Friday, September 5, 2008

How Earth Friendly Are Your Pets?

Keeping really way-out-there-types of exotic pets really make great conversation pieces, but what if the upkeep of their “life support system” makes their carbon footprint larger than your entire household. Are they still worth it to keep?

By: Vanessa Uy

There had been rumors spread around the hobby aquarist’s world of an eccentric IT billionaire who has the world’s most far-out aquarium that replicates the environmental conditions found at the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench or similar abyssal zone / hadal zone marine ecosystem. This IT billionaire “hobby aquarist” was rumored to have kept several breeding pairs of abyssopelagic / hadal zone flatfishes native to those depths. Down there, the water pressure averages around seven tons per square inch. I don’t know about you, but power required to run an aquarium like that could probably run a typical suburban neighborhood. Never mind the electric bill that could regularly go through the roof. An aquarium like this is even probably too expensive to set-up in some communities in the United States.

The issue of drastically minimizing one’s carbon footprint in order to mitigate the environmentally destructive effects of global warming can become somewhat contentious when the time comes in auditing your beloved pets own carbon footprint. After seeing first hand a hobby that’s been slowly gaining popularity in the past 25 years – keeping tree frogs in your home terrarium – makes me wonder that if we don’t restrain our carbon-intensive lifestyles, we’ll be condemning these creatures to extinction. Tree frogs that are native to tropical rainforests will probably be only be found in domestic terrariums in future decades since global warming caused by our unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions will certainly alter the native environment of these tree frogs to a point that they can no longer survive there.

In highly urbanized areas, folks under 30 are likely to have grown up never ever seeing a fish swimming in its native pond. The giant aquarium found in their local community center is probably their only memory of the natural world. All of this had come to a point of cognitive dissonance where replicating and maintaining these creatures native habitats in our homes is slowly – but inexorably – destroying the ever shrinking patches of these creature’s native habitat. Is it now high time to reevaluate our pet obsession? Or do we wait for the inevitable extinction, which its arrival will be heralded when the commonest tropical fresh water fish and even the most mundane tree frog will be retailing for several thousands of dollars each.

Pets as Best Friends: Better Than People?

Despite sounding overtly callous, do pets make better best friends than people because they can neither throw wise cracks at you nor verbally abuse you?

By: Vanessa Uy

Probably many had said their views regarding this somewhat perennially thorny issue time and time again. As a pet owner doing fly-on-the-wall-style observations on other pet owners, the best thing about – if not the only thing – keeping pets and lavishing enough money on them to send someone growing in a third-world country through college is that your pet can never say anything bad about you.

This might serve as a consolation for anyone whose hobbies include cross-dressing like the late and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, or the former mayor of New York City Rudi Giuliani. Even the mouthiest Chihuahua can easily pass muster the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Some pets are even pampered by their hedgefund billionaire owners to the point that their pets acquire a carbon footprint rivaling that of a typical Indian Air Force ace combat pilot. Yet many still wonder if the pet care / pet accessories industry has been lucrative enough in single-handedly keep our ailing global economy afloat?

First of all, it’s not easy to resist the cute and cuddliness factor of de rigeur pets such as cats and dogs and the “novelty factor” of more exotic pets like brightly colored species of iguanas. Our worldwide pet obsession has even spawned a black-market industry in the trade of animals that belong in the endangered species list. Even dangerous wild animals that are practically unsuitable as pets – like highly venomous snakes, big cats like lions and tigers are still routinely traded on-line by unscrupulous hucksters despite the crackdown by the wildlife trade regulatory agencies.

The appeal of owning pets is even bolstered by recent studies that even the most common type of pets – cats and dogs – both have therapeutic properties to their owners by relieving stress and lowering one’s blood pressure. Proving yet once again that humanity always has an inexplicable link to the animal world.