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April 24, 2020

For Arbor Day: The Tree-Carbon War

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In honor of Arbor Day we reprise this piece from October, describing just part of the great ecological role of trees, the largest and most complex life forms which remain physically connected to the core pulse of Gaia, through the mycorrhizal network. The trees will do their best for all of Gaia, including humanity, if civilization would stop destroying them. In honor of trees.
 
 
The natural forest is the most capacious terrestrial carbon sink, and therefore the most important land-based element which must be conserved complete. (See below for the necessary three points of climate action.*)
 
Trees grab vast amounts of carbon from the air. Through photosynthesis all plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and incarnate it as biomass. When plants die under natural conditions much of their embodied carbon is assumed by the forest soil, wetland muck, grassland sod.
 
Although some of the carbon embodied in a naturally decomposing tree is released again to the air as carbon dioxide, most is stored in the soil. The microbes and the rain work it deeper where it becomes organic humus, inert in the soil. Given the right conditions it eventually will be concentrated into coal. Fallen trees submerged under wetlands eventually turn to peat, storing nearly all their carbon.
 
The older the tree, the faster it grows. The bigger its biomass, the more rapidly it accrues more biomass. The older the tree, the more carbon it continues to remove from the atmosphere.
 
All this assumes an intact natural forest keeping the soil cool, with the trees living out their full natural life cycles.
 
 
This process of carbon removal and storage is necessary in order to maintain life on Earth. The sun’s luminosity has increased c. 30% since life began on Earth. This increased brightness over time is part of the normal life cycle of stars like Earth’s sun. Over this time span the Earth ought to have heated up dramatically.
 
Yet the geological and fossil record confirms that Earth temperatures have stayed relatively stable over three billion years. Indeed in recent geological time there’s even been a cooling trend.
 
This is prime evidence for the Gaia thesis, that the biosphere as a great collective organism regulates Earth’s temperature, among many other things where a stable value is necessary for life. Gaia has counteracted the increasing brightness of the sun. Her main mechanism has been the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and its storage in rock, in soil, and in biomass. The main mid-term mode of removal is the extraction and storage of carbon by plants, especially trees. Thus the atmospheric carbon concentration is now one ninth of what it was during the Carboniferous Period.
 
 
In the modern time this process forcibly was halted. Modern civilization embarked upon a campaign of total destruction of all natural forests and wetlands and their replacement by tree plantations where the trees are crops harvested for lumber and burned for electricity and heat.
 
This destruction causes a great hemorrhage of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When wood is burned it directly releases its embodied carbon. Wherever the natural forest is destroyed this exposes the soil to the sun, which heats it and accelerates its microbial decomposition. The microbes now consume even the deeper humus, and all the sunk carbon is released. So burning wood is a double emission of carbon dioxide. The hemorrhage is even worse where a combined forest-wetland system is destroyed.
 
Thus the whole “carbon neutral” notion surrounding logging and “biomass” burning, beloved alike of both industry and the mainstream climate movement, is a scam greenwashing a monumental crime against the Earth including humanity. All attempts to justify industrial logging and destruction of forests are based on fraudulent accounting. This includes lies about the alleged superior vigor of fast-growing young trees (60-120 years old, the age range where most plantation trees are logged) in seizing carbon. This lie is standard dogma in corporate forestry. But as we said above, the science has found that the older the tree is, the greater the rate at which it’s incarnating carbon.
 
All these scams are not only refuted in detail, but the entire framework ideology is overridden by the fact that the great necessity is to sink carbon and keep it sunk. This imperative self-evidently is incompatible with the continuation of industrial logging and the destruction of natural forests and wetlands.
 
From this we can conclude that not only industry but any element of the climate-industrial movement which is willing to support any continued deforestation and any continued commodity exploitation of trees is a complete fraud and criminal where they claim to be acting to mitigate the climate crisis.
 
The fact that even its own mainstream environmental movement is ecocidal is just one piece of proof that modern civilization is intrinsically ecocidal. What does all this frantic destruction mean in this case, and in the context of the broader case of the wholesale burning of fossil fuels? The orcs are determined to release all the stored carbon. They want to restore Carboniferous conditions, which coupled with the much brighter sun would turn Earth’s greenhouse into a universal crematorium.
 
 
This frenzied berserker action seeks maximum entropy in the same way any waste heat does. Heat seeks to dissipate to maximum equilibrium, where the physical end state is the heat death of the universe. Only the storage of potential energy, such as the storage Gaia’s trees perform with carbon, conserves heat and therefore conserves the conditions necessary for life, which requires the recycling of heat.
 
We see that Homo necropolis, civilized hominids, in their derangement to release all the stored heat, are seeking universal death.
 
 
They systematically pump the air as full of greenhouse gases as they can, as fast as they can, with the goal of heating up the Earth as much as possible as fast as possible, generating as much climate chaos and ecological destruction as possible. Modern civilization has complete consensus on this campaign. (The fake climate movement’s purpose is nothing but to tout various scams, each of which boils down to the promise that the ecocidal binge can continue, that you can destroy the Earth and live on it too.)
 
The individual orcs and their institutional ideologies invent surface reasons why they’re doing it. Consciously the berserker civilization thinks only in terms of Mammon. Underlying this is their real idea: Earth is in the midst of the Ice Age. Civilization owes its existence to a brief interglacial interlude which it has christened the Holocene. But when civilization discovered it could release the stored carbon by burning all the fossil fuels and destroying all ecological carbon-storage function, it conceived the insane vision of reversing the course of climatic evolution, rolling back the Ice Age and restoring Paleozoic temperature conditions. This is the goal of civilization’s global binge of total ecocide.
 
But maximum entropy is maximum death. At the deepest level they know their nightmare-dream is impossible. Hominids are fragile creatures, and their civilization hopelessly so. Biophobia really is rooted in the human hatred of origins, which forcibly imply a forcible history which cannot be rolled back but must be traversed unto forcible death. That’s why humans hate the bacteria which created, sculpted, form and dominate them to this day. That’s why they hate the trees which were their proximate cradle. That’s why from the moment they came down from the trees, humans so often have chosen not to evolve according to nature but to break the vessels, sunder themselves, and go to war against their own homeland. It’s a war against the very idea of this origin, and a Numenorean resentment of the fact of death: The death of individual, species, and most of all the death of their vain idol, civilization. For this reason, since they must die, they hate all life and want universal death.
 
At the opposite extreme, the trees, cradle of humanity itself, remain tightly synched with the primal bacterial and fungal networks of Gaia. Although in one sense complex beings, the trees at the same time are among the most primal, part of the very pulse of Gaia.
 
 
So it’s the most primal beings against the most sundered, most alienated, most self-loathing and therefore omnicidal. So it’s life versus death in a war to store or spew carbon and therefore to control or debouch heat. The trees feel driven to conserve the heat. They want to save everyone, including us.
 
And that’s why the orcs always have hated the forest, always wanted to hack it down, and why even today’s climate movement prefers plantations to forest. But plantations hemorrhage, they don’t conserve. Thus all orcs want to replace the forest with the plantation, in mockery as well as expectation of suicidal victory.
 
 
 
 
*There is one and only one set of three actions which can avert the worst of the climate crisis, if done in time. If not, and civilization certainly will not do them, then Earth’s kinesis will do its worst as it imposes all three by force. These three actions are:
 
End all industrial emissions; stop destroying carbon sinks; allow all natural sinks to resume their natural ranges.
 
Anything else is a lie.
 
 
 
 

2 Comments

  1. Russ,

    “Allow all natural sinks to resume their natural ranges”

    One of their natural ranges is grassland which has been destroyed by modern agricultural practices and thus their carbon sequestration function. I believe (without the accounting data at my fingertips) that agroecology if practiced judiciously could also be a large contributor and aid to reforestation.

    We, my wife and I, have for years been practicing the art of biochar inoculated composting and gardening. I suspect you are aware of biochar and it’s benefits but if not please query me and I will expound. I have been taking care of the compost/biochar side and she is the enthusiastic gardener using my product. Her gardens both in quantity and quality surpass anything else I have locally observed. With carbon sequestration in our gardens we have proved to our own satisfaction that the process not only produces superior food but reintroduces what used to be a natural process in conjunction with the woodland functions. If practiced on a large (worldwide) agricultural scale the carbon drawdown could, I believe (again I don’t have the data) actually turn the atmospheric carbon budget around (along with your other three actions).

    I would be interested in your comments.

    John

    Comment by juannie — April 24, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    • Hi John,

      Biochar is a stable, slow decomposing organic material which helps maintain soil fertility over time and seems to have other benefits for crops. So far as I’ve read its sustainable use likely would be limited to small plots since to spread it over large acreage would require huge amounts which no doubt would have to come from plantation wood burned the right way in factories (the right temperature and lower oxygen level), if not industrially mined from the dark earths themselves.

      So like with everything else, as a globalized commodity it’s no improvement, agronomically or in terms of carbon sinking. But if it could be coppiced locally for agroecological horticulture, it could be beneficial.

      Of course there I’m talking about long-run sustainability. As far as maximizing garden production of nutritious food right now, which is becoming critically important, I don’t doubt that biochar from whatever source can help grow good crops while maintaining soil organic matter.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — April 24, 2020 @ 4:56 pm


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