Can’t See The Forest

trees in the fog“We wipe out whatever is complex and other and difficult to manage, and replace it with nice, easy farms and plantations full of monocultures of pigs and corn and wheat and palm oil. We like things nice and simple and symmetrical and easy to control, that’s the problem.”
~ Bibi van der Zee

Reporter Jim Robbins quotes a recent study that noted, “… a growing number of influential scientists and conservationists think protecting half of the planet in some form is key to keeping it habitable … it’s not only species that are at risk, however. The myriad life-support functions that these species and ecosystems provide also are threatened — everything from clean water and air, flood control and climate regulation, food, and a host of other services.”

“Moreover, some scientists are concerned that the face of the globe has been so altered that the global ecosystem could be near a tipping point that would disrupt the climate and biological systems that sustain life and cause widespread — and perhaps disastrous — environmental instability.”

We debate the use of coal that brought us the industrial revolution and provided power, jobs, goods and the means to expand our civilization. We decry the current reliance on oil and gas while we drive relentlessly and heat our spaces to comfort levels. We struggle with obesity and the lack of physical exercise while we maintain an international agricultural industry that caters to our wants and not our needs. Everything we do seems to work against our better selves.

However, some people take climate change seriously. For those that do, it seems that our options are cumbersome and not really achievable. Do we really have to give up good food, heating and lighting our spaces and driving? Well, we really are finding ways to improve things.

“On the one hand, huge amounts of energy are going into reforesting the world … But the ancient forests, the original, complex, messy forests, continue to disappear.” Bibi van der Zee continues by quoting Tim Rayden of the Oxford Forestry Institute, “There is a big difference between tree cover and forests. Plantations, which are harvested every 10 years or more regularly, are very much less effective than tropical forests at capturing carbon.”

Duncan Nielsen has identified, “Urban settings are becoming more and more dense, increasing demand for fresh food that isn’t shipped in from farmland miles away.” He observes that one solution is the expansion of urban gardens, and notes that in urban Paris, “… a major rooftop farm is sprouting. Twenty gardeners will tend to 30 different kinds of plants to produce heaps of organic, nutrient-rich vegetables for the community and adjacent food establishments … the innovative aeroponic design grows produce without the use of pesticides or soil, and a closed-circuit watering system eliminates contaminates. Plants climb vertical trellises and absorb water and liquified nutrients via mist.”

The rise of urban gardens of all sorts counters the loss of agricultural lands. Richard Conniff observes, “Abandonment of rural lands has become one of the most dramatic planet-wide changes of our time, affecting millions of square miles of land. Partly it’s a product of rural flight, and the economic, social, and educational appeal of cities. Partly it’s about larger forces like climate change and globalization of the food supply chain.”

A recent study reported by Conniff, “… termed land abandonment ‘an unprecedented opportunity for ecological restoration efforts to help to mitigate a sixth mass extinction and its consequences for human wellbeing.”’ He notes, “ … that a massive program to plant trees and grow them to maturity ‘could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere … to levels last seen almost a century ago.’”

Lloyd Alter writes, “planting trees could be a ‘mind-blowing’ solution to climate change, the best available method of carbon capture and storage. Now scientists have put two and two together and come up with four measures, including reducing the land area devoted to livestock and planting it with trees.”

They also call for reducing emissions and an international food strategy changing the world’s diets away from beef. He continues, “So it is a double-whammy where you reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering our reliance on meat, along with maximizing the growth of native vegetation and trees.”

Beans are on the menu.
“Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
Beans are good for every meal.

Beans, beans are good for the heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
So have some beans at every meal.”
~ Unknown (but kudos to my dad, Ken Tarlton)

Additional information:
Lloyd Alter, Scientists Call for More Trees, Fewer Cows, to Restore Climate, December 12, 2019, TreeHugger Daily News
Richard Conniff, Could Abandoned Agricultural Lands Help Save the Planet?, December 10, 2019, YaleEnvironment360
Duncan Nielsen, The World’s Largest Urban Garden is Opening Next Year in Paris, August 16, 2019, Dwell
Jim Robbins, Salvation or Pipe Dream? A Movement Grows to Protect Up to Half the Planet, February 13, 2020, YaleEnvironment360
Bibi van der Zee, Planting Trees is Only A Good News Story if it’s Done Right, December 25, 2019 The Guardian

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