The Environmental Impact
Of Horseshit
There are two stories in particular that environmental debunkers love to tell. One comes from the 1860s Britain, when all sorts of intelligent people, including William Gladstone and John Stuart Mill, were worried that the country was about to run out of coal, meaning a new age of austerity was at hand. But of course "peak" coal was nonsense; the truth is that the country was only just starting to dig for it properly, thanks to new technologies; until that point we had merely been scratching the surface.

The other story comes from 1890s New York, when the city seemed in danger of drowning under a tide of horseshit. Rapid expansion, coupled with increasing dependence on actual horsepower to move goods, meant that there were too many animals in a restricted space. At predicted rates of growth the city would be buried in manure by the middle fo the 20th century. And then someone invented the motor car: the mess disappeared as if by magic. Now fracking stands to oil as oil once stood to horseshit. Salvation comes when you need it, if you have the nerve to wait. It's the American way.

--- David Runciman
The London Review of Books
21 March 2013

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