But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

WARNING: Composting Increases Your Carbon Footprint!


We are slowly coming to face the fact that many trendy “green” things actually harm the environment, instead of helping it.

Unfortunately, some of us are not learning their lesson, and new “green” activities are being pushed that are just as lacking in forethought, just as harmful to the planet.

One perfect example of this is the new composting fetish:

It is actually better for the environment to throw away garbage, than to compost it, if you’re worried about greenhouse gases, instead of just wanting good, free fertilizer.

Composting Releases Greenhouse Gas

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are the second through fourth most significant greenhouse gases, after water vapor.

The materials in a compost heap contain nitrogen and carbon, locked away from the atmosphere.

The act of composing specifically converts nitrogen into nitrous oxide, and carbon into prodigous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. No actual environmental scientist will deny this. It’s just a fact of chemistry…the two links above are pro-composting, environmentalist organizations, yet they confirm this.

Just to be clear on this:

  • Water vapor is the main source of the natural greenhouse effect, causing about 50% of all heat retention, depending on local humidity. All scientists agree that nothing humans can do changes the overall amount of water vapor in our atmosphere.
  • Carbon Dioxide, CO2, is the next greatest source, producing about 20% of warming.
  • Methane, CH4, is 30 times more powerful, but there’s less in the atmosphere, so it contributes about 6%.
  • Nitrous Oxide, N2O, is THREE HUNDRED TIMES more powerful, but even rarer, producing about 2% of natural warming. The biggest impact we could have, if any, would be to produce more of this more powerful, less common gas.

To be clear, composting produces extremely high amounts of nitrous oxide, as well as large amounts of methane, and even under the best conditions, more CO2 than almost anything else, in your entire household.

Landfills Reduce Greenhouse Gases

On the other hand, if you were to throw those compostables away, they would probably end up in a land fill. Recently, environmental scientists have bothered to actually check, and have realized that, in fact, materials in landfills do not rot the way they normally would, because of the way they’re compacted together. The International Encyclopaedia of Environmental Laws,  pointing out that paper and corn don’t rot in landfills, asks why one should even bother substituting paper for plastic, or “biodegradable” corn bags.

Again, those are environmentalists saying these things.

Environmental scientist and Green advocate Bill Rothje says that you can find readable newspaper that has been in landfills for at least 30 years. That means the carbon in newspaper (which comprises 19% of all landfill space) can be retained in the landfill for decades…or released into the atmosphere by composting.

So, according to Environmental scientists, trash in landfills is removed from the carbon/nitrogen cycle, staying out of the atmosphere. A landfill is, in fact, a tremendous REDUCTION in our “carbon footprint”.

In fact, next time you’re thinking about “recycling” paper, remember that this requires more energy, fossil fuel, and chemicals than making new paper…and that if you just throw the paper away, you’re removing its carbon from the atmosphere for the long-term.

It Gets Worse

Some governments are using taxpayer dollars to force the production of “worm composting”. Yet nitrous oxide is an inevitable by-product of worm composting. Remember, this is about 300 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.


Earthworm Jim farts Nitrous Oxide into his space suit, compost worms do it in our atmosphere

Meanwhile, not only do landfills produce mainly methane, not Nitrous Oxide, but nearly half of the methane they produce can be captures for use as green energy. Methane engines simply produce water vapor as a waste product.

Jim Frederickson, senior research fellow at Britain’s Open University, says “”We need to investigate all alternative systems for greenhouse potential.

“The emissions that come from these worms can actually be 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane. In all environmental systems you get good points and bad points.”

The whole “composting” craze, from expensive plastic countertop bins to government-mandated worm farms, is just another example of people not caring what is ACTUALLY good for the environment, but pushing any ill-thought-out plan down our throats.

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September 7, 2010 - Posted by | environment, Politics, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 Comments »

  1. Seriously!? This page is a joke! Landfills cause greenhouse gases along with a number of other problems. I can’t believe this page exists… it’s sad.

    Comment by Brie | October 16, 2013 | Reply

    • No, they don’t “cause greenhouse gases”, as if this was a magical thing that occurred through spontaneous generation.

      Composting causes MORE greenhouse gas, faster, and releases it directly into the atmosphere, while a landfill contains much of the gasses created in its own decomposition.

      So what are the other, mysterious “problems” they cause?

      Your vague, uninformed, knee-jerk response certainly is archetypal of the ignorance involved in the superstition of “going green”.

      Comment by kazvorpal | October 16, 2013 | Reply

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    Comment by iwifihack | January 26, 2012 | Reply

  3. Inspired by this thread, I decided to do some research. I found a paper discussing the effect of composting on greenhouse gas emissions. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts:

    “If material that would otherwise end up producing methane or nitrous oxide is composted instead, this results in avoided emissions. Some common situations where this might apply include food wastes that are going to landfills and manures that get stored in uncovered lagoons. For example, every metric dry ton of food that goes to a landfill may generate .25 metric tons of methane in the first 120 days. Thus composting this food waste reduces emissions by the equivalent of up to 6 metric tons of CO2. By the same token, if grass clippings that were going to a composter were redirected to a landfill, that would result in increased methane emissions at the landfill (up to about 2 tons of CO2 equivalents for every ton of grass, depending on how the landfill is managed).”

    This paper seems to directly contradict your basic premise. Were you aware of it?

    Comment by Joshua | September 15, 2010 | Reply

    • … well, I’m trying to post the link, but my comments keep getting dropped. I’m guessing it’s because they look like link-spam. Sorry.

      You can find the paper by searching google on the terms compost greenhouse effect. It’s the first hit.

      Comment by Joshua | September 15, 2010 | Reply

    • Another cogent quote:

      In a detailed life cycle analysis of windrow composting in Australia, the emissions from the production of compost and composted mulch were more than outweighed by the benefits of the use of composted products. The emissions came from the use of fuel, water and electricity in compost production, transport and application. The benefits came from carbon sequestration and the reduction in fertilizers, electricity, water and herbicides (and thereby reducing the emissions associated with the production and use of these items). The net benefit persisted even if the composted products were transported over 400 miles to the application site and the trucks returned empty (Sharma and Campbell, 2003).

      When I raised this question, you accused me of having discovered a perpetual energy machine. Apparently not?

      Comment by Joshua | September 15, 2010 | Reply

    • Your quote is by someone incompetent enough to ASSume that all materials in landfills are converted purely into greenhouse gases.

      And yet, of course, my original article points out that other Greens, working to profit on fear in different ways, tell us that you can read newspapers that were left in landfills DECADES ago.

      There is no question, regardless of the dodging and fearmongering, that if you can read a thirty year old newspaper from a landfill, it has contributed fewer greenhouse gases than if you had composted it.

      Comment by kazvorpal | September 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. Also, I apparently cannot reply to comment on your blog. My apologies for the threading-fail.

    Comment by Joshua | September 8, 2010 | Reply

  5. It doesn’t matter whether the process is “natural”, the result is the addition of all of that carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere, as three of the four worst greenhouse gases.

    I don’t assume that natural is good, no. I’m saying that composting has been happening for as long as living things have decomposed, and it has not caused any problems at all. Rather, it has served the purpose of turning dead things into dirt, which is necessary to the continuation of life. This is why I consider composting to be an inherently benign process.

    I’m simply pointing out that if you DO think they are, and think that humans cutting back has an impact, then composting is defeating your whole purpose.

    I think this is such a ridiculously reductionist proposition that I find it hard to take seriously. It’s like saying, “If you eat two cups of white sugar every day, and an apple, you should control your diabetes by cutting out the apple, because after all, the apple has fructose in it, so if you want to cut back on your sugar intake, you’re a hypocrite if you eat the apple.” All of your facts about composting and greenhouse gasses may be true, but the greenhouse gasses we’re releasing now are, as you point out later, far and away coming from fossil fuels, the creation of which previously sequestered the elements in question. If you believe that greenhouse gasses cause global warming, to focus on composting instead of burning fossil fuels is really misdirected.

    If you don’t care about your carbon footprint, then compost away, and more power to you.

    Hyperbolic nonsense. Focusing simply on the greenhouse gases produced by composting makes for a cute blog post, but misses the big picture. For example: does the greenhouse gasses saved by sequestering trash in a landfill offset the greenhouse gasses released by the garbage trucks that collect the trash? If I compost my trash at home, are the greenhouse gasses I release offset by the plants that I grow with the compost and the trips to the grocery store and the lawn-and-garden store that I don’t take because I’m producing these things at home?

    You are confused both about the most basic biochemistry, and about the scale of the planet. All of our trash, for a century, could be put into a landfill so small that it wouldn’t even be visible on a typical map of America.

    Yes, I’ve seen that episode of Bullshit too. I’m thinking beyond 100 years, though. Sequestering our trash in landfills is an inherently temporary solution that fails in 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 years. Composting trash is a closed-loop cycle that can be sustained indefinitely.

    Again, sheer nonsense. Human beings don’t throw away enough to make the slightest dent in the resources of natural nutrients

    Well, then we may as well just compost it if we want to, since it’s such a small amount that it doesn’t even matter. Hmm… what else out there is releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gasses that we could look at instead?

    Comment by Joshua | September 8, 2010 | Reply

    • > I don’t assume that natural is good, no. I’m saying that composting has been happening
      > for as long as living things have decomposed, and it has not caused any problems at all.
      > Rather, it has served the purpose of turning dead things into dirt, which is necessary to
      > the continuation of life. This is why I consider composting to be an inherently benign process.

      So you ARE assuming that natural is good. You denied it, then went on to say that it’s benign because it’s happened that way for as long as living things have decomposed. Ergo “natural”.

      But this is an absolutely meaningless criterion.

      Poison gas has leaked out of the earth for as long as the earth has existed. This doesn’t make it benign.

      > I think this is such a ridiculously reductionist proposition that I find it hard to take seriously.

      Yes, it’s necessary for people defending irrationalist positions to oppose the examination of the logical components of their arguments.

      > It’s like saying, “If you eat two cups of white sugar every day, and an apple, you should control
      > your diabetes by cutting out the apple, because after all, the apple has fructose in it, so if you
      > want to cut back on your sugar intake, you’re a hypocrite if you eat the apple.”

      First, an apple has more complex carbohydrates. Meanwhile, N2O, CO2, and CH4 from humans, or from OTHER parts of nature, are identical, from the perspective of their ability to retain heat in the upper atmosphere.

      Second, if you are struggling to control your sugar intake, and one of the few things you have control over is eating the apple, then you’re a fool to eat the apple.

      People who are whining about other people needing to reduce their “carbon footprint”, and bragging about reducing their own, but then go and do something that massively increases their carbon footprint, are unquestionably hypocrites.

      The real problem, of course, is that Greens are usually fools enough to just assume anything politically correctly “green” is automatically good for their “carbon footprint”, when many are not.

      Another example is recycling; you can verify with any recycling center that isn’t secretive (for good reason), that they use more energy to create paper, or plastic, or glass, than making it from raw material. So you increase your carbon footprint by recycling.

      But no…that just cannot be! Why? Because it’s GREEN!

      Emotional, inductive reasoning.

      > All of your facts about composting and greenhouse gasses may be true, but the greenhouse gasses
      > we’re releasing now are, as you point out later, far and away coming from fossil fuels, the creation of
      > which previously sequestered the elements in question.

      Yes, but it doesn’t matter WHERE the carbon and nitrogen you’re releasing came from, they’re still increasing your effective carbon footprint.

      Nitrous oxide is THREE HUNDRED TIMES more powerful than carbon dioxide, and a key product of composting, no matter how natural that may seem.

      Locking that compostable material in a landfill means less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. It’s just that simple.

      > If you believe that greenhouse gasses cause global warming,
      > to focus on composting instead of burning fossil fuels is really misdirected.

      That’s a false dichotomy. You can, obviously, reduce ANY greenhouse gas emission.

      > If I compost my trash at home, are the greenhouse gasses I release offset by
      > the plants that I grow with the compost and the trips to the grocery store and
      > the lawn-and-garden store that I don’t take because I’m producing these things at home?

      No, they are not. You have not discovered perpetual motion. The marginal increase in plant growth caused by your compost will NOT remove any methane from the atmosphere, which is 30x more powerful than CO2, nor nitrous oxide from the atmosphere, which is 300x more powerful than CO2, and and not enough CO2 to make up for the combined total of the three you produced by composting.

      > Yes, I’ve seen that episode of Bullshit too. I’m thinking beyond 100 years, though.

      Yes, with static projection. You’re like Thomas Malthus saying the world will collapse from overpopulation by 1820, PLUS that patent office guy saying all things worth inventing were already discovered, in 1900.

      > Sequestering our trash in landfills is an inherently temporary solution that fails in 100,
      > 200, 500, 1000, 5000 years. Composting trash is a closed-loop cycle that can be
      > sustained indefinitely.

      Yes, and if you project the increase in industry, and compare it to all known resources, the world will run out of coal by 1880.

      The technological differences we can expect by 100 years makes worrying even one century out absolutely silly.

      We already have the technology to “mine” landfills, which is FAR more efficient than forcing people to separate for recycling…but we also are increasing our efficiency in a way that constantly reduces the materials wasted per unit consumed. Either way, it would take tens of thousands of years to start “running out of space”, which is just silly to worry about.

      And landfills REMOVE greenhouse gases from the “closed loop system”, ergo are an improvement over your huge compost carbon footprint.

      > Well, then we may as well just compost it if we want to, since it’s such a small
      > amount that it doesn’t even matter. Hmm… what else out there is releasing
      > huge amounts of greenhouse gasses that we could look at instead?

      The crackpot Greens like to contextually lie, by playing cumulative math games…if only every household were to replace one more useful incandescent light bulb with one more troublesome fluorescent light, America would save N tons of “carbon”! Yet if every household were to start composting, it would put thousands of percent more carbon in the atmosphere than that.

      We could all save “carbon credits” by NOT composting, and then spend them on throwing away all of those stupid Compact Fluorescent Lights and going back to incadescents. Carefully, so we don’t endanger people with the toxic mercury, of course.

      Comment by kazvorpal | September 12, 2010 | Reply

      • So you ARE assuming that natural is good. You denied it, then went on to say that it’s benign because it’s happened that way for as long as living things have decomposed.

        It’s not benign because it’s “natural.” As you point out, poison gas leaking from the earth is also natural, but not benign. Composting is benign because it has happened for millions of years and living things have flourished in its presence. What I’m talking about here is taking a large-scale look at cause and effect.

        Second, if you are struggling to control your sugar intake, and one of the few things you have control over is eating the apple, then you’re a fool to eat the apple.

        To carry the analogy forward, why do you argue that we only have control over the “apple” (composting) and not the “sugar” (fossil fuels)? The sugar/apple analogy was carefully chosen. Even with the 300x multiplier you quote for greenhouse effect of some gasses, I find it really hard to believe that the overall greenhouse effect of composting is anywhere near to that of the fossil fuels we’re burning. I don’t have numbers, though–do you?

        Malthus saying the world will collapse from overpopulation by 1820

        Malthus would have been right, except that the Green Revolution happened. So, thanks to the deus ex machina of petroleum, we got to postpone the population collapse. How many more deii do we have left? We careen towards a brink, only to be saved at the last minute by a miracle, only to careen towards the next brink… Techno-utopians like you tell us that there will always be another miracle to save us, but I’d rather just stop running towards a brink, and not need a miracle in the first place.

        The technological differences we can expect by 100 years makes worrying even one century out absolutely silly.

        Best of luck with that. I hope you’re right. As we are already starting to deal with the extinction of cheap oil, I suspect that the days of technology (supported by cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels) pulling our fat out of the fire are coming to an end. We may not live long enough to tell who’s right, though.

        That’s a false dichotomy. You can, obviously, reduce ANY greenhouse gas emission.

        Right. And I’m postulating that the cumulative effect of composting on greenhouse gasses is so much smaller than the cumulative effect of burning fossil fuels that it doesn’t make sense to focus on composting. It’s about effectiveness, not about ideology.

        Another example is recycling; you can verify with any recycling center that isn’t secretive (for good reason), that they use more energy to create paper, or plastic, or glass, than making it from raw material. So you increase your carbon footprint by recycling.

        I’ve seen that episode of Bullshit too, and basically agree. Moving on…

        Comment by Joshua | September 12, 2010 | Reply

        • > It’s not benign because it’s “natural.” As you point out, poison gas leaking from the earth is also natural,
          > but not benign. Composting is benign because it has happened for millions of years and living things have
          > flourished in its presence. What I’m talking about here is taking a large-scale look at cause and effect.

          You’re digging yourself ever-deeper, here. You’re not looking at cause and effect, at all. You’re just committing the fallacy of argumentum ad antiquitatem. Because it’s gone on a long time, it must be good. That’s even sillier than argumentum ad natura.

          The cold, hard fact is that the only factor in worrying about “global warming” is the net amount of greenhouse gases, as measured by radiative forcing. If you put out more greenhouse gas, it doesn’t matter if it’s from an idling car, composting, or farting…only how much energy it will help the upper atmosphere retain.

          > To carry the analogy forward, why do you argue that we only have control
          > over the “apple” (composting) and not the “sugar” (fossil fuels)?

          Because you’re going out of your way to PRODUCE these greenhouse gases, and yet pretending it’s “green”. Simply doing whatever you’d always done would reduce your carbon footprint.

          > Malthus would have been right,
          > except that the Green Revolution happened.

          In what fantasy world?

          Malthus was wrong from the start, because he was using static projection. He took a set of numbers, and charted them into the future as if nothing would change, when there were a million factors that made his prediction not only worse than flipping a coin, but even impossible.

          > So, thanks to the deus ex machina of petroleum,
          > we got to postpone the population collapse. How many more deii do we have left?

          Again with the ridiculously shortsighted “we’ve invented everything worth inventing” nonsense. We have a nearly infinite amount of technology to invent, improving things more than our wildest futurists dream of. It appears possible to build a ringworld with a billion times the surface area of this planet, once we reach that level of tech.

          > We careen towards a brink, only to be saved at the last
          > minute by a miracle, only to careen towards the next brink…

          You sound like the victim of some doomsday cult…which is what Green environmentalism is.

          All of the brinks are entirely imaginary. You’re standing in the middle of a grassy field, with blinders on your eyes, being told that you’re teetering on the brink, and need to bend over and get reamed in order to survive, and you keep falling for it. Fear Equals Funding is the explanation for the endless series of near-crises that are forecast and never even come close to happening.

          > Techno-utopians like you tell us that there will always be another miracle to save us,
          > but I’d rather just stop running towards a brink, and not need a miracle in the first place.

          Yes, that’s what you doomsday cultists have always told us. Everything’s already been invented, heavier than air manned flight is impossible. 100 miles per hour is so fast it would kill a human being. Your ship is going to sail off the edge of the world.

          You also have perfectly summarized the Green cult’s real goal: Stagnancy. We need to stop progressing, because you’re told there is a brink right beyond your blinders.

          > As we are already starting to deal with the extinction of cheap oil,
          > I suspect that the days of technology
          > (supported by cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels) pulling our fat out of the fire are coming to an end.

          The end of cheap oil was 1973, during the oil crisis. The same guys suckering you now told us that we’d finally run out of oil…even while the headlines were clearly stating that the shortage was caused by OPEC. It was actually OPEC combined with Nixon’s idiotic price controls, which allowed the oil prices to remain high and supply low, of course…but it certainly had nothing to do with running out of oil.

          No, wait, I think the actual end of cheap oil was 1979, when OPEC tightened supply again, and then Carter idiotically took Nixon’s price controls a step farther, imposing a Windfall Profit Tax that punished American oil companies for increasing supply to offset OPEC, creating gas lines in the US. Oh no, we were told by the media and schools, we’re running out of oil! We only have eight hundred billion barrels of oil in the global reserve! We’ll be out of oil completely, by 1990!

          Oh, no, WAIT! The REAL End of Cheap Oil really was in 1990, when Bush’s idiotic intervention in Iraq drove oil prices up 50% higher than their norm, helping cause the recession.

          In EVERY ONE OF THOSE EXAMPLES, crackpot environmentalists claimed we were out of cheap oil, in the face of it having NOTHING to do with supply.

          And now, while the global reserve is 1.5 TRILLION, nearly double what it was when we “ran out of oil” in 1979, we’re told it’s “the end of cheap oil”.

          No, just as in 1990, 1979, and 1973, this is a problem of idiotic foreign policy and socialist interference.

          In this case, on top of everything else, we have legalized speculation (which is, overall, a good thing) enhancing the price of oil…each warmongering act by Obama and Bush sent/sends the price higher, out of fear for our supply.

          > Right. And I’m postulating that the cumulative effect of composting on greenhouse gasses is so
          > much smaller than the cumulative effect of burning fossil fuels that it doesn’t make sense to
          > focus on composting. It’s about effectiveness, not about ideology.

          So then you oppose ALL of the “do this little thing, to contribute” fallacies, right? Forcing people to use toxic CFLs, encouraging them to unplug their chargers when not in use, turning off lights when out of rooms, et cetera.

          You certainly didn’t quote my pointing out that this was all nonsense, and that the “tons of carbon” each of those puny actions would “save if all Americans did it just a little” didn’t even begin to add up to the cumulative INCREASE in millions of tons of carbon footprint if all Americans composted.

          So you are opposed to ALL of the socialist demands for sacrifice, right?

          Comment by kazvorpal | September 14, 2010 | Reply

          • the fallacy of argumentum ad antiquitatem. Because it’s gone on a long time, it must be good. That’s even sillier than argumentum ad natura.

            I disagree, but I don’t know if we are going to come to an accord on that. I’m not saying that just because it’s gone on a long time, it’s good. I’m saying that because it has gone on a long time without negative effects, it’s good.

            The cold, hard fact is that the only factor in worrying about “global warming” is the net amount of greenhouse gases

            I basically agree. I’m not actually arguing with you on this fact. I’ve said several times, and I think you’re missing it, that I posit that the net greenhouse effect of burning fossil fuels is much more than that of composting, even if you take into account the multiplier associated with some gasses associated with composting. This is a supposition that you could challenge with numbers if you looked them up, but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to go to the trouble; I don’t. I’m not trying to convince you on that point (I’d get numbers if I was, and I’d find out if I was right or wrong before I pressed the point). I’m just trying to share with you an intellectual framework from which focusing on composting is not the most effective way of reducing the greenhouse effect.

            Because you’re going out of your way to PRODUCE these greenhouse gases, and yet pretending it’s “green”. Simply doing whatever you’d always done would reduce your carbon footprint.

            I submit to you that composting–the decomposition of dead organic matter–is “what you’ve always done,” and pumping millions of years worth of fossil fuels from the earth and burning them over the course of a few hundred years is “going out of your way to PRODUCE greenhouse gasses.” Composting happened for… as long as living things have existed. Which of these two things is “what we’ve always done”? Cessation of which of these two behaviors would reduce greenhouse gasses more? But as you previously pointed out, the dichotomy between composting and fossil fuels is false; you don’t have to pick one or the other.

            In what fantasy world?

            There are various sources that support my claim, but the most prominent one that is featured on the Internet is this article by Nature magazine:

            http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6898/full/nature01013.html

            “Salvation came from one of the few beneficial offshoots of the First World War: the development of the Haber–Bosch process in which atmospheric nitrogen was fixed and used to manufacture ammonia.”

            Again with the ridiculously shortsighted “we’ve invented everything worth inventing” nonsense.

            Again with the techo-utopian “everything will be fine because we will invent something to fix the problems.” You see me as unrealistically pessimistic. I see you as hopelessly optimistic. Tomato, tomahto. Let’s call the whole thing off!

            You sound like the victim of some doomsday cult…which is what Green environmentalism is.

            The victims of the doomsday cult are the members of our society, who are caught up in a cultural death-urge that, if allowed to fully express itself, has resulted and will continue to result in the extinction of life on earth.

            All of the brinks are entirely imaginary.

            Again, we just disagree. The brinks are happening. We have gone over several of them already. 200 species a day driven extinct by human action. Enormous areas of landbase made uninhabitable. Famine and poverty in the “developing” nations on a never-before-seen (in human history) scale. These are some of the brinks over which we have careened already. This is the perspective from which I scoff at claims that more technology will fix things. It hasn’t fixed them yet!

            You also have perfectly summarized the Green cult’s real goal: Stagnancy. We need to stop progressing, because you’re told there is a brink right beyond your blinders.

            I can’t speak for anybody but myself, and I’ve never met this Green Cult you keep referring to. Human beings will never be stagnant. What you see as progress, I see as regression away from an actually-sustainable state. So, up is down, black is white, and here we are on the Internet trying to have a conversation anyway.

            In EVERY ONE OF THOSE EXAMPLES, crackpot environmentalists claimed we were out of cheap oil, in the face of it having NOTHING to do with supply.

            You’re looking at too short a perspective. We have been running out of oil since the 70’s. There have been ups and downs in the curve, such as the discovery of the north shelf in Alaska, which dramatically increased supplies, but the bottom line is that there are a finite number of these big scores left on earth, and the people who are looking as hard as they can for them are failing to find them. Shit, even the US military says that global demand will outstrip supply by 2013. Are you going to call them “Green cultists”? Hardly.

            So then you oppose ALL of the “do this little thing, to contribute” fallacies, right? Forcing people to use toxic CFLs, encouraging them to unplug their chargers when not in use, turning off lights when out of rooms, et cetera.

            Yes, actually. There’s no point in stopping watering your lawn and taking shorter showers during a drought when personal use of water makes up an idiotically small percentage of overall water use and industrial use is allowed to run un-checked. Riding your bike and switching to CFLs won’t do a damn thing to prolong access to petroleum, because those aren’t the major users of petroleum in the first place. And unplugging your charger? Laughable. IMO, the focus on individual action is just a veil intended to distract people from the REAL contributors to the problem, which is, generally speaking, large companies who consume vast amounts of resources. If we all have our heads buried in the sand switching to CFLs and buying diesel cars and un-plugging our phones, we won’t look at the areas where real differences can be made, but we still get to feel like we’re doing something about the “problem.”

            You certainly didn’t quote my pointing out that this was all nonsense, and that the “tons of carbon” each of those puny actions would “save if all Americans did it just a little” didn’t even begin to add up to the cumulative INCREASE in millions of tons of carbon footprint if all Americans composted.

            As you can see now, I didn’t quote it because I agree, and I didn’t have anything to add.

            So you are opposed to ALL of the socialist demands for sacrifice, right?

            I’m opposed to meaningless sacrifices that don’t actually address the major contributors to the problem, yes, and I count most of the popular fads for “saving energy” and “saving the environment” in that number. I mean, bike to work if you want to, there are lots of good reasons, but don’t kid yourself you’re saving the planet when you do it. I have CFLs in my home because I don’t use A/C in the summer, and incandescent bulbs are damn hot, but the energy I’m saving… oh, could it extend the availability of fossil fuels by one day? Or spare one square foot of West Virginia’s mountains from being strip mined for coal? Not likely.

            Comment by Joshua | September 14, 2010 | Reply

            • > I disagree, but I don’t know if we are going to come to an accord on that. I’m not saying that
              > just because it’s gone on a long time, it’s good. I’m saying that because it has gone on a
              > long time without negative effects, it’s good.

              Just as obviously false.

              You can smoke for forty years with no apparent negative effects.

              Meanwhile, the simple fact is that, if carbon footprint mattered at all, composting and leaving a light on are IDENTICAL…except that composting can easily add up to as much carbon as leaving all of your lights on, year-’round.

              > I submit to you that composting–the decomposition of dead organic matter–is
              > “what you’ve always done,” and pumping millions of years worth of fossil fuels
              > from the earth and burning them over the course of a few hundred years is
              > “going out of your way to PRODUCE greenhouse gasses.”

              Wrong. Because we’re talking about people…you know, the ones the silly environmentalists pretend are having such an impact. Right now, people use incandescent bulbs, which are better, and don’t compost, which is more convenient. The Greens want them to switch to fluorescent bulbs, which are worse, and start composting, which is inconvenient…and yet the net result would be MORE carbon released in the atmosphere.

              > There are various sources that support my claim, but the most prominent one
              > that is featured on the Internet is this article by Nature magazine:

              > http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6898/full/nature01013.html

              More environmentalist crackpottery, and it’s evident in the article, itself. Their poor methodology includes failing to point out that the majority of the land used for agriculture today is used with barely more efficiency than it was in Mathus’ day. Were it all used at the same efficiency as it is in the US, we could easily support a population of twenty billion…and yet, by the time we get to twenty billion, perhaps a century from now, agriculture will (of course) be even more efficient.

              > The victims of the doomsday cult are the members of our society, who are caught up in a cultural
              > death-urge that, if allowed to fully express itself, has resulted and will continue to result in the
              > extinction of life on earth.
              > Again, we just disagree. The brinks are happening. We have gone over several of them already.
              > 200 species a day driven extinct by human action.

              Except that this is one of the Green myths.

              In fact, the worst extinction caused by humans was the American Indians wiping out all of the macrofauna in the New World. Since then, humanity’s done far better.

              When you see the counter showing species extinct per minute, note that it is based on this calculation:

              The total number of species that existed in the past, and the proportion extinct, resulting ratio applied to the count of known species today.

              Note that NOWHERE in that calculation is human influence taken into consideration.

              For the past forty years, that meaningless calculation has been run, then slapped with a sign that implies HUMANS are doing it.

              But it’s not even a real count, and it doesn’t include human influence at all, not even as a guess.

              This is the kind of fraud you’re sucked into by that doomsday cult.

              > Enormous areas of landbase made uninhabitable.

              Really? Where?

              > Famine and poverty in the “developing” nations on a never-before-seen (in human history) scale.

              Absolutely, patently untrue. Famine and what we now consider poverty have been the NORM in human history. You are looking through the lens of prosperity of economic liberty in America for the past three hundred years, at the rest of the world where economic liberty is still absent.

              If Ethiopia had a free market economy, and government that solely protected private property rights, or even had a consistent Rule of Law, it would not only completely lack famine, but would feed even more of Africa than it already does.

              Did you know the state of Illinois, alone, produces enough corn to supply the entire United States?

              > These are some of the brinks over which we have careened already.

              And yet, as I noted before, they turn out to be imaginary.

              > This is the perspective from which I scoff at claims that
              > more technology will fix things. It hasn’t fixed them yet!

              Technology has fixed things so impressively that you gullible types don’t even realize how bad they used to be.

              > You’re looking at too short a perspective. We have been running out of oil since the 70′s.
              > There have been ups and downs in the curve, such as the discovery of the north shelf in
              > Alaska, which dramatically increased supplies,

              And yet is largely illegal to extract.

              > but the bottom line is that there are a finite number of these big scores left on earth, and

              Not by human standards. Humans have probably only found about one percent of the oil, if that. As usual, Greens don’t have the slightest grasp of the sheer size and volume of the planet.

              And then there’s our existing knowledge that you can make oil artificially, including the relatively simple process of engineering bacteria already capable of producing it.

              > the people who are looking as hard as they can for them are failing to find them.
              > Shit, even the US military says that global demand will outstrip supply by 2013.
              > Are you going to call them “Green cultists”? Hardly.

              They certainly are central planning socialists, which is what actually drives the fraud of the Green movement.

              I wonder when they predicted demand would outstrip supply, in 1978.

              > Yes, actually. There’s no point in stopping watering your lawn and taking shorter showers during a
              > drought when personal use of water makes up an idiotically small percentage of overall water use
              > and industrial use is allowed to run un-checked.

              Water conservation is the absolute silliest of all Green nonsense, even if we talk about Industrial use.

              There is exactly the same amount of water on the planet (effectively) as there was before human beings evolved. Droughts and water shortages are a LOCAL issue…never, ever a “climate” issue. What areas with water shortages need is nothing more than water from the areas where it’s in ridiculous abundance. You can’t “waste” water in the real world, because you cannot CONSUME water…unless you’re running electricity through it and storing up the resulting hydrogen, or something.

              > Riding your bike and switching to CFLs won’t do a damn thing to prolong access to petroleum, because
              > those aren’t the major users of petroleum in the first place. And unplugging your charger? Laughable.

              At least we agree upon that. You’re halfway there.

              > IMO, the focus on individual action is just a veil intended to distract people from the REAL contributors
              > to the problem, which is, generally speaking, large companies who consume vast amounts of resources.
              > If we all have our heads buried in the sand switching to CFLs and buying diesel cars and un-plugging
              > our phones, we won’t look at the areas where real differences can be made, but we still get to feel like
              > we’re doing something about the “problem.”

              Now you just have to realize that even the industrial producers are statistically insignificant, as far as the massive volume of the globe is concerned.

              But, at the very least, your most solid argument against opposing composting appears to be “go ahead and compost, because even though it produces far more greenhouse gas than any of the Green gestures saves, none of that matters, anyway.

              I’d be fine with that.

              Comment by kazvorpal | September 19, 2010 | Reply

      • … and in all this discussion, I failed to note that you still haven’t answered what I see as the most fundamental question: if we sequester compostable materials in landfills, where will the fertility of our soil come from?

        Comment by Joshua | September 13, 2010 | Reply

        • Yes, I did, but I think I talked over your head.

          To be clearer:

          The “fertility” in our soil is infinitely renewable. Go back a billion years, and the land is barren rock, unable to support life, lacking in any real nutrients. The fertility of our soil is created by the life, itself, and it continues to create plenty more. Again, human beings couldn’t make a dent in even thousands of years, even if life did NOT constantly make its own nutrients.

          Comment by kazvorpal | September 14, 2010 | Reply

          • The “fertility” in our soil is infinitely renewable

            With all due respect, I wonder if you garden. I do. I assure you that if I did not add nutrients to my soil, within a few years, the ability of that soil to produce food would be reduced or depleted. And this is true for the industrial farmers who produce the food you and I buy at the grocery store too. I get my nutrients from compost. They get theirs from industrial fertilizer. But the nutrients are not created from nothing, by “life”.

            When we say nutrients, we’re talking about available elements, Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus being the three macronutrients of plant life. For the most part, these elements are neither created nor destroyed, just moved around via various chemical and physical processes. When these macronutrients are used to create new organic material, they’re chemically bound up inside the plant or animal. When the plant or animal decomposes, they’re made available again. So, when you talk about “fertility being created by life,” what I hear is, “nutrients being made available via the breakdown of organic material,” but you can’t have that process without organic material.

            Look at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Miles of dry salt lake bed. No organic material to speak of. No dirt forms. No nutrients occur. Hardly any life at all, except what comes from elsewhere.

            You say that fertility is created by life. Yes, I agree. Via the process of composting, among other things. Composting takes the nutrients bound up in the organic material and makes them available again.

            Comment by Joshua | September 14, 2010 | Reply

            • > With all due respect, I wonder if you garden. I do. I assure you that if I did not
              > add nutrients to my soil, within a few years, the ability of that soil to produce
              > food would be reduced or depleted.

              That’s because, with all due respect, you don’t know how to garden.

              I garden, too, and I have not added fertilizer to my soil, natural or artificial, in five years…yet my soil is more fertile now than it was when I started.

              Why? Because I garden with companion plants, and encourage the growth of beneficial weeds.

              I would guess you use bare earth gardening methods, which are great on an industrial scale for mass-producing food, with fertilizer and pesticides, but is actually inefficient on an individual scale, disastrously so for gardening.

              When I plant tomatoes, for example, I scatter carrot, basil, marigold, parsley, and other seeds between the plants, and leave any dandelions, queen anne’s lace, crow garlic, ground ivy, or other good weeds that happen to be growing in the area. I end up with “living mulch” that actually increases the soil’s fertility, retains more moisture than it consumes, protects the tomato plants from pests, et cetera.

              A great example of how it’s the technique that depletes the soil is lawn care:

              All of those silly people who pay lawn services to fertilize their lawn every year, or do it themselves, need to because their lawn is monocultural. They kill the dandelions, that break up the soil and bring up nutrients and water from far below with tap roots, for example. Bags of grass seed once came with clover seed mixed in, because clover is a legume, that fixes nitrogen (fertilizer) in the soil…between dandelions and clover, there is already almost no need for fertilizer, and their absence is what drives that need in the modern yard. Meanwhile, of course, there are many other “weeds” that also contribute.

              But wait, there’s more…instead of mulching the way you imagine, you can simply use a “mulching” mower, as that returns just as much of the nutrition to the soil…likewise leaves, et cetera. I didn’t even bother raking/bagging leaves last year, but used the leaf mulching blower my in-laws bought me (I actually prefer raking, it’s fun if I have the time) for the worst spots, and let the rest rot over-winter. It was gone by the spring, and my lawn’s better off for this.

              Oh, and we haven’t even addressed compacting. You know how people waste huge amounts of money on devices and services to aerate their lawns, decompact their dirt, et cetera?

              And, of course, you know all of those horrible weeds that you have to kill with toxins, because if you pull them, they leave a deep tap root and come back.

              Well, those tap roots function to keep the soil aerated and broken up. Dandelions can literally break up hardpan enough to benefit over-ploughed farmland.

              The reason you think we need to add nutrients to the soil, is that even the “Greens” aren’t green enough.

              Comment by kazvorpal | September 19, 2010 | Reply

              • Kaz, I think I’m running out of steam for this conversation, so with all due respect, if I drop out, please don’t assume any ill will or bad intentions on my part.

                I garden, too, and I have not added fertilizer to my soil, natural or artificial, in five years…yet my soil is more fertile now than it was when I started.

                What you’re doing reminds me of the technique of planting a “green manure” cover crop, which you are probably familiar with. You’re adding fertility to the soil via the incorporation of plant material. What happens to that plant material after the plant dies and the material is left in or on the ground? It composts!

                An alternative is to remove the plant material, compost it in a pile or a bin while using the bed for something else, and then re-incorporate the plant material to the soil. Either way, it’s composting that releases the nutrients and makes them available.

                What you seem to be advocating is removing that plant material from the ground and sequestering it in landfills, which, I submit, would deplete the soil of nutrients.

                Without going into extreme detail on my gardening techniques, I do use many of the gardening techniques that you discuss, including companion planting, mulching, and green manure “cover crops” in the winter.

                Comment by Joshua | September 20, 2010 | Reply

                • The nutrient in our soil mostly came from somewhere else, originally.

                  We didn’t HAVE soil until plants and fungi.

                  The main “fertilizer” is nitrogen, which comes from the air. Air is more than 60& nitrogen. It is in infinite supply as long as you have something that fixes nitrogen.

                  The trace elements that fancy fertilizer contains are so abundant on the earth’s surface that, well, they became the trace elements that plants use. In order to lock away enough to matter, we’d have to build a landfill as large as the earth’s surface. As I already noted, all it takes is a dandelion to bring up a new supply, from many times deeper than a normal plant reaches. Meanwhile, most people don’t bother to throw their dead plants in landfills.

                  In fact, most people don’t compost, and yet have fertile gardens if they want them. Even if they threw away the dead plants, they do use fertilizer, or commercially designed compost, or whatever, and are just fine.

                  Comment by kazvorpal | September 21, 2010 | Reply

                  • I’m so confused by this conversation. You’re arguing against composting, and then you talk about people using commercially designed compost who are “doing just fine”? This seems totally contradictory and I don’t know what to make of it or where to go next.

                    Comment by Joshua | September 24, 2010 | Reply

  6. Kaz, I think this is a prime example of what I call the “single-issue” problem. If you focus on only a single issue, you can draw conclusions that are patently wrong from a wholistic perspective.

    Composting is just the natural process of breaking down dead things. Carbon and nitrogen are taken into the plant from the environment while it lives, and then returned to the environment via composting after it dies. Whether the composting happens in a smelly hippies bin or in the middle of the woods doesn’t matter.

    If, as you suggest, we threw all our compostable trash into landfills where it didn’t compost, eventually, our soil would be totally depleted of the very nutrients it needs to make food, because we would have put them all into the landfill. The bottom line is that living things break down after they die, and this is necessary for making more living things, so any argument against composting is an argument against life.

    You refer to composters as wanting “awesome, free fertilizer.” Where do you think the commercial fertilizer they’re going to use instead comes from?

    Comment by Joshua | September 7, 2010 | Reply

    • > Composting is just the natural process
      > of breaking down dead things.

      You’re not one of those utterly irrational people who think that natural means good, are you? As I often point out, arsenic is natural.

      > Carbon and nitrogen are taken into the plant from the
      > environment while it lives, and then returned to the
      > environment via composting after it dies. Whether the
      > composting happens in a smelly hippies bin or in the
      > middle of the woods doesn’t matter.

      Again, this sounds way too much like the inductive reasoning of “natural is good”.

      It doesn’t matter whether the process is “natural”, the result is the addition of all of that carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere, as three of the four worst greenhouse gases.

      Greenhouse gases aren’t magically any better just because they’re “natural”, or worse because they’re artificial.

      Note that I’m not addressing the question of whether greenhouse gases are causing global warming or not. I’m simply pointing out that if you DO think they are, and think that humans cutting back has an impact, then composting is defeating your whole purpose. You INCREASE your carbon footprint by doing it.

      If you don’t care about your carbon footprint, then compost away, and more power to you.

      > If, as you suggest, we threw all our compostable trash
      > into landfills where it didn’t compost, eventually, our
      > soil would be totally depleted of the very nutrients it
      > needs to make food, because we would have put them all
      > into the landfill.

      Ah…no. Laughably, ridiculously no.

      You are confused both about the most basic biochemistry, and about the scale of the planet.

      Even if the nutrients were irreplaceable, landfills are TINY things compared to the enormous volume of land. All of our trash, for a century, could be put into a landfill so small that it wouldn’t even be visible on a typical map of America.

      But, more importantly, nutrients are constantly produced in nature. We don’t need the old ones. Coal is, in effect, the result of gigantic natural landfills from a few hundred million years ago. Oil is supposedly (although it becomes less likely as we learn more) from a similar process.

      The core premise of the “oh no, carbon! Greenhouse gases! We shall all die!” fearmongers is that we’re releasing all the nutrients from those ancient landfills back into the world.

      We cause no more harm or depletion by locking up our tiny contributions, now, than when it happened during the time of the dinosaurs.

      > he bottom line is that living things break down after they
      > die, and this is necessary for making more living things,
      > so any argument against composting is an argument against
      > life.

      Again, sheer nonsense. Human beings don’t throw away enough to make the slightest dent in the resources of natural nutrients. No serious scientist, not even fearmongering “environmental scientists”, claim we do.

      Comment by kazvorpal | September 7, 2010 | Reply


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