Monday, 4 January 2010

Carbon pawprints revisited.

Remember this qimulvak? He's been getting a ruff shake. People are barking up a storm about how he's a bad boy for having such a big carbon pawprint. The twitter version of the story is that medium sized dogs have bigger carbon emissions than a typical SUV. I linked an ABC version, but there are other agencies who reported on the story, too. I was somewhat sceptical when I read the story, but I figured most dogs up here are safe. Aside from the urbanites and their dogs, most dogs I know around here are heavily supplemented with fish and meat. Some eat nothing but locally harvested fish. The paw print on that is minuscule - just the oil burnt in getting out there to jig.

But most people I know bought into it without much critical review - even I gave some of the claims a pass, because they shook well with what I knew about the effects of agriculture on carbon emissions. Well, it turns out the numbers were much more worse-case than they probably realistically are. Clark Williams-Derry, a director for the Spotlight Institute, a pro-green environmental think-tank, spends some ink on explaining how the footprint of SUVs really is that bad, and how Landrovers are, in fact, worse than Rover.

Read the whole article. It's very well written, and entertaining (with even more dog puns than my post). But if you're too lazy, the big flaws are here:
  • They underestimate how much driving people do.
  • They underestimate how much oil is involved in car production and maintinance.
  • They assume dogs get high quality meat and cereal, when dogs get trimmings meat in most dog chow. 
They also look top down, to show that practically, dogs have little impact on food from real buying habits.

So sleep easy, dog-outside-the-Turtle-Club. You're not worse than my truck.


Arvay said...

Almost everything we do in our lives causes some damage to the ecosystem. The question is, which optional pleasures should we eliminate in order to live a more earth-friendly life? Quit drinking coffee? Quit going to movies? Quit reading books? Quit living in houses and rough it in a tent? Quit bathing? Only own one set of clothes that you wear forever? Give up your career so you don't have to commute? The lives of homeless people probably have the smallest carbon footprints in America!

All facetiousness aside, the number one way to reduce human impact on the earth is to reduce our population. Now, how many people do you know who would like to have children, but decide not to *solely because they want to reduce their carbon footprints*? I know... NONE. People who want to and can have children do, and people who don't want to have children don't. Some child-haters might argue that environmental reasons were the main reason that they chose to remain childless, and thus accuse parents (whom they term "breeders") of selfishness, but in reality, the real reason that they didn't want children is that--surprise--they don't like children!

So it is with pets. If this argument of how destructive pets are to the environment really takes off, guess how many pet lovers will give up their pets?

TwoYaks said...

I've always thought the eco-footprint stuff to be very... ineffective. A few people who are very worried about the environment will become more worried. But people who weren't, won't. And this factoid science has the danger of misleading the public into thinking, gosh, we need to give up dogs to save the planet (And I don't want to give up my dog!). When really should stress that we don't have to cut off our right arms to leave a future for our children...

Melissa said...

I've met that dog! He is kind of in a sad state of doginess. But he is damn cute!

TwoYaks said...

He eats soooo much prime rib. I'd feel sorry for him, but he's basically in doggy heaven. :p