This is The ChangeUnderground for the 9th of August 2021.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
I noticed as I sat down to start typing this episode that it’s five and a half years since this pod kicked off. This episode is perhaps the most painful and yet most hopeful yet.
Since our last episode Lizzie dropped a few bob into the kitty to purchase me a coffee. Thanks Lizzie, for the coffee and the comments on the blog/transcript page over at worldorganicnews.com. The feedback is humbling and much appreciated. As I’ve said before, I write and publish this podcast as much to sort my own thoughts as to provide useful material for others. When some of those ‘others’ get in touch, it still comes as a surprise. A pleasant surprise so if you’ve ever felt the urge to say hello, leave a comment over at the website, surprise me.
The concern at present, as I cunningly foreshadowed last episode, is the Amazon Basin. No longer a carbon sink but now a carbon source. Given the focus upon the Amazon Basin for as long as I can remember, I’m a little perplexed by the lack of publicity. Is it too overwhelming to face? Is it the beginning of the end? Does it matter?
Well let’s go to the original source: The journal Nature so some authority there. The article entitled: Amazonia as a carbon source linked to deforestation and climate change
Amazonia hosts the Earth’s largest tropical forests and has been shown to be an important carbon sink over recent decades. This carbon sink seems to be in decline, however, as a result of factors such as deforestation and climate change. Here we investigate Amazonia’s carbon budget and the main drivers responsible for its change into a carbon source.
Deforestation, we can do something about, relatively quickly. If we will do something is an altogether different question but more on that later.
What troubles me more is the “as a result of factors such as deforestation and climate change.“ I’m not a subscriber to Nature so I’m relying upon the reading of this paper by the Guardian Australia for more info.
From that Journal of Record, Quote:
Most of the emissions are caused by fires, many deliberately set to clear land for beef and soy production. But even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean the south-eastern Amazon has become a source of CO2, rather than a sink.
The beef and soybean we know how to fix: regenerative grazing and no-till cover cropping beans. Hotter temperatures and droughts are a less easy fix. Simple enough at some levels. Decarbonise the economy. This requires structural changes and I’ll come back to that too.
The Amazon is important, as this quote from the same article shows:
Growing trees and plants have taken up about a quarter of all fossil fuel emissions since 1960, with the Amazon playing a major role as the largest tropical forest. Losing the Amazon’s power to capture CO2 is a stark warning that slashing emissions from fossil fuels is more urgent than ever, scientists said.
Slashing emissions is actually more than urgent. It is the only way to stop adding to the CO2 load in the atmosphere. This means we can deal with the changes we have already created. It won’t be fun, bushfires, floods, storms and some sea level rise but this could be very much worse. Finding ways to remove CO2 and returning it to the carbon cycles, especially the long carbon cycle as discussed in episode 247 are no substitute for stopping the addition. It would be just an excuse to keep adding CO2 at the same or lesser rate than we would be able to remove it.
Stopping emissions is a simple but complicated business. And business is the issue. That just as many units of currency can be made in renewables as petrochemicals doesn’t seem to matter to the petrochemical companies. They have fought to maintain their income streams through any number of questionable means. That the oil companies’ own scientists were telling them in the 1970s that climate change was coming doesn’t seem to have given them a head start on moving to a new carbonless economy. They must be kicking themselves over that.
If we look at the oil companies, we see the effects we can achieve. Our oil soaked society is ready for a cleansing. Let’s look at the food system from paddock to plate for wheat growing. Now I’m talking about the chemical farming/agribusiness sector, not the organic/regenerative operators.
Here we go.
Paddock to Plate
A bare field is ploughed and sprayed with a herbicide. Seeds coated in pesticides are sown alongside chemical fertilisers and maybe a pre emergent spray applied. Several more spray passes may occur during the growing season. Harvesting involves a header/combine harvester, trucks to haul away the grain to storage, on farm or off. From there the grains travel to flour millers and the flour to bakers, the bread to shops and then to homes. Every step in the process involves fossil fuels mostly transport but also the fertilisers and the plastic bag wrapped around the bread. And whenever we see fossil fuels we are really seeing GHG emissions. Now in the same way we currently use petrol for domestic vehicles and diesel for transport and traction, it appears that batteries will be more than sufficient for domestic vehicles and hydrogen powered fuel cells will be the best option for transport and traction.
The plastic around the bread also raises the question of other plastics. Less than 1% of plastics are currently cellulose, that is plant based. These decompose back into the background environment reasonably quickly. The rest of the plastics in the one little planet we have are produced from fossil fuels. They can last centuries, maybe even millennia. The mandated use of plant based plastics would stop the increase in petrochemical based plastic waste and give us a chance to find ways to clean up that pile of poo.
Yet the Amazon is now leaking CO2 not sucking it out of the atmosphere. Is this the killer tipping point the doomsayers have been predicting? Maybe but I think not. We still have time and I am filled with hope. A hope I was not feeling a fortnight ago. We can and I’m sure we will do what’s needed, maybe at the very last moment but we will get things sorted.
Apart from a hopeful inner desire to see this happen, Lizzie, remember Lizzie from the start of the podcast? She bought me a coffee. Thanks again Lizzie. Lizzie and her partner Martian have decided to buy a farm. I am 100% behind more people doing this. They are documenting their journey and I recommend you all go out and subscribe to their channel on Youtube.
Without being sappy and sentimental but being sincere, the interest and actions of the youth of this world give me hope. The opportunities are there for us all. From traditional land ownership models to more creative solutions we are all in a position to be growing more of our own food. A great first step to ripping the fossil fuel components of out of our food systems.
So If you’d like to start your gardening adventure and life time of astonishing insights go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of the eBook: The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.
If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions there’s the ChangeUnderground Podcast Group on Facebook. You can search the Book of Faces or there’s a link in the show notes and in the transcript over at WorldOrganicNews.com/episode266.
Following the crash a few months ago, I’m slowly adding the transcripts for the back catalog so thank you for your patience.
Decarbonise the air and Recarbonise the soil.
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:
FREE eBook: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/
Bubugo Conservation Trust
Amazon rainforest now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs
HS2 Petition to Save the Ancient Woodlands of England
Amazonia as a carbon source linked to deforestation and climate change
Lizzo & Martian