EARTH MEANDERS: The Only Way Forward Is Back to Gaia’s Garden
Geo-engineering madness will complete the destruction of the biosphere and human being(s). It is critical that we reject industrial geo-engineering, to instead embrace a program of sufficient global ecological protection and restoration.
By Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet
Earth Meanders come from Earth's Newsdesk
Gaia (or the Earth System if you rather) is not a science project, it is alive (albeit sick) and fully inhabited. To speak of geo-engineering the climate before having exhausted local, national and international efforts to reduce emissions, protect and restore old forests, reform industrial agriculture, and other ecologically sufficient policies to sustain being, is rash and foolhardy. Continued ill-conceived technological, industrial diminishment of naturally operating ecosystems can only hasten and ensure global ecological collapse.
Sadly, President Obama's new science advisor, John Holdren, has indicated the administration is investigating geo-engineering — massive planetary alterations such as shooting aerosols into the upper atmosphere — to 'solve' climate change and associated ecological crises. The Obama administration is clearly signaling it is going to take a compromising, technology heavy approach to climate change policy. Social change and personal transformation necessary to achieve global ecological sustainability have received nary a mention.
Obama's climate policies will not be guided by what science tells us is required to stop hazardous warming. Rather, the U.S. government will only pursue policies that do not threaten economic growth, and rely upon more industrial technologies at the expense of natural ecosystems. Given America's history of exceptionalism, I suppose such hubris — going from doing nothing to address climate change, directly to seriously considering engineering the biosphere, completely skipping the stages of self-examination and national transformation — is to be expected.
Climate change is exhibiting itself as abrupt and highly unpredictable changes in climate consistency. So what we do now is throw more variability into the system? Geo-engineering will lead inexorably to more climate variability, biological diminishment and loss of natural ecosystems, precisely at the time when we must stop digging our ecological hole (grave). Surely there will be as many or more losers as winners as climate predictability breaks down further with unexpected outcomes. To even consider such outrageous actions distracts from the urgent measures that need to be taken now on energy efficiency, conservation, renewables and a whole host of ecologically sufficient policies that require sacrifice.
Geo-engineering is Madness, Shear Madness
Geo-engineering is a lot of malarkey and can never work. The atmosphere and biosphere of which it is part is simply too complex to manipulate in a dependable, predictable way. Humanity is unable to control exotic species, keep plastics out of the oceans, stop illegal logging and fishing, and provide clean water for all; yet now we have the ecological expertise and political will to commandeer the Planet?
For 3.5 billion years the Earth has maintained conditions conducive to life and continued evolution; and now, in order to avoid giving up and sharing with the poor our large homes, cars, air travel and other conspicuous consumption, humans (including scientists that should know better) are considering taking the risk of humans ourselves maintaining the atmosphere and all attendant water, energy and nutrient flows. Even considering this as an option puts off the necessary actions to stop climate change and onrushing global ecological collapse by falsely suggesting there are technologies to avoid the necessary social changes required to lighten and reverse humanity's footprint upon natural ecosystems.
Nothing even remotely comparable to humanity engineering the Earth's biosphere has been attempted. Fertilizing the oceans, making charcoal of its ecosystems to bury, space mirrors, aerosol sprays, giant umbrellas — are we crazy, or just in denial? Setting aside the ecological uncertainties for a moment, how would such a program be carried out socially? Who makes the rules of who can change the climate? I would suppose it is American business interests and not peasants more intimately dependent upon natural climatic patterns. What is proposed is similar yet even grander than Mao's Great Leap Forward and numerous megalomaniacal attempts to conquer the world throughout history.
Age of Ecological Restoration
Gaia is full of unbelievably varied, evolved, co-dependent and precious life. The biosphere, the relatively thin zone of life from under the soil and ocean depths, through terrestrial and marine ecosystems, to the top of the atmosphere; is the finely honed skin upon Gaia, of unbelievable complexity and sensitivity. Water and oceans are her precious blood. The sum total of over 3.5 billion years of evolution in organisms and Gaia, the super-organism, is a habitable Earth.
Eight millennia of forest clearance for agriculture, three hundred years of accelerating industrial fossil fuel dependence, and a century of growth in human population and inequitable consumption, have resulted in us all cutting and burning Gaia to death. We have misplaced our faith in technology, failing to understand it is the Earth System which supplies both natural and technological resources. You cannot eat a cell phone or money.
There exists a fundamental split between those that are willing to use technologies such as the Internet when they are appropriate, while generally proposing ecologically based policies; and those whose only response to environmental harm is further industrial technology at the continued expense of ecosystem diminishment. These decisions regarding which is the best path forward to global ecological sustainability — geo-engineering and continued economic growth, or ecological regeneration and powering down to a steady state economy– are questions of life and death for us all.
Humanity must return to nature, limiting our excesses, not complete her dismemberment. It is beyond our capabilities to dependably engineer a biosphere. At this moment of awakening of our oneness with the Earth, and the fact we have done her wrong, I intuit with all my being and ecological knowledge that we must return to nature's fold and not pursue more of the same resource industrialism that has brought us to ruin. A biosphere cannot be engineered, but it may be able to be restored. There is still time, just barely, to get back to Gaia's garden.
Restoring Gaia's Garden
Together the human family must commit itself to an Age of Ecological Restoration, disavowing geo-engineering proposals and minor reforms, in order to single-mindedly pursue global ecological protection and restoration. It is up to our best and brightest to aid ecosystems to regenerate with large-scale, targeted restoration ecology efforts placed to maximally benefit landscapes — both ecologically and in terms of sustainable agro-ecological food and other plant material production.
Significant ecosystems, animals and genetic materials still exist as seed stock and blueprints for the new garden. Restoring the Earth is labor intensive and will provide many jobs and means of sustenance from healthy land. And restoring old woodlands where they historically occurred will absorb massive amounts of carbon. This is a sort of geo-engineering, but based upon restoring the natural systems that we have ripped asunder.
The hairless ape with opposable thumbs must return to Gaia's garden and restore and expand natural ecosystems, while reclaiming the industrial agricultural landscape with agro-ecological farming such as permaculture and other systems of sustainable agriculture that renew natural resources, increase natural diversity and enrich local ecosystems.
Land degradation is a much larger component of climate change and general ecological decline than generally supposed. We must not prematurely give up on Gaia's resiliency and the ability of her ecosystems to be restored and to persevere, even as human industrial society powers down to avoid further ecological collapse.
Now is the time to return to the land, sea and water; and begin rebuilding core strictly protected ecosystems and buffering agro-ecological ecosystems of abundance and joy, adequate to maintain being for humanity and all Gaia's creatures. Natural systems continue to exist that can be restored and aided to regenerate. Important remnants exist as roadmaps and seeds to allow their expansion and reconnection.
We must reject further industrial capitalism, brought to a maddening crescendo with ill-conceived geo-engineering proposals, and instead allow ourselves to be bioengineered at Gaia's command. Together we can create with natural stocks, and our hands, minds and communities; Gaia's new, old garden.
One Year for Governments and Then a Stewardship Revolution?
We could choose to give one year for the current governments (with plenty of escalating protest action) to get their act together and start taking ecologically sufficient policy measures on climate, forests, water and oceans; and reject geo-engineering, or it will be our and the human family's deepest calling to take whatever actions are necessary to destroy the industrial growth machine and begin powering down industrial society.
A Stewardship Revolution to stop industrial ecosystem liquidation, including its intensification through geo-engineering, may best serve humanity and the Earth's long-term prospects. It may be better to crash the global industrial economy now, to relieve unsustainable pressures upon ecosystems, than to allow the technological madness to advance to a state where humanity and indeed all complex life are irreparably lost forever. A credible revolutionary threat may spur governments to required ecologically sufficient action.
A mighty buck deer comes to my window when the moon is full to tell me these things. And a lifetime of ecological education helps too. I have found my oneness with Gaia. I encourage you to do so too, by seeing the natural world around you, and what it is saying to you, and by studying and acting upon political ecology. When you understand and feel the enormity of looming global ecological collapse, which if not acted upon will devastate you and your family, I encourage you to act accordingly, and with suitable urgency, using all actions within your power.
We are fighting for shared survival. Please start by fully understanding that we will never, ever, ever be able to design and run a biosphere. To try is ecocide and must be resisted using all means necessary by all ecologically knowledgeable, clear minded and free thinkers. But we may be able to recreate natural ecosystems and new agro-ecological systems. There is one chance for the corporate/industrial/military complex controlled governments to get ecological sustainability policy right at Copenhagen in late 2009, and if they fail, it will be up to global citizens to take the biosphere into our own hands.