RON SCHALOW: T-bones Will Outlast Us All

It’s getting a little chippy out there in Forum letters-to-the-editor land, regarding the delicious bovine’s monster recurring donation to the greenhouse gases mix. Miracle meat or not, cows and other farm animals emit methane. The kangaroo does not, I understand. And methane is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. So, there’s that.

Hell, in North Dakota, we burn methane off like it doesn’t have any value, at the blazing speed of flaring money. Some legislators dab a little smidge of Bakken crude behind their ears to attract the big cash lobbyists at feeding time.

Plus it’s really true, which, let’s face it, is a horrible fact. I couldn’t be sorrier. But the information is easy to find. Farms with — or without — livestock will continue to add, without premeditation, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere until the last Whopper falls off the fire grill conveyor.

NASA says so. That bunch over there has hit every planet they’ve taken aim at. Sometimes using slide rules and chalk, and less computing power than a microwave oven preset to zap some popcorn at sunset. If they have a handle on the atmospheric conditions on Mars, they can cipher the particulars on Earth real easy. Keeping tabs on our gaseous layers is a quinky dollybob for NASA.

Other scientific groups might have different estimates, but none of the evaluations are good, so this will be hard to sell. Animal agriculture is unsustainable. Wish it was. Most of the things we do are unsustainable. The percent of each greenhouse gas in the air doesn’t matter at this point. Carbon dioxide gets all the glamour, but methane is no slouch. Nobody wins.

It’s easy for me to get huffy, I know. I’ve been a hypocrite on the issue for the last decade, and a few more years. Even knowing what I know, I stayed on my “All Dead Meat Diet.” I don’t recommend the diet. The book is a good read though.

So, I’ll admit to my part in causing the problem, but I won’t change. I’m weak. I’m selfish. I blame age and restless leg syndrome. A few blows to the head, possibly

Now if lima beans were a huge part of the global problem, I’d drop everything and be chained to the door of some implement dealer by the next morning wearing aquamarine. Then beaten to a pulp by 9:12 a.m., followed by a hand amputation and a kicking to the curb by 9:14. It could affect my plan of living longer than Jack Benny.

“Peace, dudes. I have spare glasses if you were worried about breaking mine. I’ll do that, thanks for the suggestion. Ouch. Some ice? Can I get some ice? I’m going to need ice here.” The worst imagined activism ever. But luckily, in Fargo, there is always a hospital or clinic within 200 yards. The city is crawling with doctors.

Al Gore and the zillion scientists were right. Even South Park admits it. I watched Al’s movie at the Fargo Theatre in 2006 when I was so happy that George W. Bush was in office that I had to wear a hockey mask, for the protection of others, whenever I left home. Sen. Oley Larsen made it a law. I was required to have a copy of Oley’s bill displayed on the fridge in case my memory should slip.

Or you can listen to science deniers like Rob Port, Kevin Cramer and Donald Trump. Trump thinks that handling this hoax is just a matter of keeping the windows shut. Kanye told him so. If you mash the brains of all three, if you count blogger Port’s, minds together, the glob couldn’t outsmart an average crow. The intelligent crows didn’t get caught and weren’t put in a used cage.

In North Dakota, any negative reverberation directed toward oil, coal or agriculture is going to be met with hostility. I mean a bad vibe, man. Shhh! Even the ecological groups won’t throw shade at a cow. I suppose that’s why beef barons are so smug.

It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t be defensive if your livelihood was on the line, and the state economy is catching hell from every angle?

But it’s going to get crazy size alarming real soon. It’s alarming now. We’re beyond the point of recycling and not taking weekly trips to Italy. I’m not suggesting anyone quit recycling gin bottles, planting banana trees or flushing with discretion, but humans need to make big changes, with all nations in cooperation. It would be a first.

And we’ve jumped right into the fire, and Trump is in charge. This world is about to take an ass kicking. If we somehow manage not to reach 1.5 degrees C warmer, then the preindustrial age global temperature, in the next 12 years, it would be a miracle. 1.4 degrees C won’t be any picnic, either.

Will we do anything about the more mayhem to come? Maybe some things, but I doubt humans will do enough to keep the temperature from continuing to rise and rise. Standing rib roasts aren’t going anywhere during the reign of people. My cremation isn’t going to help, either.

People should have fears for their progeny. On the other hand, carpenters will have a heyday because tons of buildings will be blown to pieces, washed away or burnt to the ground. Cows will fly away on occasion, but that has nothing to do with carpentry.

We need to shift this buggy into R and stand on the gas for over a century.

And I like cows as much as the next guy, even when they’re still alive. Not that I know any cows that would have a beer with me, but they seem to be decent sorts, in general. One angry bull in Mohall, N.D., would have killed me if not for a fence, and he looked at me like it was personal. If you go inside the fence, you’re going have a mismatch on your hands. It’s not worth the spinal cord injury.

I know I wouldn’t want a large tasty beast on the couch watching Ellen, or as a therapy animal. But none of it matters because I would gladly eat the couch cow as soon as Dave cuts it up. Dave will butcher most edible creatures, as long as they are deceased. Davey isn’t built for chasing.

Below is part of the op-ed that started this round of “quit picking on cows” and the relevant chunk of each rebuttal.

John P. Calvert “Letter: Cows produce more greenhouse gas than automobiles.”

“Virtually every new report on global warming says that the problem is more severe than was previously believed, even by the most pessimistic climate scientists. One factor that is constantly underreported is methane, a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. A recent report by the National Academy of Science says that animal husbandry has been responsible for twice as much methane production as once thought. The NAS now says that a powerful source is ruminant animals, especially cows. The Environmental Protection Agency agrees, saying that livestock is the “largest source of methane from human-related activities.”

How do cows damage the atmosphere? It seems that they have uncouth manners such as belching and (ahem) farting.”

He’s right, although cows don’t consider anything a social situation and they aren’t a self-conscious critter, so chances are zero that they can be trained to resist performing natural bodily functions. Maybe Trump could teach Bessie how to rake our forests, even though he’s never handled a tool of any sort. She won’t do it, anyway. Bessie will wish to remain docile.

The cow fart story has been around for ages and mostly drew groans or laughs.

But No. 1 wasn’t laughing.

Rebuttal 1: “Calvert promotes a common myth about livestock and methane gas.”

“Unfortunately, his (Calvert) analysis neglects critical facts and reinforces a common myth: That cattle are more damaging to the environment than transportation.

This false claim traces back to an old and now-debunked United Nations study on climate change, when in fact more recent analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency clearly demonstrate that cattle produce only about 2 percent of U.S. emissions — a mere fraction of the transportation industry, which accounts for greater than 28 percent.”

Calvert was referring to global emissions, so R1 gets dinged for excluding the remainder of the planet. Global was the keyword.

The current day Environmental Protection Agency estimates “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (24 percent of 2010 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector come mostly from agriculture (cultivation of crops and livestock) and deforestation.” — EPA www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data#Sector

The EPA didn’t divvy up the gases into percentages, but what do the numbers matter? “Crops and livestock” are a big deal in this category and this information shouldn’t be hidden.

Calvert didn’t cite any U.N. study, let alone one that was debunked.

Worldwide, electricity leads with 25 percent, while transportation accounts for 14 percent of total emissions. But what difference do the ranks mean anyway? Everything will need to be addressed no matter how the pie chart is divided, but it won’t.

No. 2 really thought they had a gotcha, but forgot to make any sense.

Rebuttal 2: There’s a bison-shaped hole in Calvert’s logic.

“Calvert is correct; there is roughly 92 million head of cattle in the United States today, and these bovines do indeed flatulate and consume large amounts of water.

One might worry themselves to death over these numbers, unless they understand their historical context. It turns out that 200 years ago, in addition to domesticated cattle, there were vast herds of large bovine creatures roaming the western plains of North America. These bovines were called bison, and estimates of their historical numbers range from 60 million to 100 million.

I did a little more research, and I determined that these bison also drank water and their flatulence also contained methane.”

So this person tells a truthful tale of the mighty bison of the Plains and spoils it by considering nothing else. Like billions of more people, the industrial revolution, cars, airplanes, electricity, blah, blah and blah. Weak. Plus, those shoes with taillights. They aren’t bison, but they cost us something to exist.

Rebuttal 3: “Letter about livestock and methane gas was off-base.”

“Subsequent to this article and with work done by a number leading scientists throughout the U.S., as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have quantified the impacts of livestock production in the U.S., which accounts for 4.2 percent of all GHG emissions, very far from the 18 to 51 percent range that advocates often cite. As a result, the original UN FAO article was retracted.”

Scrolling down to the bottom of his op-ed, we’re treated to this gem

“Instead of criticizing these magnificent animals and comparing them unfavorably to fossil fuel driven automobiles, we should be celebrating the positive contributions to our well-being.”

I still wouldn’t want one on the couch. And nobody is advocating for cows to be the bad guys in this western. They can’t look menacing enough, anyway. Their contribution to greenhouse gases is just a fact.

No. 3 also didn’t notice that Calvert was referring to global emissions, so R3 also gets his passenger side paint keyed for excluding the remainder of the world.

Once again, Calvert didn’t cite any U.N. study, let alone one that was debunked. It seems that some guys we know may be reading from the same script.

And no one is criticizing the cows and other livestock. They wouldn’t care if you did, That’s their basic attitude about most things. “Look at all of those cows out there caring.” Nobody ever said that.

Take a cow to lunch and have a meaningful dialogue. Hide the menus and order the eggplant for two.

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