Death by 1,000 Cuts: Why the Forest Carbon Sink Is Disappearing

GR:  While we’re on the subject, here’s more evidence that deforestation is not stopping anytime soon. The research reported below found that 69% of deforestation came from small-scale projects.

“The clear-cutting of giant swathes from the globe’s tropical forests has long been understood to be a major force behind global warming, but new research finds that smaller-scale forest loss—from minor logging and fires—is an even more powerful driver of climate change.

“On Thursday, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University published a study in the journal Science that says the planet’s tropical forests are releasing more carbon dioxide than they can store, mostly due to “fine scale” degradation and disturbance that previous studies haven’t captured.

“The finding means tropical forests may not act as carbon “sinks” unless both deforestation writ large and this more subtle degradation is stopped or slowed.

“The researchers looked at tropical forests across Asia, Africa and Latin America using a trio of tools—remote sensing, field observations and satellite imagery—that gave them a more comprehensive and detailed picture over a period of eleven years, from 2003 to 2014.

“This approach allowed them to measure not just large-scale deforestation, largely from agriculture, but smaller-scale degradation and disturbances that have, until now, been especially difficult to gauge.

“Collectively, these fine-scale losses have been very difficult to quantify,” said Wayne Walker, an associate scientist at Woods Hole and one of the report’s authors. “While they don’t seem like much in any given place, when you add them up across an areas as big as the tropics, they can be huge.” –Georgina Gustin (Death by 1,000 Cuts: Why the Forest Carbon Sink Is Disappearing | InsideClimate News).

Human Beliefs and The Ecocentric Alliance

Black-headed Grosbeak and two Lazuli Buntings.
These Grosbeaks aren’t as large as Robins, but they are big enough to have trouble perching on bird feeders. Young birds flutter and flap and sometimes end up hanging upside down as they learn to use the feeder. (Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. GarryRogers.com. Photo: Male by GR.)

The Future of Human Understanding of Nature

If we come through global warming, overpopulation, and overuse of the Earth, our experience will have reforged our view of the world. I think we will have a clearer understanding of the limits of nature. This post discusses one probable shift in our post-anthropocene view of the world.

Those of you that have read about nature ethics and conservation are probably familiar with the two principal points of view, the human-centered or homocentric, and the nature-centered or ecocentric. The first views nature as socially and economically valuable because of the benefits for humans. The second views nature as intrinsically valuable independent of any benefits for humans. Near the end of a long career in the U. S. Forest Service, Aldo Leopold wrote:

“[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”  Aldo Leopold, 1949.

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed outside my office.

The homocentric view has always dominated organized land use and management. The view calls for protecting the health and integrity of ecosystems so that their use is not interrupted–the sustainable idea. However, opening all of nature to attempts at economic use has led to mistakes and abuses. Moreover, it justifies changing the land for human benefit. Cities and farms remove and replace nature for human benefit. Thus, as our population and needs have grown, the extent, health, and integrity of ecosystems has declined. One symptom of this that is visible to us all is the decline in wild animals. Extensive counts and recounts have shown that more than half of all Earth’s amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, lizards, and turtles has disappeared over the past 45 years.

Alexander helping build the dog-proof fence around the garden.

The Ecocentric Alliance, formed from the ideas of Leopold and others of the same mind, is working to explain why we must shift to the ecocentric approach to nature if there is to be a real hope for survival of Earth ecosystems and us humans. The Alliance gives rational explanations of ecocentrism, and provides a venue for peer-reviewed discussions and analysis of the concept.  The Ecological Citizen is an online journal that addresses the central issue of our time: how to halt and reverse our current ecocidal course and create an ecological civilization.

The Ecocentric Alliance is a youthful organization that is still concerned with understanding its role in conservation. For this reason, we should ignore the introspective flavor of the explanations below.

Defining Ecocentrism

“Ecocentrism is a worldview that: (1) extends ethical considerations to all components — biotic and abiotic — of Earth’s living systems (the Ecosphere), as well as the dynamics of their interactions; and (2) values non-human nature independently of any benefit it may have for humans specifically.

“Ecocentrism brings with it new standards for thought, conduct, and action on such seemingly intractable problems as loss of habitat for non-human nature, degradation of living systems, and overpopulation and overconsumption by humans.

“Ecocentric ethics can provide moral guidance to corporate and governmental policy-makers, as well as to individuals across the globe, on reversing the decline of non-human nature and on building economic systems and communities that are in harmony with the Ecosphere.” –The Ecocentric Alliance.

The outline below gives a clear explication of the concepts and goals of the Alliance,

Ecocentrism Concepts and Goals

Eight ideas from this article

1: The well-being and flourishing of the living Earth and its many organic and inorganic parts have intrinsic value, that is, value in themselves. Such values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.

2: The richness and diversity of Earth’s ecosystems, including the organic forms that they nurture and support, contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3: It is wrong for humans to reduce the diversity of Earth’s ecosystems and their vital constituents, organic and inorganic.

4: The creative flourishing of Earth and its multitudinous nonhuman parts, organic and inorganic, requires a substantial decrease in human population. The flourishing of human life and culture is compatible with such a decrease.

5: Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

6: The pattern of human activities must therefore be changed. These changes will affect basic economic, technological and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs would be deeply different from the present.

7: An important part of this change is appreciating all life and its intrinsic value rather than mainly pursuing endless economic growth.

8: Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Ecocentrism Principles

From this article

CORE PRINCIPLES

1: The Ecosphere is the center of value for humanity.

2: The creativity and productivity of Earth’s ecosystems depend on their integrity.

3: The Earth-centered worldview is supported by natural history.

4: Ecocentric ethics are grounded in awareness of our place in nature.

5: An ecocentric worldview values diversity of ecosystems and cultures.

6: Ecocentric ethics support social justice.

ACTION PRINCIPLES

7: Defend and preserve Earth’s creative potential.

8: Reduce human population size.

9: Reduce consumption of Earth’s vital constituents.

10: Promote ecocentric governance.

11: Spread the message.

Practical basis for agreement

1: We have arrived at our perspective regarding the ultimate value of Earth and its systems via diverse routes, including science, intuition, literature, poetry, various spiritual traditions and experiences in nature. Ecocentrism is holistic, encompassing the best scientific evidence as well as the deepest intuitions and realizations of our human status on this planet.

2: We agree that giving the highest priority to Earth’s ecological integrity and health (i.e. ahead of economic considerations) is the wisest survival strategy for all species, including our own.

3: The sense of the ultimate values of Earth and her systems comes from a combination of plain living, observing, and experiencing the obvious wonders and profound beauty of nature in all natural ecosystems.

4: Our ethics follow from valuing Earth and its constituents, inclusive of human beings.

5: Human welfare, as well as the possibility of a desirable future, absolutely requires functioning ecosystems.

6: While it is of course legitimate for all living beings, including humans, to live and enjoy living, we have to do so in ways that don’t damage the time-tested regenerative systems of Earth.

7: Sometimes it makes sense to appeal to human self-interest. However, narrow human self-interest cannot override the requirement of respect for the Earth’s health and integrity.

Links:

Forty-five Years of Wildlife Decline

The Ecocentric Alliance

The Ecological Citizen

 

 

Dams could permanently damage Amazon

GR: Deforestation on the land and dams on the river are eating away at the Amazon rainforest ecosystem.

EDGARGO LATRUBESSE Image caption The Amazon basin is the largest and most complex river system in the world (Edgargo Latrubesse)

Dams Threaten Amazon Ecosystem

“The Amazon basin could suffer significant and irreversible damage if an extensive dam building programme goes ahead, scientists say. Currently, 428 hydroelectric dams are planned, with 140 already built or under construction. Researchers warn that this could affect the dynamics of the complex river system and put thousands of unique species at risk. The study is published in the journal Nature.

“The world is going to lose the most diverse wetland on the planet,” said lead author Prof Edgargo Latrubesse, from the University of Texas at Austin, US.

Cascading problems for the Amazon

The Amazon basin covers more than 6.1 million sq km, and is the largest and most complex river system on the planet. It has become a key area for hydroelectric dam construction. But this study suggests that the push for renewable energy along the Amazon’s waterways could lead to profound problems. The international team of researchers who carried out the research is particularly concerned about any disruption to the natural movement of sediment in the rivers. This sediment provides a vital source of nutrients for wildlife in the Amazon’s wetlands. It also affects the way the waterways meander and flow. –Rebecca Morelle (Dams could ‘permanently damage Amazon’ – BBC News).

Ocean Farmers Make “Climate March by Sea”

GR:  The premise of the article below is that warming oceans are destroying marine ecosystems and eliminating fish-harvesting jobs. It’s about jobs, and ultimately about the U. S. national economy. It argues that fighting climate change will keep, not cut jobs. It points out that Trump uses “jobs” to hide the fact that his policies enable greater profits by major corporations. Who knew?

The fact is, “jobs” are a false goal. Losing fishing jobs to climate change isn’t what’s important. Preserving marine ecosystems is what’s important. We should march in opposition to fossil-fuel production of climate-changing CO2 because it is harming marine ecosystems.

We should also be marching for population control. As the global human population grows, the market for seafood grows and this has led to ecosystem devastation from overfishing. Harvesting the seas is not the only excess destroying ecosystems. Expanding farms and pasturelands, expanding cities, and growing waste pollution are doing their share as well. Most definitely yes, we need the new bill proposed in the U. S. Congress “100 by 50” that would eliminate 100% of fossil-fuel use by 2050. But we also need to control and reverse our population–most definitely.

This Sierra article has interesting points on the faulty reasoning behind Trump’s trickery.

Sierra Magazine:

“On President Trump’s first Earth Day in the White House, he declared on Twitter that “we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes, and lands”—an amiable if blasé arm-punch to the planet from the leader of the free world.

“Until a few hours later that is, when the president resorted to his usual right cross.

“I am committed to keeping our air and water clean,” he tweeted, “but always remember that economic growth enhances environmental protection. Jobs matter!”

“Rarely does President Trump or his surrogates miss an opportunity to propound that “jobs matter” when it comes to the nation’s environmental policies—especially where climate change is concerned. This binary logic—environmental protection equals job killer—is deeply woven into their world view. Trump has repeatedly called Obama-era initiatives like the Clean Power Plan “job killers” and vowed to “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions, including the Climate Action Plan.”

“The delegation of fishermen that set sail this morning from a marina in Solomons, Maryland, would beg to differ. The only “job destroyer” for them is climate change.

“Concerned about the threat global warming poses to their livelihoods, a crew of sustainable ocean farmers began a three-day journey today they’re calling the “Climate March by Sea.” At the tiller of the small commercial fishing boat is Bren Smith, owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm and the executive director of GreenWave. They’re heading south down the Chesapeake before they plan to turn north up the Potomac on their way to Washington, D.C.

“Their final destination: the Peoples Climate March, when thousands of people, including indigenous, civic, social justice, business, and environmental advocacy groups are set to take to the streets of the nation’s capital to demand action on climate, jobs, and justice. “Climate change was supposed to be a slow lobster boil,” Smith said in an interview before casting off. “For me, it arrived 100 years earlier than expected. We fishermen are the citizen scientists reporting that water temperatures are going up, species are moving north, the weather is becoming more extreme. We can see it with our own eyes. We’re way beyond the idea of climate denial.”

TAKE ACTION: Click here for more information about how to participate in the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., or another city near you.

“When it comes to environmental policy, the “job killer” argument is a red herring. According to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project, “two-tenths of one percent of layoffs are caused by government regulations of any kind, including environmental regulations. Layoffs are caused far more often by corporate buyouts, technological advances, and lower overseas labor costs.” –Jonathan Hahn (Continue: Ocean Farmers Take “Climate March by Sea” to Nation’s Capital | Sierra Club.)