Enjoy your turkey, even if it’s killing our planet

GREG BEAN

Maybe today you’re rushing around to finish shopping for the Thanksgiving dinner you’re cooking for the family this week, and the thorniest issue on your mind is how to get the bird out of the oven at the same time the mashed potatoes are ready.

Maybe you’re visiting friends or family for the holiday, and what’s on your mind is how to avoid the day-before-the-holiday traffic jam on the Garden State Parkway. Maybe you’re thinking about giving the restaurant where you’ve made dinner reservations for Thanksgiving afternoon a call, just to make sure they remembered to write down your name, and the time you’d like to eat.

But here’s something I’ll bet you haven’t spent a single nanosecond pondering — unless you listen to a lot of NPR, or the commercials for a certain grocery chain in the New York City area that sells “green” products: Your turkey’s carbon footprint.

Seems that’s a big consideration this year among those who want to reduce the pollution that nearly everyone now agrees is responsible for global warming, and making the polar bears shop for sporty tropical shirts at Banana Republic. And not only are they worried about your turkey’s carbon footprint, they’re worried about the carbon footprint of the whole darned meal.

For those of you who sort of know what a carbon footprint is, but can’t remember the salient details, let’s recap: A carbon footprint is how much pollution is released into the atmosphere in order to get a certain product to market. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but let’s call it good enough for today’s discussion. No need to write in to correct my science.

So here’s how you would determine the carbon footprint of the turkey currently thawing out in your sink (if it’s not thawing out yet, you’re too late if you bought a frozen bird): First you’ve got to figure out how much fossil fuel was used to grow all the pellets or whatever it is that they feed turkeys. Then you need to know how much was used for electricity, and machinery, and whatever else they use at turkey farms to grow a bird. Then you divide their annual expenditure for all that stuff by the number of birds they send to market, to come up with a per-bird number. Then you’ve got to start figuring out the perbird footprint of all the fossil fuels used up, and sent skyward by the plant that processed the bird from feathered critter to shrinkwrapped Butterball, and do the same thing for the trucking company that drove the bird to the distribution facility. Then you’ve got to figure out the per-bird share of that facility’s expenditures, and do the same thing for the supermarket where you bought the thing.

And then you’ve got to start figuring out the carbon footprints of everything from the cranberries to the marshmallows you melt on top of the sweet potatoes if you really love your family. Am I forgetting something? I’m sure I am, but my brain is starting to hurt with all the avenues of figureation (I know the copy editors will say I misspelled that word, but since I just made it up, I say I’m right).

I think it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a meaningful estimate of your Thanksgiving dinner’s carbon footprint, so why are we even talking about it? People who hate NPR would say it’s just another liberal plot to destroy every American tradition, but there’s another possibility.

Mark my words:

This is a conspiracy by

ExxonMobil, or BP, or Jon Corzine, or some other nefarious capitalist to line their own pockets. You know how some companies that don’t spew out much greenhouse gas pollution are selling their carbon footprint credits (another thing the understanding of which makes my head hurt) to companies that spew out more than their share? That being the case, it stands to reason that somebody, somewhere, is trying to find a way to gather up some of the unused carbon footprint credits floating around — maybe in Nebraska or North Dakota — and sell them to the turkey industry, and all the other industries fouling our atmosphere getting your Thanksgiving dinner to table.

And if they haven’t thought of it yet, one of you unemployed readers ought to get cracking on it before next year. I tell you, this idea is gold.

  

There was an item in the New York Times Week in Review section on Nov. 13 — in specific, the “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” quiz — that asked the question, “According to reports out last week, next year will witness the end of what?” The answer: The CD.

Say what? In the answers, the Times said, “The major record labels will stop making CDs in 2012, 10 years after people stopped buying them!” I raced to the computer to Google the whole deal, and it isn’t so definite after all. There have been rumors burning up the blogosphere, claiming the information came from “a record company executive,” but I couldn’t find confirmation from a single music label to prove the claim. In fact, at this point, most in the know tend to agree that this is just another doomsday prediction, like the Y2K meltdown everyone freaked out about, and nothing happened.

So I can keep buying CDs, and not worrying about it, for a while. Oh, yeah. I stopped buying them five years ago, because my wife made me move the player upstairs, and it’s more convenient to download tunes to my iPod. I guess I was ahead of the curve.

  

Speaking of doomsday predictions. Did you see all the stories about people who thought 11.11.11 was a lucky day, because it only happens once a century? A bunch of them got married and other things. Here’s my prediction: The world will end on 12.12.12. So get ready. And enjoy your turkey! The polar bears won’t have to suffer for long.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.