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  • Mark Shaw

The 2% Effect – Hippos and Governments

Regular readers will be aware of my definition of The 2% Effect – i.e. where rules are written for a small percentage of people who don’t abide by them anyway and the real outcome is the rules simply get in the way of the 98% who didn’t need the rules in the first place.  For more details read

Today on page 22 of my local paper, The Sunday Mail, was an article that in my opinion epitomised The 2% Effect.

It seems a new zoo is being planned for Blacktown, New South Wales and their ambitious quest is to be one of the world’s greenest wildlife parks.  What an admirable goal, one I whole heartily endorse in principle.

But it seems there is a problem; the amount of methane that will be emitted by the 10 antelopes, 8 hippopotamuses and 2 giraffes.  Yes the paper reported that each hippo will emit 46 tonnes each year, followed by the antelopes at 4.2t each and the giraffes at 1.5t each.  That’s a total of 413t of methane per annum from natural causes. Of course because they will live in a man-made zoo (sorry to be political correct, a human-made zoo), I guess it’s accurate to consider this 413t as human-induced and contributing to climate change!

But what is the relative impact of this 413 tonnes on the climate change?  

How big is the actual problem?


s the problem of the 413t business critical or really a minor issue?

By way of comparison, it seems methane production in the USA in 2013 was approximately 620 million tonnes, of which about 1/3 was created by “enteric fermentation”, that’s when methane is produced naturally by cattle, sheep … and hippos

So our proposed zoo in Western Sydney is reportedly so concerned about a naturally occurring “problem” that is about 6/1,000 of 1% of the reported American problem it included the anticipated methane levels in its official environmental impact statement to the NSW government.

This is The 2% Effect at its best!

Let’s consider the facts:

  • It’s a zoo.

  • It will contain a “natural environment”

  • Methane will be generated

  • We are talking about 10 animals

  • We are talking about a tiny-tiny naturally occurring waste product.

Let’s assume the NSW Government is concerned about a human activity that will increase methane.  Great. Let’s make a rule! Now we can measure the proposed new activity (in this case the zoo) by that rule. Based on applying the rule, the zoo will have to find ways to stop the hippo’s producing methane before it can open for business.  Whoops The 2% Effect has occurred.

Let’s apply this logic to your organisation.  How many rules do you have to abide by that are just totally stupid, don’t work for the 2%-ers and simply get in the way of good people trying to do a good job?

I challenge you to reject the basis of such rules.  I challenge you to ask “why do we have this rule?”  “Why can’t we implement a change to the rule so it’s works for the 2%-ers and leaves me alone?”

If you don’t take up this challenge, you may as well be the hippo trying to find a way to stop something that you have been employed to do.  It’s easy to make a rule about methane.  It’s a bit harder to realise that hippos will naturally enteric ferment and instead make a rule that takes that into account. 

It’s up to you to stop allowing your government-equivalent-rule-makers to impose ridiculous rules on your hippo-equivalent colleagues.

Happy 2016.

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