This is the World Organic News for the week ending 24th of August 2020.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
This week we’re going on a 30,000 foot overview.
As some of you may know I’m currently back at Uni, studying for a Diploma in Sustainable Living. This is twenty five years after my Bachelor’s Degree where I double majored in archaeology. It’s been fun so far but.
There’s one unit entitled: Humans: Earth Shapers. As anyone who’s done any archaeology will know, that’s what humans do. To be fair, all species change their local environments. We, one species, just happen to be on all the continents and we’re armed with technology!
The point I’m getting to is this. In an intro lecture, the carbon dioxide levels during glacial and interglacial periods was described. The point being that over time the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere can be pretty directly correlated with the amount of ice coverage on the planet. Low levels of CO2 means more ice and the converse is true too. The interesting point made was this: the amount of change in CO2 levels between the coldest and the warmest periods is the amount we’ve added since about 1750. That would be fine, maybe, if we were in a cold period but we weren’t and aren’t. So from the bottom of the curve 12,000 years ago at the end of the pleistocene to now, 10 to 12,000 years into the Holocene the CO2 levels are now double what they were at the same time after every other glacial period for the past 800,000 years. This the number that absent chills down my spine.
I knew things were crook when I saw an interview with a farmer years back. He said they used to start silage cutting in the first week of November when his father ran the property. He now starts at the end of August, ten weeks earlier. Remember this is in the southern hemisphere and August has a reputation for being the coldest month of the year.
I knew things were getting crooker, (that’s a word now) when I saw the temperature records from a wine company based in Victoria. These records date back 130 odd years. In the records were recorded time of harvests, atmospheric temperatures at harvest as well as rainfall and so on. The temperatures at harvest remained fairly static until 30-40 years ago when they started to rise and they appeared to be rising increasing more quickly. So worrying was this trend, the wine company purchased land and set up vineyards here in Tasmania. Tasmania for those who don’t know is the tiny little island to the south of the Australian mainland, pretty much below Victoria. It is where I currently call home.
Then Friday I noticed an article from the guardian posted by one of my sisters to social media: Greenland ice sheet lost a record 1m tonnes of ice per minute in 2019, link in the show notes.
The Greenland ice sheet lost a record amount of ice in 2019, equivalent to a million tonnes per minute across the year, satellite data shows.
The climate crisis is heating the Arctic at double the rate in lower latitudes, and the ice cap is the biggest single contributor to sea level rise, which already imperils coasts around the world. The ice sheet shrank by 532bn tonnes last year as its surface melted and glaciers fell into the ocean and would have filled seven Olympic-sized swimming pools per second.
If you cast your minds back to that dim memory we all have of the time BC (before Covid) You’ll remember, I hope, how the mainland of Australia suffered through the biggest bushfire season since white colonisation.
As of 9 March 2020, the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres; 186,000 square kilometres; 72,000 square miles), destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 33 people.[b] Nearly three billion terrestrial vertebrates alone – the vast majority being reptiles – were affected and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction. At its peak, air quality dropped to hazardous levels in all southern and eastern states.
And just to make sure we’re all on the same page and keeping the same score sheet, this post from the 7th August, Another Intense Summer of Fires in Siberia from the NASA Earth Observatory site, reminds us of other ongoing blazes. Oh and there’s currently 2,498 active fires in the USA. The Governor of California has requested assistance from both Canada and Australia in dealing with the fires in his state.
Things are, as I say, crook.
On top of all this wonderful news, this coming week I’ll become a grandfather for the first time. Now evolutionary theory being what it is, the genes aren’t really considered safe and passed on until we’ve reached the grandchildren. Great, I’m a successful organism and my genes travel on through time. I am, therefore, the living expression of my four grandparents all born between 1899 and 1914. These genes have been through some, interesting times.
But what about now as a time to be born? The COVID thing is but temporary, even if we’ve been curtailed in our movements until we have a vaccine. This will pass. All the political wooha going on will pass but ticking away in the background, our first fires for the season have erupted on the mainland, is the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Then there’s the methane and other fun GHGs.
There are days when I despair for our species. For the species we could be taking down with us. On a meta level, life goes on. The biosphere has been through mass extinctions before, not just the dinosaurs but others too. Life just keeps on doing what it does. Filling niches, expanding to exploit resources and species arise and species go extinct.
Are we ready to face an end to our kind? Are we ready to consign vast numbers of species to the geological record? I would hope not! We can but do what we can do. Getting the word out is not sufficient any more. We must rehabilitate what we have corrupted, often with good intention, yet we have corrupted it. We must save what we have left of whatever passes for wilderness nowadays and we must shorten our supply lines. We just must grow more of our food, share it with our neighbours, teach by example. We must, as the late Bill Molison so succinctly put it, move from consumption to production. Bill suggested we only needed ten percent of us to do this, I’m thinking it’s closer to fifty percent now but we must do it and do it in a way that heals and does not destroy.
We must put in the ground work now, we can all change the world, we can
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week with birth weights, a name and another generation following after me.
Or copy and paste this link:
Greenland ice sheet lost a record 1m tonnes of ice per minute in 2019
2019–20 Australian bushfire season
Another Intense Summer of Fires in Siberia