David Cox - The planet's prodigious poo problem

Recent research has estimated that by 2030, the planet will be generating at least 5bn tonnes of poo each year, with the vast majority being deposited by livestock. With 80% of farms in the Netherlands already producing more cow dung than they can legally use as fertiliser, and China resorting to drastic measures to try to reduce the amount of manure being discharged into rivers, scientists say this is a major environment and health challenge.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Joe Brown, professor of environmental engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. “Animal waste is going up because as populations and wealth increase, there’s a bigger demand for protein. But while we’ve seen lots of initiatives to safely manage human waste, nobody is talking about this.” Despite extensive Environmental Agency regulations, the UK’s dairy, poultry and pig farms were responsible for 424 incidents of serious pollution related to waste disposal between 2010 and 2016. With the UK’s cows already producing 36m tonnes in waste every year – enough to fill the Shard 78 times over – and many dairy farmers feeling the pinch from tumbling milk prices, safely disposing of these mounds of toxic mess is a serious and expensive conundrum.
Because most first world farming systems are highly concentrated, industrial operations, this produces very concentrated streams of waste. Unless these are dealt with rapidly, they can pollute the air with large amounts of harmful gases such as ammonia, nitrous oxide and hydrogen sulphide.
Inhaling these toxic fumes can be lethal in large quantities, and studies have repeatedly shown that people who live near industrial farms have a much greater risk of chronic asthma, respiratory irritation, immune suppression, and even mood disorders

Water pollution and climate change are also issues. Moreover, the greenhouse gas methane is produced in large quantities when waste is left to decay uncontrollably. Many scientists believe animal waste is already a vastly overlooked component of climate change. read more:

The Origin of Faeces, David Waltner-Toews

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