Sunday, November 09, 2008

Overlooked Solutions

Keeping to the "common sense" theme of the last couple of posts, I came across this article today. Paraphrasing, it seems that scientists have discovered that a type of volcanic rock, peridotite, has strong CO2 sequestering potential. Now, I am in favor of carbon sequestration as one part of managing our emissions, however it would seem that perhaps common sense has once again been ignored.

Why do I say this? Well do a little search engine wandering and look at all the various solutions presented to deal with the greenhouse gas quandary. How many times do you see forests mentioned?

Forests are the planet`s lungs, it`s atmospheric filter. Forests are what altered pre-human atmospheric conditions to the modern state which supports our lives, and so many others. Every day they breathe in tons of carbon dioxide and every day they exhale oxygen, which we humans need in order to live. For centuries now, we have been hacking down huge amounts of forest; to burn for heat and to cook, to clear for farmland, to clear for settlement, etc. Indeed, the last big environmental push was the 90`s bid to save the rainforests. Is it just me or did that kind of fizzle out?

Are not vast tracts of rainforest being lost still to clear-cutting for single season pasturage, and more or bigger cities and for roads interlinking them? Are not huge amounts of boreal forest being cut down to service the paper and lumber industries, or to build roads to oil exploitation sites? Has not a huge portion of the Rocky Mountain conifer forest been lost to insects able to thrive thanks to global climate change, be it man-made or solar caused? Have forest fires not increased thanks to a drier climate in western North America? Sadly, I do not have an idea as to the condition of forests in Russia/Siberia, China, Eastern Europe, etc. I would love to see a graph that showed greenhouse gas increases, alongside global de-forestation activity. I bet they line up nicely over the last hundred years.

Furthermore, I bet one would find correlations to freshwater loss or degradation as well.

Now contrast all of these questions with a few other thoughts. Just how much forest acreage is re-planted every year? Re-forestation was implemented 20-40 years ago and second growth forest (and sometimes 3rd growth) is now being harvested in many places. One will notice that the size and quality of timber has decreased in these 2nd and 3rd growth forests. I have my ideas as to the reason for this, however that is off the point of this post. What are the chances that these young forests are "breathing" anywhere near the same quantities of carbon dioxide as their more mature ancestors? I do not actually know the answer to that, but I think I will see if I can find out. Perhaps others should as well.

The common sense, albeit perhaps only partial, solution that I see here is simple. Get off our asses and plant trees. Do everything we can to slow the cutting of our forests. Create green jobs oriented around developing and strengthening our forests, instead of around exploiting them. Clearing brush to protect from forest fires also provides a fantastic source of compost, natural gas and hot water. Of course we can still use wood, we just need to do it a whole lot smarter. Use wood where it makes sense, and not where it makes sense to use something else. Recycle lumber. Burn smarter, research rocket stoves, thermoelectric stove fans and high efficiency furnaces. And start growing industrial hemp!! LOTS of it. The seeds are some of the best food available to us, and the fibres also some of the best available to us. Develop industrial hemp plantations in de-forested regions where the trees are not returning. Be sure these plantations are as ecologically beneficial, or at least neutral, as possible. Recycle lumber. Form small salvage and reclamation teams that help others tear down old buildings, and then share the salvaged lumber amongst yourselves...or sell it. Find out when your local theatre company is trashing their sets and salvage lumber. The professional companies often have lots to scrap after the closing of shows. Support local woodlots and small scale mills. Recycle lumber.

Sure, let`s look at new ways to sequester carbon (I would love to see carbon sequestered as carbon fibre in farm implements, for example, however let`s think a lot more before trying to compress CO2 into underground caverns as it has not always worked so well with natural gas) but please let`s not ignore the solutions that nature devised all on its own, simply because we are addicted to some of the products they contain.

Just some things to consider.

Peace to all.


Theresa said...

Good point - trees are good for us in so many ways. We planted about 25 on our land this year - they are small still, and some won't make it, but we will plant about that many again next year. We're focusing on fruit trees for the next while, as well as some of the spruce and aspen that are native to this area. There's nothing as hopeful as a tree :)

Dan said...

I honestly believe that trees will play a huge part in our strategy to slow, and eventually reverse, the effects of climate change.

In spite of all the talk about Carbon Capture and Storage(CCS) technology the truth is that technology is still a long way off.

The only proven technology for removing carbon dioxide from the air is plants and trees. It will take billions of trees to absorb the excess carbon we have placed into the atmosphere so lets get busy.

SoapBoxTech said...

Glad to hear it, Theresa. Might I suggest looking into nut trees as well? My family was never too into trying to grow trees on our farm when I was growing up, for various reasons. I sure wish I had a way to hang onto the land and fix that.

Dan, thanks for reading and jumping in. You're so right. Get planting, brother!

Theresa said...

Do you have any suggestions for nut trees Soapbox? We planted a couple black walnut, but one died and they are apparently not that cold hardy. The Urban Farmer recommended pine trees for pine nuts, but he said that you're planting for your grandchildren doing that, which is fine, but I wouldn't mind a yield of something a bit sooner. I've also thought of sea buckthorn bushes - apparently these are the only berries that are high in Omega 3 oils.

SoapBoxTech said...

Theresa, you may find this site and company interesting:

I generally see Black Walnut listed as one of the hardier nut trees. Mr V's also suggests Bur Oak, Butternut, Hazelnut and American Buckeye.

I loved what you said about there being nothing as hopeful as a tree...I tend to agree. I just love forests, always have.