Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The meat industry is full of shit

According to a report just released by the US Government Accountability Office, a large factory farm can produce 1.6 million tons of shit a year, more than the 1.4 million tons produced by the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in America (see here and here).

So, it's no news that factory farms are awful polluters. But it turns out that I had no idea just how awful they really are. 1.6 million tons of shit every year from just one farm. More shit than all the inhabitants of Houston combined. That is a lot of shit.

Consider the case of poor North Carolina:
In one example, GAO said that five contiguous North Carolina counties in 2002 had an estimated 7.5 million hogs that could have produced as much as 15.5 million tons of manure.
15.5 million tons of manure is equivalent to 11 Houstons.

The state of North Carolina has 100 counties. The entire state of North Carolina has a population of 9 million, which is less than 4 Houstons worth of people. Meanwhile 5% of its counties are producing 11 Houstons worth of shit.

What are they doing with all that shit? What could they possibly do?

All that shit poisons the soil and poisons the water; meanwhile, fumes poison the air. (It should come as no surprise that the EPA is doing a shitty job of regulating all that shit.)

The moral of the story: factory farms are poison. To eat factory farmed meat is to contribute to the production of poison. Dinner for you could mean poison for a North Carolinian. So please don't eat meat unless you've verified that it's not from a factory farm (if you must eat meat at all).

Monday, September 15, 2008


In Alberta we saw more family, a volleyball tournament, and lots more rocks and trees and water, and also ice, of even more impressive sorts than you get in Vancouver. We started a fire. We went to West Edmonton Mall, the largest and possibly also most absurd shopping mall in North America (unless there is some other mall out there which contains an amusement park, working submarines, a full-sized pirate ship, and a metal whale). We saw a black bear having dinner at the side of the highway, and a truly magnificent elk in Jasper Park. No northern lights, but Dawn got her first clear look at the Milky Way (the stars don't get much clearer than in Jasper).


Lake Abraham.

Peyto Lake. It's gorgeous, and tourists love it, so shots like this are a dime a dozen. But I think the play of shadow and reflection here puts this picture in the top quartile of Peyto Lake pictures.

The other end of Peyto Lake. It is currently being fed by a tiny trickle of glacier melt water. I hear that trickle has been getting smaller, so Peyto might not be sticking around for too long.

The Athabasca Glacier. It would have come right up to the bottom of that picture just 20 or so years ago.

Dawn looking proud because she's standing on the glacier. Well, actually only about a foot onto it. The glacier was surrounded by hilarious warning signs concerning the risk of falling into crevasses.

The planet is getting warmer and the glacier is crumbling away. Just one tiny part of the approaching environmental apocalypse. It sure looks pretty inside, though.

I wish I'd got more pictures of warning signs.

By Siffleur Falls. My mom demanded that we sit on this tree.

Dawn is looking down at a slightly angry river flanked by treacherous cliffs. It's hard to make out the gap, isn't it? Well, it was just a few metres. I dared Dawn to jump across, but she chickened out.

At the top of the Falls, the rocks have been worn into the shape of waves.

My mom irresponsibly doing a jig at the top of a waterfall.

The water here is a quite a few feet deep. It only looks really shallow because of the crystal clear water.

Canada is really big (Dawn used for scale).

Rockies, there's a decent chance I won't be visiting you ever again, but, just so you know, you are way cool.


We took walks in Queen Elizabeth Park and Stanley Park in the rain. We got wet, and saw water dripping off of moss growing on trees growing on top of other dead trees. It was a real rain forest experience.

We saw the ocean. Dawn tasted it, and verified that it was in fact salty.

We did the Grouse Grind. It was pretty tiring.

We saw a variety of slugs. Dawn was really impressed by how big the slugs get in Vancouver, and all the pretty colours and patterns they come in.

We met up with some of my old friends on multiple occasions, and took a trip up to SFU.

We ate great food every day. Especially on the occasion of my Grandma's 88th birthday, when Dawn got to experience a big Chinese family dinner. (We suspended our vegetarianism for the day. This is now a rule: whenever celebrating an 88th birthday, we will allow ourselves to eat meat.)

Apart from family events, we went everywhere by environmentally friendly foot, bus, or bike.

Dawn decided she likes Vancouver. I decided I like it even more than I thought I did before. Chicago is a good city, but I'll never forgive it for not catching on to the fact that sushi doesn't have to be really expensive, or for making me have to actually expend effort in order to find some decent Chinese food. Its distinct lack of mountains is also disturbing.


A large wall of dirt in Stanley Park. (Dawn is used for scale.) This dirt is attached to the root system of what used to be a really big tree, but is now just a really big log. One heck of a storm came through Stanley Park in 2006, and ripped a whole bunch of really big trees right out of the ground. Nature sure can be intimidating.


A tree fell over. Some other trees grew out of it. Then the storm hurt them real bad, so their tops got cut off. Eventually other trees will grow straight out of those stumps.

Here we see a tree growing out of Dawn's back, with moss and ferns growing off of that tree.

Halfway up Grouse Mountain, we paused to watch some people taking the easy way up.

Confused trees on the side of Grouse Mountain.

Dawn with her proud face at the summit of Grouse. This is mere days after she saw a mountain for the first time, and she's already gone and climbed one! Behind her we see some of the more touristy bits of Grouse Mountain, bits of West and/or North Vancouver, then Vancouver proper across Burrard Inlet.

Looking to the southeast off of Grouse Mountain. Across the water on the right side of the picture we see Burnaby Mountain, home of SFU, and also decorated by the little white pimple which is Burnaby's oddly-located velodrome.

Richmond night market. The food was good, the stalls were fun, the entertainment was awful. Dear festival planners: Asian guys do not make good MCs, especially when they're ESL. Also, do a better job of auditioning people before you let them sing over your overlyloudspeakers.

Check out that slug. It is larger than Midwestern slugs, and is also festively coloured.

We went a ways off of the trail in Stanley Park, and ran across this fairly magnificent tree with a used syringe stuck in it. This picture really says "Vancouver" to me.