Carbon Pawprint: Should pets be banned?
Could it be that the "elephant in the room" is literally an elephant in the room?
Yes, most of us try not to think too hard about the precious resources used by our precious four-legged companions; but a "community discussion" in the "Salon" online magazine recently posed the provocative question "Pets may not be good for the environment, so can we justify keeping them?"
Such queries threaten to tear apart the "green" movement. No longer able to unite around "safe" issues such as meat production and cow flatulence, members must prioritize their conflicting loyalties to their planet and their own pets. ("I'm hugging that tree - but not if your hound tinkles on it.") It's as if the embattled movement thinks "Everyone is a planet-destroying narcissist except me and thee, and sometimes I'm not too sure about thee."
For the sake of full disclosure, I "own" three cats AND work for a farmers cooperative which sells quite a bit of pet food and accessories. For the sake of fuller disclosure, if do-gooders keep harping about the "sustainability" of Fluffy and Fido, I'm going to see how long I can sustain a SCREAM.
To be sure, there are some things we should be able to agree on: (1) Consumers should pressure industry to use the most efficient manufacturing and packaging possible. (2) Responsible pet owners should continue spaying and neutering. (3) We should try our best to neutralize the toxicity of pet waste.
Beyond that, we should resist the wackos who think that American progress means transitioning from year-long covered wagon trips to year-long GUILT trips.
True, as one participant in the online discussion reassured, no one is planning to kick the door in today and haul off all your pets for extermination. (Good thing, too. Know how people and their pets start to look alike after a while? Some dude is liable to be screaming at the dog catcher, "No, not me! I'm a human! The dog collar is a fashion statement! A fashion statement!")
But get ready for enough taxes, fees, zoning ordinances and heavy-handed propaganda campaigns ("Second-hand cat apathy: what are we doing to our children?") to make you whimper.
The anti-pet forces give a grudging nod to the intangible mental, emotional and physical benefits of having a household companion. But don't say TOO much how that rabbit helps grandma's blood pressure. ("Hmm. This grandma - just how productive has she been lately? And how much coal-powered electricity does she consume watching 'Wheel of Fortune'?")
If we make too big a deal out of the ability of pets to shape the climate, pets may get delusions of grandeur. ("Forget about soiling the carpet! I'm going to raise the sea level! Bwahahahaha!")
Pet haters will cut us a little slack - as long as we make horses wear Birkenstocks instead of metal shoes. And channel government funding into the development of windmill-powered poodles.
Yes, they'll magnanimously announce, "Every dog has its day. Spike, Tuesday is YOUR day to eat, poop and breathe..."
Let us be wary of those who are dead set on preserving the earth just so FUTURE generations can be miserable without pets. They may be barking up the wrong tree, but their faith is unshakable.
"A guy can dream, can't he? Oh, wait-how much of a carbon footprint does R.E.M. sleep leave? Studies! Fetch me some studies!"
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades"