"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vegetarians Who Don't Eat Rice May Save the Planet

After the "Meat and the Planet" article in the New York Times (Google it if it asks for registration), which explained that keeping cows contributes more to global warming than driving cars, we now have Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, by William Ruddiman, Princeton University Press, reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. Here is a quote from the review by Richard Hamblyn:

The really startling part of Ruddiman’s analysis comes when he looks at what happens to the climate whenever human activity is curtailed. Mysterious oscillations in the carbon signal over the past 2,000 years sent him “into the history books”, where he discovered that the steepest declines in the CO² record all occurred immediately after major plague pandemics, when population crashes saw significant areas of abandoned farmland revert back to new forest cover. The near-global Justinian Plague of 540–42 ad, for example, which killed an estimated 40 per cent of the populations of Europe and the Middle East, was followed by the first extended CO² minimum that appears in the recent ice-core record, while the subsequent plague-free interval from the 740s to the mid-1300s “correlates reasonably well with the rebound of the CO² trend”. Similarly, the Black Death of the late 1340s, which swept away at least a third of the European population, was followed by another sudden CO² decline that almost certainly played a part in the Little Ice Age, a 600-year cooling phase that began in the thirteenth century, and which ended with the introduction of modern coal-fired technology. If the Ruddiman Hypothesis is correct, it will add an entirely new dimension to our understanding of climate change, since it shows that rampant human activity has been capable not only of warming our world, but of cooling it down when it stops.

That's the book the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works should be reading. Not "State of Fear." Remember when SOF author Crichton testified that global warming was a hoax? That's Michael Crichton, science fiction author. The Republican congressman who called him, James Inhofe, from Oklahoma, must have been confused: In the phrase "science fiction," science is an adjective. It's FICTION about science, people. Or maybe they just think Americans will believe anybody whose name they hear often enough, no matter how stupid and short-sighted the testimony is.

1 comment:

Zen of Writing said...

Rice is apparently the biggest agricultural villain -- those flooded rice fields create a lot of methane.