SATIRE–The Capybara Highway for a Greener America

BY RYAN MONTAGNA

Satire- (noun), the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to discuss contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Over the last few decades, the topic of global climate change has been constantly present in the national discourse. As organizations such as the EPA and the United Nations have continued to publish increasingly dire reports on the state of the global climate, lawmakers in the US and the international community have championed a worldwide effort to combat climate change before the damage it causes becomes irreparable. The 2015 Paris Climate Accords were heralded as a monumental step towards the kind of drastic action many suggest will be necessary to halt or reverse the process of global warming. President Donald Trump subsequently withdrew the United States from that agreement by calling it unfair to highly industrialized nations. Now, in 2019, freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed her Green New Deal as a course of drastic action that should be taken to reduce the nation’s contribution to climate change. The Green New Deal proposes, among other things, that we should reduce the number of methane producing, environmentally harmful cows, become less reliant on pollution spewing airplanes, and upgrade every building in the United States with “green” technology to reduce their environmental impact. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal provided me with a stroke of tree-hugging inspiration, and I have devised an ingenious solution which would be easy to implement while still reducing our collective environmental footprint: a nationwide initiative to encourage Americans to forgo cars and trucks in favor of riding enormous rodents to get to work and do their grocery shopping. The capybara, a close relative of the guinea pig and native to South America, is the world’s largest type of rodent. The widespread use of capybaras for food and transportation would help the environment by reducing the methane produced by farm animals, providing a less polluting form of transportation, and reducing infrastructure costs.

Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it contributes to global warming significantly. Somewhat surprisingly, cattle produce enough methane through gas expulsion that they are seen to play a key role in the worsening of global warming. Contrary to popular belief, and perhaps to the disappointment of many comedians, burping, rather than flatulence, is the primary source of bovine-produced methane.  However, this is not easily remedied, as over 120 billion pounds of beef were consumed globally in 2016. What is needed is a livestock animal which can provide great amounts of food without producing harmful methane. Enter the capybara.

Capybara 1

The capybara, like other rodents, possesses a digestive system which causes it to be physically incapable of burping. At around 4 feet in length and weighing about 110 pounds, it obviously cannot match the size of beef cattle; however, modern genetic modification techniques make its enlargement a comparatively simple task. Of course, there are those who won’t relish the idea of chowing down on a nice, juicy ‘bara burger, but they can find comfort in the fact that capybara meat is already considered a key source of protein in some areas of South America. An added benefit is to be had with regards to the animal’s skin, the grease from which is reportedly used in the pharmaceutical trade. Thought it is capable of solving the dilemma posed by bovine methane production, the capybara is such as useful animal that its potential utility is not limited to merely serving as a source of food.

Capybara 2

Though the idea of cows warming the planet via their bodily emissions is admittedly amusing, the capybara could also provide a solution to a more prevalent factor contributing to climate change: automobiles. As was previously stated, it is biologically incapable of burping, rendering its potential effects on the environment inconsequential, especially in comparison to our fossil-fuel producing vehicles. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, widespread capybara transit would have numerous indirect benefits as well. Even with genetic enlargement, a capybara sufficiently large to carry an adult male would likely weigh less than the average automobile, reducing strain on roadways and bridges. Furthermore, the need for paved roads could be eliminated entirely via the construction of a Capybara Highway of dirt and other materials to allow efficient riding from place to place in the way the interstate highway system is currently utilized. This leads to another, perhaps more significant benefit: the elimination of the possibility of car crashes. Capybaras are incapable of reaching the speeds of modern cars, rendering one of the greatest hazards posed by modern transportation obsolete. They would also reduce housing costs, as car garages would also be rendered obsolete in favor of simple, inexpensive posts to which the animals could be tied. Additionally, capybaras are social animals who have been known to enjoy human contact, meaning that animals not suitable for other purposes would make great family pets. The capybara’s utility as a more environmentally friendly solution to transportation and infrastructure challenges arguably outweighs even its immeasurable potential as a livestock animal.

Capybara 3

While many will understandably be skeptical, the capybara’s utility as both a livestock animal and a “green” means of transportation is undeniable. Many of history’s greatest innovations were initially dismissed or met with suspicion by the public. The threat posed by climate change requires just such an innovation if humanity is to survive for future generations. It is my sincere belief that the capybara fits this description perfectly, and is the ideal instrument for carrying out Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s grand vision for the future of our great nation.