Oh Crap.

Inconvienent Truth and other studies from the past decade drew the publics attention to the ever rising amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, and most recent numbers put The Limit of catastrophic CO2 concentrations at the 400ppm level.  But this recent (ok its 3 weeks old) column in the Washington Post drops that number significantly.

Research shows 350 parts per million is as much as the atmosphere can tolerate without dire consequence. We’re at 383.

Fighting our way out of this mess just got allot harder.  Time to get busy living or get busy dying.

Be the Change!


Masdar City

While the story of a completely Green City in the heart of the Persian Gulf has been surfacing periodically over the past several years, the release of much more concrete plans is  a great sign that significant steps are being made.  According to the article on ENN today, the government of Abu Dhabi is hoping to break ground early this year!

Why is this so exciting?  Look at the design goals:

  • Zero Carbon Emissions
  • Zero Waste (99% diversion from landfills)
  • Zero Car
  • Oodles of Social Justice goals like: HEALTH AND HAPPINESS Facilities and events for every demographic group

Too good to be true?  Time will tell, but the auspicious goals are incredible.   How long until we, “The Greatest Nation on Earth”, can take a similar leadership role in this Greatest Challenge of our age?


Building Soils to Save the Planet

Last year when I was reading through the Scientific Amercian Articles about Climate Change Solutions, and again in Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, I was stunned by the carbon emissions from agriculture. I understood the simple logic of the implications with cutting/burning trees for ag land, but they were referring to regular existing Ag Land. After mulling it over while reading/watching, I got distracted and never really gave it much more thought.

Now I am reading more books about soil fertility, and other tid bits of info are coming back to me. Like I read somewhere that most depleted soils worldwide are carbon, not nitrogen limited as most commonly thought. And then there is the carbon sequestration aspects that are mentioned in the arguments for Switchgrass Ethanol. In Building Soils for Better Crops, the authors mix in alot of sustainability into their soil talk- no aspect of our lives can afford to be treated in a vacuum. Part of that is getting more in detail about the placement of soils in the Global Carbon Cycle.

According to the authors, there is more carbon stored in soil (soil will mean the top 6″ in this post), than in all plants, animals, and the atmosphere. They make a great example that makes is very accessible: there is as much carbon in a soil with 1% organic matter than there is in the entire atmosphere above that acre. There is about 2,000,000 pounds of soil in the top 6″ of an acre, so 1% of that is about 10 tons. Here is the kicker, most soil on undisturbed Prairie had organic matter in the 10-12% range. After a century of tilling it is down to about 2%. The authors don’t do this math, but to me, it is a safe assumption that for every acre of prairie “busted” in the last century we put 90 tons of carbon into the air. We have 349,000,000 acres of crop land, using the math ( I realize we are compounding any errors in the earlier examples but focus on scale not specifics) we have emitted 31,410,000,000 tons of carbon just from Ag Land. This is where the despair comes in.

I hate despair. I don’t have time to be depressed, so I immediately start looking for solutions. That incredibly daunting math in the above paragraph can work in reverse. While Big Coal panders about trying to find way to sequester carbon from their electric plants with some other Huge Industrial Idea, Nature has already created a perfect system: in her own plants.

This is where it gets exciting for me. Our cropland is currently near death and on chemical life support, primarily due to the lack of organic materials in the soils. For every 1% of organic material we add back into an acre of soil we save 10 tons of Carbon, while also significantly increasing the productivity of the land for food production. And the best ways to get organic material back into the land? Sustainable Ag practices: crop rotations with sod forming cover crops, reduced tilling, composting, and applications of animal manures instead of nitrogen derived from natural gas. Basically turn the clock back 60 years and call a “Do Over”.

I’ve read that if we converted every farm east of the Missouri River to the farming practices of Joel Salatin we would remove as much carbon as we emit every year. That seems a little far fetched, but it is safe to say we have at our finger tips the ability to significantly increase the quality and quantity of our food production while simultaneously reducing our Carbon emissions to a huge degree.

Maybe all the answers to life can be found in a Garden!



Whew! Looking at the comment storm from today, apparently I need to get internet access at work!

First off, thanks for keeping the discussion from becoming an argument, which is very, very easy when discussing core values.

Allot of good points were made. Personally, I side much more with E4 and Matt, but that is not overly surprising as we have discussed this matter a bunch this past year. We need to lead by example on this one and our consumption is driving China’s emissions. It is cold fact that we are exporting our pollution. If all the Cheap Plastic Crap that LA consumes was produced in their valley, the air would be unbreathable.

Jonolan, I agree with you in so far as that a growing population has a right to a high quality of life, but I will agree to disagree with you that that quality of life entails emissions at the current rate of the developed world. We have the technology today to provide very high quality food, transportation, and structures with drastically less impact than is currently the norm in the First World. True Global Leadership will push the world in that direction. That leadership may end up coming from a mass grass roots movement as Matt and the representative from New Guinea suggest.

I also contest your assertion that helping the 3rd and 4th worlds achieve their basic human needs has no impact on the environment. If my children are starving I will do WHATEVER it takes to get them food, so would you, so would any of us. I will burn forests, destroy wetlands, or start wars. Until we have basic human rights-and I consider having enough shelter, food and clean water to feed your children a Human Right-we will never have a Sustainable Society.

The motto of this blog is Being the Change. That means on the individual level to begin acting on your convictions to model the way that you wish the world to be. If you believe something to be Right; to be Good, then act in a way to Make It So.
Each of us has the power to make a difference. This is not a partisan issue. It is the defining crisis of our time.

The technology exists. The wealth exists. The only item lacking is political will to make the change before we lose our generation’s window of opportunity.


What we can learn from Papua New Guniea

Following the Bali Meetings this week has been tough-mostly because no major news source is giving it the time of day in America, when there are soooo many absolutely vital news stories to be covered here in the US.

Which is why we have Blog Rolls.  Strategies for Sustainability is written by Georges, a graduate of the Swedish Masters Program in Sustainability and has loads of really well thought through things to say.  Here is an excerpt from an excerpt from his blog relating us with some High Points from the final hours of the meetings:

And then the moment of truth: India presented the alternative text from the G-77+China. The essential point about this alternative text is that it takes into account “differences in national circumstances” amongst developing countries.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, let the other shoe drop. “We support the proposal made by….India.” …Even the Saudis rose to say they could live with the G-77 text.

And then it was the turn of the United States. Assistant Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, with only the absolute bare minimum of diplomatic language, stated flatly that the United States rejected the changes. It was not prepared to accept the G-77 text.

Then occurred one of the most remarkable sounds that has perhaps ever been heard in the annals of international diplomacy–like a collective global groan–descending then to a murmur, then increasing in volume to a full-throated expression of rage and anger and booing and jeering, lasting for a full minute, so that finally the Minister had to call the meeting back to order.

(The Americans, with almost unspeakable rudeness, issued invitations to the next ‘major economies meeting’ on the first day of the Bali COP. Sort of like making a big show of announcing your engagement while at someone else’s wedding.)

Casting all diplomatic niceties to the winds, the representative from Papua New Guinea stood up and said: “if you’re not willing to lead, please get out of the way.”

Now if the American citizenry can just find the inclination to say the same!


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