Breathing is an important bodily function, and requires our attention come rain or shine. A forgetful slip-up now and then, and it’s goodnight nurse – without the nurse.

And with the world spinning madly out of kilter around us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. Sadly, in many cases what you’re breathing in has the same tragic outcome – even with a nurse – as not breathing at all.

As a result, we at the Duck ’n Fiddle’s Explanation of Everything, were commissioned by the World Health Organisation’s Prevention of Noxious Gasses Survey (WHO-PONGS), to confirm or dispel certain misconceptions regarding pollution, and clear the air, as it were.

Now air, as we all know, fills the gaps between things. We can’t see it, but it’s there. The only time we can see air, is when there’s something floating in it, like smoke, steam or a rainbow. Towering plumes of billowing black carbon monoxide from mining and heavy industry are a dead giveaway and should be avoided by skydivers and paragliders.

In densely industrialised regions, like parts of China, the air is so visible, it cuts out the sunlight altogether. Some teenagers only realise that there is a sun when they run away from home – as all youngsters do sooner or later – or they’re kidnapped and smuggled out as slaves.

One way or another, all of them were totally unaware that trees and grass are actually green, not shades of grey. (This is where the term ‘in search of greener pastures’ comes from – old Chinese proverb.) They discovered that lakes are filled with clear, blue water that doesn’t look anything like the murky mercury back home. They were also astounded by how much air there was, even if they couldn’t see it, taste it or smell it. Some got woozy and fainted happily from the oxygen overload.

But these types of problems around industrial emissions are only one of WHO–PONGS’s concerns. Dangerous air lurks in the most unassuming places, and this is where our research team of elves started their investigation – to study and address the source of the invisible, but pungent increase in the dreaded gas known as methane, found not in the industrial complexes, but in the pristine pastures coating the countryside.

Now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with Daisy, the cuddly cow with the long eyelashes and smiley face who supplies the world with yummy milk and cheese. What a sweatheart. Unfortunately, she is also the main contributor to the foul air conundrum, due to her uncontrollable and continual methane emissions, politely referred to as flatulence. (Lat: flatus, blowing).

Cattle, it seems, are at the bottom of things. According to extensive research already conducted by WHO–PONGS, the flatulence generated in a week by an average cow like Daisy, could float a hot-air balloon with six passengers for four hours.

So, with a sharp eye on the hospitality trade, a few entrepreneurial beef/dairy farmers in New Zealand – who had plenty of the gas required for flight – tried their luck at hot-air ballooning, but it never got off the ground.

Either the outlet from the back of the cow to the balloon would dislodge during the flight and horrify the passengers, or the beast would leap out of the basket immediately and run away in all directions at once.

Anyway, with more cattle than humans in some areas, the density of the methane hovered like an invisible, combustible shroud over the unsuspecting landscape. As part of growing up, many boys will confirm through experimentation that flatulence catches alight, so farmlands are a tonteldoos just waiting to burst into flames.

Vegetarians and vegans are thrilled that this topic is being investigated. Fewer steakhouses and butchers means less beef, which means fewer cows, less methane and less chance of exploding in a fireball during a picnic in the countryside.

However, if cows are to be culled/shot to improve our air quality, a beef/dairy farmers’ consortium has invited any vegetarian/vegan to pull the first trigger. Don’t hold your breath…

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