By Lance Simmens In 1993 then Vice-President Al Gore was instrumental in establishing the Federal Government’s first Office of Sustainable Development in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. I, along with former New Bedford, Massachusetts Mayor John Bullard, was tapped to turn the concept of the office into a reality. One of the first tasks we faced under direct orders from Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was to come up with an operational definition of sustainable development. Over the course of several weeks we did our research into contemporary uses and definitions of the concept but in the end went decidedly simple and reported back to the Secretary that sustainable development was little more than a euphemism for long-term planning. Eureka! That was perfect, it was understandable and could be easily explained to a largely uninitiated public, exclaimed the Secretary. From that moment on we dedicated ourselves to formulating and implementing a series of sustainable development initiatives in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and Gulf of Mexico that incorporated fisheries management regimes with economic development that would have profound impacts upon the communities and individuals that relied upon the commercial fishing industry. I have spent nearly 40 years in politics, government and public policy and I use this as an illustrative example of one of the most important precepts that often does not receive appropriate attention but should serve as the foundation for public policies and programs across a wide spectrum of issues. And this is particularly true in the arena of resource issues. In my just released book entitled “The Evolution of a Revolution: An Attack Upon Reason, Compromise, and the Constitution” I delineate six conceptual criteria for unchaining the current system of government and governance from the dysfunctional shackles that currently render us incapable of addressing issues of any significance, let alone those that critically need action. One of those key criterion is supplanting short-term thinking in our political and governance systems with long-term thinking. This, combined with replacing leadership with statesmanship, which requires vision and wisdom, will go a long way towards resolving our current predicament. In my estimation there is no more serious long-term problem facing the human species than the issue of climate change. Unless we develop a sustainable approach geared towards curbing our insatiable appetite for activities that pump unsustainable levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere we are dooming future generations. An integral component of any definition for sustainability is to ensure that we leave the earth in at least as good a shape if not better than we found it. If we do not immediately move to shift the predominant economic and energy paradigm governing the world from one based upon fossil fuels to one reliant upon renewable energy sources we have no hope whatsoever of fulfilling even the most basic definition of sustainability. Yet Democrats and Republicans alike seem to have been hoodwinked by a fossil fuel industrial complex into believing that continued reliance upon this finite, carbon-emitting resource holds the key to our future. The senselessness of that last sentence is mind-boggling in its absurdity yet evidences the current degree of disregard for common sense. coque iphone That it is often accompanied by wholesale rejection of science or intellectualism only exacerbates the current state of inertia we are witnessing with regard to our reluctance to confront the crisis that stands naked before our very eyes. coque iphone 8 If this nation is unwilling to lead on the issue of sustainability despite being the most egregious trespasser upon the commons, the incentive for developing or developed nations to do will melt faster than ice in the Artic. coque iphone en ligne The current rage is fracking. The United States is in the middle of a fracking frenzy, tapping into shale plays from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, Ohio to Texas, Louisiana to California in search of fool’s gold that until several years ago could not be unearthed in an economically viable way. Technological advances that have made hydraulic fracturing possible effectively crowd out important investments in renewable energy and fatten the coffers of an oil and gas lobby that thrives in a post Citizens United political environment. This is an industry in which the top five corporations reaped $93 billion in net profits in 2013, a dramatic reduction from years past but still prodigious enough to shape tax and energy policies at will in State Capitols, the Halls of Congress, and the White House. All the while the observable manifestations of such a reckless disregard for the economic and environmental impacts of climate change, both short-term and long-term, continue to mount. And from a sustainable point of view other issues that are becoming increasingly documented point to the destructive nature of the extractive industry. They include: adverse impacts upon water, both quantity and quality; adverse impacts upon air contamination; adverse impacts upon public health; and an increasingly troublesome cause and effect relationship between drilling, waste disposal and seismic activity. The incidence of earthquakes has increased dramatically in places where they are common and in places where they are relatively unheard of, such as Ohio. coque iphone Failure to face the fallacy that fracking for fossil fuels is the future is potentially fatal. The fossil fools perpetrating this inter-generational injustice place profits over people. It is wrong on so many fronts but most of all it is an affront to our sensibilities. It is quite simply unsustainable. It was brought to my attention several years ago that the planet will survive climate change. When I asked whether the species would survive a famous earth sciences professor explained that that was a very different question. coque iphone xs max To quote Carl Sagan, “The Earth is the only world known to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” In other words, there is no Planet B. Lance Simmens has worked for two Presidents, two U.S. Senators, two Governors, and the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. He is currently living in California and actively involved in grassroots efforts opposing fracking. He is the author of “The Evolution of a Revolution”, published by Inkwell Productions.
by William McDonough In the United States, one of our great strategic thinkers was Thomas Jefferson. As the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia I was able to live for five years in a house designed by Thomas Jefferson on the great lawn of the University of Virginia that he designed. As such, I came to know Mr. coque iphone en ligne Jefferson as a designer. I see design as the first signal of human intention. We are all designers, and we all have intentions for the world. Most of us have positive, optimistic intentions. coque iphone pas cher As we look into the future, we dream of prosperity or good health, we imagine a more hopeful state of affairs. coque iphone This is exactly what the General Assembly of the United Nations wanted to ensure for all of us in 1948, when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human rights. In this fundamental human design, the Assembly, like Thomas Jefferson, left us a legacy and outlined a strategy of hope. It proclaimed that the inherent dignity of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and peace in the world. It also recognized that disregard of human rights results in tyranny and that human rights should therefore be protected by the rule of law. The legacies of Mr. Jefferson and the UN General Assembly of 1948 are under siege. The UN Human Rights Council recognized for the first time in 2009 that climate change forms a direct threat to the human rights of all people and all societies in the world. According to the Council, climate change will have worldwide implications on rights such as the right of life, housing, health and self-determination and it will have severe consequences for the next generations. Today, Mr. Jefferson would perhaps be calling for freedom from inter-generational remote tyranny, the idea that one generation might pollute the earth and destroy the ability of future generations to celebrate its abundance. He wrote in 1789: “The earth belongs to the living, no man may by natural right oblige the land he owns or occupies to debts greater than those that may be paid during his own lifetime.” If he could, then the world would belong to the dead, and not to the living. soldes coque iphone But the world needs to belong to the living. coque iphone soldes This physical reality runs in parallel with our consciousness and the human experience as a whole, especially as we move into the Anthropocene era. Jefferson’s concept of rights today extends beyond the human world to the rights of nature itself. We can see this in the U.S. Endangered Species Act and in the international treaties that give whales and other creatures the right to exist in good health on the planet. From this perspective, when we see the loss of species, when we see our environment being destroyed by flooding, by toxification, by drought, perhaps we can begin to see that nature’s rights are intrinsic to our human rights and our ability to exist. In 1992, I wrote The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability, to be presented at the World’s Fair in 2000, as an engagement with a large perspective. The laws of nature have yielded immense fecundity—the basis of life itself. Modern systems are designed wrong-side out. Energy is typically from carbon being taken from the lithosphere and put into the atmosphere. Water is contaminated. The value of materials is degraded. And the biosphere is suffering untold degradations The Hannover Principles represent big thinking presented to inspire small actions to stimulate all manner of beneficial effects and offer our future generations freedom from inter-generational tyranny. They are design principles. They see to beg the question of what is design quality. Good design, like safe drinking water, is a human right. Why principles? Because when designing, one starts with principles and values—an expression of intentional consciousness. Evidencing the design, you then move on to expressing goals, strategies, tactics, and metrics. soldes coque iphone 2019 In modern life we see so many people starting to design with metrics, then tactics, and then strategies. But leaving us all to wonder if the lack of principled behavior is their intention. With a careful, precautionary principled approach we become conscious of and can take necessary steps to take responsibility for the consequences of an earth dominated by human—both intended and unintended. You can see all nine Hannover Principles at this link, but here’s #3, which I see as an especially important guidepost: “Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement, including community, dwelling, industry, and trade, in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.” I work in the world of commerce, where we seek to evidence these principles in ordinary life. Apparently, we have been timefully mindless. We are in a hurry, and we’re not even thinking. What we are looking for is timelessly mindful. It is time to move from being time-fully mindless to being timelessly mindful. We are here to wage peace. There is no more delightfully serious function in life and in business than to create joy.
Whether they’re producing voltage directly from solar rays or focusing them to melt salt like Ivanpah, even Earth’s biggest and baddest solar power plants are hamstrung by all this damnable atmosphere getting in the way. But a new kind of off-world solar energy plant could soon provide the whole planet with plenty of power—we just have to finish figuring out how to build and operate it. Energy Production in Spaaaaaaaace! With the advent of silicon-based photovoltaic solar panels—the kind that directly convert solar energy to electrical current—some 60 years ago, researchers immediately looked to the skies as the ideal place to collect solar energy. coque iphone pas cher Up there, you don’t have miles and miles of atmosphere and clouds absorbing, scattering, or blocking out the sun’s incoming rays. That means photovoltaic panels should, conceivably, be able to operate at (or very near) their theoretical efficiency limits. Plus, if you position a solar power satellite (SPS) properly over the equator, it will only reside in the Earth’s shadow for a few hours every year and thereby provide nearly non-stop energy. coque iphone 8 The idea of space-based solar power (SBSP) was formalized in the seminal 1968 report, Power from the Sun: Its Future, by American aerospace engineer Peter Glaser. The paper set forth a conceptual system for collecting unhampered solar energy from massive extra-atmospheric arrays of photovoltaic cells set in geosynchronous orbit above the equator, and transmitting it wirelessly back to Earth where it would be used by terrestrial power grids. In theory, with enough orbiting “solar farms,” the energy needs of not just the U.S. coque iphone pas cher but the entire world could be met. In his paper, Glaser argued that while building, launching, and operating such a power plant was currently beyond the reach of scientific knowledge at the time, those technological advances would be within our grasp in the coming years and decades. So, are we any closer to freeing the entire world from its energy woes with orbiting solar farms than we were at the start of the Space Age? Sure, but we’ve still got some work to do before that actually happens. coque iphone en ligne Specifically, there are a number aspects that we need to iron out before something like this actually comes to fruition. Launch It – What It Will Take to Farm Sunlight from SpaceExpand The first issue is the fact that a commercial-grade SPS would be simply gargantuan. In order to produce a GW of power, you’d need a massive collection area 0.5 kilometers long by 5.2 kilometers wide and weighing tens of thousands of tons. No matter how tightly you fold it up, there’s simply no way to get a fully formed SPS from the surface of the Earth into orbit given our current launch capabilities that wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive. So, for example, let’s assume that a standard solar panel weighs about 20 kg per kw. Not including the necessary support and transmission components, a 4 GW capacity would weigh a whopping 80,000 tons. It would require nearly 9,000 Atlas V rockets (each with a max lifting ability of 8,900 kg to GEO) to free that structure from Earth’s gravitational grip, or at least 9,000 trips to geosynchronous orbit and back, and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $320 billion. That’s just to get the solar panels into position, not to assemble them or operate them—just to get them up there. Nor is that accounting for the environmental impact of all those rocket launches. However, while reusable space launch systems like Space X’s Dragon Capsule can only lift a fraction of what an Atlas V can, their low-cost nature could provide significant cost savings and drastically shortened turnaround times should the project be attempted today. Similarly, since we’re not rushing to beat another nation to the punch (something of this scale would demand the financial and technological assistance of every nation on Earth), slower but more cost efficient delivery methods like ion propulsion could also be deployed to shuttle materials from Low Earth Orbit up to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit. Essentially, LEO would become a staging area where materials would be tugged up to GEO by a fleet of as-of-yet-uninvented space transport vehicles. A secondary option proposed by American physicist Gerard O’Neill in the 1970s would have avoided the high cost of launching materials from Earth by instead constructing the SPS from materials mined on the Moon. This would have offered significant launch cost savings given the Moon’s far lower gravity, but would have required NASA to invent and deploy mass drivers (electromagnetic rail guns designed to throw packages into space) on the Moon’s surface. Though this seems like it would cost a hell of a lot more than just using rockets, a 1979 report by General Dynamics’ Convair Division estimated that using lunar resources would be cost effective should we build out 30 or so 10GW SPS’s—for a total capacity of 300 GW, or enough to satisfy projected U.S. electricity demand in the 2000-2030 period. Build It – What It Will Take to Farm Sunlight from SpaceExpand So even if we manage to get these tens of thousands of tons of stuff into orbit, the next issue would be putting it all together. This of course comes with its own set of challenges. coque iphone pas cher The structure, for example, wouldn’t need to support itself against gravity or the elements as terrestrial-based power plants do, but would have to defend against micrometeors and solar flares. There’s also the matter of who would build it. When NASA took a look at the issue in the late 1970s, it estimated necessary construction time at around 30 years. Three decades of build time. We can barely keep highly-trained astronauts out there on the ISS for more than a year, and a project like this would require either a veritable army of orbital workers (we’re talking a New Deal-scale workforce) continually shuttled back and forth to the surface, or we’d need an army of robots to do the same. NASA’s 1970s solution was to use a fleet of “beam builder” robots to roll and assemble sheets of aluminum into trusses tens of kilometers long. This method would reduce the necessary workforce of humans to a supervisory skeleton crew, which in turn would minimize training, operating, and liability costs. However, even with generous estimates of mechanization capabilities at the time, NASA estimated it would need at least 1,000 full-time astronauts on hand at any given moment—again, that’s just counting astronauts, not the additional doctors, cooks, cleaners, and other service workers they’d require to live in orbit, or the massive amount of resources (air, water, and food) that they’d consume. NASA estimated that the number of support workers would outnumber the builders by a factor of 10 to 1. And though this would be a massively expensive undertaking, it would also open up a huge new industry for anyone brave enough to work and live 22,000 miles up. Maintain It Not to put the cart before the horse, but assuming we do somehow manage to construct an SPS, keeping it from falling out of the sky could be tricky. The ISS for example, the largest orbiting man-made satellite in existence, uses regularly refilled gas propulsion to keep its orbit from fatally degrading. But given the monstrous size of these power plants, we’d have to devise a new, more efficient means of keeping them aloft. Solar light sails have been suggested as one solution, propped up either by the suns rays or by ground-based laser and radio energy. This energy would essentially counteract the planet’s gravitational pull and push the SPS just hard enough to keep it from falling back to Earth. But we’re still years away from such technology being readily available. Another solution, which is a bit closer to reality, is to convert solar-generated, DC power into microwaves and beam that energy up to the satellite to provide operational power. Researchers have been playing with this technology since the 1980s, and JAXA (Japan’s space agency) recently announced that a proposed small-scale SPS might use this method when it comes online in 2040. Get It Back By far, the biggest stumbling block for SPS technology involves getting it from space to your wall socket—it’s not like we can just run a huge extension cord up there. Instead, we’ll have to rely on a neophyte power transmission technology known as “wireless power transmission” (WPT). WPT converts DC current to microwave frequency and shoots it to a distant receiver where it is converted back to electricity and added to the power grid—essentially the reverse of what we’d use to keep the SPS aloft, as described above. This technology is far closer to science than fiction. It was first demonstrated in 1964 when American electrical engineer William C Brown demonstrated a microwave beam-powered helicopter for Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. soldes coque iphone Subsequent developments by Raytheon in the 1970s saw microwaves transmit 30kW of energy over the course of a mile with 84 percent efficiency. And while a 5 GW beam would require massive arrays of receiver dishes spread over large uninhabited areas of the planet, the UN’s non-profit SunSat Energy Council has stated that this type of beam would be of such low density that it wouldn’t be capable of harming plant and animal life. You wouldn’t get a kitten in a microwave effect if you walked through this beam—in fact, it would reportedly warm your skin less than the Sun’s natural rays would. While WPT technology is certainly possible, there are a number of necessary factors to make it plausible. Factors like how you would generate the microwave signal in the first place. In the 1970s, when NASA first looked at the issue, the state of the art still used vacuum tubes. Today, semiconductor amplifiers offer superior efficiencies at a lower price point, but at the 1 GW scale, an SPS would need somewhere around the order of 100 million such devices to create a powerful-enough signal. There’s also the matter of the specific frequency the beam will take, lest it interfere with existing technologies. Somewhere in the 1 – 10 GHz range (around 5.8 GHz) is most likely, given the need to balance between antenna size and atmospheric penetration capabilities as well as accounting for existing band usage. Then there’s the issue of aiming the damn thing to hit a receiver dish 36,000 km away. You wouldn’t be able to do it with a single antenna. An SPS would require a massive number of smaller coordinated and synchronized antennae (up to a billion per satellite by some estimates) each precisely aimed at a 3km wide rectifying antenna on the ground, and aimed with an accuracy of just 10 µrad (and an efficiency of about 85 percent). That’s an unprecedented level of accuracy—not even the beam line tolerances at CERN are that tight. For all intents and purposes, it’s beyond our capabilities at this time. Where to Go from Here While this may seem like just as much of a Herculean task as it was in the 1970s, SBSP could well become a viable energy source within our lifetimes. Japan has already announced plans to build its own SPS within the next 25 years. Given both the rapid development of renewable energy over the past decade and the shift from public to private spaceflight—not to mention the growing need for more and cleaner power—the stars could soon align in favor of this ambitious project.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN by Sara E. Morrow Santiago de Compostela’s name and notoriety both come from Saint James the Apostle. It is most famous for being the site where the remains of St. James were found, where religious pilgrimers flock to each year. coque iphone 8 “St. James of the Starry Field” is the local translation for this small, charming city, set in the hills of the north-western province of Galicia, Spain. It’s believed his remains are buried there under the Cathederal’s altar. The history behind the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is interwoven with the story of Christianity. Saint James became the leader of the church of Jerusalem after Jesus’s resurrection. Tradition states that he also traveled to Spain to share the blessed news, then returned to Jerusalem where he was made a martyr. After his death, his body was taken by his followers to the coast and then put on a ship that came ashore in Spain. The body of St. James and two of his disciples were then buried without much notoriety or fuss. In 1813, a Spanish hermit named Pelayo got a vision – a bright light shining over a spot in the forrest. An investigation led to the uncovering of St. James’s tomb in a field, along with two of his disciples. A church was built on top of the tomb site and around this the city of Santiago de Compostela began to grow. Monuments, churches, monasteries, towns and other cities grew along the route to and from there, as well. Also known as the “Way of St. James”, this trek is thought of as the first great Christian thoroughfare and for many centuries drew both the rich and the poor. Hundreds of pilgrims make the journey each year to the Cathederal St. James, in the heart of the city. coque iphone 8 Regarded as a reenactment of the journey to Christ, the hardships along the way welcomed as tests of faith. coque iphone xs max Every year around ten thousand make this arduous journey, which is not easy. It’s a beautiful trek, yet rugged. This ‘camino’ is done by many different religious, including Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists – even those with no religious affiliation but a spiritual desire and curiosity. The trek is done by walking, biking or horseback on the paths of the historic Camino de Santiago. Each year St. James’s day is celebrated on July 25 and when this is on a Sunday, it’s considered an especially special year. coque iphone 2019 What to See: Plaza del Obradoiro – The cathedral’s facade forms part of an extended architectural composition on the a grand square surrounded by public buildings. To the north and south, and in a line with the west front, are dependent buildings of the 18th century, grouping well with it. Those to the south contain a light and elegant arcade to the upper windows, serving as a screen to the late Gothic cloisters. Built in 1533 by the future archbishop of Toledo, the cloisters are said to be the largest in Spain. Obradoiro façade – The spectacular Baroque facade of the cathedral, known as the was added between 1738 and 1750 by an obscure local architect, Fernando de Casas. Made of granite, it is flanked by huge bell towers and adorned everywhere with statues of St. James as the pilgrim, with staff, broad hat and scallop-shell badge. The ground rises to the cathedral, which is reached by a magnificent quadruple flight of steps, flanked by statues of David and Solomon. Access to the staircase is through fine wrought-iron gates marked with a seashell. Romanesque chapel – In the centre, on the level of the Plaza, is the entrance to a the Iglesia Baja (Lower Church), constructed under the portico and contemporary with the cathedral. Pórtico de la Gloria – Entrance to the cathedral is through the magnificent, carved in 1188 by Maestro Mateo and considered one of the finest works of medieval art. The shafts, tympana and archivolts of the three doorways are a mass of sculpture depicting the Last Judgment. On either side of the portal are Prophets of the Old Testament, including Daniel, who seems to be smiling. The arches over the side doors represent Purgatory and the Last Judgment, with Christ in glory presiding in the center. Statue of St. James – This status is below the Christ figure on the central column. coque iphone Since the Middle Ages it has been the custom of pilgrims to pray with their fingers pressed into the roots of the Tree of Jesse below Saint James, and five deep indentations have been worn into the marble as a result. The altar – A blend of Gothic simplicity and 18th-century Churrigueresque exuberance. A bejeweled medieval statue of the saint stands at the altar, which pilgrims greet with a hug upon arrival at the shrine. Those who have travelled over 100km on foot are handed a certificate in Latin called a Compostela. Relics of St. James – The sacred lie beneath the cathedral’s high altar in a silver coffer; they can be viewed from the crypt. Capilla del Relicario (Chapel of the Reliquary) is a gold crucifix, dated 874, containing a piece of the True Cross.
Belgium to Crush Ivory in Response to Global Elephant Crisis The threat to elephants continues to be dire. coque iphone pas cher Every fifteen minutes, another elephant is poached for their tusks. soldes coque iphone The stakes to end poaching and cut off the supply of ivory is of critical importance to the welfare of the world’s remaining elephants. coque iphone On Monday, March 3, 2014, Belgium announced they intended to crush their entire stockpile of ivory. coque iphone xr The ivory will be destroyed in a ceremony on April 9th in the presence of dignitaries from elephant range states and in collaboration with The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). coque iphone Watch the video below to learn more about the pressing need to raise awareness for the plight of elephants.
As eco-tourism gains more and more recognition, Ethical Travel has compiled a list of the ten best “ethical destinations” on earth. These are countries that are “working to maintain strong environmental, human rights, and eco-tourism values,” according to Ethical Traveler’s website. And the world’s 10 best ethical destinations (in no particular order) are… 1. coque iphone 8 The Bahamas – The Exumas‘ two national parks are the ideal spots to admire nature in a ecologically responsible way. coque iphone 2019 Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is the first “no-take reserve” (fishing is prohibited) in the Caribbean. 2. Barbados – Barbados has strictly enforced environmental laws to preserve the island’s natural habitat. coque iphone soldes 3. Cape Verde – Spinguera Eco-Resort, on the island of Boa Vista, is one of the many eco-friendly resorts on Cape Verde. coque iphone The resort is integrated into the landscape and relies on renewable energy sources. 4. Chile – Chile has no shortage of natural wonders. Ecocamp Patagonia lets travelers get totally absorbed in the world around them. Located in Torres del Paine National Park, Ecocamp is the region’s first fully sustainable destinations and features awesome geodesic domes. 5. Dominica – Dominica is known for its biodiversity. The island offers a number of eco-resorts that are devoted to conserving and preserving the land. coque iphone 8 6. Latvia – Fun fact: Latvia is one of the only countries in the world where natural ecosystems and forests still comprise half of its territory. This untouched natural wonder is perfect for sustainable exploration. 7. Lithuania – With a dedication to preserving its natural environment and both urban and rural eco-tour options, Lithuania offers stunning national parks, lakes and beaches. 8. Mauritius – Clear waters, lush green forests, pristine beaches… Mauritius pretty much has everything you could want. The country’s natural wonders are well-protected and eco-hotels, like Lakaz Chamarel, offer environmentally responsible stays. coque iphone 9. Palau – Palau is insanely beautiful. It’s one of the best diving locations on earth. soldes coque iphone In February 2014, the island nation banned all commercial fishing to preserve the stunning reefs and lagoon waters and establish a “100 percent marine sanctuary.” 10. Uruguay – With plenty of eco-friendly lodging and tours and rich natural habitats to explore, Uruguay is a well-established destination with a focus on sustainable travel.
Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight? The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change. By: Judith d. Schwartz In the 19th century, as land-hungry pioneers steered their wagon trains westward across the United States, they encountered a vast landscape of towering grasses that nurtured deep, fertile soils. Today, just three percent of North America’s tallgrass prairie remains. Its disappearance has had a dramatic impact on the landscape and ecology of The world’s cultivated soils have lost 50 to 70 percent of their original carbon stock. soldes coque iphone the U.S., but a key consequence of that transformation has largely been overlooked: a massive loss of soil carbon into the atmosphere. The importance of soil carbon — how it is leached from the earth and how that process can be reversed — is the subject of intensifying scientific investigation, with important implications for the effort to slow the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. coque iphone According to Rattan Lal, director of Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, the world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2. coque iphone 8 Now, armed with rapidly expanding knowledge about carbon sequestration in soils, researchers are studying how land restoration programs in places like the Rattan Lal Soil in a long-term experiment appears red when depleted of carbon and dark brown when carbon content is high former North American prairie, the North China Plain, and even the parched interior of Australia might help put carbon back into the soil. Absent carbon and critical microbes, soil becomes mere dirt, a process of deterioration that’s been rampant around the globe. Many scientists say that regenerative agricultural practices can turn back the carbon clock, reducing atmospheric CO2 while also boosting soil productivity and increasing resilience to floods and drought. Such regenerative techniques include planting fields year-round in crops or other cover, and agroforestry that combines crops, trees, and animal husbandry. Recognition of the vital role played by soil carbon could mark an important if subtle shift in the discussion about global warming, which has been a look at soil brings a sharper focus on potential carbon sinks heavily focused on curbing emissions of fossil fuels. But a look at soil brings a sharper focus on potential carbon sinks. Reducing emissions is crucial, but soil carbon sequestration needs to be part of the picture as well, says Lal. The top priorities, he says, are restoring degraded and eroded lands, as well as avoiding deforestation and the farming of peatlands, which are a major reservoir of carbon and are easily decomposed upon drainage and cultivation. coque iphone He adds that bringing carbon back into soils has to be done not only to offset fossil fuels, but also to feed our growing global population. “We cannot feed people if soil is degraded,” he says. “Supply-side approaches, centered on CO2 sources, amount to reshuffling the Titanic deck chairs if we overlook demand-side solutions: where that carbon can and should go,” says Thomas J. Goreau, a biogeochemist and expert on carbon and nitrogen cycles who now serves as president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Goreau says we need to seek opportunities to increase soil carbon in all ecosystems — from tropical forests to pasture to wetlands — by replanting degraded areas, increased mulching of biomass instead of burning, large-scale use of biochar, improved pasture management, effective erosion control, and restoration of mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses. “CO2 cannot be reduced to safe levels in time to avoid serious long-term impacts unless the other side of atmospheric CO2 balance is included,” Goreau says. Scientists say that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life. And compared to many proposed geoengineering fixes, storing carbon in soil is simple: It’s a matter of returning carbon where it belongs. Through photosynthesis, a plant draws carbon out of the air to form carbon compounds. What the plant doesn’t need for growth is exuded through the roots to feed soil organisms, whereby the carbon is humified, or rendered stable. Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter and helps give soil its water-retention capacity, its structure, and its fertility. According to Lal, some pools of carbon housed in soil aggregates are so stable that they can last thousands of years. This is in contrast to “active” soil carbon, ‘If we treat soil carbon as a renewable resource, we can change the dynamics,’ says an expert. “If we treat soil carbon as a renewable resource, we can change the dynamics,” says Goreau. “When we have erosion, we lose soil, which carries with it organic carbon, into waterways. When soil is exposed, it oxidizes, essentially burning the soil carbon. We can take an alternate trajectory.” As basic as soil carbon is, there’s much scientists are just learning about it, including how to make the most of its CO2 sequestration capacity. One promising strategy, says Goreau, is bolstering soil microbiology by adding beneficial microbes to stimulate the soil cycles where they have been interrupted by use of insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. As for agroforestry, programs with greater species diversity are better able to maximize the storage of carbon than monocultures. Many researchers are looking to biochar — produced when plant matter, manure, or other organic material is heated in a zero- or low-oxygen environment — for its ability to turn problem areas into productive sites while building soil carbon. Says Goreau, “Vast areas of deforested land that have been abandoned after soil degradation are excellent candidates for replanting and reforestation using biochar from the weeds now growing there.” An important vehicle for moving carbon into soil is root, or mycorrhizal, fungi, which govern the give-and-take between plants and soil. According to Australian soil scientist Christine Jones, plants with mycorrhizal connections can transfer up to 15 percent more carbon to soil than their non-mycorrhizal counterparts. The most common mycorrhizal fungi are marked by threadlike filaments called hyphae that extend the reach of a plant, increasing access to nutrients and water. These hyphae are coated with a sticky substance called glomalin, discovered only in 1996, which is instrumental in soil structure and carbon storage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises land managers to protect glomalin by minimizing tillage and chemical inputs and using cover crops to keep living roots in the soil. In research published in Nature in January, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Boston University assessed the carbon and nitrogen cycles under different mycorrhizal regimens and found that plants linked with fruiting, or mushroom-type, fungi stored 70 percent more carbon per unit of nitrogen in soil. Our understanding of how soil life affects the carbon cycle is poised for tremendous growth. coque iphone en ligne driver of carbon storage, particularly “the mechanisms by which carbon can stay in the ground rather than going into the atmosphere.” One implication of this research, says Goreau, is that “the effect of most landscape alterations is to convert them from systems that store carbon efficiently … toward ones that are inefficient in the use of nitrogen, and as a result are losing carbon storage.” By landscape alterations, he means from forest to cropland, or from small farms to industrial agriculture operations that use the chemicals that inhibit the mycorrhizal and microbial interactions that store carbon. Our understanding of soil microbiology and how soil life affects the carbon cycle is poised for tremendous growth, says Goreau. This, he says, is thanks to the burgeoning field of metagenomics, the study of genetic material from specimens taken directly from the environment rather than cultured in a lab. “For the first time,” says Goreau, “we can identify all major soil biogeochemical pathways from the genetic information in the microbes.” Even at our current level of knowledge, many see great potential for storing carbon in soil. Lal of Ohio State says that restoring soils of degraded and desertified ecosystems has the potential to store in world soils an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon annually, equivalent to roughly 3.5 billion to 11 billion tons of CO2 emissions. (Annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning are roughly 32 billion tons.) Many call Lal’s carbon soil storage figures low. This could reflect the fact that soil carbon is generally measured in the top 15 to 30 centimeters, whereas soil at depth may store carbon at much higher rates. For example, in land with deep-rooted grasses the soil can go down five meters or more. Research by Australian and British scientists published last year in the journal Plant and Soil examined soils in five southwestern Australia sites MORE FROM YALE e360 As Uses of Biochar Expand, Climate Benefits Still Uncertain Research shows that biochar made from plant fodder and even chicken manure can be used to scrub mercury from power plant emissions and clean up polluted soil. The big question is whether biochar can be produced on a sufficiently large scale to slow or reverse global warming. Those who champion soil carbon for climate mitigation frequently look to grasslands, which cover more than a quarter of the world’s land. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, grasslands also hold 20 percent of the world’s soil carbon stock. Much of this land is degraded, as evidenced in the U.S. Great Plains and places like northern Mexico, Africa’s Sahel, and Mongolia. Seth Itzkan — founder of Massachusetts-based Planet-TECH Associates, a consulting firm specializing in restoration ecology — advocates Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG), a model developed by Zimbabwean wildlife biologist Allan Savory. In this practice, livestock are managed as a tool for large-scale land restoration, mimicking the herding and grazing patterns of wild ruminants that coevolved with grassland ecosystems. Animals are moved so that no plants are overgrazed, and grazing stimulates biological activity in the soil. Their waste adds fertility, and as they move in a herd their trampling aerates soil, presses in seeds, and pushes down dead plant matter so it can be acted upon by soil microorganisms. All of this generates soil carbon, plant carbon, and water retention. Savory says HPG doesn’t require more land — in fact it generally supports greater animal density — so it can be applied wherever livestock are raised. In Australia, which has been suffering extreme heat and wildfires, policy-makers are taking seriously programs that build and stabilize soil carbon. The action plan Regenerate Australia outlines a strategy to restore up to 300 million hectares (740 million acres). A core goal is attaining previous soil carbon levels by introducing more sustainable grazing, farming, and water-retention practices. Says Rattan Lal: “Soils of the world must be part of any agenda to address climate change, as well as food and water security.