BEYOND PINE TREES AND CARBON TRADING

6 11 2008

Some of you may be aware of my involvement with The Green Living Journal, a quarterly publication that has, in the last year, created a niche for itself here in middle Tennessee.  I write articles for it (as I am a bit lazy, many of them have had their origins in stories I write for this show) and also edit stories that others have written.  I am the son of an English teacher and a newspaper reporter/editor/journalism professor, and this Pear (my peculiar middle name, my mother’s surname) has not fallen far from the family tree.

I don’t see every article before publication, though, and so one story in the most recent issue of the Journal really took me by surprise.  It was written by John Fenderson, who is “the Environmental Affairs/Public Outreach Coordinator for the Tennessee Division of Forestry,” according to the author blurb accompanying the article, which gave as his further bona fides that he has worked with GreenPeace, the Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service.  Now, there is no question in my mind that Mr. Fenderson sincerely believes in what he wrote, or that he sincerely desires a greener, less polluted planet, but to me his article was an example of the kind of well-intentioned but overly limited thinking that will not get us out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into.

The article advocated a “cap and trade” system of carbon dioxide abatement, and pointed to “managed forests” as having the greatest potential for carbon sequestration.  The next page, which appeared to be a reprinted handout from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division, made abundantly clear what the previous page had only hinted at:  “managed forests” are pine plantations, “managed” to produce “wood products”–pine lumber, chips, and pulp.  People, there is so much wrong with this picture that I hardly know where to begin.

Let’s start with a look at “cap and trade” as a system for limiting carbon emissions.  Mr. Fenderson uses this example:

“The federal government determines that there are too many people who are overweight (a public health problem) and imposes a mandatory limit of …..let’s say 175 pounds.  Therefore people who weigh 200 pounds are allowed to continue to weigh that much as long as they buy credits worth 25 lbs. which can be purchased from those who weigh less than 175 lbs. (e.g. if you weigh 150 lbs. you have 25 credits to sell).  The increased demand for these credits on an exchange,  due to a great number of people being overweight, increases the price of these credits.  At some point the individuals who are over the weight limit figure out that they can save money by changing some of their behaviors and coming into or closer to compliance.”

There a number of places where this analogy goes off the rails.  First of all, being overweight is a poor comparison because someone else’s weight problem does not directly affect my wellbeing, while an excess of carbon in the atmosphere does.  Moreover, what if the price of being fat got so low, or the short-term wealth to be derived from it got so high, that people preferred to buy credits and stay fat?

That is what has happened in Europe, where the “price” of carbon has tanked, making it relatively cheap for polluters to heat up the planet at the expense of future generations.  Fenders cites the Chicago Carbon Exchange as a good example in this country, but CCX‘s value has been questioned by a number of environmental groups. Many of the activities it accepts as payable carbon offsets are either things people would be doing anyway, such as landfills that burn off methane or big farmers who use herbicides and huge tractors to engage in no-till cultivation of genetically modified crops, or things of dubious utility in reducing CO2 output–such as paying landfills that burn off methane (when they could use it for cogeneration) or supporting big farmers who use herbicides and huge tractors…well, you get the picture.

Another weakness of carbon trading is that it is another market in which the wealthy trade money and become wealthier, unlike the solution preferred by many of the best minds who have studied the question, including Al Gore: a carbon tax on the big industries who produce it, balanced by tax reductions for individuals.  This is politically impossible in this country for just that reason:  it taxes the rich and benefits the rest of us.  Socialism, I believe Mr. McCain would call it.  Obama has not stuck his neck out that far, and I bet he won’t.

Thinking of forests as tree farms for producing lumber and paper is another faulty premise.  This connects directly to the housing and consumer goods bubble that has just burst, which hooks back to the faulty meta-premise that infinite growth is the only acceptable economic paradigm.  We are on a finite planet and there are limits, and we have surpassed them.  We are now beginning to pay the price.

Natural hardwood forests, not pine plantations, are the best carbon sinks, and bring the added benefits of greater biodiversity and water retention.  All the energy involved in big-scale commercial wood harvesting and processing, plus the years between harvest and the next generation of large trees, eat into the efficiency of pine plantations as carbon sinks.  And, as the demand for lumber and cardboard decreases, even the short-term economic benefits of pine plantations melt away.

Much of middle Tennessee has already been denuded and impoverished by the pine plantation mentality.  It’s time to recognize a broader reality than short-term gain and do what we can to recreate the lush, semitropical hardwood forest that was here when we got here, including reintroducing the American Chestnut.  Such a forest, now existing only in scattered, deer-ravaged remnants, will provide a rich repository of food, water, air, and raw materials to our descendants for many generations to come.  That’s the path to a steady-state planet.

music:  Bruce Cockburn, “If a Tree Falls in the Forest”

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3 responses

19 11 2008
Salvadore

Well, my thoughts on global warming, or climate change is that it is not what AL Gore wants us to think it is.

First of all, you can find in the white pages of The Club of Rome, from back in the 70’s, that the idea of carbon creating global warming was the ideal way to promote a world tax on all humans. A way to unit the world into a one world government in order to regulate carbon emissions. So right off the bat we find the idea of carbon dioxide created global warming is contrived.

Second, have you ever noticed how green the grass and trees are on the side of the high ways? could that be because carbon dioxide is the gas that plants breath, and they are lapping it up from the exhaust?

Thanks for listening

Also, a so called 90% reduction in carbon emissions, fits in just fine thank you very much for a so called need to reduce the earths population by 85 to 90 percent, as humans exhale carbon dioxide when we breath. Best case scenario is we have a world wide breathing tax.
And in order to have a world wide tax, you have to have a world wide government to enforce the taxation.

Now, on to the facts I do believe about “Man Made Global Warming”.

1) GM crops are being planted in our fields, with no fore knowledge of what they might do to the ecosystem, or how they might mutate.
Some say they are responsible for the mysterious, world wide disappearance of honey bees, and other wild life around the globe. This is very dangerous, far more then the life blood of all life giving organisms, carbon dioxide.

2) Ever heard of HAARP? If not look it up.
One thing they do at HAARP is heat up the ionosphere as a way of manipulating the weather. Oh yes, they have weather modification technology, and there are at least 50 HAARP sites world wide. Heck they have been modifying the weather before the Vietnam war, google “US uses weather warfare to flood ho chi man trail”

3) Put your tin foil hat on for this one,
Chem Trails. Chem Trails are not a conspiracy, but a reality, they use them to bring on rain, detour rain, create, amplify, or stop hurricanes, cause floods, and much more.
You could not even pour talcom powder in the atmosphere on a regular basis with out it having devastating effects on the environment.

4) Still got your tinfoil hat on I hope.
Another purpose for chem trails ties in with HARRP.
The chem trails consist of all kinds of crap, not the least of witch are heavy metals.
When these heavy metals fall down to earth, they are taken into the human body, and with the use of the radio frequencies HARRP is capable of producing, they can effect your moods, and even put you into a catatonic state, thus giving them “Full Spectrum Dominance” over then general population.

All this is just scratching the surface of their diobalical plans.
So I would suggest getting past any weddedness you might have for Al Gore, and Carbon Dioxide as a deadly poison, and start looking at the real culprits.

Remember, polar bears swim 3 hundred miles in some cases looking for food.
We are looking at record cooling, and the polar ice caps have returned 10 fold.
Corporate media is not your friend, and the big government that Obama promises, is the Big Brother Orwell warned us about.

21 11 2008
brothermartin

well, salvadore, you’re quite a handful
!
i part ways with al gore where he advocates centralized, corporate solutions–i think decentralization and local control are the way to go

i think you’re way off-base to doubt the danger of CO2 emissions, and no i haven’t noticed that vegetation by the side of highways is greener….that is way too simplistic an assertion to hold water, guy, sorry…

i am not worried about One World Government…it ain’t gonna happen, and besides, i think things are going to come unglued faster than a “one world govt” could get itself together…as for population control, i think we have seriously overgrazed this planet and the fact that we have been unable to voluntarily control our numbers means that our numbers will be reduced by involuntary means, i.e., plagues and famines. It’s not pretty, I don’t like, it, but that’s how it looks from here.

your “list of facts” is tinfoil hat stuff, alright..just because some weird s–t has happened, doesn’t mean all the paranoid control fantasies twisted humans can dream up are true…..i have been looking for “chemtrails” for years, never seen ’em, had a conversation with a neighbor who averred they were real, “call me the next time you see one,” i said…she’s never called

the polar ice caps have NOT returned 10-fold,

but don’t worry, i don’t trust Obama, either

5 03 2009
Karen

Thanks for this great post, Martin. Have you sent it to Obama? Who knows, he might take note. Even if you don’t trust a leader, he still can do good things, but you have to let him know.
Hardwood forests are great for the East, but in the West, all we have are softwoods (conifers). However, they are badly managed and over logged (see my comment on Bate’s blog about Peak Forests).
I think the reason it is greener at the edges of the hiways is because you are in the East, where it RAINS a lot more, because they sure aren’t greener out west. Also, grass is green or appears greener than woody shrubs which are not allowed to grow along hiways. There is more than carbon monoxide (vehicles emit monoxide, not dioxide– we animals exhale dioxide) coming from vehicles and it has a detrimantal effect on many plants, most in the news– lichens.
But I agree that the carbon buying system is stupid — just another form of capitalism which as you say will get perverted from its purpose by the monied. Anyway, I think some corporations owe me quite a bundle already!!! They’ve been polluting my planet and I haven’t!!!(for the past 35 years of my life!!!) If they did pay me, I wouldn’t buy a yacht or a race-car, but a HUGE piece of land and start my own “eco-village” for one plus dogs! :)

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