Notes Towards Healing the Planet


Our home planet is in a condition of system failure, because humans have a brain problem. The Limbic lobe mediates emotions which drive the profit motive, while the Cortex, which underpins understanding and rationality and is the source of the green impetus is more accurate, but less motivating. While we burn the planet to satisfy our luxuries, the environment that satisfies our basic life needs is sorely compromised.

Climate change is the priority, since all else hinges on it.

The options open to us are:
1. Denial (Bush)
2. Pretence (Blair)
3. Nuclear Elitist Ghetto (Lovelock)
4. Defeatism (Private Fraser) ("We're all doomed")
5. Try to make a profit out of it (Business)
6. Rectify the Situation (Normal People)

6 is the favoured mode, but note that 5 has an ambivalence; there is such a thing as good business that is on the side of the angels.

With regard to climate change, we must stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible AND start taking CO2 out of circulation. This is not an either / or choice, it is both / and. The situation is serious. We must move beyond the old sterile argument of "Don't assuage your guilt with doing carbon offset, you (i.e. we) shouldn't be making CO2 in the first place". We are, and we have been, making CO2. If we could magically stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we still have an intolerable legacy of CO2 in the atmosphere, which we must fix.

Is it possible to heal the planet? Looking at the disposition of carbon in the planet, and its flows, it is possible to help Gaia to recover, by combining conservation, renewables and sinks. She needs our help. It is not enough to stop polluting, we must actively remedy the situation.

Carbon Sinks
The Ocean sink is very complex, and works in the long term : we must pro-actively research fertilisation of phytoplankton with iron, nitrogen, phosphorus and silicon.

Reafforestation on the other hand is simple, quick, cheap and advantageous, provided it is done correctly, with due regard to the rules of society and ecology.

There is an effective amount of tree planting that will reverse global warming, but we do not have to refrain from planting until we work exactly what level of reafforestation that may be. Let us start now, then we will be closer when we have worked it out.

Is there enough space to make a difference?
Land area of Earth = 150,000,000 (km2)
Desert area = 30,000,000 km2
USA should plant 600,000 km2 each year to absorb its C02. So America should replant the deserts in 50 years.
Of course, the deserts are a bit of a challenge - but there are plenty of non-desert areas that have room for our trees.

Forests have many advantages.
· Improve the microclimate, and macroclimate
· Act as aerial aquifers
· Provide structural materials and firewood (these losses can be accounted for in the carbon offset calculation).
· Can provide food and medicines.
· Provide habitat, so can restore biodiversity.
· Large reafforestation projects, working from the coast inland, could carry rainfall inland through the transpiration cycle.
· Gladden our hearts and refresh our souls.

Reafforestation can be bad: monoculture of alien species planted by corporations against interests of local people or good: permaculture of indigenous species planted by and for the local community, starting at the coast

In the growing phase the forest is fixing CO2. In maturity, old treed die and decay, producing CH4 (20x stronger greenhouse gas than CO2) and new trees grow in the space.
Therefore to maximise the planet-healing properties of wood, we must harvest wood sustainably, and make high quality, long lasting goods and houses with it.

Wood is a god-given material.
· It makes you whistle while you work
· Easy to work
· Intrinsically beautiful
· Quality hand made valuable objects
· Keeps us warm at the end of its life
· So - Oscar Wilde was wrong : Artistry en bois helps to save the world

The crisis in planetary management, coupled with a possible global economic depression, should drive us towards Green Keynesianism: a massive state-funded investment into ecological and social infrastructure is the remedy. For the 21st century, healing the planet must be the focus of our investment of mental and physical energy and resources.


© 2001 R. Lawson