Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Greenhouse effect’

Myth busting – Part 12

Summary: Connect together the bigger picture

 

Please read Myth Busting – Part 10 and Part 11 before you read this; otherwise this summary won’t make much sense to you.

Thanks!

Natural equilibrium

It is my hope that this series of posts have demonstrated several things.

1: Global warming, the factors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and the factors affecting our most precious carbon sinks, are not as simple as many mainstream media reports would have us believe.

2: It’s all a bit more complicated than ‘cars and power stations are melting the ice caps, we’re all doomed’.

3: The solutions are also somewhat more complicated than ‘buy a few electric cars and build some wind turbines and we’ll all be OK’.

4: Electric cars, well, still need electricity, and wind turbines use a vast amount of concrete to stay upright. If you really want to ‘go green’ try getting a job closer to home. Using no car at all because you walk to work, that’s the ultimate green transport. Even if we stopped running cars completely and burning fossil fuel in power stations right now today, the pollutants in the atmosphere would take the entire 21st century to clear, and all that time, the effects of global warming would persist.

5: Some of the factors involved in global warming, major factors, are seemingly innocuous things that the mainstream media rarely seem to cover, like fluffy white clouds and freshly ploughed fields. We do not look at a picture of a ploughed field and instantly think ‘oh look, global warming in progress’.

6: No disrespect intended to the film-makers, and no axe to grind with the vegan movement in general, but the movie Cowspiracy is just plain wrong, it is a ‘dramatised pretend documentary’ or ‘docu-drama’ that uses cherry-picked data and ignores vast amounts of contradictory science.

7: Simply giving up meat and dairy and all becoming vegetarians will do virtually nothing to alleviate our present environmental problems. Converting large amounts of the world’s grasslands to croplands would actually make things worse. If folks give up meat and dairy and start eating more rice and wheat and soybeans, greenhouse gas emissions will likely go up over the next few decades.

8: The problem is industrialised agriculture. Becoming vegan won’t change a thing. It’s our ‘abusive attitude’ to farming in general that needs to change.

Since the industrial revolution began, almost 250 years ago…

What have we done wrong?

  • The population explosion. We used industrialised agriculture, and fossil fuel power to boost the human population to unsustainably high numbers in a very short space of time
  • We ripped up the trees and ploughed the grasslands to plant wheat, corn and soybeans, and we flooded fertile fields to grow rice
  • We dramatically over-fished the oceans, and killed a lot of the world’s fish stocks
  • We ripped up the forests to grow maize and soybeans, to make cheap cattle feed, vegetable oils and biomass fuels
  • We planted too many monocrops, used too much fertilizer, and polluted many of our rivers and seas

Now we have oceans devoid of fish, grasslands diminished, cattle living in steel pens in CAFOs, ankle deep in their own shit, sick, obese, taking antibiotics. Traces of antibiotics get into cheap meat, and humans are developing ‘antimicrobial resistance’ as a result. Wheat grows on the grasslands, so the people all eat wheat, making them fat, driving metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and causing widespread autoimmune illness because half the human race are not biologically adapted to tolerate eating gluten.

The forests are massively diminished, chopped down to grow maize and soybeans to feed the unhappy sick cows and chickens. The topsoil is depleted, releasing carbon into the atmosphere instead of sequestering it for decades into the future. Rivers are polluted, flows diminished and freshwater fish stocks depleted. The oceans are half-empty, and the lack of oceanic life, and rising seawater acidity, means there is nothing to suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide from all the cars and power stations burning fossil fuels.

While wind, wave, sunshine and tide are ever present, governments have moved too slowly to give businesses tax incentives to develop renewable energy supplies. Still, in 2016 now, only 21% to 22% of world energy production comes from renewable sources. Still only 3% to 5% of transport is powered by any form of clean or renewable energy. Considering that global warming has been on the agenda as a “major international imperative” since 1990, this is a shameful lack of progress in a quarter of a century.

  • The air is polluted
  • The soil depleted
  • The oceans weakened
  • The forests weeping
  • Animals are widely mistreated
  • Humans are overweight, diabetic, stressed out dying of heart disease and riddled with cancer

I think it’s fair to say, we’re in a bit of a mess and not doing as well as we could be. Read more

Myth busting – Part 11

Continued from Myth busting – Part 10. If you have not read Part 10 yet, I suggest you go start there, in order to keep everything in context. Thanks!

Carbon sequestration

 

To be clear on usage of certain terms:

Carbon (organic carbon) means the mineral carbon, an essential building block of all organic life on Earth – plants and animals, including humans.

Carbon dioxide means the gas breathed out by animals, and taken in by plants. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas in our atmosphere – but human activity burning fossil fuels has increased the amount.

Over millions of years, plants ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and use it as a building block for cellular life. As those plants grow up into big strong trees, so the dense wood holds lots of carbon. When the tree dies, the logs fall to the ground and are buried in new growing organic matter. That carbon is taken down into the ground and stored for many years, slowly releasing its mineral content into the soil to nourish other plants and animals. This is a crude explanation, but you get the idea.

Carbon sequestration means ‘taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it as carbon bound up in life forms (such as wood, plants, soil, insects, etc.)

A carbon sink is a place or thing that acts to sequester carbon, such as a tree.

Mother Nature provides places to sequester carbon naturally. The oceans, the topsoil, the forests and peat bogs (peat wetlands or peatlands) are all massive efficient carbon sinks, the world’s top four. The problem is, those carbon sinks are not working optimally.

Where have all the fishies gone?

Approximately 70% of the planet is covered by oceans and seas. Currently, around one third of all the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is sequestered by our oceans. They could be taking a lot more.

However, there is a problem with our oceans. We have over-fished them for the last century or more, and the result is that early in the 21st century we find that 85% of fisheries worldwide are over-fished and seriously depleted. We have massively reduced fish stocks in our oceans, and the use of trawlers and supertrawlers has decimated marine life, hurting Mother Nature’s ability to restore what we have taken. In some species, over 90% of living stock has been wiped out over a few decades, reducing numbers below a certain ‘critical mass’ to such a point that populations can’t recover. This means the oceans have a reduced ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, due to lower levels of biological activity in ocean waters.

You see, it’s supposed to be the life in the water that sucks up the carbon…not the water itself. However, with more carbon dioxide in the air, our oceans are also suffering from something called ‘ocean acidification’ which means the water itself is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, because there is more there to absorb, and it’s changing the pH of ocean waters, reducing the oxygen-richness of ocean waters. This makes it harder for marine life to proliferate. It’s a double whammy, and a vicious negative cycle.

We need marine life to proliferate in order to sequester carbon. Ocean acidification, over-fishing and pollution have left the oceans with reduces amounts of algae, phytoplankton, seaweed and fish. The result is that our best carbon sink isn’t working at all well, and the largest part of the planet’s surface, that should supply a huge proportion of our food, is drastically depleted. The answer must be to stop over-fishing, stop polluting our oceans with plastics, chemical waste and more, stop polluting the atmosphere with burned fossil fuels and let the oceans work naturally, the way they are supposed to.

Without trying to sound too melodramatic about it, it’s a bit like the zombie apocalypse, but underwater. Reduced life, pollution, loss of marine biodiversity, massive scars of land destroyed by trawlers, ‘kill squads’ out slaughtering marine life en masse. What’s happening in our oceans isn’t pretty. Read more

Myth busting – Part 10

Wow, we made it to Myth busting – Part 10! Let’s quickly look back over this mini-series so far and recap what we have covered.

In the previous nine instalments of this mini-series, we have read that:

 

Phew! It’s been a lot of fun writing this series – and I hope you are enjoying reading it!

But…you might have one last question, and this is now going to open up a whole can of worms. If we are supposed to be eating meat and fish instead of grains, and all those big juicy sweet pieces of fruit and veg are actually a relatively new ‘man-bred’ novelty.
Then, well…

Myth: It’s animal agriculture that is destroying the environment isn’t it? Haven’t you seen that film ‘Cowspiracy’? It’s all those burping and farting cows that are causing global warming. If we encourage people to eat less grain and more meat and fish there will be an environmental catastrophe, and besides there is not enough land to keep all those abused and mistreated farm animals fed and watered.

 

Truth: With respect to the good intentions of the makers of the film, in my personal opinion, that movie Cowspiracy is totally biased and wildly inaccurate, made purposefully to appeal to one particular paradigm, or one specific set way of thinking, namely veganism. Far from ‘exposing the truth’ these kind of mock-umentaries (known as a ‘mock-doc’ or a ‘docu-drama’) often do more harm than good by spreading misinformation, and they are nothing short of  propaganda made to promote the vegan cause, not to present a balanced view of reality.

I respect anyone who makes the choice to be vegan because they abhor cruelty to animals, I do too. But that is not what this is about.

There is so much misunderstanding in this area. Since Cowspiracy came out, it’s now ‘the latest trendy thing’ to talk about how animal agriculture is ‘the biggest cause of environmental destruction and greenhouse gases’ on Earth and so ‘everyone should just stop eating meat’ but this is just fundamentally wrong. Cowspiracy has certainly taken this issue (agriculture’s contribution to global warming) to a broader audience, but the so-called science in the movie is completely flawed, it uses data points cherry picked to provide a one-sided view, and it ignores loads of facts that don’t fit with the main goals of the presentation.

Let’s actually look at some reality. Read more