Beyond The Carbon Footprint

March 8, 2013 glenn Uncategorized

Some of you are very active in the climate movement. Many people express their climate related goals in terms of reducing their personal carbon footprint – the total weigh of CO2 and equivalent in other gasses, that a person emits or causes to be emitted due to an action or purchase. This is mostly from burning fuel for transportation and heat, but also from food and it’s production, manufactured goods, and housing and building production emissions.

Reducing emissions, and therefore the carbon footprint, saves limited fossil fuels while reducing toxic pollution, including greenhouses which effect global warming. Some target 20%, 50%, 80%, even 100% footprint reduction. All well and good, but we need to think and act beyond the carbon footprint. Why?

  • Time – we have none. Our planet’s trajectory is such that we must make a massive effort to deal with warming, extinction, desertification, extreme weather, and so on, and do so immediately. Reductions take time. Goals tend to be in the range of 2020 to 2050. The crisis is NOW! Photosynthesis uses CO2 from the atmosphere to create life. We need to enable nature to use solar energy to grow more life and pump carbon into the soil. Two well managed acres can turn 20 tons of CO2 – roughly the U.S. personal carbon footprint – into stable humus this summer, depending on soil and weather. Do this, or help a farmer do it! Then do more because…
  • Individual carbon reductions only do so much. We can’t reduce our way out of a crisis that has gone this far. If we stop emitting today and go carbon neutral, we will still experience higher temperatures as existing greenhouse gasses trap more heat. We must undo what we have done. Restoration doesn’t mean stopping. It means turning around. If we just stop, we will never get back home! And…
  • The problem is massive! Emissions have been practically unchecked for over a century. There are 700 gigatons, that’s 700 billion tons, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in pre-industrial times. Much of that has to find it’s way out of the atmosphere in order to restore some semblance of normalcy. This is also compounded by our destruction of a significant portion of the vegetative and soil life which used to recycle more of that CO2 back into the terrasphere. There is not currently enough life on the planet to recycle all of our emissions. We need more. Lots more!! Plus…
  • Only a fraction of the population is taking any kind of action. If 10% of the people eliminated their emissions, we would still have more emissions than we did in the year 2000. “I did my share,” is a road to ruin. Activists need to be active enough to overcome a lot of things, including what harmful things others continue to do, and also including what all of us have done in the past that has accumulated. Enough change can only happen by enabling massive amounts of new plant growth to cycle the atmospheric carbon back into living things and soil.

Reducing emissions will do only a fraction of what needs to happen, but we can plant the seeds that nature can grow, creating a carbon-rich vegetation and soils that capture and transform the overabundance of CO2.

Clearly, we need committed individuals and communities to see this through. Farm and rangeland scale efforts, in combination with forestry preservation and agroforestry, can sink enough carbon, provide habitat for wildlife, handle heavy rainfall and periods of drought, to provide extensive restoration and a more stable climate. Acres of restoration. Beyond your backyard, beyond carbon neutrality, beyond your carbon footprint. Let’s get working on it!

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