Don't have a cow


The folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium named their new exhibit about climate change “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea.” With the help of humor, a hopeful tone and charismatic animals such as penguins and jellyfish, exhibit planners hoped to get visitors talking about the contentious topic of how too much carbon dioxide is changing the atmosphere. There were interactive exhibits, including a woman standing inside a washing machine who touted using cold water to save energy. A helpful frying pan explained that vegetarian meals were a smart choice these days, while a refrigerator offered advice about buying local produce. But not everything was having fun: One black-and-white dairy cow appeared to be suffering an identity crisis. The hapless beast was fitted out with a gas mask because it was distressed by the methane that it and its colleagues around the world are burping into the atmosphere. The cow was not entirely unselfish in its motives: It also urged visitors to eat less beef and dairy. It offered other advice as well, suggesting that farmers start using cow patties to make alternative energy. On the aquarium’s blog,, the exhibit was described as being “all about starting the conversation around a difficult topic,” but the resulting conversation featured some bellyaching, with critics complaining that the aquarium maligned cows by using inaccurate statistics about their methane output. How come cows have to take the rap for global warming while gas-guzzling cars and polluting industries got a pass? they demanded. And so on. “We will be avoiding the aquarium until that Cow is down!” concluded one visitor.

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