Saturday, May 12, 2007

Your little World: link to a parable.

So how much of the planet are you actually responsible for? How much of
this whole problem is your fault. In a recent post over at Gristmill Michael
Tobis give us a little parable titled My little world
(and yours, too)
that explains what your share of the planet really is.
"Imagine, as a thought experiment, that everyone on the planet
had the same share of the world's resources. It turns out your share is about
six acres (2.5 hectares) of dry land. ....................... Let's tell
a slightly different story, with a similar asteroid, a per-capita world.
Instead of being one of six billion people on a big planet, let's suppose
you were alone on a comparable asteroid. We'll give you your six-billionth
share of the surface area, your six-billionth share of each of the major
land masses and biomes, your own six billionth scale Africa, your own little
Australia. In other words, you will have exactly the average resource ownership
of everyone else on earth. Your little asteroid has a six billionth of the
earth's total surface area. It is a sphere with a radius of 82 meters, and
with a surface area of about 85,000 square meters. That, depending on how
you prefer to think about it, is almost exactly 21 acres, or 8.5 hectares.
In more urban terms, that is 19 American football fields, or about 12 English
football (professional soccer) fields. Just over 70 percent of your 21 acres
is covered by salt water. If it were to freeze over, you could walk from
any point to any other point at a leisurely pace in under ten minutes. Since
the ocean covers fifteen acres, the land surface covers the remaining six
acres. A vast variety of soils and climates are arrayed about your 6 dry
acres. According to the CIA, the area under cultivation is a bit under 5
percent of the total land area, or a bit over a third of an acre. If you
push matters to less valuable soil, you might be able to grow things on as
much as an acre, but most of your 6 acres are desert or tundra........"

Well, you get the idea. Your fair share of the farmland on the world is
about an acre. Since you are reading this on a computer that means that you,
or some proxy for you, has forcibly booted about a dozen other people off
their little planets in order to provide you with luxury goods. Yes food
in the fridge and clean cotton clothing are luxuries. I highly recommend
that you go over and read the whole story and visit Michael's blog, "Only in it for the Gold."

Put it back.

If you're anything like me you're a little tired of bad news on the climate front. In the last two weeks Greensburg Kansas was leveled by a rare F5 tornado, wildland fires raged in Georgia, Florida and California, tropical storm Andrea showed up two weeks before the start of hurricane season and Australian announced that their farmers would get no irrigation water. Honeybees are mysteriosly disapearing from thier hives and not returning.

The planet is not dying; the planet is largely a pile of rock. The biosphere, that thin little film of life that you live in; that is dying. The IPCC, Al Gore, the US Congress and the European Union think that if we cut emissions by 80% by 2050 things should be ok. They seem to think that those changes will cost an average of $10 US for every living person. Just $10; ignoring the fact that 1/3 of the worlds population on a dollar a day or less.

That's bullshit. The atmophere and the oceans cannot sustain existing ecosystems with the CO2 levels in the atmosphere now. Adding more greenhouse gases for another fourty years is not going to help matters at all. In the coming months you will hear repeated stories about war, hurricanes, disease, drought, species extinction, heat storms, dust storms and god knows what else caused by climate change. Your life is truly in danger no matter where you live.

There is a ray of hope. We have all the technology to have comfortable lives without polluting the atmosphere further. Some things will have to go. I think jet aircraft will cease to be a means of normal travel. Automobiles will have to go electric but the roads they drive on will be in bad shape. Houses and businesses can be made comfortable using solar power and geo-exchange heating and cooling. Food can be grown locally and luxury items can be shipped by sail and rail. We get to keep the net and cable tv.

The most important thing is that we can take that carbon back. All the CO2 that we put in the air can be put back in the ground as charcoal. The process is called Terra Preta, named for the Amazonian dark earths that were found to be packed with charcoal. Naative peoples long dead, people using tools of wood and stone, have taught us how to put our carbon back in the ground.

That's what this blog will focus on. Putting the carbon back into the ground. We all will become aware of this as the years pass and our children's children for a hundred generations will have to help clean up our mess but it can be done. We can put the carbon back.