickering. Let me provide you with some excerpts from the media about this issue:
- Dairy Air: Scientists Measure Cow Gas
By Kathleen Hennessey
Associated Press 27 July 2005
DAVIS, Calif. (AP) -- In a white, tent-like "bio-bubble'' on a farm near Davis, eight pregnant Holsteins are eating, chewing and pooping -- for science. "The ladies,'' as they're called by University of California researcher Frank Mitloehner, are doing their part to answer a question plaguing one of California's largest agricultural industries: How much gas does a cow emit?
The findings will be used to write the state's first air quality regulations for dairies and could affect regulations nationwide.
But before he explains how it works, Mitloehner wants one thing to be clear.
"We're not talking about flatulence,'' he says.
He emphasizes the point because his research has been dismissed as "fart science,'' a label he says doesn't do justice to the seriousness of his work.
There are more than 3 million cows in California, the vast majority living in the booming Central Valley, home to some of the most polluted air in the country. How much to blame the cows and how much to blame the cars for the bad air is no small concern...
That puts the air quality specialist and animal emissions expert in the middle of a heated dispute coming to a head Aug. 1, when the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will announce its new emissions factor for cows-- the amount of VOCs, in pounds, that a cow releases each year. The number will eventually determine which dairies must apply for air quality permits and invest in mitigating air pollution equipment.
"This is a multibillion decision,'' said Mitloehner. "It's not just a number...''
"We thought it was the waste that would lead to the majority of emissions, but it seemed to have been the animals,'' he said.
The chief offender appears to be the ruminating process. After a cow eats, the food is briefly deposited in its bathtub-sized stomach. There it mixes with bacteria, begins to break down and produces methane, a greenhouse gas. About 20 minutes later, the food comes up again as cud. As the cow chews it, the methane is released into the air. The process also emits methanol and ethanol, both VOCs...
Meanwhile, environmentalists contend that the import of Mitloehner's research has been exaggerated. They note that it tests only one of the many polluters on a modern, large-scale dairy.
"It doesn't take into account the lagoons that store the waste or the decomposing feed, the decomposing corn stored on a dairy,'' said Brent Newell, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment."
- Should We Have a Cow Over Cow Pollution?
By Katrina C. Arabe
Factory dairies have a beef with an air district in California which claims that dairy cows, not cars, are the biggest single source of smog-forming gases. Time to clear the air:
Over the last six years, California's San Joaquin Valley has held the dubious distinction of being home to the smoggiest air in the country, reports this LA Times article.
Now, government officials have identified one of the biggest culprits: dairy cows. Officials contend that gases from the valley's 2.5 million bovines, not cars or trucks or pesticides, are the region's biggest single source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a key smog-forming pollutant. In a controversial new report, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District claims that the typical cow releases 50% more VOCs than currently thought. The yearly VOC emission of an average dairy cow is 19.3 lbs., estimates the air district. VOCs react with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, or smog, reports this story.
And this estimate (also called emission factor) has serious implications for the region's booming dairy industry. Up to 250 more dairies will have to apply for permits with the air pollution control district. And dairies that are able to obtain permits will also have to comply with regulations slated to be announced next summer.
To satisfy the region's planned air-quality regulations, the dairy industry will have to spend millions of dollars in pricey pollution-control technology in feedlots and waste lagoons, and may even have to look into modifying animals' diets, reports this news story.
While, it's important to note that cars do emit many major pollutants that cows do not, and they are responsible for more smog-forming emissions overall, the VOC emission of cows is a contentious issue in the San Joaquin air basin because of its huge bovine population (roughly one of every five dairy cows in the country resides there). Also, government officials estimate that the number of cows in the valley will increase from 2.5 million to about 2.9 million over the next several years."
This is an issue deserving of attention from our Municipal Government and our local media. Instead of wasting hours at Council on feral cats or pitbulls, we should be talking about cows. The Senior Levels on both sides of the border should be demanding that DRIC start cross-border bovine flatulence experiments forthwith. One need only look at the weather forecasts to know that there are serious climactic changes going on and we need to know how Windsor is being impacted. Instead of arguing for a tunnel for diesel trucks, we may have to build geodesic domes for cow herds!
After all, unless something is done and done immediately, it could be:
The End Of The World As We Know It!