Friday, October 06, 2006

Major pollution source discovered: animal poop

There are plenty of man-made causes of pollution, from car exhaust to smokestack emissions to factory waste dumped in streams. But scientists have discovered an unexpected force in despoiling our environment: animal waste from all kinds of critters, including those cutesy ones that add that homey touch to our lakes and fields.

As reported recently in the Washington Post, states including Virginia and Maryland have come to the realization that animal waste plays a significant role in water pollution. That local pond you love, for example, is made more beautiful by the geese that frolic in and around it. But those beautiful geese are also constantly taking a dump in the water, contributing to high levels of harmful bacteria.

Another problem is that runoff from manure in pastures and farms ends up in nearby waterways. In some of the studies wildlife was a bigger contributor to water pollution than humans.

And that's not all. Scientists noted years ago that one of the major sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is what they technically call "bovine flatulence"––yep, that would be cows farting! Think about how many cows and steers there are in the world and you can see (if not smell) the magnitude of the problem. Makes sense to me: I've met some humans who were practically farting machines and, unlike cows, they only had one stomach, as opposed to the five a cow has.

So what's the answer––specially made Pampers for geese and cows? Gasmask-style filtering devices to be placed on cows' posteriors? Pooper-scooper laws to make ducks clean up after themselves? Or maybe we can get Robert DeNiro to toilet-train animals as he did with that cat in Meet the Parents...

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