[permaculture] Yeoman's book

Marimike6 at cs.com Marimike6 at cs.com
Tue Jan 30 11:40:41 EST 2007

Not that I've read much of the younger Mr Yeoman's pronouncements, but I 
think we can separate the grain from the chaff. His ideas on the general radiation 
level sound a little shaky to me, so let's set them aside and move on.

He delivers a fine message about increasing the organic fraction of the soil. 
Certainly this approach can sequester a considerable amount of carbon. But I 
think we have to be realistic, and assess the relative strengths of two trends 
along the timeline of the next generation-- that is, to 2030.

The first tendency is the momentum of the carbon based economy. Six and a 
half going on nine billion people are all striving toward American-style 
consumerism. I don't think they are going to be denied their feeling that they are 
entitled to a personal vehicle. It will be relatively easy to scale their desires 
down from gas guzzling SUV's to sensible little Cherys (the Chinese answer to 
VW). But still, quite a lot of exhaust fumes will be coming from those five 
or so billion tailpipes.

Plus, this increasing demand for gasoline, combined with the depletion of 
easily accessible sweet crude, is going to force us to develop dirty sources, 
like tar sands and oil shale deposits. These are going to be an order of 
magnitude more harmful to the environment. The Canadian deposits, for instance, lie 
beneath the Athabaskan forests of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The 
Veneuelan deposits lie under the Orinoco Basin-- one of our largest remaining 
tropical forests.

Plus they will want electricity to run their washers and DVD players and 
whatnot, and the only technology able to feed that demand in anything like the 
volume required will be coal. I think we all know that even "clean coal" is very 
dirty. You have to dig it up, for instance, and put the overburden somewhere.

Plus, they'll all have to live somewhere. And experience shows this will 
result in converting large amounts of prime farmland into urban and suburban 
landscape. The new neighborhoods are going up adjacent to growth centers, usually 
large cities. And these are almost always in the midst of rich farmland. So-- a 
big net loss in acreage devoted to farms and forests. A net gain in lawns and 

Plus, they'll all want to buy furniture. And the nice stuff is made of slow 
growing hardwoods. Already China is angling to cut a huge swath in the 
remaining Malaysian rain forest for marketable timber. The orangutans have been outbid 
for this resource by Chinese industrialists. The prognosis for virgin forest 
is not good.

So those are the tendencies undercutting the availability of acreage for 
sequestering soil organics. Against this trend, we do see a countertrend for 
increasingly wise use among enlightened individuals. But where do the two growth 
lines cross, so wise use becomes the majority trend?

Unfortunately that's way off up in the future, far beyond the point where 
we've reached the climate tipping point. Sorry to say this, but it's true.

So what's plan B? I think a good approach to follow would be to utilize the 
ocean. It comprises 71% of the planet's surface area. And its potential for 
biological growth is nearly unlimited.

At the base of the food chain are the phytoplankton-- little nano-plants that 
create organic substance from chlorophyll, sunlight and trace minerals. I 
would suggest that science needs to start looking at the global phytoplankton 
population and do what it can to make it healthy. With commercial fish stocks 
already near depletion, it's also the only way we're going to save the life of 
the ocean-- by giving whatever fish have been able to survive something to eat. 
Many if not most existing stocks are suffering malnutrition to some degree, 
and are noticeably underweight.

Plus, of course, the overall design of the system is they scoop up CO2 to 
convert it into fish.

Meanwhile, of course, save your compost and study your soil science. We need 
to keep up with local developers, who begin every new subdivision by scraping 
off and burying the topsoil in the area they want to plant in houses and turf, 
or freeway interchanges and shopping centers.

At least that's the view from this ivory tower. What do you think?

Michael Elvin

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