Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening

GR: Like an empty deck chair bumping in the wind, I’ve repeated this warning over and over. I’ve tried to find new ways to phrase it, new associations to tie it to, and more reasons that we must search for a solution. I’ve tried to stir anger at inequities, greed, and the corruption of public servants. Great writers, speakers, and leaders have tried as well. And yet the river carrying our little canoe continues on toward the growing rumble of a great falls. The rumble is beyond the blaring horns and sussurating tires on pavement that surrounds us, but if you listen for the calls of birds and crickets you may hear it in the empty spaces they no longer fill.

In the article below, Dr. Glen Barry mixes resignation and hope and suggests that we can still stop before the falls–we just need to “believe in a better world and make it so.”

An aerial view of housing development, Photo by IDuke, Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 2.5

“The living biosphere, is infested with humans. Not just any humans, but the type that grow fat and reproduce exponentially by liquidating natural ecosystems. The population bomb has burst and we are seeing daily the predicted consequences of collapse and death in the climate, water, oceans, and on the land. Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from logging for inequitable over-consumption, I am today ready to declare defeat. Preserving Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause as there are simply too many people. This Time of Great Dying is unlikely to end well unless a global ecology ethic – including a sense of ENOUGHNESS, just population reductions, ending fossil fuels, and massive ecological restoration – is widely embraced with all haste in an unprecedented and overdue Great Awakening.

Over-Populated, Inequitable Over-Consumption

“In 90 years – a blink of an eye in ecological and geological time – the human population has gone from two billion to over seven billion. Another one billion people are added every 12-15 years, such exponential growth in human population can only end in collapse. Of these, a billion extravagantly over-consume (including a few hundred individuals who have amassed half of Earth’s wealth) as another billion live in abject poverty on less than $1.50 a day.

“Concurrently capitalism has manufactured all types of artificial needs for consumption to which the vast majority aspire, and which can never be universalized at current population densities. Thus globally devastating inequity is assured. Each of these manufactured desires is fulfilled through apocalyptic polluting of the atmosphere and liquidating of natural ecosystems that have evolved over eons and make Earth habitable.

“Over-populated, inequitable over-consumption literally dismembers Gaia – the living Earth – to gorge upon her ill-gotten limbs.

“The idea that we can just keep growing forever on a finite planet is totally imbecilic…”          – Paul Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb

“As long anticipated, the population bomb has burst, and we are witnessing the impact upon the natural world. The result of such democratic consumption has been our current Time of Great Dying – an epic cataclysm of death and destruction rained down by humanity upon all non-human life and their assemblages into natural wildlife populations, plant communities, ecosystems, and landscapes. Humans, after all, are animals too. It is not normal for populations of an organism to grow so rapidly, or for an organism to so quickly destroy its own habitat. When this does occur in nature, the result is always mass death and system collapse.

“Everywhere a trained eye looks, one can see the tawdry, traumatized remains of much diminished organic biological life upon an immense ecocidal battlefield. Oceans are plagued by overfishing and dead-zones, the climate is failing before our very eyes, wetlands and soils are much diminished, natural sources of water are increasingly scarce, wildlife has been decimated in a reign of terror, and natural terrestrial ecosystems have virtually disappeared. And the murder of remnant bits of nature that still exist continues unabated.

“Over the past century throughout much of the world naturally evolved millions of year old old-growth forests have in short order simply been mowed to be replaced by farms, homes, and strip malls for the ever burgeoning bourgeois population of over-consumers. We poorly measure human advancement by the speed whereby this growth machine dismembers our ecological habitat.” –Glen Barry (Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening | MAHB.)

Here’s an interesting post about ending our population growth.

National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill

GR: The bill is just as bad as we feared it would be. Click here for the earlier discussions. Using catastrophic fires as cover, House Republicans passed a bill that removes protections from U. S. national forests. The bill will lift the few restrictions now in place and permit unrestricted logging in critical habitats and sites subject to soil erosion. The purpose is to give logging companies a profit boost.

A logger climbs down a mountainside while working on Admiralty Island in the Tongass National Forest. Michael Penn

“In a partisan vote, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging projects. The final vote was 232 to 188.

“HR 2936, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also limits public comment and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the guise of reducing forest fires, the bill would increase unfettered logging across national forests and public lands, increase fire risk and harm forest health, while doing nothing to protect communities.

“This bill is a dangerous bait-and-switch that rewards the timber industry. It puts the health of our forests and wildlife in grave danger and ignores real solutions,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It would green-light the worst forest management practices from decades ago, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers and ruined recreation opportunities for countless Americans.”

“Westerman’s bill is a timber-industry wish list. Among other harmful provisions, it would allow rushed logging projects up to 30,000 acres—46 square miles—without public notice or scientific assessment of potential harm to the environment as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The bill would render forest plans meaningless, roll back measures designed to protect old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, waive protections for waterways and water quality across the national forest system, promote harmful logging in otherwise protected roadless areas and force the Forest Service to ignore potential harm to thousands of imperiled species.

“It would also give private landowners with easements on public land full ownership of that land and allow herbicides to be sprayed without reviewing the harm to water, fish and wildlife.

“The knee-jerk response from Republicans is always to gut our environmental laws, no matter what the issue is,” said Spivak. “They’re willing to sacrifice our wildlife, healthy streams and rivers, and vibrant public lands for private profit.”

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 80 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks go against the wishes of most Americans, since the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.” –Center for Biological Diversity (National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill).

Global Tree Cover Loss Rose 51 Percent in 2016

Borneo forest loss 1950-2020 (indonesiaexpat.biz).

GR: We hear about forest replanting projects, better management, and better enforcement of forest protection, but the rate of forest loss due to logging, land clearing, and fire is increasing. Moreover, we know that many trees within existing forests have died due to drought and insect infestations. The dead trees increase the risk of wildfire. It is especially disappointing to see what happened in 2016 in Brazil. The total loss of trees is endangering earth ecosystems and human settlements with floods, fires, and the great loss of wild plants and animals.

“Global tree cover loss reached a record 29.7 million hectares (73.4 million acres) in 2016, according to new data from the University of Maryland released today on Global Forest Watch. The loss is 51 percent higher than the previous year, totaling an area about the size of New Zealand. Forest fires seem to be a primary cause of this year’s spike, including dramatic fire-related degradation in Brazil. Deforestation due to agriculture, logging, and mining continue to drive global tree cover loss from year-to-year.” Mikaela Weisse and Liz Goldman (Global Tree Cover Loss Rose 51 Percent in 2016 « Global Forest Watch).

Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

GR:  Fire, storm, flood, and drought disasters are growing. Perhaps they will soon become so commonplace as to go unreported. Of course, when we see something coming at us like the fire in the photo below, we need the reports. Hurricane Ophelia is partly responsible for the spread of these fires.

“Hundreds of fires in both countries are being fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the north, currently barreling towards Ireland, and encouraged by extremely dry terrain from a scorching hot summer in the region.

“Sixty-four people died in a wildfire in Portugal in June, and the country has declared a state of emergency in the northern region. “We are facing new (weather) conditions” due to climate change, Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa told the press, as she also referenced the fires blazing in California. “In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world.”

Source: Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus

GR: There is a misconception in Congress that managing hazardous fuels means that we should remove restrictions that prevent timber companies from clear-cutting the forest. True, clear-cutting eliminates forest fires, but it does not remove the fuels. Perhaps our Congresspeople see themselves as wise Walruses, but instead of asking “. . . why the sea is boiling hot–and whether pigs have wings”, they wish to ask if they can stop the forest from burning by insuring there is no forest to burn.

The Western Caucus should leave the few restrictions the pro-business Forest Service has been able to scrape together alone and focus their attention on future budget problems. As our climate warms, fires will grow larger and more frequent. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about diverting some of our military spending to protecting our land.

“Today, 17 Congressional Western Caucus Members released statements applauding Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s October 4, 2017 letter to Speaker Paul Ryan requesting that Congress pass forestry management reform and disaster relief packages.” Source: Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ),  OMB Director Mulvaney Responds to Western Caucus Calls for Forestry Action | Congressional Western Caucus. 

GR: Here’s a better informed discussion of logging and wildfire:

Forest Fire, Bonner, Montana

“Montana GOP Senator Daines recently published a simplistic and misleading guest commentary on a wildfire in the Washington Post.
In that editorial, Daines, like many other misinformed logging proponents claims more logging would reduce large wildfires and he blames “environmental extremists” for delaying the forest reduction projects.

“Most of the wildfires burning under low to moderate fire weather conditions either self-extinguish or are easily controlled.

“The majority of all acreage burned in any summer is the result of very few wildfires that are burning under extreme fire weather.

“Indeed, the bulk of all wildfire acreage burned is the result of less than 1% of all fires, and indeed, in a typical year, 0.1% of fires are responsible for half or more of the acres reinvigorated by wildfire. These wildfires burn under what is termed “extreme fire weather” conditions.

“Many studies show a correlation between extreme fire weather and extreme wildfires. When you have high temperatures, low humidity, drought, and in particular wind, you cannot stop a blaze. And they will burn through any forest reduction, prescribed burning, and other forms of “active forest management” that are designed to slow or halt such blazes.” –George Wuerthner (Continue reading:   http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2017/09/24/response-to-senator-daines-washington-post-commentary-on-wildfires/

Tell Congress: Vote No on Clovis for USDA Chief Scientist

Sam Clovis, Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist.

GR: The USDA Chief Scientist must be a scientist. The USDA evaluates the safety of outdoor activities including farming, logging, ecosystem protection, herbicide use for weed control, and many more. The person in charge of the evaluations must understand the methods used for measurement and analysis and must understand the certainty or lack of certainty of the results. Sam Clovis has no experience in scientific methods. Trump selected his other appointees based on political connections and not qualifications. Clovis may be the worst of the worst. The Union of Concerned Scientists has given us some information to use in protest of Clovis’ appointment.

“President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a vocal climate change denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis’ nomination represents an abandonment of America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers who depend on the USDA to provide sound scientific guidance on the pressing challenges facing our nation’s food system. Moreover, Clovis’ history of denying climate change and peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories calls into question his capacity to make informed, objective, and sound investments for the future of American agriculture.

“Scientists and experts around the country are signing this letter to demand that the USDA chief scientist have a strong scientific background in order to fulfill the demands of this crucial position.

“Add your name to this letter urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to stand by its commitment to scientifically informed governance by voting no on Sam Clovis for USDA chief scientist.

“Learn more about the case against Clovis, and read the nine questions the Senate should ask of Clovis. Check out our Sidelining Science Since Day One report.” Union of Concerned Scientists.


GR:  Contact your Senators and ask them to reject the Clovis appointment. You could also contact Senator Pat Roberts, chairman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Tell your Senators that Sam Clovis falls far short of the standards of chief scientist. While he holds a Doctorate of Public Administration, his professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience. The USDA chief scientist must have a strong scientific background to administer scientific programs and make crucial decisions on food safety, agricultural productivity, and emerging threats to public health. Dr. Clovis lacks grounding in the scientific process and is not equipped to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.

There are some excellent smart phone apps that simplify contacting congress. I’m trying out “Congress” by Eric Mill my phone. Seems pretty good so far.

75,000 Trees Donated So Far to ‘Trump Forest’ to Offset President’s Climate Destruction

GR: The name is acceptable since there will be no single place to name thus giving future visitors the wrong impression that Trump  contributed.

“Environmental activists have created a worldwide reforestation project called “Trump Forest” to help offset the potential environmental destruction caused by President Trump’s anti-climate agenda.

“We wanted something tangible that people could do that would actually have a physical impact on what the U.S. government is doing,” Dr. Daniel Price, a climate scientist and glaciologist and one of the three founders behind the effort, told the Huffington Post.

“Here’s the simple reasoning behind the effort, as stated by the group’s website:

  • US President Donald Trump doesn’t believe in the science of human-caused climate change. He wants to ignore one of the greatest threats to healthy life on Earth.
  • Trump wants to bring back coal despite scientists telling us we cannot afford to burn it, and despite economists telling us there’s more money to be made and more jobs available in renewable energy.
  • So we’re planting a forest to soak up the extra greenhouse gases Trump plans to put into our atmosphere.
  • We’re planting a global forest to offset Trump’s monumental stupidity.

“The forest does not have a single, physical location. Rather, anyone who wants to participate in the project can plant trees anywhere around the world in Trump’s name. Once that’s done, you send the group a receipt so the contribution is added to the global Trump Forest map. You also have the option of donating money to local tree-planting organizations such as Eden Reforestation Projects, which plants trees in Madagascar.

“Nearly 75,000 trees have been pledged since the project was first launched in March.” –Lorraine Chow (Continue: 75,000 Trees Donated So Far to ‘Trump Forest’ to Offset President’s Climate Destruction.)

More about the forest: https://www.facebook.com/trumpforest/videos/1182454978533432.

 

 

 

Dead trees stoke wildfire fears

Climate Change and Fires Replace Forests with Weeds

GR: Climate-change droughts are killing trees and shrubs in dry lands around the world. For many years, forest ecologists argued that some vegetation requires periodic fires to stay healthy. The fires clear out underbrush and open areas where trees are tightly packed.

As climate change advances, the ‘let it burn’ philosophy has taken on a new meaning. Across the western U. S. and other drying regions, trees are dying. Human-caused climate change with fire as its agent, is sweeping away the forests and shrublands. Fire-prone weeds are taking their place. Weedlands, sometimes called ‘annual grasslands’ have lower biodiversity, productivity, and ability to absorb heavy rains. The process is known as desertification. Today, firefighters have little choice but to ‘let it burn,’ Perhaps they are unconsciously aware that the magnificent conifer forests of the world will never return.

“Since 2010, more than one hundred million trees have died in California. Falling trees and limbs are not the only hazard. These dead trees could provide the fuel to turn a normal wildfire into an inferno.

“Fire is as much a part of California as mudslides and winter snowpack.

“Van Mantgem: “The Sierras are always going to burn. So we’re never going to be able to exclude fire – and I don’t think we’d want to exclude fire – it’s a fire-adapted system.”

“That’s Phil Van Mantgem, with the U.S.G.S. Western Ecological Research Center. He says that although fire is a natural part of the system, the long-term drought has made it more likely that wildfires will burn out of control. But there’s no easy solution.” –Bruce Lieberman (Dead trees stoke wildfire fears » Yale Climate Connections)

Planting trees will not slow global warming

GR: There’s lots of loose talk going around about “geoengineering” our way out of the climate-change disaster. I say it’s loose talk because there’s been no serious testing of efficacy and long-term consequences. Actually, scientists have analyzed most of the ideas such as blasting sunlight-blocking particles into the atmosphere, converting CO2 to useful materials, and so forth and found that such techniques fall short of what’s needed. The article below describes another debunking, this time the idea that we could clear the air by planting CO2-absorbing forests.

Climatologists have determined that we have already released enough carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases to cause disastrous climate changes. And so far, the way we might save a fair portion of our civilization is to stop burning coal, oil, gas, and even wood now.

26 May, 2017 – “Humans cannot simply plant their way out of trouble: trees cannot absorb the ever-increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“If the world’s nations really do intend to contain global warming to within 2°C, there is no alternative to drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.

“The tree could be regarded as low-technology carbon removal machinery and, in theory, carefully managed plantations could soak up the carbon released from fossil fuel combustion. But the sheer scale of such plantations would have devastating environmental costs, scientists say.

“If we continue burning coal and oil the way we do today and regret our inaction later, the amounts of greenhouse gas we would need to take out of the atmosphere in order to stabilise the climate would be too huge to manage,” says Lena Boysen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study, published in Earth’s Future journal.

Trees are not the answer

“If the forests were planted on productive land, then humans would lose the soils urgently needed to nourish a population of 9bn. If the trees were planted on less productive terrain, the necessary costs in water and nitrogen-based fertiliser would be devastating. Either way, natural ecosystems would be irreparably damaged.

“And then the trees grown to absorb carbon would have to be stored deep underground, to prevent the carbon returning to the atmosphere to accelerate global warming rather than limit it.

“Even if we were able to use productive plants such as poplar trees or switchgrass, and store 50% of the carbon contained in their biomass, in the business-as-usual scenario of continued, unconstrained fossil fuel use, the sheer size of the plantations for staying at or below 2°C of warming would cause devastating environmental consequences,” Boysen says.

“The world’s great forests are part of the climate machinery, and more than 195 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to take steps to contain climate change, both by managing the way they used land and by switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

“So carbon storage in the form of woodland is one component of a complex problem. Boysen and colleagues report that they looked at a number of scenarios to see whether, even in theory, massive investment in tree planting could remove sufficient quantities of carbon from the atmosphere.

“In the climate drama currently unfolding on that big stage we call Earth, CO2 removal is not the hero who finally saves the day after everything else has failed”

“One scenario required 6.9 billion hectares of plantation, fed by 570 million tons of nitrogen each year, and even the smallest theoretical plantation would have extended over a billion hectares and consumed 96 million tons of nitrogen fertiliser every year. One billion hectares is 10 million square kilometres: an area bigger than the whole of Canada.” –Tim Radford (Continue: Planting trees will not slow global warming – Climate News Network.)

Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news

GR: Of today’s 12 lead stories in my climate newsletter, The Atmosphere News, 3 stories were either optimistic or neutral and 9 were pessimistic or bad. The ‘bad’ story below is worth noting because of the years of back-and-forth over Amazon rainforest protection. I think it illustrates what happens to nature when human problems arise. Nature may “bat last,” but it gets that last-word only after a long string of strikeouts.

Environmental budget cuts come as pressure to convert the rainforest into pasture is intensifying (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

In a bid to contain a growing budget deficit, the government has slashed the funding to enforce forest protection laws

“The Brazilian government is cutting its environment ministry budget by 51% as part of a bid to limit the country’s spiralling deficit.

“The cuts come as deforestation rates are rising, driven by demand for timber, soy and beef. The Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute.

“It is an even steeper drop in spending than the 31% Donald Trump’s administration is proposing for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“The environment ministry oversees the agency responsible for enforcing laws to protect the forest. Sharp spending cuts risk weakening its capacity to carry out inspections, warned NGO Observatorio do Clima.

“Other ministries hit by the austerity drive include transport, tourism and planning, budget and management. Certain programmes have been protected under the government’s “growth acceleration programme”.

“The move comes among reports that Brazilian government environment and land policy is being swayed by a dominant pro-beef caucus.” –Megan Darby (Continue: Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news.)