The Overlooked Environmental Destroyer of Doom: The Cow

January 6, 2009


Wait… did you just saw cow? Yes, Yes i did and I will say it again.  Today, everyone around the globe is putting all the weight of global warming on the shoulders of the big wigs of oil, the gas guzzlers and  the factories that just ooze tones of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere per year. However, they are not the only culprits at hand for the tragedy that is Global warming. Another such culprit is the cow, or livestock in general for that matter. Cows give off methane when they chew their cud and belch, and nitrous oxide and ammonia when they leave manure all over the barnyard.  “Methane, while less prevalent in the air than carbon dioxide, is 23 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas” the FAO report says. This means that though there is more CO2 in the air than Methane, Methane cause more damage. In fact,  livestock is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas problem.  To me its outrageous that this major problem is just going by unnoticed or at least it seems that way.


         Unfortunately, the problem with live stock does not end there. The FAO says, “grazing takes up 26 percent of the land on Earth that is not covered by ice — 30 percent if you count the land used to grow feed for the animals.”  The raising of live stock also causes many problems with water quality around the globe. Farm waste, washed downhill by rain, carries all the cow dung which contains methane and ammonia. Then these properties are evaporated and come down as acid rain all around the globe. Then the acid rain mixes with the water necessary to support marine life and that marine life begins to fail. Ahh, the problems that couple with the cow.

        Another major problem that the need for livestock posses is that livestock needs land. A lot of land. In fact, 60-70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon results from cattle ranches. This number, to me, is truly frightening and Brazil is not the only country that is being plagued by this monstrosity.  “With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tons”, states  a UN report.

         However the UN report also goes on to show beneficial livestock can be as well, “The global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector. It provides livelihoods to about 1.3 billion people and contributes about 40 per cent to global agricultural output. For many poor farmers in developing countries livestock are also a source of renewable energy for draft and an essential source of organic fertilizer for their crops.” You can see here that at this point in history we are very dependent on the benefits that livestock provides. Just as we are dependent on oil, we depend on meat. How curious!


One Response to “The Overlooked Environmental Destroyer of Doom: The Cow”

  1. EnvironmentallyElated said

    I’m going to be the first to comment on this wonderful blog. And, Louis, I applaud you. In class, yes, you were laughed at. But you certainly made your point. While much time is spent finding alternate energy besides fossil fuels(that let out much CO2 into the atmosphere), we seem to have forgotten the cow. And I believe the reason for this is that cows are a natural part of our lives. We wouldn’t, at first thought, believe that a simple farm animal could be a whopping 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas problem.
    We seem to overlook the fact that agriculture, farming, and raising livestock, have become businesses. Farmers raise livestock for a profit. This leads to over-raising, over-grazing, and all the things Louis mentions in his article. This seems to be just like over-fishing. I mentioned this in one of my blogs- about the Dungeness crabs.It’s easier to see the impact of overfishing that “overraising”, because to us, raising so many cows is not necessarily a problem at first glance. But, taking up 30% of the land!? That seems like a bit too much. Okay, way too much.

    Nice job Louis, this was really one of the coolest and most surprising blogs I’ve read.

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