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Uncommon Sense—The Foreword

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 5:25am in

By Brian Czech

© 2020, Steady State Press
ISBN: 978-1-7329933-0-3
Format: Paperback

Editor’s Note: This foreword is an excerpt from the Steady State Press’ forthcoming book, Uncommon Sense: Shortcomings of the Human Mind for Handling Big-Picture, Long-Term Challenges by Peter Seidel. Preorder a copy now.

I first encountered Peter Seidel at a Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Wisconsin. Or perhaps it was a conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics in New York. Neither of us recall for sure, but we both noticed one thing: Our paths crossed regularly during that first decade of the 21st century. Not only did we find ourselves at the same conferences, but in the same sessions and in the same conversations—and invariably on the same side, in the event of controversy or debate. Most notably, we both recognized limits to growth and the fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection.

Now, I have the privilege of penning the foreword for the latest in a string of salient books in which Seidel offers a lifetime of wisdom on the “big-picture, long-term challenges” facing humanity.

Seidel is an elder statesman of limits to growth, and he had been researching, writing, and conferencing on the relevant topics for decades before I came along with my specialty on the conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity was big in the 1990s and early 2000s; bigger than climate change in academia and in the environmental movement. By then, though, Seidel had seen it all: DDT, a burning Cuyahoga River, Love Canal, the destruction of the ozone layer, coral bleaching, endangered species, resource shortages, and wars too numerous to speak of. Biodiversity loss and climate change were just two more insults—albeit huge ones—heaped upon a planet subjected to rabid GDP growth.

Seidel took an interest in my muffled efforts—with me in the silenced depths of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the time—to raise awareness of the trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection. He was one of the first 50 signatories of the CASSE position statement calling for a steady state economy, along with the likes of Herman Daly, William Rees, and Richard Heinberg. He was a no-nonsense, sound-science, non-fantasy futuristic thinker, and I took an interest in his work as well, reading several of his books and engaging in lengthy discussions with him on the future of America, the planet, and Homo sapiens.

I could see Uncommon Sense coming. I’d read There is Still Time, the predecessor book, and I knew Seidel had a rare, holistic sense of limits to growth. I was thrilled to hear of his interest in revising There is Still Time—which suffered from production problems and practically zero marketing—into a new book with an apropos title, updated data, and a solid plan for distribution.

Peter Seidel

Author Peter Seidel. (Credit: Gordon Baer)

With Uncommon Sense, I believe Seidel is at the peak of his game. It may seem a peculiar thing to say about an author in his 9th decade, but it’s true in my opinion, and here’s why: While Seidel’s penchant for prose was fully developed by the time he wrote, for example, Invisible Walls (Prometheus, 1998), his inquisitive mind only found more issues to integrate in the decades since. Uncommon Sense packs an impressive sweep of issues into such a compact book. No book that I’m aware of covers environmental, evolutionary, psychological, social, political, and religious subject matter into one cogent, flowing analysis from a limits-to-growth lens. Certainly not in less than a hundred pages!

The topics aren’t just packed in, though, like sardines squished into some unceremonious can. Seidel has something important to say about each of these topics. While some readers will have encountered similar lines of thought on some of the topics, few readers will fail to find something original, unique, or at least new to them in the pages of this prescient book.

It’s not that Seidel has all the answers, nor has he written the perfect book. (Who has?) As a student who studied the molecular basis of evolution as a supplementary topic during my Ph.D. research, I found the segments on the evolution of the human brain to be somewhat sketchy and lacking corroboration from human DNA analysis. Yet I also found myself thinking, “Maybe he doesn’t have the nucleotides mapped out, but how could he possibly be wrong?” The human brain would indeed have evolved the way he described; if not, surely we’d be behaving differently.

Seidel took on a daunting challenge in writing Uncommon Sense. The task he bore was not simply to journalize and lament on limits to growth, but to analyze, to penetrate, to dissect what it is about Homo sapiens that leads us to the limits as a moth to a flame. Why don’t we stop? Why should we? Can we?

The last question, of course, is the most challenging of all for any writer of such a sweeping book. In my opinion, Seidel provides a most refreshing approach. He doesn’t sugarcoat the answer. You won’t find any wishful notions of “green growth,” “mind over matter,” or “have your cake and eat it too” in Uncommon Sense. In his concluding chapter, Seidel comes clean on the prospects for the human race to handle the big-picture, long-term threats. The prospects, it turns out, are far from sure, easy, or even likely. It’s going to take some work, folks.

But then, humans have evolved to strive, to fight, and to work. We just need to apply a little more Uncommon Sense.

Brian Czech

Brian Czech is the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The post <em>Uncommon Sense</em>—The Foreword appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


The Sitting President Has No Climate Plan. Why Isn’t That Headline News?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 4:56am in

Getting this story right doesn’t take high-level math—just the normal journalistic commitment to present information in proper context. Continue reading

The post The Sitting President Has No Climate Plan. Why Isn’t That Headline News? appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Workers’ Mail: Climate Change, COVID-19 and Wage Theft.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 8:30am in

“As we reconstruct our economy after the pandemic we have an opportunity to build a stronger, fairer economic framework that includes a credible and coherent plan on climate change and energy. In rebuilding our economy from the COVID crisis it is critical that job creation efforts also reduce emissions and keep Australians safe from the devastating impacts of bushfires and climate change.” - Michele O'Neil, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions

The ACTU, as part of the Australian Climate Roundtable, has issued the statement “Far-Reaching Climate Change Risks to Australia Must be Reduced and Managed”, among other things, calling the Morrison Government to adopt a net-zero emissions target for 2050.

Comrades O'Neil and McManus, keep up the good work!

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For the workers

Workers have carried Australia through the pandemic.

We need politicians to realise that workers are the hidden heroes of this crisis.

(Sign the petition and/or join your union)

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“Employers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who exploit workers (including, or especially, from within their own ethnic communities) and then come before the Court and seek to rely on their own alleged ignorance of workplace laws or foreign cultural norms to mitigate any penalties that need to be applied when they are finally caught out”. - Judge John O’Sullivan, Federal Circuit Court.

The Fair Work Ombudsman secured a payment of $38,458 to 27 employees who had been underpaid by their employer. In addition, the employer was imposed penalties for $276,929, for deliberately breaching the law.

FWO took the case to court. That quote was part of Judge O’Sullivan’s decision. Two groups should read that quote carefully: (1) pro-business spokespeople (including apologists for mum-and-dad capitalists) and (2) identitarian Leftists.

To contact the Fair Work Ombudsman:

  • Website
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance (free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50).

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Identity politics makes for strange bedfellows, yes?

Threat of Devastating Hurricane Laura Highlights a GOP With ‘Absolutely No Plan to Deal With the Climate Crisis’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 2:35am in

While the Democratic Party platform has been criticized for not being bold enough to address runaway planetary warming, Republicans, who are holding their convention this week, have been harshly panned for having "absolutely no plan to deal with the climate crisis." Continue reading

The post Threat of Devastating Hurricane Laura Highlights a GOP With ‘Absolutely No Plan to Deal With the Climate Crisis’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Morrison backs gas expansion in show of contempt for climate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 4:28pm in

Scott Morrison is doubling down on fossil fuels in the face of climate disaster, backing more gas mining as a path out the COVID-19 crisis.

“Gas is the important transition fill for the changes in our energy needs for this country, for the future,” he told parliament. “That is why we want to see more of it and get more out of the ground”.

And he’s signalled he will have “a lot more to say” on it in the months ahead. Morrison is working hand in glove with mining company executive and head of his hand-picked COVID Commission, Nev Power. The Commission has recommended the government provide funding to underwrite investment in new pipelines, to encourage new gas developments.

This would assist Santos’ gas fracking development at Narrabri in NSW, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission has put back the date for its decision on the project until 30 September.

It plans to build up to 850 gas wells on Pillaga scrub, involving land clearing in the state forest in the largest remaining temperate woodland in eastern Australia, with important spiritual significance for the local Gamilaraay people.

The Coalition argues that an increase in gas supply is necessary, not just for power needs, but to lower gas prices for domestic manufacturing. Massive export developments have pushed up domestic prices because gas producers can sell at much higher prices on the international market.

But the 25-year project is incompatible even with the Paris Agreement aim of keeping climate change to 2 degrees, former chief scientist Penny Hackett wrote in a submission against the development.

“About 50 per cent of Australian gas reserves must remain in the ground to achieve a 2°C [global warming] scenario. Thus, approval of new fossil fuel development or expansion is incompatible with keeping global warming to 2°C”, she argued. Over its life it would spew out the equivalent of close to a whole year of NSW’s total emissions.

We need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to avoid climate catastrophe. The bulk of gas used for household cooking and heating could be phased out immediately and replaced with electric alternatives, powered by renewable energy. This could free up gas for manufacturing use while producers work to switch to renewable energy alternatives.

And a climate-friendly recovery would create far more jobs. Beyond Zero Emissions has outlined measures in renewable energy, building design, transport and land management that could create up to a million jobs. That’s the kind of recovery we need.

The post Morrison backs gas expansion in show of contempt for climate appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Believe it or Not: the Season of Fire.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 2:12pm in

(source)
It’s August and Australian winter is almost over. The 2020 fire season has already started. So far, however, we haven’t had any bushfires. Moreover, after an ominously dry July, this month considerable rain has fallen over the southern part of the continent and there’s even talk of a La Niña.

That is extremely lucky. With international borders closed/restrictions to travel and interstate borders closed due to COVID19, it’s dubious state’s rural fire services could receive any firefighting resources from overseas or even share such resources among themselves. That’s particularly true of heavy water bombers: the Commonwealth leases those aircraft from American and Canadian firms.

The Northern Hemisphere has been less lucky. It’s late summer over there. Temperatures in Verkhoyansk, in northeastern Siberia, within the Arctic Circle, reached an all-time record of 38ºC last June. The following month, Western Europe experienced a heatwave, affecting Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Britain. At Heathrow Airport, for example, temperatures reached 37.8ºC on July 31.

And just this week Furnace Creek, in the Death Valley, California registered a temperature of 54.4ºC (either a world record or a second highest, depending on the confidence one puts on 1913 data).

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(source)
As I write this, wildfires have been raging for a while in Siberia, Alaska and Canada (see above), and have now started in California and Colorado. Smoke is blanketing northern California (see below). Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate and a state of emergency was decreed in California.

(My sympathies to those affected by the fires.)

(source)----------
During the Black Summer, local blabbering lunatics “expertly” explained our bushfires.

For Michael McCormack it’s “self-combusting piles of manure” that cause bushfires (believe it or not, he said that; believe it or not, it wasn’t a confession; the piles of manure he talked about were literally made of dung). Craig Kelly claimed it was the work of arsonists (again, that was neither an admission nor a reference to McCormack).

Well, pair of cretins, guess what? Lightning falling over areas dried by extreme heat is what caused those fires overseas. You guys, living in the second driest continent on the planet, have difficulty understanding that.

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Speaking of cretins. Today Joel Fitzgibbon came out – yet again – in defence of coal mining. The Labor Party unofficial spokesman for Angus Taylor (believe it or not, unrelated to Mick Taylor of “Wolfe Creek” fame), Fitzgibbon now warns that any attempt to deal with climate change will end up splitting Labor. Rural and regional Australia would never stomach climate change action.

What he really means -- but nobody dares to say -- is that he fears climate change action may cost him his seat in Parliament and where else a good-for-nothing like him will ever find another teat like that?

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By one of those things in life, the very same day even the National Farmers Federation, one of the most reactionary business associations in the land -- particularly strong in rural and regional Australia-- called the Morrison Government for climate change action.

With that, the NFF moves to the left of Fitzgibbon.

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Reality defies belief.

The Silver Lining of the COVID-Caused Recession is Fading Fast

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 5:04am in

By Madeline Baker

From February to mid-April 2020, in an early and shocking stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions plummeted worldwide. Nowhere was the reduction more notable than in China, the country with the highest emissions. According to Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, China’s carbon dioxide emissions fell by 25 percent from the end of January through mid-February. Also, for the month of February, average coal consumption at power plants fell to a four-year low, and oil refinery operating rates fell to the lowest level since fall of 2015. This translated to lower levels of nitrous dioxide in China; NO2 levels the week following the Chinese New Year were 36 percent below what they were for the same week the previous year. Meanwhile liquid fuel consumption was 20 to 30 percent lower in March 2020 than in March 2019.

 

NASA tweet demonstrating COVID-caused reduction in CO2 emissions.

 

Along with reduced carbon emissions, industrial output in China reportedly fell by a whopping 13.5 percent in January and February from the previous year. This translated to an economic contraction of 6.8 percent (annualized rate) for Q1, the first quarter since 1992 with declining GDP! Beijing was so taken aback that, for the first time in 30 years, China has no annual growth target.

Given the clear and significant benefits of the shutdown, not just for China but for the global ecosystem, it seems more than logical to ask: Should China, or any other nation for that matter, be striving for pre-pandemic GDP figures, and thenceforth further growth besides? Why shouldn’t our nations, more or less “united” under a UN charter, focus instead on combating the next deadly crisis, or protecting the environment, or the diplomacy of peacekeeping?

Unfortunately, these questions are becoming moot, especially for China, which is already ramping up to pre-pandemic industrial capacity. The Chinese appear to be focusing heavily on power generation, increasing capital spending on utilities by 14 percent from January-May compared to the same period last year, “even as overall capital spending fell by 6 percent.” China also consumes more coal than any nation by a large margin, and accordingly saw carbon dioxide emissions four-to-five percent higher in May of 2020 compared with May of 2019 as the post-lockdown economic push kicked into high gear. Fortunately, the May spike in CO2 emissions appears to have been temporary, abating in June and allowing for projected overall emissions for 2020 to remain 6 percent below 2019 levels. Still—a six percent reduction in emissions is a far cry from the initial 25 percent drop we saw during the lockdown period, and a far cry from the kind of reduction we need for serious mitigation of climate change.

Sustainability experts such as Vinod Thomas for the Brookings Institute are urging the public to view the COVID-19 disaster as akin to an environmental crisis, most notably climate change. Bill Gates makes a similar argument. Globally, the death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 790,000. We cannot know how many will ultimately die from COVID-19, but we do have estimates for the number of deaths already caused by climate change. The World Health Organization, for example, estimates that 150,000 deaths per year are attributable to climate change, and this number will only continue to rise over the next few decades as we’re locked into the momentum of global warming. Shane Skelton, former energy advisor to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, warned that climate change “will be just as bad as coronavirus when we’re really feeling it.” Is anybody listening?

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

For virtually all of modern history up until the outbreak of COVID-19, society has functioned primarily in a growing economy (all the while headed toward limits to growth). Since the outbreak, however, society’s priority has been public health. With this common good as a powerful motivator, people have been making lifestyle changes they would have previously never considered, such as social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding close contact with family members. Unfortunately, it took a healthy dose of panic and, in many cases, government mandates for individuals to shift their priorities and act accordingly.

Typhoon and climate change

The devastating effects of typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines. Another result of man-made climate change killing thousands of people and leaving millions homeless. (Image: CC BY-SA 4.0, Credit: Lawrence Ruiz)

So, why is it that despite a large body of evidence warning us of the impending climate crisis, we have been unmotivated to mitigate it? Common sense should reveal that the ecosystem is just as vital a common good as public health, but for many of us in wealthier countries, and particularly in urban areas, the natural environment is somewhat “out of sight, out of mind.” The number of people we find suffering from the effects of climate change is much lower compared to the number of those we know who are sick or dying from COVID-19. While the virus is widespread throughout socioeconomic classes, climate change adversely affects lower-class communities and people in developing countries first and worst. As noted in a study published by the Center for Global Development, “Climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.”

Further exacerbating the ignorance of the developed world, and especially in the U.S. government, are the vested interests of many powerful players causing climate change. While corporations and political representatives who initially downplayed the effects of the virus have had to renege on their statements due to the massive economic shutdown, the energy majors have been monkeywrenching U.S. policy pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Big Oil spent “more than $2 bn…lobbying Congress on climate change legislation between 2000 and 2016.” Expenditures like this make it seem unlikely that we can expect behavioral mandates—federal or state—to mitigate climate change anytime soon.

Sweeping Systemic Change Needed Now

The science is clear and bolstered by evidence from the COVID-caused recession in China: There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. Recent months have confirmed that a return to our pre-pandemic lifestyle means a return to unsustainable resource extraction and emission rates. Not only have efforts to get the global economy “back on track” come with “compromising global investments in clean energy and weakening industry environmental goals to reduce emissions,” but other lifestyle changes to avoid the virus threaten serious regression in terms of environmental protection. For example, more people are choosing to drive to avoid contracting COVID-19 on public transit, and single-use plastic has become significantly more prevalent in restaurants and food-delivery services as they struggle to keep up with sanitation guidelines.

It’s hard to get enthused about “reduce, reuse, recycle” when we are told that every surface we touch may be contaminated with a deadly virus. Even reverting to pre-pandemic waste practices, which weren’t very sustainable to start with, could take re-education on a massive scale. It just wasn’t wise to get boxed into this corner; up hard against limits to growth.

The global infrastructure vulnerabilities that have been exposed in the struggle to combat the novel coronavirus reveal one thing for sure: Tackling climate change, one of many growth-induced environmental problems, requires an even more systemic approach than recovering from COVID-19. The only solution to these problems is a comprehensive policy shift, first by developed nations, toward a steady state economy, where population and consumption are stabilized within ecological constraints.

If we start to make the transition now, policy reforms could perhaps still be gradual and structured, without the chaos and suffering that comes with a macroeconomic supply shock. We need our leaders and institutions to acknowledge the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection now. Otherwise, we are unmistakably headed for more environmental breakdowns, pandemics, and long-running recessions.

Madeline BakerMadeline Baker is a former CASSE intern (spring 2020) and a senior majoring in International Economics and Finance at the Catholic University of America.

The post The Silver Lining of the COVID-Caused Recession is Fading Fast appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


We Have Just One Decade to Turn Back the Worst of Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 2:39am in

We in the foundation world need to get bolder, more persistent, tougher, and more forceful in mobilizing to meet the challenge of global warming. If not now, when? Continue reading

The post We Have Just One Decade to Turn Back the Worst of Climate Change appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Tasmania’s ‘Super-Kelp’ Is Making CO2 Vanish into the Ocean

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 2:41am in

Sixty years ago, Tasmania’s coastline was cushioned by a velvety forest of kelp so dense it would ensnare local fishers as they headed out in their boats. “We speak especially to the older generation of fishers, and they say, ‘When I was your age, this bay was so thick with kelp, we actually had to cut a channel though it,’” says Cayne Layton, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “Now, those bays, which are probably at the scale of 10 or 20 football fields, are completely empty of kelp. There’s not a single plant left.”

Since the 1960s, Tasmania’s once expansive kelp forests have declined by 90 percent or more. The primary culprit is climate change. These giant algae need to be bathed in cool, nutrient-rich currents in order to thrive, yet regional warming in recent decades has extended the waters of the warmer East Australian Current into Tasmanian seas to devastating effect, wiping out kelp forests one by one. Warming waters have also boosted populations of predatory urchins, which gnaw on kelp roots and compound the loss.

Tasmania isn’t the only site of destruction. Globally, kelp grow in forests along the coastlines of every continent except Antarctica; most of these are threatened by climate change, coastal development, pollution, fishing and invasive predators. All of this matters because these ecosystems provide huge benefits: They cushion coastlines against the effect of storm surges and sea level rise; they cleanse water by absorbing excess nutrients; and they also slurp up carbon dioxide, which can help drive down ocean acidity and engineer a healthy environment for surrounding marine life. These forests — which in the case of the giant kelp species that grows in Tasmania, can reach heights of 130 feet — also provide habitat for hundreds of marine species.

Having spent years studying these benefits, Layton is now trying to bring a patch of Tasmania’s struggling kelp forests back to life. Every few weeks, he dives out to inspect three 39-by-39 feet plots he’s created off the coast, each containing fronds of baby kelp, springing from ropes that are tethered to the ocean floor. These kelp nurseries are part of Layton’s project to determine whether climate-resilient “super-kelp” that has been raised in a laboratory will fare better in Tasmania’s changing seas. But his experiment also brings attention to the extraordinary potential of kelp to absorb carbon and help tackle climate change.

Climate-forward kelp

It’s the capacity to draw CO2 from the atmosphere that has added “climate mitigation” to kelp’s list of benefits. When we talk about ways oceans can sequester carbon, the conversation typically revolves around mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows. But “the magnitude of carbon sequestered by algal forests is comparable to that of all those three habitats together,” says Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. “Algal forests should not be left behind. They have been hidden for much too long.”

There’s a lot we still don’t understand about how kelp store CO2. But researchers are starting to build a better picture of this giant seaweed and how we might improve its capacity to help tackle climate change.

The dilemma is that kelp itself is also under siege from warming seas — which is the focus of Layton’s work. Of Tasmania’s original forest, only around five percent remains. Researchers think these plants have survived through natural variation and selection.

“There do seem to be individuals that are adapted and capable of living in the modern conditions in Tasmania that we have created through climate change,” Layton explains.

From this remaining pool of wild giant kelp, he and his colleagues have identified what Layton calls “super kelp” that may be more resilient against the effects of warming seas. From these he has harvested spores, embedding them in twine to be wound around the ropes that are rooted into the sea floor. The hope is that these super kelp spores will develop into saplings that will in turn set their own spores adrift on ocean currents, seeding new mini-forests nearby.

“For giant kelp restoration to work at the scale of the coastline, we’ll need to plant many of these seed patches,” Layton explains. “The idea is that over time, those will self-expand, and eventually coalesce — and there’s your giant kelp forest back.”

Other kelp restoration projects around the world are tackling different threats. In Santa Monica Bay, California, conservationists are trying to save local kelp forests from voracious purple urchins, whose population has exploded since a major predator — the sea otter — dramatically declined decades ago. The urchins’ unchecked appetite has contributed to the loss of three-quarters of the bay’s former kelp forest. But fishers are carefully hand-clearing urchins — the draw being that as kelp is restored, fisheries are too. So far they’ve managed to clear 52 acres, which the kelp forest has reclaimed.

“All we had to do is clear the urchins out of the way,” says Tom Ford, executive director of The Bay Foundation, which is leading the effort.

kelp“These kelp forests grow so fast and suck in tremendous amounts of carbon.” Credit: Amanda / Flickr

The project’s success has caused others to ponder its carbon sequestration potential, Ford says. The City of Santa Monica recently established a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, and asked The Bay Foundation how kelp restoration could factor into that. A nonprofit called Sustainable Surf has also launched a program enabling people to invest in the kelp restoration project to offset their own carbon footprints.

“These kelp forests grow so fast and suck in tremendous amounts of carbon,” Ford says. In California there’s a focus on preserving wild lands with carbon credits, he explains. But the uptick in regional wildfires means that land-based forests might no longer seem like the safest bet. “Now, working off the coast is becoming perhaps a more important option.”

Similarly, in the United Kingdom, a plan known as “Help Our Kelp” aims to restore a 70-square-mile tract of historic kelp forest along the country’s southern Sussex Coast. It has attracted the interest of two local councils and a water company, which are intrigued by its potential to provide a new carbon sink. “All three organizations are interested in carbon, but also interested in the wider benefits [of kelp forests],” explains Sean Ashworth, deputy chief fisheries and conservation officer at the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, a partner on the project.

Captured carbon?

Yet key questions remain about where all the stored carbon ends up. Trees stay in one place, so we can reasonably estimate how much carbon a forest stores. Kelp, on the other hand, can float off to unknown destinations. If it begins to decompose, its stored carbon may be released back into the atmosphere, explains Jordan Hollarsmith, a marine ecologist at Simon Fraser University and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada. “Truly removing that carbon from the global carbon budget would require that those kelp fronds somehow be buried, or transported to the deep sea,” she says.

In fact, emerging research is beginning to paint a picture of seaweed’s journey through the ocean. A 2016 study estimated that about 11 percent of global macroalgae is permanently sequestered in the ocean. The bulk of that, about 90 percent, is deposited in the deep sea, while the rest sinks into coastal marine sediments.

kelp“If the algae reaches below the 1,000-meter horizon, it is locked away from exchange with the atmosphere over extended time scales, and can be considered permanently sequestered.” Credit: Amanda / Flickr

“If the algae reaches below the 1,000-meter horizon, it is locked away from exchange with the atmosphere over extended time scales, and can be considered permanently sequestered,” says Dorte Krause-Jensen, a professor of marine ecology at Aarhus University in Denmark and author on the 2016 study along with Duarte. Still, the challenge of tallying this up remains. Compared with mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes, which deposit carbon directly and reliably into the sediments below, the inherent changeability of a kelp forest makes the sequestration harder to accurately quantify. But this could change, Duarte say, if kelp forests came under strict human management — something that’s already happening with smaller species of seaweed that are being farmed worldwide for food products and fertilizer.

Future Kelp

Could we similarly bring vast kelp forests under human control for the benefit of the planet? Brian Von Herzen, executive director of the nonprofit The Climate Foundation, thinks so. The Climate Foundation is a partner on Cayne Layton’s project for climate-resilient kelp, and Von Herzen is a major player in the field of “marine permaculture,” a type of open-ocean seaweed farming that mimics wild kelp forests to regenerate marine ecosystems, boost food security and sequester carbon.

Central to Von Herzen’s vision is an array on which kelp would grow, hovering 82 feet below the ocean’s surface. Using solar, wind and wave energy to drive their motion, hoses fixed beneath the structure would siphon up colder, nutrient-rich water from the depths below. This cool water infusion would re-create an ideal micro-environment for the tethered kelp to thrive; the kelp would then oxygenate the water and create new fish habitat — all while capturing carbon, Von Herzen explains.

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While these deepwater kelp forests are only hypothetical, Von Herzen is currently trying out prototype arrays in the Philippines to help make seaweed farming more resilient to climate change. Seaweed farmers there have suffered major losses as a result of warm ocean currents that sweep in and decimate their crops. But with the upwelling of cooler water generated by the new arrays, seaweed is starting to flourish again.

This project, and others being developed off the coasts of Europe and the U.S., are laying the groundwork for Von Herzen’s ultimate ambition: To dramatically scale up kelp arrays, eventually spanning great tracts of deep ocean where they could collectively absorb billions of tons of CO2 while also providing food security in the form of shellfish aquaculture and fish habitat and providing what he calls “ecosystem life support.”

Kelp could be buried in the deep sea to sequester carbon or be harvested to produce low-emissions biofuel and fertilizers, he says. “We use the thriving wild kelp forest as the ecosystem model for what we can scale in the oceans,” Von Herzen says.

Current benefits

On the back of her research, Krause-Jensen is optimistic about the carbon sequestration potential of kelp and the possibility that it could be dramatically enlarged by sustainable farming. But practically speaking, in nations like Australia and the United States, Duarte says, “it’s harder to get a concession for a seaweed farm, than for oil and gas exploration.” And global systems for providing compensation for sequestering carbon are not yet set up to accommodate kelp.

Christophe Jospe, the chief development officer at Nori, a company that is working to make it easier to fund carbon removal initiatives, argues that with such a powerful sequestration tool at our disposal, we should accelerate its acceptance — even if seaweed farmers are only able to guarantee sequestration for, say, 10 years.

“We are throwing ourselves into a heated environmental debate where people say, well, that’s not permanent. But nothing is permanent — and it’s the reservoir of carbon that we need to increase because of the climate crisis that we’re in,” he says. “So actually, it’s a huge environmental value for a program to ensure 10 years of permanence.”

There are signs that things are gradually moving in that direction. Working with Oceans 2050, a global alliance to restore the world’s oceans led by Alexandra Cousteau, Duarte is now helping to develop a carbon credit program that could be applied to seaweed farming. This makes it possible to imagine a world where we might one day invest carbon credits in kelp farms or where wild forest restoration might count as mitigation.

Meanwhile, back in Tasmania, Layton continues to watch over his nurseries of infant kelp, and he urges us to be cognizant of what kelp forests are already doing for us, right now.

“They’re exactly like forests on land. There aren’t many people questioning their value,” he says. “Some people might not be interested in seaweed. But they may be interested in fishing, or their beachfront property not getting washed away, or making sure that their coastal waters are clean. All of those things are intimately tied to kelp forests.”

This story originally appeared in Ensia.

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Book Review: Crazy Climate and Rigged Economies by Gerry Greaves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 3:43am in

By Skyler Perkins

Crazy Climate and Rigged Economies begins with a story of a boy who aspires to engineer a bridge. That young boy was author Gerry Greaves, and though he never designed a bridge during his career as a structural engineer, his new book offers a conceptual bridge to a sustainable society. Greaves guides readers through the challenges of our unsustainable and rigged economy and promotes solutions to stabilize our democracy, economy, and climate.

Crazy Climate Front cover

Crazy Climate and Rigged Economies
By Gerry Greaves
Dorrance Publishing
$15.00

“Keep it simple, stupid” is an engineering adage that is apparent in Greaves’ writing. Crazy Climate is not overly visionary, technical, or theoretical. He does not belabor the established climate science or offer up visions of utopia. Greaves favors immediacy, practicality, and clarity. The first half of the book consists of chapters that deal with an overgrown economy, climate change, inequality, burgeoning population, and financial instability. The second half deals mostly with policy solutions to these challenges.

In other words, Greaves breaks down big societal challenges into a set of problems and solutions, often providing examples to demonstrate possibilities with precedent. In the chapter about inequality, Greaves differentiates between policies that redistribute wealth and those that level the economic playing field. Germany has a robust redistributive program, while South Korea focuses on creating a level-economic playing field. Denmark has instituted a robust redistributive program and leveled the economic playing field. The USA has done neither. In reviewing these scenarios, Greaves supplements the established literature with original quantitative analysis.

The degrowthers among us may question whether Greaves appreciates the gravity of the situation. He concludes the population chapter with a discussion on tax revenue. Others might have concluded with a discussion on resource scarcity, hunger, or refugee crises. Yet Greaves is forthright about the risk of collapse elsewhere in the book.

In another chapter, Greaves advocates for market solutions to climate change and uses the heavily-critiqued DICE model developed by William Nordhaus to determine an appropriate tax rate. However, Greaves also modifies Nordhaus’ most unrealistic assumptions and produces his own results. Some degrowthers completely reject any conventional model of the economy or the institutions of economic governance. Greaves, a bridge-builder by nature, is inclined to adapt rather than start from scratch.

Greaves

Author Gerry Greaves. (Photo used by permission of the author.)

In the solutions section, Greaves references other’s work, including that of Todd Knoop, Tim Jackson, and Brian Czech. A well-informed steady stater will be familiar with most of the arguments and the associated policies such as a universal basic income, Glass-Steagall, and the Full Seas Act. Still, Greaves offers his own unique positions, such as his argument for decreasing the retirement age. Shortening the workweek, as others propose, is useful but somewhat complicated in practice. Reducing the retirement age, on the other hand, helps to solve the overproduction problem quite simply—an insightful observation coming straight from a retiree.

Retired or not, engineers tend to gravitate to the CASSE message. Perhaps this is because engineering concepts are a natural fit with steady-state economics, or because engineers are clear thinkers. Either way, Greaves brings a much-needed perspective to the complex challenges we face.

SkylerSkyler Perkins is CASSE’s Projects Manager and past graduate fellow at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics.

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