Lick Global Warming vs. Cow Farts

Around noon today I sauntered over to the TD Centre courtyard in downtown Toronto to witness the launch of the Lick Global Warming campaign, a partnership of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The event featured people in cow costumes carrying picket signs, and (even more strangely) a 20-minute line full of Bay Street workers waiting for a free small scoop of ice cream in a cup.

I had a fun time trying to imagine what the Ben & Jerry’s boardroom brainstorm would have sounded like.

Ben: Ok, we need to do some sort of good-will PR thing.
Jerry: Let’s see…ice cream….
Ben: …cools you down…
Jerry: …when it’s hot…
Ben: Global Warming!
Jerry: That’s it! That’s so hot!
Ben: You mean cool.
Jerry: Is that what the kids are saying these days?

Or maybe Jerry really cares. The point isn’t to pick on my friends at the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, nor do I want to criticize anyone who makes delicious ice cream, but there’s one thing I find particularly bizarre about this campaign.

Can you spot it? No, it’s not the illustration of Earth in an ice cream cone (though I’m not quite sure what that’s about). And no, it’s not the fact that on the Ben & Jerry’s homepage there’s a flash animation (if you wait a few seconds) of a cow licking an ice cream cone (weird).

What really doesn’t make sense to me — and what I can’t believe wasn’t spotted or addressed by anyone at either organization — is the use of cows as an anti-global warming mascot. Why? Because cow farts cause global warming.

There. I said it.

Cows, though their farts and otherwise, produce large amounts of methane gas, which is the second greatest contributor to global warming after CO2. Some studies have even suggested that in some regions cows contribute more to global warming than cars, while others have concluded that eating meat is just as bad for the climate as driving an SUV.

According to this blog’s first-ever anonymous source, the OCAA has already received several complaints about their partnership with B&J, including the observation that B&J’s products aren’t locally produced, meaning the involvement of long refrigerated-truck trips.

I’m glad to see the climate crisis getting people’s attention, I do think global warming campaigns can and should be fun, and I know I shouldn’t really be criticizing any company that wants to do their part. At the same time, global warming is a complex issue that cannot be easily solved. I don’t think we do ourselves any favours by reducing the whole issue to one paragraph, and then pretending to solve it with one sentence.

People are smarter than that, and deserve to be given more credit.

Ok, I’m done my party-pooping for the day. (And yes, after watching the protesting cows I did grab a delicious ice cream cone. It cheered me up a bit.)

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