Climate Change has become an increasingly alarming cause for concern with each passing year. Its effects are felt in virtually every corner of the planet from melting polar ice caps, miles of bleached coral, raging forest fires, record-breaking super-storms, and even disturbances in the flow and force of the Gulf Stream. Its effects are countless and devastating. The rate at which the planet is reaching what scientists call “the point of no return” is rapid. This realization has prompted some scientists to think of unconventional ways to halt or at least ease the effects of climate change. According to Mic, one promising solution could be to potty-train cows.
One might think that the science behind this unusual solution stems from the methane gas that is excreted from a cow’s digestive tract as their food moves through their system and is eventually expelled. Methane is a greenhouse gas and once it is released into the atmosphere it can absorb heat, energy, and radiation; thus contributing to rising world temperature. However, this is, in fact, not the reason that scientists think potty-training cows could help the environment. The benefit of potty-training cows would instead come from collecting and properly disposing of their urine.
The initial idea of potty-training cows as a direct conduit to helping the environment came out of a study done by a group of researchers in Germany. According to CNN, the researchers considered the effects of the dominant chemical found in cow urine, ammonia. When a cow urinates into the soil the ammonia in the urine then combines with the elemental properties of the soil and causes a relatively sizable emission of another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.
Considering that “Farmed cattle produce roughly 66-88 pounds of feces and 8 gallons of urine each day and are free to relieve themselves where they please,” an immense amount of both methane from cow fecal matter and nitrous oxide from cow urine are being released into the atmosphere and contributing to the overall effects of climate change. Combine that consideration with the fact that existing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are 40% due in part to cattle farming. It becomes easy to understand why teaching cows to relieve themselves in a place where their waste can be collected could potentially have a dramatic effect on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that actually ever mix with the atmosphere.
Potty-training cows, while certainly unorthodox, could be a viable strategy in combatting climate change that is at least worth a try. A potty-trained cow would certainly end up with a better fate than a siege of mutilated “bloodless” cows found across farms in a stretch of Eastern Oregon. It could be that the cow killers were trying to take matters of climate change into their own hands. Or, as some have thought for decades, cow-killing could be the result of something more otherworldly. Whether or not extra-terrestrial beings are trying to warn humanity of the alarming effects cow waste has on the planet is something that might never be answered. However, in the meantime, science has offered up a solution to temper the stench and contain the gas.