Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

“Pied Beauty” by G. M. Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

                                                Práise hím.


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If the current American government, the Obama Administration, is serious about increasing the number of people with ‘green-collar’ jobs, they ought to start by initiating a massive reforestation/afforestation plan which is organized on a local/county basis.  More Americans also ought to be trained in forestry and related environmental fields instead of ones which are mostly useless or even harmful to society such as banking/usury, paper-pushing, unnecessary legal jobs, etc.

A nationwide reforestation/afforestation plan would be rather simple to do, and it would also employ very many Americans who are currently unemployed and/or underemployed.  Trees ought to be replanted everywhere possible in an organized and methodical way.

Trees help to control the loss of vital topsoil to erosion, and they also preserve water/moisture in soils.  Additionally, trees absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and use it to produce oxygen (which is of course a necessity for human existence).

Deforestation causes droughts — believe it or not, the trees and other natural vegetation of a region often ‘interacts’ with the localized atmosphere to produce rain, humidity, and other beneficial weather patterns. Thus, when you cut down most of the trees in an area and clear the land for houses, parking lots, shopping centers, skyscrapers, factories, etc, the land will eventually become a desert or semi-desert if trees are not eventually re-established in to the habitat.

Did you know that much of Italy, Spain, and North Africa used to be heavily forested back a few thousand years ago in ancient Greek/Roman times and of course long before that? Now widespread desertification has occurred in many areas of those countries since the ancient inhabitants of those areas often cleared the land of trees (to make room for farmland, pastureland, and towns/cities) and thus a lot of the rain eventually left those areas as a result of the loss of vegetation.  Over time, incessant winds (which were once mostly blocked by trees or other vegetation) have loosened or blown away the topsoil which also became increasingly dried out from the sunlight beating down on it constantly due to the lack of a forest canopy to protect it from getting sun-baked on a daily basis during the hotter months.  Whenever it rained heavily a lot of topsoil was washed away due to the lack of trees and associated vegetation, the roots of which once served to hold that precious topsoil in place.  Thus, over a period of centuries after an area had been deforested, entirely new deserts or semi-deserts were formed where once lush forests thrived.

The USA and other nations ought to learn from the catastrophic mistakes of past civilizations instead of repeating them.  I propose that a nationwide program of reforestation/afforestation is needed in order to make sure that we do not slowly turn large swathes of North America in to a desert-like environment in the coming centuries due to irresponsible and unsustainable levels of deforestation.

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A few recent links about the possible future course of humankind on Earth if we do not begin to change our unsustainable ways:

+ “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?” by Lester Brown (in Scientific American – May 2009) – this article posits that the increasing fragility of the world’s food supply could lead to shortages that would further destabilize many developing (as well as developed) countries

+ “What the future looks like” by Martin Rees (in The Guardian – May 2009) – a rather gloomy assessment of the socio-environmental situation that could lead to major problems by 2050.  In relation to the burgeoning world population and the impact that this is having on the environment, the article states:

“But there are some trends that we can predict with confidence. There will, barring a global catastrophe, be far more people on Earth than today. Fifty years ago the world population was below 3 billion. It has more than doubled since then, to 6.7 billion. The percentage growth rate has slowed, but it is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The excess will almost all be in the developing world where the young hugely outnumber the old.

If population growth were to continue beyond 2050, one can’t be other than exceedingly gloomy about the prospects. And the challenge of feeding such a rapidly growing population will be aggravated by climate change.

The world will be warmer than today in 2050; the patterns of rainfall and drought across the world will be different. If we pursue “business as usual”,

CO2 concentration levels will reach twice the pre-industrial level by around 2050. The higher its concentration, the greater the warming – and, more important still, the greater the chance of triggering something grave and irreversible: rising sea levels due to the melting of Greenland’s icecap; runaway release of methane in the tundra.”

+ ABC News ran the TV special “Earth 2100” back in early June 2009 – it also paints a grim portrait of Earth overwhelmed by major economic, political, and socio-environmental problems by the year 2100 if humanity does not soon change course and begin upon a more ecologically/environmentally sustainable path. I didn’t hear about or get to watch the program when it first aired, but I hope to watch a rerun of it on the internet sometime soon when I find the time.
– Also see the following related links:
“Earth 2100: the Final Century of Civilization? – Planet At Risk: Experts Warn Population Growth, Resource Depletion, Climate Change Could Bring Catastrophe in Next Century”

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Yesterday I posted the entire essay (albeit broken up in to many separate posts) from a college class that I just completed. While that essay forms the nucleus or basis of this website, I will now begin to post on various topics related to the environment (problems and some possible solutions), sustainability, ecology/environmental science, social problems (especially as they relate to the environment), enviroeconomic/ecopolitical issues, simple/slower living, and many others.

Stay tuned, y’all…

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While a rather bleak picture of a decaying humanity barely clinging to a near-permanently wrecked Earth has been described in many of the preceding pages, it certainly doesn’t have to turn out that way. We still yet have some time in which to begin on a better and more stable/sustainable course. We are going to have to harness and accurately direct all of the ingenuity, willpower, idealism, and intelligence we can muster in order to make it through the coming socio-environmental storm, but the Earth’s eventual environmental recovery is nearly assured if we stay focused on and keep working to solve the immense problems that now plague us.

This is no time for admissions of defeat, resignation, hopelessness, pessimism, or negativism – it is a time for positivity, perseverance, optimism, hope, and joy at performing the necessary work which is currently confronting our species. So let us all begin to look ahead and start to do the intense thinking, the difficult planning, the passionate debating, and the undeniably vital work which will serve to carry our species as well as our precious home planet in to a newer and brighter epoch of advanced life in our small corner of the vast universe.

+ NOTE: check out the book Ecological Utopias: Envisioning the Sustainable Society for a good overview of a few historical as well as modern “ecological utopias” as imagined by various Western thinkers, writers, scientists, activists, etc.

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Though the discussion of overpopulation is taboo in many quarters, understanding the pivotal role that population and demographics plays in relation to the advancement (or contraction) of human civilization is essential.  To be frank, it is clear that many parts of the world are overpopulated to a frightening extent and as such we must begin to take various steps that will eventually lead to the stabilization and normalization of population levels.

The best step we can currently take is to make birth-control options more easily available for everyone, i.e. either very inexpensive or even entirely free of cost.  We also must start to educate and inform every single person on the extreme importance of maintaining healthy, sustainable, and stable population levels in relation to their local environment as well as in the world at large.

These are sensitive issues to many people – despite that, humanity can no longer afford to continue to brush them aside as too controversial because the very future of Earth’s environment hinges on humanity reaching stable and sustainable population levels.  The most reasonable opinion is likely that everyone has the right to replace themselves (replacement level fertility), but everyone does not have the right to have a large number of children they cannot take care of and thus must rely on governmental assistance or other means of support.

The heated debate surrounding overpopulation as well as human population issues in general will of course continue to rage on, but we must realize that the debate cannot continue forever lest we fail to take some kind of definitive measures sooner rather than later.  If we wait too long we might be forced to take severe or drastic actions that could have been averted had we acted earlier.

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Modern human civilizations only exist because of the advent of agriculture during the Neolithic Era.  The soil under our feet is literally the foundation of humankind as we now know it.  For most of history humans were small enough in number that they didn’t affect or alter the Earth’s surface all that drastically for either good or ill.

However, that has of course changed in the last two-to-three centuries as humans have grown in number and settled all ends of the Earth.  The vast majority of humans currently depend on agricultural crops for their existence, and this too is now in danger due to overpopulation.  Topsoil, the most critical and necessary layer of soil needed for productive agriculture, is being lost all around the world at a dizzying and disturbing rate.

Unfortunately, there is no way to wait around and allow topsoil to be naturally replenished.  Soil scientists have proven that it takes about one century for only an inch of topsoil to be reformed once it has been over-farmed, eroded, polluted, or otherwise degraded and rendered unusable.

Uncontrolled/unchecked erosion, as well as inept soil management, has been out of control in the last few centuries due to over-plowing and working far too intensively on certain land which has lead to massive erosion of valuable topsoil.  The cutting away of trees or other plants which once served to hold invaluable topsoil in place and thus prevent erosion is also continuing to occur with frightening rapidity.

The soil in many areas has also become progressively more contaminated and/or polluted because of too much industrial development in concentrated areas, often rendering it near-useless for future agricultural purposes.  Just as the world’s oceans are being over-fished to very worrying extent, much of the best soil/land around the world is being fervently over-farmed in many areas, rendering that soil mostly sterile, organically exhausted, and devoid of the necessary nutrients needed for productive agriculture for perhaps centuries to come.  Far too many farms are increasingly relying on a toxic myriad fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides just to keep their fields even minimally productive.

The local, regional, national, and international mismanagement of our all-important soil, which is so necessary to the continued existence of modern human civilization(s), clearly does not bode well for a future in which perhaps many billions more people than currently exist on Earth will need to be fed on a daily basis.

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