Photo ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
My previous post on Google+ solicited a comment that caught my eye. After making a joke about the low carbon but high methane nature of my daughter’s horse as a form of transport, (I was firmly corrected on this.)
Then +Matthew Halfpenny pointed out that a dog has as big an environmental impact as an SUV, he heard this on Qi.
Initially I doubted this assumption, it sounded like a classic piece of clever automotive PR, let’s take the heat off our product by saying something we think of as harmless, a doggy, is in fact just as damaging as something we’ve been told by greenies is corrosively polluting, a 3 ton SUV.
A bit of casual Googling found the source. In 2009, two British architects living in New Zealand, Robert and Brenda Vale wrote a book called "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" where they came up with this theory.
Good title and without doubt Robert and Brenda have an amazing track record in designing and building super sustainable buildings both in the UK and around the world. They are very thorough in their research coming up with estimates of how much land use is required to feed a large dog and how our long tradition of large dog ownership is essentially unsustainable.
Clearly not the work of either the automotive PR industry or a pair of animal haters, more I imagine they were driven by the desire to add to the overall debate, trying to make sure that journalism’s requirement to make simple sweeping statements about such incredibly complex subjects is pushed a little closer to reality.
The story was picked up by the press in 2009, very clever marketing on the part of the publishers, loads of stories about how your dog is worse than an SUV.
The result, many people will have scanned the article and laughed to themselves, because it just goes to show how absurd these arguments are. It’s the ultimate right wing pessimist argument, we’re all going to hell in a hand basket, there’s nothing we can do, even our pet pooch ‘Gnasher’ is screwing the planet, let’s party while the going’s good and forget about the mess we leave behind.
Essentially let’s keep driving the 3 ton SUV 2 miles down the road to buy one litre of milk, what difference will it make? My neighbours big dog is eating so much expensive to produce meat which is destroying the planet, there’s nothing I can do.
Personally I can’t be bothered to look into the complex arguments about this but a quick thumbnail appraisal kicks the argument into touch at the very least.
A dog is born, it grows up, eats loads of cast off meat products which are already being produced for human consumption. It drops massive turds every day and if the more selfish, moronic dog owners don’t pick that up immediately it’s hyper gross. The dog grows old and dies and returns to the soil from whence it came, or its body is incinerated, using fossil fuels. That tots up to quite an impact.
The SUV is not born, it is constructed using non-renewable resources, these raw materials are dug out of the ground by massive machines that use vast quantities of fossil fuel to run them. The raw materials are then transported, processed, melted, rolled, shipped, stamped, pressed, drilled, welded, constructed and spray painted. Every one of those processes uses gargantuan amounts of energy in one form or another. Once it has been constructed and sold, it then uses non-renewable resources at a rate that can only be described as comical. At the end of it’s life, if it is re-cycled, again that process uses yet more resources and energy, where it may even be turned into a newer model SUV which will continue to waste comical levels of non-renewable fuel.
The story is an absurdity, the comparison is ridiculous even if the original intention isn’t. The authors suggest we keep less harmful pets, like hamsters, goldfish, chickens or rabbits. The implication being, stop feeling guilty about the SUV and worry about your pet instead.
How about we reduce the number of large dogs we breed and look after and stop making and using SUV’s altogether rather than twiddling about with bonkers arguments like this.