One of the ironies last year is when the Catholic bishops of New Zealand produced a letter admonishing their people to follow a green lifestyle. I say “ironic” because the major producer of greenhouse gas in New Zealand is not SUV’s but cows.

Similarly, here in the ricebelt of the Philippines, our family has invested in organically grown rice. That means we stop weeds by mulching and flooding, not herbicide, and using chicken manure and rotted rice straw/husks as fertilizer. But now it turns out that rice growing is a major cause of global warming. You see, the rotting “natural” fertilizer emits methane, a global warming gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide.

Now, scientists in China say that just by leaving the fields “dry up” several times a season will decrease greenhouse gases by thirty percent. Well, that’s fine in the dry season, but it’s a little hard to do during the rainy season, when the monsoons bring rains every evening.

The dirty little secret about China, India, and other “monsoon” countries is that rain is seasonal. And if you want more than one crop here, you have to irrigate. And to irrigate, you use dams. And now often these dams also produce hydroelectric power, so farm families can have things like electric pumps to get well water, and things like Television, electric lights, and other modern things.
Ah, but guess what else causes green house gas? Dams, where rotting vegetation in the lakes also produces methane. There goes hydroelectric power as “clean and green”.
Guess the only answer is massive human extinction. Except that even without humans, ruminants such as deer and elk will still emit methane, beaver dams will still produce methane, and of course periodic fires caused by lightning will still cause massive CO2 release…not to mention Volcanoes, like Mt. Pinatubo.

Besides, as the Chinese know, the climate cycles have been going on for thousands of years from the sun cycle.

So one should not go overboard in insisting that going back to the good old fashioned way of doing things is the way to stop global warming. Simplicity in living is good, but simple minded love of the primitive is not necessarily the best remedy, especially for those who think subsistence living is wonderful while they themselves live in an airconditioned city apartment.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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