Now one has reappeared here.)
I see a lot of stories like this one at Ars Technica these days: "LA Smog More Cows that Cars?"
The premise is that somehow local dairy farms are contributing to the LA smog problems through ammonia emissions - at almost the same levels are pollution from autos.
Another examples is this "Belching Dinosaurs May Have Helped Keep Their World a Hot One."
Here the idea is that the dinosaurs, belching after eating, produced so much "greenhouse gas" that they influenced their environment to make it warmer. Cows also play a role in this article: The US dairy industry contributes, supposedly, twenty percent (20%) of all methane emitted in the US.
These types of articles are pretty common.
But I think that they raise some very troubling questions: not about pollution or greenhouse gases but about the educational system that generated their authors.
So let's look at the belching article. The point of the paper is that, after calculating the amount of methane the dinosaurs might belch "these numbers suggest that the dinosaurs were pouring out enough methane to help the greenhouse effect keep the Earth nice and toasty."
First off, why aren't the dinosaurs part of their environment - part of earth - part of everything?
There appears to be this strange notion today of anthopomorphizing one segment of a very large, open, complex biologic system and assigning it importance based on some current quasi-scientific trend humans are experiencing.
In this case we take the entire plant - select a single type of creature - and go through "scientific" effort to show how it - even though its a fully integrated, naturally occurring element in its environment - is doing something to that environment that we humans today think is bad - in this gas belching methane at a large scale. Never mind their may have been a lot of other activities and creatures and environmental issues occurring at the time (for example, a different atmospheric composition).
Secondly, let's look at the LA smog issue. I've spent time in large cities across the country. Most are dirty and the culprit is auto and industrial exhaust.
How do I know this?
Very simple: the wind. On a clear day, after a front moves through these places, winds pick up and clear out the pollution. They don't blow the pollution into Manhattan, they blow it out. They don't blow it into the LA basin, they blow it out. No wind equals greater smog. High wind means less.
LA is not normally clear - and it doesn't get smoggy when the wind blows in the ammonia from nearby dairy farms.
For an airliner you can see this pollution - see the wind blowing off to another place.
And here again we have the hapless herbivore taking the "blame" for the pollution. The cow is a natural creature eating a natural (or mostly natural diet) using his four-part ruminant to digest plant matter via a natural methane-producing process.
No, these articles are examples of what I call "anthrobioblame."
Anthrobioblame is a term that describes how the poorly educated cannot distinguish natural processes from those they've been taught to anthropomorphize as the result of "evil human activity."
Now certainly there are plenty of situations where one can blame human for pollution - say some guy burning a pile of old tires on the back forty. But blaming the cows for methane "pollution" is really quite silly.
Cows are descendants of natural herbivores domesticated by man. Man, and particularly primitive man, is also a natural part of the environment - unless of course you think he was placed their by divine intervention - but that too may be a natural occurrence.
In any case herbivores doing what their intestines and gut bacteria naturally do - convert plant matter into energy and waste - are simply that: natural.
Certainly with no evil humans about these dinosaurs were not polluting their environment.
How could they? There were part of that environment.
I think that the creation of anthrobioblame is a product of a misguided educational system. One where man's self-centered, ego-driven thoughts on things are the pivot point around which the entire universe merrily rotates.
When the kiddies enter "university" (as opposed to "a university" or "the university" - though I don't know why articles are not longer required when talking about higher eduction institutions except perhaps to illustrate the associated idiocy about which I am writing) they are taught that man is not part of the environment and that his evil greed is the foregone reason that environment will be destroyed.
This of course at the same institutions where evolution teaches that man evolved from apes in a completely natural way... So if we evolved from apes are we also part of the same natural environment of the planet? Apparently not. The only difference being we have a large more efficient brain than apes. So intelligence I guess, by simple reasoning, makes us evil.
Of course how could this natural intelligence be evil? Especially if it evolved naturally from other natural sources?
Gee - I thought the whole point of science and education was self, internal and logical consistency...
So basically everyone at "university" feels guilty for having a cushy government job and/or rich parents (or spend-thrift government) spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on education.
If you feel guilty there must be a reason and "university" has codified this as "evil humanity."
The justification for this is to go around collecting up examples of everything bad man has done and parade it in front of the kiddies so that their guilt has a source.
After a few decades of this those who have been indoctrinated over a long enough period of time realize that man himself is not just inherently evil but the things man sees in the world are evil as well regardless of the perpetrator - even if its some random animal.
Now this step to me is interesting. Its as if the evil of man - say in polluting the air - is not enough. Almost as if on the one hand its good to see these nasty dinosaurs or cows doing bad things to the planet just like us. On the other hand its the project of self-guilt into things which are completely natural and over which we have absolutely no control - dinosaurs from millions of years ago as an example.
Regardless of the causes I think anthrobioblame is here to stay.
After all, every university graduate already knows man is evil.
But this cannot explain things like methane in the Jurassic atmosphere so we conjure up some anthrobioblame to show that the evil of methane is A) an exceptional item (somehow) in a large, complex biosphere about which we know virtually nothing and B) somehow the consequence of evil human activity and the guilt associated with it.
So there in a nutshell is what a trillion dollars of US educational money buys (actually its probably quite a bit more because the European Union is also involved in this) - so maybe two trillion USD of education: dinosaurs polluting the earth by belching and farting.
Anthrobioblame - Selecting and measuring, without a rational or comparative context, one naturally occurring component of a large, complex, poorly understood biosphere or biological system for the express purpose of justifying or validating a current scientific fancy, e.g., global climate change. Ideally the selected component mirrors or parallels one which evil mankind is thought to be abusing or damaging.