Peat Bogs And
Peak Oil -
I'm Sorry For Doubting,
By Bill Henderson
21 August, 2005
Thanks Mr. President - I'm so sorry I
didn't understand what you were trying to do.
I'm sorry Mr. Bush
for doubting your capacity and integrity. It took the latest science
reports about melting
permafrost in Siberian and North American peat bogs and their
release of potent supplies of greenhouse gas for me to clue in that
you were actually trying to achieve a train wreck in order to forestall
possible runaway global warming and other unavoidable global-scale problems
associated with our ever expanding global economy.
I remember reading
Jeremy Rifkin on runaway global warming from sometime late 80's - early
90's where he predicted that methane emissions from melting tundra peat
bogs could be the runaway trigger. Now if informed people stated reasonable
predictions a decade ago about possible global warming paths ending
in human extinction (taking most existing flora and fauna with us) and
their predictions prove correct at this point (along with the other
observed global warming symptoms such as increasing extreme weather
events, glaciers melting, migrating or worsening otherwise natural infestation
or disease outbreaks, etc) then we should finally be able to get agreement
and needed change of a commensurate scale.
But no - and I would
never have guessed you understood this George - you can have a reasonable,
scientific cause and effect of increasing greenhouse gas from burning
fossil fuels leading through well understood positive feedbacks - such
as released methane and CO2 from peat bogs - to Earth having a climate
like Venus. Not whether St Louis or Orlando may be a little hotter in
a hundred years, but the end of all life on Earth as we know it.
You can understand
the cause and effect, plot our trajectory on ever more accurate models,
get almost every nation in agreement that global warming is a compounding
disaster to be avoided at all cost...
And it won't make
any measurable change in the historic and accelerating path of ever
increasing fossil fuel use.
Recently an English
demographer, Tim Dyson of the London School of Economics, wrote a paper
about the reality of governmental response to global warming that has
been circling the net in commentary all summer:
is undeniable and inevitable; "i) scientific understanding advances
rapidly, but (ii) avoidance, denial, and reproach characterize the overall
societal response, therefore, (iii) there is relatively little behavioral
change, until (iv) evidence of damage becomes plain."
I'm a boomman, a
sidewinder operator - you won't understand - but I'm also an enviro
activist who with many others has been trying to get to an ecologically
sustainable forestry in British Columbia's overwhelmingly public owned
forests. Just as Dr. Dyson points out about societal action in regard
to global warming, in the late 80's/early 90's there was a forest science
revolution - Dr. Jerry Franklin and all that a forest is besides timber
- and a global movement to change from historic timber management, with
its ecological problems caused by inflated harvesting levels and highly
mechanized logging methods, to a sustainable industry practicing 'Sustainable
Forest Management' or 'Ecosystem Management'.
management) technology will probably emerge as more important to people
than either the technology of the communications revolution or biotechnology
because of its potential usefulness in guaranteeing a livable environment."
Yale forestry professor John Gordon 1993
Throughout Cascadia, the US and Canadian Pacific Coast, there was a
revolution in understanding man in forests and developing SFM / EM.
In BC everybody agreed - industry, government, general public and informed
publics - that we had to change. We had to at least halve bloated cutting
levels predicated upon the existing multi-decade old government policy
to liquidate all 'decadent and over-mature' old growth forests (and
their replacement with second growth to be logged again in less than
one hundred year rotations - the
We did nothing of
the sort. We fudged it. Industry and gov't spouted greenwashing sustainability
language, but cutting levels were only very minimally reduced and old
growth was still clearcut.
A decade later you
can zoom down using the fun new Google Mapping tool on any forest in
BC and see for yourself that in the past decade we have clearcut as
large a percentage of the tenured 'working forest' landbase as in any
The lesson that
the BC enviro community has to offer is that you can't get there from
A meaningful reduction
of the level of cutting was never even remotely possible. Could any
BC gov't survive the massive local economic downturn up and down the
coast that would have resulted? Aren't our gov'ts restricted to policy
change that impacts local economies by less than 1%? 5% at most?
And even if a brave
BC gov't initiated this needed EM environmental regulation wouldn't
they have been subject to tremendous outside pressures from international
business? Pressures such as investment boycotts, etc. that would have
quickly forced retraction? Thomas Friedman is certainly right about
what he calls the 'golden straightjacket' limiting all gov'ts to business
as usual paths.
The lesson is our
inability to change INSIDE THE PRESENT SYSTEM.
Whether it is needed
regulation for EM in forests
whole millennium of governmental regulation of salmon - mentioned
in the Magna Carta - that has nowhere stopped the extirpation of salmon,
first from continental Europe, than from most of Britain, then from
New England and Canada's Maritimes, and now from Cascadia's Pacific
regulation of the world's fisheries where we are headed for jellyfish
or protection of
biodiversity in ever diminishing and threatened wetlands, estuaries,
tropical forests, etc.:
The lesson is Know
Thyself: this is who we are. This is so important for biodiversity,
sustainability and for needed global warming action. The lesson from
two decades of BC forest policy debate is that timber target forestry,
the Liquidation-Conversion Plan, is unstoppable within the present gov't/economic
The lesson is that
Kyoto will be fudged just like salmon or forest policies and we'll have
ever increasing emissions without any real change - war, economic collapse
or other catastrophes excepted.
What is needed is
major innovation to our political-economic system that allows for change
at the needed scale; that provides the needed precautionary framework
or total cost accounting so that markets will work properly - a society
governed so that putting all old growth logging off limits (and protecting
second growth at the same time), for example, would be possible if this
were in our long term best interest.
Something like Lester
Brown's Plan B - a wartime-like coalition gov't (US and global) to enforce
precautionary rational-comprehensive planning - is needed that is capable
of, first of all, reducing consumption, advertising, demand management;
and then organizing
investment and industry in greatly improving efficiency and alternative
energy development, dematerializing growth, etc.;
and to requisition
monies for what ever remediation is possible (although refreezing permafrost
is probably too much for even techno-optimists).
unfettered market approach makes solution to local forestry problems
and possible runaway global warming (as well as preparing for peak oil)
impossible and we should learn this lesson.
should have implemented this governance revolution decades ago because
of lead times and complexity.
powers that be want no part of even discussing such governance change;
the developed world general public can't 'afford' change at this scale.
Realistically, we're not going to get there with reasonable business
as usual debate.
So all we're left
with is war or economic collapse (or maybe Rapture?) to prevent our
present economic trajectory from destroying the ecological basis for
human life on Earth.
So thanks Mr. President.
Some would say you are an ignorant tool of the powers that be whose
actions have made our Bottleneck predicament far worse with your Administration's
global warming intransigence; unilateralist militarization of foreign
policy; with your corrosion of international cooperation and rule of
law; for your choice of a resource war path when confronted with peak
Don't listen to
any of that pessimism Mr. President - trust your instincts and listen
for God's instruction.