Thursday, March 12, 2015

Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes's "Cowed"

Denis Hayes is a globally recognized environmentalist, the national coordinator of the first Earth Day, and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. Gail Boyer Hayes is a writer, editor, and former environmental lawyer who has authored books on solar energy and health issues.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The odorless climate-warming gases methane and carbon dioxide can asphyxiate a person if encountered in very high concentrations. Methane, the principal ingredient in natural gas, can also explode. At summer camp, young Denis and his pals set their farts on fire, proving that (1) boys and girls have different concepts of “fun,” and that (2) some farts contain methane. (Almost half of humans, however, produce flatus containing no methane, because they lack a single-cell gut organism called archaea. Wondering whether you’re a producer? Now you know how to find out.)

Methane is lighter than air, and carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so when air doesn’t circulate, methane settles near a ceiling and carbon dioxide pools in a hollow or near the floor. Be wary about entering any enclosed space—or even a pit—where biogases that you can neither see nor smell can accumulate.

Ozone, a corrosive form of oxygen, also forms in lagoons. Up in the stratosphere, ozone protects us from ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, which can cause skin cancers, cataracts, and weakened immune systems. But when ozone is generated closer to the ground it causes trouble. (Low-down ozone has no connection to the “ozone hole” that appears in the stratosphere.) Ozone is the main component of smog. Breathing it can inflame lungs, impair lung functioning, trigger asthma attacks, and cause coughing, sore throats, and shortness of breath. Young adults seem most vulnerable to ozone’s effects, and young adults compose much of the work force at factory farms. Recall how California cows can contribute as much ammonium nitrate to smog as cars do? In some regions, such as the San Joaquin Valley of California (home to both Interstate 5 and the Harris Ranch), cows and their silage also produce more ozone than cars and trucks.
Cowed is the story of how cows, largely invisible to most Americans, are actually omnipresent in our daily lives. They are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink—and parts of cows are hidden in every room of our homes. In fact, without cows, European settlers couldn’t have held the lands they occupied, so there wouldn’t be a United States.

In Cowed, we strip the veils away to reveal the overwhelming impact of bovines on our lives. The mass of cow outweighs the mass of people in our country by a factor of two and a half, and maintaining so many of these marvelous beasts is draining our natural resources. We need to shrink the national herd and move away from factory farms.

But Cowed isn’t anti-cow. Far from it. These remarkable beasts contribute much that’s good to our lives and we hope they will continue to do so. The United States has vast stretches of land, for example, that aren’t good for cultivation, but are great for well-managed grazing.

The tone of Cowed is upbeat because we offer solutions that require little effort on the part of consumers and require no action whatever by a paralyzed Congress. Page 99 is typical in that it exposes, with some humor, how cows have penetrated our lives in unexpected ways. This subsection of Cowed focuses on how the “lagoons” where cow waste is stored at large dairies and feedlots contribute to air pollution in unexpected ways:
Learn more about the book and authors at the Cowed website.

--Marshal Zeringue