Thursday, May 17, 2007

a whole world out of view

Deforestation: The Hidden Cause of Global Warming
The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.
Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.
Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change,” said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.

Eco-system consumption is a fragile, ephermeal way to exist. If the Earth were an egg, she would be ready to hatch soon, the protein is almost gone, but in fact the Earth is not an egg.

Sitting in the room where I type this out, I cannot sense these changes directly. My lamps still glow, pencils, pens, papers and books are strewn about, just as they were last year. The air supply, if it is thinner, is thinner in a way I cannot detect. Things are just so in my created environment, my personal space.

Yet I have developed a internal model, which reflects my belief that this world is bounded not just by surface area, but by growing dead zones. I reflect it to you, the reader, and sometimes it is reflected back to me and I learn.

Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, (Charles) Moore had altered Alguita’s course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre. This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. “The doldrums,” sailors called it, and they steered clear. [...]
As Alguita glided through the area that scientists now refer to as the “Eastern Garbage Patch,” Moore realized that the trail of plastic went on for hundreds of miles. Depressed and stunned, he sailed for a week through bobbing, toxic debris trapped in a purgatory of circling currents. To his horror, he had stumbled across the 21st-century Leviathan. It had no head, no tail. Just an endless body.

Despite my concerns about the world at large,

it seems to me in this moment that I am not affected by the sand thickening through Beijing every Springtime. Mud tack in Brazil, stomped by grazing cattle is not a problem to worry about when a quality burger, fries and milkshake can be had for ten dollars keep the change. Certainly the lack of frogs and lizards croaking merrily in my neighborhood could be replaced with high quality recordings of happy frogs from some earlier era, perhaps back in the twentieth century.

Yes, for me, times seem as good as always, because no one has bothered to take the billboards down yet, which would surely reveal the missing chunks of our world. I can still go to the ballpark and smell fresh cellulosic ethanol feedstock while I enjoy a petro-dog. The good life.

For many Americans, that is what it is.

"Oh, gas prices are up, citizen, but I'm scared of the darkies, gas prices are nothing to worry about, they'll go down, they always do."

Thinking about the world unseen takes effort. Once the necessary effort has been expended, the destruction is obvious. Realization cannot be unrealized.

An interesting question for the average American to consider is why is a world that is slowly dying so hard to find represented in the media. All is well is the message desired.

Rip down the billboards of distraction and gaze into the slums that lie beyond.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Sunday, May 13, 2007


Monday, May 07, 2007

- and he built a carbon house -

Considering trees as feedstock for liquid fuel is an excellent thought clarifier. Many people who would happily burn a stalk of corn to or two in order to roll their monkey wagon a few centimeters down the road are not so sanguine when trees are considered for the same purpose. I mean, it is worth a pause for most of us. A wooden chair is one thing, a heap of ash another.

And yet, outside today, trees are serving as feedstock for global warming. Weakened by years of drought, gnawed at by beetles and other infestious critters of nature, they finally burn and burn. A funeral pyre stacked high, flame chewing the corpse of centuries.

Some experts worry that the widespread damage may be part of a vast ecological shift in response to warming temperatures. "As the climate is changing, these ecosystems are rearranging themselves," said Dr. Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey in New Mexico. "Massive forest die-back is one way these systems will reassemble."

On the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, where climate warming has been especially dramatic, nearly four million contiguous acres of white spruce trees have been killed by spruce bark beetles. In British Columbia, the beetle has killed more than 10 million acres of trees, doubling in each of the last four years.

In such soon to be temperate northern climates, one can imagine and predict that southern trees will migrate north, looking for work, singing their Okie songs. Seedlings will spring up in the decaying trunks of their stately, yet obsolete, cousins.

More ominously - - in the hotter climes of China, the United States or Australia - - Dust Bowl country will rule. The trees, houses and roads will be heaped with sand, in some places simply freed from long rest under a crust of turf. Desertification.

And what should be done with the hapless carbon stalks in those parts? Burn it or let burn?


Dead wood from a dying ecosystem is more valuable to the globe stacked high as timber than burned for fuel. It is more valuable carefully interred in solid form than if it is left to rot and decay in place.

It should be taken as some evidence of a twisted pathology on a global scale that “we” as a human race are cutting down forests we do actually need, whilst letting broken down old forests simply twist and burn in the summer wind.

Something brilliant should be done in the face of our in-progress long emergency. The chainsaws must be called out of Brazil and Indonesia to come take down the wood which is in the kill zone of ongoing drought, not for fuel, but as a precious store of non-atmospheric carbon.

It’s not enough by itself, by any stretch, but I’m getting tired of sipping tea as I write my diatribes, all the while watching the global climate engine tilt into the red. Yeah, I’m really freaking glad we’re all ”talking honestly” about global warming now, and I’m touched that peak oil is “on the radar”, but the consequences of studied inaction are Katrina-real, an F-5 to the puss, five dollah gasoline by the fourth of july (there is my provincialism again) and so it goes.

At the end of this century, if our grandchildren can build a wooden house, a carbon construct, out of thoughtfully harvested and stored Pinion pine, well and good. Perhaps even chic. On the obverse, a house built from sugar cane stalks seems like a dumb idea, but weeds and drowned coastlines may be all that is left if the outer bands of stupidity continue to be heavily traveled.