Tag Archives: farming

Silver Linings

As I mentioned in a recent post, some form of deliberate management of our climate is an unavoidable necessity. In reality, that’s what all the talk of reducing emissions is about. If we want to be able to control what impact we have on our climate, emissions reduction will not be enough. We’ve already destabilized things, and there is virtually no chance that they will regain stability on their own.

The key to regulating our climate greenhouse gas levels. An increase in CO2 is what caused the warming, and a significant decrease would at the very least slow it. The problem is that even if we were to cut emissions enough that we’re no longer adding to the problem, we don’t have any technology capable of efficiently pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Fortunately, we don’t need a high-tech solution.

The solution is trees. There’s nothing revolutionary, controversial, or new about saying this; the tree-hugger stereotype is older than I am. As with the basic thermodynamics behind the current warming, the idea behind planting trees is quite simple. Trees are primarily made of water, drawn from the ground, and carbon dioxide, drawn from the air. As long as you have sufficient water, trees will pull carbon dioxide out of the air, and sequester it in themselves.

This same “equation” is also why the clear-cutting (and often burning) of the world’s rainforests is such a problem – all of that carbon, which had been kept in fairly stable storage by the forests – has been added to the atmosphere along with the emissions from fossil fuel use and livestock. Fortunately, that particular smoke cloud has a silver lining.

If – and only if – the world starts to work together to deal with this problem, the one of the first steps could be replanting as much of the cleared rainforest as possible. This would, of course, have to be done while fossil fuel use was phased out, but a new study has indicated that secondary tropical forests absorb carbon faster than the old-growth forests they would be replacing. In other words – a massive, world-wide replanting effort could create a significant dip in atmospheric CO2 levels, slow the warming, and perhaps even slow or stop the various feedback loops that have already started.

In order to get to the point where we could make this scenario a reality, we would have to overcome the current obstacles of politics and greed, so instead I’ll briefly focus on the obstacle of human necessity. While some of the formerly forested land goes to crops like palm oil, a significant portion also goes to growing food, and by the time we get around to planting on a global scale, the number of humans needing to eat will be even greater than it is today. That means that any effort to replant forests will have to come after an arrangement to ensure food supplies for those currently fed by the farms we’d be planting over.

Dealing with this problem would require a more equitable system of food distribution – one concerned with getting food into mouths, rather than money into pockets (though we can’t ignore the latter entirely), but it will also require new methods of food production. If we want to plant trees where farms exist today, and we want to avoid mass starvation on a scale that wasn’t even possible a few decades ago, then we will not be able to maintain the current conventions of farming, industrial or otherwise.

As the climate continues to warm, weather conditions will become less reliable from year to year. When you combine that with a need for food production to take up less space, and an increasing global population, that points in the direction of multi-story indoor farming. Thus far, it’s a concept that has remained largely in the realm of science fiction or unrealized “concept designs”, but we ought to be taking it more seriously. Moving farming indoors is not romantic, and it feels like a step away from everything we know, but as I’ve said before, we’re effectively living on an alien planet, and maybe it’s time for science fiction solutions.


Life, how you DO fill up; and Why Fear is a Bad Motivator for Progress

So for my hundreds of millions of adoring readers, I wish to offer an apology for my serial not-posting, as well as my excuses,  and share a little bit about the philosophy of live that I have begun to develop.

This is relevant to climate change – really!

So a few months ago, I came to the decision that I do NOT wish to pursue a graduate degree at this time, but I would prefer to spend that effort in other areas.

The first area is writing. I’ve got one novel finished and currently on a publisher’s desk, another novel almost finished, three sitting in the wings and prodding me to write them, and a non-fiction book that crawled in through my ear during a phone conversation last week. All that takes rather a lot of time.

The second is direct climate action. The key form this is taking is my involvement with the New Roroyare Climate Action Project, a fledgeling organization  being put together by a group of New England Quakers with the intent of providing land, and eventually money, for research and development of architecture, agriculture, and energy, with climate change adaptation and mitigation in mind and – and here’s the important bit (one of them, anyway) – at a scale achievable by individuals, families, or small communities.

Part of the notion behind this is that the ideologically driven gridlock in the United States federal government means that we can’t afford to wait for federal level action – it’ll take too bloody long (already has taken too bloody long) – so we need to work around the government so long as it is in the pocket of climate polluters.

With that in mind, I am also delighted to be serving as environmental policy advisor for the campaign for state rep of Mike Connolly in my home district. Mike is running on a independent progressive platform emphasizing the problems inherent in the influence of money in politics. As such, he is refusing to take one cent in campaign contributions, and is running a very low budget operation. Most of the campaign is taking place through volunteer efforts, the only major expense being the website. You CAN, however, go to the website and donate $0.00 in support.

Mike is focused on a few different issues important to the citizens of Massachusetts, but the one that he brought me on board for is climate change, and more specifically, state and local-level policy on climate change. What this means for me, right now, is a lot of research into what has been done, what has never been done, and what can be done.

And that brings me to the philosophy portion of this tirade:

The notion of what can be done, and how the source of our motivations influences our view of what is or is not possible. Continue reading

Getting around obstacles

One of the great frustrations for climate activists is the appalling behavior of the United States government. After over a century of science, and decades of warnings and discussion, we still have elected officials using biblical quotes to justify inaction.

No really.

Notice he calls it a “theological” debate, when talking about the merits of carbon in the atmosphere.

It’s not hard to despair, especially when it’s quite clear that without government action, little of significance will be done. It’s an issue that bugs me, and will continue to do so for as long as it exists. It’s entirely clear that the government will not move fast enough. If they were going to, they would have started years ago.

So, that leaves us with the question of what WE can do. How can we work on climate change as citizens who, statistically, control a tiny portion of this country’s material resources?
Continue reading