Scientists are busy looking for high-tech geoengineering solutions to our most pressing ecological problems, namely, climate change. A few of the ideas that have been considered thus far include: placing giant mirrors in outer space to deflect the sun’s rays,1 dumping billions of tons of quicklime into the oceans to capture carbon,2 and shooting sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere to mimic the cooling effects of a volcano.3
A constellation of billions of mirrors free-floating at the Earth-Sun Lagrange point blocks solar radiation and cools earthly global warming. Credit: Dan Roam
A scheme to dump quicklime into the oceans to sequester more carbon in their depths is being revived with backing from Shell.
While it might seem that the best way to solve our growing and technologically-created problems would be to use the most advanced means available, the Committee on Climate Geoengineering at the National Research Council concluded that these interventions haven’t yet been studied enough to be put into action. According to the committee, “There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change.”4
Injecting aerosols into the stratosphere mimics the cooling effects of volcanoes
A recent report from Oxford University seeks practical solutions that promise the best long-term hope. To achieve this, researchers consider approaches that have the potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without leading us to unforeseen consequences.
One of the most promising techniques explored is called afforestation, which means establishing a forest where one formerly did not stand. And though this solution seems obvious, it’s putting a measure like this into action on a large scale that proves an obstacle to enjoying all of the services that trees provide naturally.
Author Tony Juniper describes these benefits in economic terms in his book What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees:
The economic value of the photosynthesis going on in the forests is thus vast. Even taking the low cost of carbon dioxide credits that companies must now buy via the European Emissions Trading scheme, the work being done by the forests in moderating the impact of our emissions is truly massive, worth literally trillions of euros. Our 2008 review on the value of forests estimated that halving the deforestation rate by 2030 would provide carbon capture services worth around $3.7 trillion, and that enormous figure takes no account of the many other economic benefits provided by forests, such as regulation of water supplies and sustaining species diversity… Beyond such fundamental ecological functions, plants are also the source of building materials, drugs, landscape and inspiration. They cool cities and sustain the soil that plays such vital roles in water cycles and atmospheric regulation.5
To effectively receive the benefits of trees, forest preservation and afforestation will need global support. Forests must be managed, cared for, and protected through active resistance to deforestation efforts around the world while the priorities of corporations and states will have to change in order to develop an infrastructure to grow new forests.
It’s important to note that economics and ecology are not the only things that benefit from trees. Our photosynthetic friends also remind us of the natural beauty of the Earth, especially as we find ourselves spending more and more time in man-made spaces.
By planting a tree (or several!), you can enjoy the benefits of trees for yourself and help to reduce carbon globally.
Find information about how to choose a tree for your region and plant it successfully here.
- What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees, Tony Juniper
Feature image source
Regenerating People and Planet
The horizon of a new year beckons for bold commitments and inner resolve. What changes would we like to see take place, what promises do we make to ourselves on this new clean slate?
While many will no doubt persist with the age-old clichés to get in shape or to be more productive with personal creativity or professional obligations, others are recognizing that humanity can no longer afford to think in terms of exclusively personal concerns. 2014 was a watershed year for growth in public perception of the undeniable crisis that confronts civilization as news about radiation from Fukushima, melting icecaps, disappearing species, and new statistics regarding the state of the biosphere spread like wildfire through social media. But this planetary crisis is also an opportunity as we engage in the task of assuming humanity’s role as stewards of the earth, not her exploiters.
Buckminster Fuller once noted that “spaceship earth did not come with an instruction manual,” and with that absence in mind Synergetic Press works closely with leading voices, blazing a trail through the uncertain landscape of independent publishing, to bring our community of readers and leaders of today the tools necessary to meet this challenge.
For example, European journalist Christian Schwägerl, in The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes Our Planet, utilizes the debate over what we should name our current geological epoch as a central metaphor to make readers aware of the inescapable potency of human actions. He encourages us to ask, “What if 7 billion people lived the way that I lived?” a sober meditation that brings to scale the effects of each and every human being’s decision to choose our own lifestyle, from what foods we eat and how open minded we truly are about integrating new technologies with re-emerging organic values; to how we decide to “think” about the world around us.
Schwägerl, amidst an array of novel suggestions regarding how we might step into a healthy future, cleans house with our outdated conceptions regarding the “en”- vironment and reminds us, for example, that the world around us is, in actuality, an “in”- vironment – an arena through which all our actions feedback into new problems or new solutions, depending on how we choose to live. With this knowledge, we humans can adjust our daily lives accordingly and make sound decisions as consumers and citizens to create big changes in the world.
Similarly, in The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time, PhD and former biospherian Mark Nelson, shows us the ways in which our notion of “waste” as something to be pushed outside of us and away from our cities through central sewage treatment facilities is the real waste that should be avoided. Nelson tells his personal story of traveling around the world to install Wastewater Gardens as a real and practical solution to the loss of nutrients and the pollution of our oceans that results from the perpetuation of 19th century cultural and economic biases in urban planning, unhealthy tendencies that, if left unchecked, continue to damage the biosphere unnecessarily.
Many such inert tendencies in the way we “think” about the world around us contribute to ecological crises and can be avoided. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is our deeply ingrained association with capitalist values as those that extract resources from the natural world as if she were an infinite resource. Tony Juniper, ecological advisor to Prince Charles, and author of the Synergetic Press title, What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? explains how economy is actually a subset of ecology and not the other way around, a reversal that brings the proportions of individual consumption and corporate values back down to earth in a sustainable balance.
Juniper begins by telling the story of the decades-old closed ecological systems experiment “Biosphere II,” in which eight pioneering ecological activists lived sealed within a mock-up of earth’s interpenetrating ecosystems and thereby experienced concretely the ways in which human actions directly and immediately affect the natural world we live in. He then expands this microcosmic lesson outward to reveal the many intrusions that are already apparent in the biomes around our planet and how we can shift our thinking about economics to restore balance in our biosphere. Once we truly understand the relationship between ecology and economy, as Juniper reveals it to us, we begin to see how the two can work together, allowing us to make better decisions as individuals as well as to pressure corporations and governments to act in ways that are not destructive to the biosphere.
The time is NOW! We here at Synergetic Press believe that humans are learners and that by combining courage with the right ideas and tools, we can resolve at the start of this new year to take up the task in earnest of regenerating both people and planet, living synergetically within the biosphere for a long and prosperous time to come. To this end, we will be sharing the wisdom of our many authors and allies through our website and newsletter, giving readers the tools they need to carve a path into a healthy and sustainable future. Please sign up for our newsletter and become a part of the movement.
This futuristic-looking glass orb harnesses 35% more of the Sun’s energy than now-familiar solar panels. A rotating glass orb focuses concentrated sunlight onto a small surface of solar panels, while tracking the sun’s position in the sky. This is an aesthetically pleasing example of the possibilities of the future of solar power, and an example of the potential harmony between technology and nature that author Christian Schwägerl describes in our newest title: The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How It Shapes Our Planet.
You can read more about it here.
The semantic debate surrounding the idea of an Anthropocene revolves around two key concepts: have we entered a new geologic age as a result of human activity, and if we have, when did it start.
The Anthropocene, the term, formal or informal, appears to be making headway in terms of entering media consciousness as “go to” short hand for using a geologic lens to assess the impact of human activity on the earth. This recent article in The New Scientist stresses that “names should reflect perceived scientific reality.”
Full article link here.
BIRTH OF A PSYCHEDELIC CULTURE
Conversations about Leary, the Harvard Experiments,
Millbrook and the Sixties
By Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner with Gary Bravo
Introduction by John Perry Barlow
240 pages, 8 x 10 inches. Illustrated with rare photos
No understanding of the history of the sixties is complete without a grasp of the work of Leary, Alpert, and Metzner, the cultural resistance to their experiments, and the way in which psychoactive drug use became a part of contemporary society. Birth of a Psychedelic Culture shines a bright light on these experiments and their cultural milieu through never before seen photographs and the personal accounts of authors Ralph Metzner and Ram Dass, who vividly recall descriptions of particular “trips” as well as conversations with luminaries such as Aldus Huxley, Charles Mingus, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs and others that appeared on the scene.
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