• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic

The Carbon Farming Solution - Chapter 1: Climate Realities

 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 9125
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
705
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

image courtesy amazon.com

The CARBON FARMING SOLUTION - A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security

by Eric Toesmeier

Part 1: The Big Idea

1: Climate Realities

For this discussion, the emphasis is to be on how we can use the information from the book to mitigate climate change and rising levels of CO2. We're looking for solutions, not debate about whether or not there is a problem. I'd like the discussion to be positive, helping people to make appropriate decisions, encouraging any step in the right direction. Off topic posts and anything that smells like trolling will be removed.
 
R Ranson
master steward
Posts: 4525
Location: Left Coast Canada
533
books chicken tiny house toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I suppose, any book about climate change solutions has to have a chapter about "what the heck is the problem anyway?"

Understanding the problem is an important step to finding a solution, so I get it, we need this chapter. I'm just really glad it's a short one and Toensmeier dosesn't spend half the book telling us what's wrong with the world. So many other books I've read, they spend oodles of time talking about the problem, that I get bored and by the time I get to the end, there're no practical things I can do to fix it. It's depressing. I like how this book is more positive. One tiny chapter discussing a the challenges we face, and a big, thick book full of ideas on how we can overcome them.

So, what exactly is wrong with the climate and how it's changing?

To sum it up, climate change happens, with or without human assistance. Human activity has sped up this change and sent it in an altogether different direction than we've seen before. There are lots of things that cause this kind of change, but this book focuses on carbon. Atmospheric carbon is causing problems.

Before we get into the number game (which is not a game I choose to play very often, as I think it confuses a lot of readers) let's get over the belief that if some atmospheric carbon is good, then more of it is better.

Toensmeier goes into the mechanics of how plants use carbon, in chapter 2, but I think this has more to do with chapter one. The some is good, more is better idea fits squarely in the climate change debate, so I'll sneak it in here. Plants use atmospheric carbon to grow, it is necessary for their survival. But like any good thing, too much is deadly. For example, humans seem to be rather fond of oxygen, something about breathing, I don't know. Apparently it's very popular. So why not just put humans in a really oxygen rich area? Because too much oxygen kills humans. Same thing about water, our bodies are mostly water, yet we can easily drown in it. A lesser known problem with water that drinking too much water poisons us. I can't think of a single thing that is good in moderation but isn't bad in excess. Basically, we don't need the numbers to know that too much atmospheric carbon is a bad thing; it's common sense.

Back to chapter one. The part of the chapter that inspired me the most is the last little bit labeled "It's Not Too Late to Act." Toensmeier says that even if we stopped adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere today "climate change will continue for centuries even if we stop the emissions now because of the persistence of the greenhouse gases we've already released." It's going to take a combination of stopping emissions, sequestering atmospheric carbon and probably some other things, to prevent an ecological collapse we may not recover from.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's most definitely possible for plants to have too much CO2. While in places where CO2 is the limiting factor on photosynthesis, more CO2 will increase the level of photosynthesis, but for us one of the side-effects presents a problem. For many crops (and probably many other plants) (those using the C3 pathway) this process changes the ratios at which plants form carbohydrates as opposed to proteins. They produce more carbohydrate and less protein, making them less nutritious: if we don't address the problem, among all the other problems we'll have to face, we'll have to eat more carbohydrate in order to consume the same amount of protein. In addition, it seems the plants will contain less iron and less zinc. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140507-crops-nutrition-climate-change-carbon-dioxide-science/

Is is too late? I suppose the question is "too late for what?" It's certainly already too late to stop a disrupted climate, with more droughts, bigger storms and catastrophic wildfires. Those are happening right now. Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice mass at an ever increasing rate leading to rises in sea level, and the sea ice in the Arctic is in a death spiral. People are already on the move having been driven off their land. The number of premature deaths due to climate change is already probably well into six figures annually: https://newrepublic.com/article/121032/map-climate-change-kills-more-people-worldwide-terrorism These things are happening now.

It took from the late nineteenth century until late last year for global temperatures to rise 0.85C (no idea what that is in archaic measurements: Google tells me it's 33.5F, but I'm pretty sure that's wrong). It took five months for that to increase to around 1.4C (final figures are not yet in). Some of that was down to an El Nino, but it remains unclear to what extent. Needless to say, 2016 again looks like becoming the warmest year on record (the last record being, oh ... last year). It must be said that the situation could be worse than that - see: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2016/03/01/february_2016_s_shocking_global_warming_temperature_record.html

What it's not too late to do is ensure the situation does not become as bad as it could be. That means keeping carbon in the ground. This discussion is about trying to put as much as possible back in the ground.
 
Rus Williams
pollinator
Posts: 147
Location: Zutphen, The Netherlands
20
books forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R Ranson wrote: so I get it, we need this chapter. I'm just really glad it's a short one


Yup. I've read so much about this that I didn't really want to read it all over again, but he does do it in a succinct way, he has a nice sense of ballance towards some of of the discussion points eg the amount of sea level rise), and gets things over pretty quickly, anybody coming to this book who was unaware of some of the issues at hand would be better informed.


 
Rus Williams
pollinator
Posts: 147
Location: Zutphen, The Netherlands
20
books forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Neil Layton wrote:

Is is too late? I suppose the question is "too late for what?" It's certainly already too late to stop a disrupted climate, with more droughts, bigger storms and catastrophic wildfires.

What it's not too late to do is ensure the situation does not become as bad as it could be. That means keeping carbon in the ground. This discussion is about trying to put as much as possible back in the ground.


This is what I hope from the book, to show a way for us to put as much as we can back into the ground. In fact the subtitle of the book was what made me buy it in the end.
 
R Ranson
master steward
Posts: 4525
Location: Left Coast Canada
533
books chicken tiny house toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Neil Layton wrote:

Is is too late? I suppose the question is "too late for what?" It's certainly already too late to stop a disrupted climate, with more droughts, bigger storms and catastrophic wildfires. Those are happening right now. Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice mass at an ever increasing rate leading to rises in sea level, and the sea ice in the Arctic is in a death spiral. People are already on the move having been driven off their land. The number of premature deaths due to climate change is already probably well into six figures annually: https://newrepublic.com/article/121032/map-climate-change-kills-more-people-worldwide-terrorism These things are happening now.


This leads to something I'm deeply worried about. (double checking this is a cider press forum - it is, good) Policymakers and the general public seem to seek a simple, one part solution to any problem. The problem was climate change, so they ran anti-litter campaigns. That wasn't doing enough? Let's make recycling manditory... well, recycling collection anyway. Solutions like this don't tackle the problem - which is (in my opinion) our society values encourage wastefulness and has no inclination to make the world better.

Toensmeier writes time and again in this book that carbon farming is only part of the solution. He says it won't be enough on its own... but what if some policy maker doesn't read those bits and sees carbon farming as an excuse to keep on polluting?

I see a big part of the solution as a change in our societies values. This, I feel, needs to happen from two different directions: Top down, policy or powerful people implementing changes, and more importantly, bottom up with individuals standing up and saying "I'm not going to play this silly game. I care about the world and I'm going to limit my damage to this world". I can't do much about the first, but I do all I can to encourage the second. There are societies that have faced ecological collapse before, and many didn't survive. One book I'm reading right now talks about how Edo Japan was faced with a similar (but smaller scale) ecological problem. In a generation, they went from destructive force, to nationwide, ecological restoration (while increasing their standard of living and population size). It's been very inspiring to see that mass changes in values can happen on a large, social scale like that. It gives me hope.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well, yes, I agree. Going by the figures presented by Toensmeier, if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, and then went on a carbon sequestration binge using Toensmeier's methods, we'd get to a point about ten parts per million of CO2 above the high end of the safe-ish range in fifty to a hundred years.

We're not likely to do that. After the Paris farce, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions take us to around 675 parts per million (625 parts per million with the binge), not 350, and we're already seeing the damage I mentioned at 400ppm, before the heating lag and the already inevitable sea level rise take place.

This goes back to one of the points where I thoroughly disagree with Toensmeier. He's focused on us not having to change our diets. He's also focused on carbon sequestration, which is fine: that's what the book is about. I think it's also vitally important to consider the broader issues at stake – land clearance, and the other planetary boundaries we're crossing: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/ or see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries for a summary and the Anthropocene extinction that's the result. Toensmeier doesn't do that and I think we run a risk of losing sight of that. I'm willing to accept that, in practical terms, we're going to have some sort of transitional phase.

This https://theconversation.com/can-we-feed-the-world-and-stop-deforestation-depends-whats-for-dinner-58091 is not the first paper to observe that if we're going to squeeze through the bottleneck we've created for ourselves one of the factors involved depends on what we're going to eat. Unless this study is completely wrong, the methods outlined in Chapter 7 (more on that at a later date) are not compatible with that, and I have yet to see a study that contradicts that (some op-ed and a Ted talk by vested interests does not, at least to my mind, count).

Going back to your question of values, then, I agree. One of the reasons I was drawn to permaculture is because I don't want to play their silly (or, to my mind, not silly, but harmful and abusive, complete with rigged rules) game any more. I don't think we need to change the game: I think we need a whole new game and a whole new way of looking at the problem. Where I disagree is any hint that individual action is going to make enough of a difference: the only solution we now have time for (if we're lucky) involves mass social transformation, and what we eat is only part of that.

There are a lot more boundaries Nature has set for us that we need to avoid crossing, and that means complete social transformation, including an end to all those senses of entitlement.
 
R Ranson
master steward
Posts: 4525
Location: Left Coast Canada
533
books chicken tiny house toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for your response. I'll check out the links tonight, it looks like some interesting reading.

I agree, diet has a huge influence on the world. It seems to me that how we source and what we eat in "The West" is having an obvious and strong impact on the environment.

One thing I'm curious about is that when I read studies about the damages of agriculture, these also include textiles. If we take farmed textiles, and synthetic textiles, and put them together, I suspect we may have an even larger pollution source than food alone. Have you ever come across any studies like this in your travels?

It seems that food is a large piece of the puzzle/solution, but I suspect it's not the only big piece.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Clothing is one I still lack a coherent answer to. My interim solution is to buy just about everything secondhand but not worry about the source. That can only be a transitional solution, but I don't know what it's a transition to. Chapter 23 discusses fibre crops, but I've only skimmed it.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!