Yes, it’s true that today German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered an impassioned plea to the U.S. Congress to get serious about global warming.
And that President Obama, along with European Union officials, vowed a redoubled effort to slow climate change.
And also that at global climate negotiations in Spain, African nations led what could prove to be a pivotal Third World mutiny against industrialized nations’ apparent willingness to go home from crucial climate talks in Copenhagen next month without committing to much of anything.
But is Dateline Earth going to ruminate on such weighty stuff when we can wax eloquent about our cute dog? You gotta be kidding! No. Let’s instead while away minutes that we’ll never get back in our life knocking down the goofy report out of New Zealand that dogs have a bigger carbon footprint than SUVs. C’mon, what’s important, anyway: Survival of civilization as we know it, or attracting as many eyeballs as possible to our blog? Get your priorities straight! So here goes:
Upon returning from a sojourn to the Midwest last night we were surprised to see a headline in the Seattle Times: “Dog’s eco-footprint a Hummer, study says.” We immediately went on alert.
It seems that two New Zealand authors wrote a book called “Time to Eat the Dog? A Real Guide to Sustainable Living.” It claims that the greenhouse gas emissions necessary to grow the food to feed a dog are double that of building and fueling a Toyota Land Cruiser. (Cats come in at the equivalent of a mere Volkswagen Golf.)
Dogs are consumers, just like the rest of us.
But the real reason we couldn’t resist chewing on this news morsel is that we heard from former Dateline Earther Lisa Stiffler, now wisely aggregating news and otherwise doing good by the Earth over at the Sightline Institute.
Stiffler brings to our attention a post by Sightline sage Clark Williams-Derry, who double-checked the New Zealanders’ calculations and found that, as the state legislators I used to cover in Tallahassee might say, that dog won’t hunt.
There’s no way I can do justice here to Williams-Derry’s digging into the New Zealanders’ claim. Suffice it to say his post is wonky enough to do steeped-in-numbers Sightline proud (and I say this being myself a wonk-a-nerd from waaaay back…). His by-the-numbers rundown take us through energy requirements for producing food — here you’ll have to brave an energy measure called gigajoules (or at least learn to read over it) — as well as exactly what gets put into pet food. (Not a pretty picture… unlike the one of my Lucy on a hiking trip, above… the real reason I sicced on this item.)
Williams-Derry points out that if people think — incorrectly — that feeding a dog is worse that driving an SUV, they may not think twice about buying that Hummer. Words do matter. And he concludes:
So I say to the folks who made the original claim: Bad Researchers! Fur Shame!!! And to the rest of you: let’s consider the ‘dogs are worse than SUVs’ meme debunked: buried in the back yard, put to sleep, and whatever other bad dog pun comes to mind.
And no, Williams-Derry doesn’t own a dog or drive an SUV. So he doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s been a ruff day.
Update 11/5/09, 10:39 a.m.: David Horsey over at seattlepi.com drew a funny cartoon that makes Williams-Derry’s point about assigning blame where blame is due. Check it out here.