A very useful parable

horse shit by jaycross
SuperFreakonomics and the “parable of horseshit”

[Via CEJournal]

In a review of the book in The New Yorker, she starts with what she calls a “parable” of malodorous patties. It’s the story of “horsecars” that once plied the byways of New York City on iron rails. This early form of mass transportation became wildly popular — too much so:

By 1880, there were at least a hundred and fifty thousand horses living in New York, and probably a great many more. Each one relieved itself of, on average, twenty-two pounds of manure a day, meaning that the city’s production of horse droppings ran to at least forty-five thousand tons a month. George Waring, Jr., who served as the city’s Street Cleaning Commissioner, described Manhattan as stinking “with the emanations of putrefying organic matter.”

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She also notices something that others have seen:

To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that “SuperFreakonomics” takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.

[Listening to: Precious and Grace from the album “The ZZ Top Six Pack” by ZZ Top]