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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


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Nine States Report Record Low Snowpack

By Cole  Mellino, for Ecowatch

California gets most of the attention in drought news coverage because so much of the state is in exceptional drought—the highest level—but 72 percent of the Western U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data.

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72 percent of the West is experiencing drought conditions and 25 percent is in extreme or exceptional drought. Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

When California’s snowpack assessment showed that the state’s snowpack levels were 6 percent of normal—the lowest ever recorded—it spurred Gov. Brown’s administration to order the first-ever mandatory water restrictions. California’s snowpack levels might be the lowest, but the Golden State is not the only one setting records. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that nine states reported record low snowpack. The report states:

The largest snowpack deficits are in record territory for many basins, especially in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada where single-digit percent of normal conditions prevail. Very low snowpacks are reported in most of Washington, all of Oregon, Nevada, California, parts of Arizona, much of Idaho, parts of New Mexico, three basins in Wyoming, one basin in Montana and most of Utah.

Only high elevation areas in the Rocky Mountains and Interior Alaska had normal or close to normal snowpack levels. “The only holdouts are higher elevations in the Rockies,” said Garen. “Look at the map and you’ll see that almost everywhere else is red.” Red indicates less than half of the normal snowpack remains. Dark red indicates snowpack levels are less than 25 percent of normal.

Much of the West is in red, which indicates snowpack levels are below 50 percent of normal. Photo credit: USDA NCRS
Much of the West is in dark red, which indicates snowpack levels are below 25 percent of normal. Photo credit: USDA NCRS

And not only is the snowpack drastically reduced in many states, but it’s melting earlier now, too. “Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack,” said David Garen, a hydrologist for USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service. “March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual.”

Historically, April 1 is the peak snowpack. But this year, the peak came earlier because there was very little snow accumulation in March and much of the existing snow had already melted. Streamflow will be reduced even sooner in spring and summer, leaving reservoirs—already well below average in many areas—that much more depleted, the report finds. As of April 1, reservoir levels are below average in at least five western states: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah,” according to Reuters. That doesn’t include California, which NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti said has about a year’s supply of water in its reservoirs.

Book Review: This Changes Everything

Editor’s Note: This first appeared on Deep Green Resistance News Service

By Kim Hill / Deep Green Resistance Australia

Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything, is based on the premise that capitalism is the cause of the climate crisis, and to avert catastrophe, capitalism must go. The proposed solution is a mass movement that will win with arguments that undermine the capitalist system by making it morally unacceptable.

This premise has many flaws. It fails to acknowledge the roots of capitalism and climate change, seeing them as independent issues that can be transformed without taking action to address the underlying causes. Climate change cannot be avoided by building more infrastructure and reforming the economy, as is suggested in the book. The climate crisis is merely a symptom of a deeper crisis, and superficial solutions that act on the symptoms will only make the situation worse. Human-induced climate change started thousands of years ago with the advent of land clearing and agriculture, long before capitalism came into being. The root cause—a culture that values domination of people and land, and the social and physical structures created by this culture—needs to be addressed for any action on capitalism or climate to be effective.

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I’ve long been baffled by the climate movement. When 200 species a day are being made extinct, oceans and rivers being drained of fish and all life, unpolluted drinking water being largely a thing of the past, and nutritious food being almost inaccessible, is climate really where we should focus our attention? It seems a distraction, a ‘look, what’s that in the sky?’ from those that seek to profit from taking away everything that sustains life on the only planet we have. By directing our thoughts, discussions and actions towards gases in the upper atmosphere and hotly debated theories, rather than immediate needs for basic survival of all living beings, those in power are leading us astray from forming a resistance movement that could ensure the continuation of life on Earth.

This book is a tangle of contradictions. An attempt to unravel the contradictions and understand the thinking behind these arguments is what drew me in to reading it, but in the end I was left confused, with a jumble of mismatched ideas, vague goals, and proposals to continue with the same disjointed tactics that have never worked in the past.

This Changes Everything advocates for socialism, then explores why socialism won’t stop fossil fuel extraction. It is against capitalism, yet insists ‘there is plenty of room to make a profit in a zero-carbon economy’. Renewable energy is promoted as an alternative, yet the objections of people whose land and livelihoods are destroyed by these developments is acknowledged and respected. The book promotes the rights of indigenous people to live on their land in traditional ways, and at the same time claims they need jobs and development. It sees the extraction and burning of fossil fuels as the main cause of the climate crisis, yet recommends solutions that require more of the same. It supports economic development while opposing economic growth. It says that ‘compromised, palatable-to-conservative solutions don’t work’ yet is selling exactly that.

One chapter is devoted to promoting divestment from fossil fuel companies, even though this is openly acknowledged to have no economic effect. Apparently it will ‘bankrupt their reputation’ rather than actually bankrupt them. This strategy is unlikely to work, as corporations spend millions on PR campaigns, and control the media, so anyone outside this system will struggle to have any real effect on their reputations. And corporations are powered by money, not morals, so moral campaigns on their own can’t shut down a company. And if they did, this targeting of specific companies, rather than the entire economic system, will only create space for others to take their place.

Another chapter explains why ‘green billionaires’ won’t save us, which seems unnecessary in a book arguing for dismantling capitalism—of course more capitalism won’t help. Strangely, Klein is disappointed that Virgin CEO Richard Branson, despite investing many millions of dollars to invent or discover a ‘miracle fuel’ to power his ever-expanding airline, did not achieve this impossible goal. What difference would it make if he had been successful? Whatever this fuel might be, it would still need to be extracted from somewhere, and burned. Unless money really can buy a genuine religious miracle, and even then, the airline industry requires massive amounts of land, mining and manufacturing, and a globalised economy. If fuel costs were not a limitation, these industrial processes would expand more quickly, destroying everyone and everything in their path. A miracle fuel still leaves us with a culture of travelling the world at jet speed, rather than a localised culture of dialogue and relationship with nature. This is the disconnected thinking that comes from engaging with climate as an isolated issue.

The book concludes with a call for a nonviolent mass movement, and ‘trillions [of dollars] to pay for zero-carbon, disaster-ready societal transformations.’ The requested transformations are a transition to renewable energy, and building more infrastructure. These won’t stop capitalism or climate change, and would make the situation worse. A mass movement would require a mass of people who both share these goals and believe that a mass movement is the way to reach them. Given the compromised and conflicted goals, and the corporate influence on the climate movement recently, this is unlikely to happen.

Mass movements using only moral arguments have never changed systems of power in the past. The global Occupy movement is a recent example. While a great deal was achieved, the capitalist system is still with us, and it will take more than peaceful demonstrations to take it down. The infrastructure of capitalism needs to be physically dismantled, using a diversity of tactics, and the culture of domination that legitimises extraction and exploitation must be confronted, and replaced with land-based cultures that value relationship with all living beings.

Image modified from original art by Mark Gouldhttp://theartofannihilation.com/this-changes-nothing-why-the-peoples-climate-march-guarantees-climate-catastrophe-2/

 

Max Wilbert: Plows and Carbon: The Timeline of Global Warming

By Max Wilbert, Deep Green Resistance

In June 1988, climatologist and NASA scientist James Hansen stood before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the United States Senate. The temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees.

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“The earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements,” Hansen said. “The global warming now is large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect… Our computer climate simulations indicate that the greenhouse effect is already large enough to begin to effect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.”

Hansen has authored some of the most influential scientific literature around climate change, and like the vast majority of climate scientists, has focused his work on the last 150 to 200 years – the period since the industrial revolution.

This period has been characterized by the widespread release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), and by the clearing of land on a massive scale – the plowing of grasslands and felling of forests for cities and agricultural crops.

Now, the world is on the brink of catastrophic climate change. Hansen and other scientists warn us that if civilization continues to burn fossil fuels and clear landscapes, natural cycles may be disrupted to the point of complete ecosystem breakdown – a condition in which the planet is too hot to support life. Hansen calls this the Venus Syndrome, named after the boiling planet enshrouded in clouds of greenhouse gases.

“If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale [low grade, high carbon fossil fuels], I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty,” Hansen has said.

If humanity wishes to have a chance of avoiding this fate, it is important that we understand global warming in detail. Why is it happening? When did it start? What fuels it? And, most importantly, what can stop it?

How old is global warming?

New studies are showing that the current episode of global warming may be a great deal older than previously believed – which may entirely change our strategy to stop it.

While fossil fuels have only been burned on a large scale for 200 years, land clearance has been a defining characteristic of civilizations – cultures based around cities and agriculture – since they first emerged around 8,000 years ago.

This land clearance has impacts on global climate. When a forest ecosystem is converted to agriculture, more than two thirds of the carbon that was stored in that forest is lost, and additional carbon stored in soils rich in organic materials will continue to be lost to the atmosphere as erosion accelerates.

Modern science may give us an idea of the magnitude of the climate impact of this pre-industrial land clearance. Over the past several decades of climate research, there has been an increasing focus on the impact of land clearance on modern global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in it’s 2004 report, attributed 17% of global emissions to cutting forests and destroying grasslands – a number which does not include the loss of future carbon storage or emissions directly related to this land clearance, such as methane released from rice paddies or fossil fuels burnt for heavy equipment.

Some studies show that 50% of the global warming in the United States can be attributed to land clearance – a number that reflects the inordinate impact that changes in land use can have on temperatures, primarily by reducing shade cover and evapotranspiration (the process whereby a good-sized tree puts out thousands of gallons of water into the atmosphere on a hot summer day – their equivalent to our sweating).

So if intensive land clearance has been going on for thousands of years, has it contributed to global warming? Is there a record of the impacts of civilization in the global climate itself?

10,000 years of Climate Change

According to author Lierre Keith, the answer is a resounding yes. Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to cultivate crops. This is the period referred to as the beginning of civilization, and, according to the Keith and other scholars such as David Montgomery, a soil scientist at the University of Washington, it marked the beginning of land clearance and soil erosion on a scale never before seen – and led to massive carbon emissions.

“In Lebanon (and then Greece, and then Italy) the story of civilization is laid bare as the rocky hills,” Keith writes. “Agriculture, hierarchy, deforestation, topsoil loss, militarism, and imperialism became an intensifying feedback loop that ended with the collapse of a bioregion [the Mediterranean basin] that will most likely not recover until after the next ice age.”

Montgomery writes, in his excellent book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, that the agriculture that followed logging and land clearance led to those rocky hills noted by Keith.

“It is my contention that the invention of [agriculture] fundamentally altered the balance between soil production and soil erosion – dramatically increasing soil erosion.

Other researchers, like Jed Kaplan and his team from the Avre Group at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, have affirmed that preindustrial land clearance has had a massive impact on the landscape.

“It is certain that the forests of many European countries were substantially cleared before the Industrial Revolution,” they write in a 2009 study.

Their data shows that forest cover declined from 35% to 0% in Ireland over the 2800 years before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The situation was similar in Norway, Finland, Iceland, where 100% of the arable land was cleared before 1850.

Similarly, the world’s grasslands have been largely destroyed: plowed under for fields of wheat and corn, or buried under spreading pavement. The grain belt, which stretches across the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and across much of Eastern Europe, southern Russia, and northern China, has decimated the endless fields of constantly shifting native grasses.

The same process is moving inexorably towards its conclusion in the south, in the pampas of Argentina and in the Sahel in Africa. Thousands of species, each uniquely adapted to the grasslands that they call home, are being driven to extinction.

“Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable,” writes permaculture expert Toby Hemenway. “We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.”

As Hemenway notes, the massive global population is essentially dependent on agriculture for survival, which makes political change a difficult proposition at best. The seriousness of this problem is not to be underestimated. Seven billion people are dependent on a food system – agricultural civilization – that is killing the planet.

The primary proponent of the hypothesis – that human impacts on climate are as old as civilization – has been Dr. William Ruddiman, a retired professor at the University of Virginia. The theory is often called Ruddiman’s Hypothesis, or, alternately, the Early Anthropocene Hypothesis.

Ruddiman’s research, which relies heavily on atmospheric data from gases trapped in thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, shows that around 11,000 years ago carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere began to decline as part of a natural cycle related to the end of the last Ice Age. This reflected a natural pattern that has been seen after previous ice ages.

This decline continued until around 8000 years ago, when the natural trend of declining carbon dioxide turned around, and greenhouse gases began to rise. This coincides with the spread of civilization across more territory in China, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and certain other regions.

Ruddiman’s data shows that deforestation over the next several thousand years released 350 Gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, an amount nearly equal to what has been released since the Industrial Revolution. The figure is corroborated by the research of Kaplan and his team.

Around 5000 years ago, cultures in East and Southeast Asia began to cultivate rice in paddies – irrigated fields constantly submerged in water. Like an artificial wetland, rice patties create an anaerobic environment, where bacteria metabolizing carbon-based substances (like dead plants) release methane instead of carbon dioxide and the byproduct of their consumption. Ruddiman points to a spike in atmospheric methane preserved in ice cores around 5000 years ago as further evidence of warming due to agriculture.

Some other researchers, like R. Max Holmes from the Woods Hole Research Institute and Andrew Bunn, a climate scientist from Western Washington University, believe that evidence is simply not conclusive. Data around the length of interglacial periods and the exact details of carbon dioxide and methane trends is not detailed enough to make a firm conclusion, they assert. Regardless, it is certain that the pre-industrial impact of civilized humans on the planet was substantial.

“Our data show very substantial amounts of human impact on the environment over thousands of years,” Kaplan said. “That impact really needs to be taken into account when we think about the carbon cycle and greenhouse gases.”

Restoring Grasslands: a strategy for survival

If the destruction of grasslands and forests signals the beginning of the end for the planet’s climate, some believe that the restoration of these natural communities could mean salvation.

Beyond their beauty and inherent worth, intact grasslands supply a great deal to humankind. Many pastoral cultures subsist entirely on the animal protein that is so abundant in healthy grasslands. In North America, the rangelands that once sustained more than 60 million Bison (and at least as many pronghorn antelope, along with large populations of elk, bear, deer, and many others) now support fewer than 45 million cattle – animals ill-adapted to the ecosystem, who damage their surroundings instead of contributing to them.

Healthy populations of herbivores also contribute to carbon sequestration in grassland soils by increasing nutrient recycling, a powerful effect that allows these natural communities to regulate world climate. They also encourage root growth, which sequesters more carbon in the soil.

Just as herbivores cannot survive without grass, grass cannot thrive without herbivores.

Grasslands are so potent in their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that some believe restoring natural grasslands could be one of the most effective tools in the fight against runaway global warming.

“Grass is so good at building [carbon rich] soil that repairing 75 percent of the planet’s rangelands would bring atmospheric CO2 to under 330 ppm in 15 years or less,” Lierre Keith writes.

The implications of this are immense. It means, quite simply, that one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is to move away from agriculture, which is based upon the destruction of forests and grasslands, and towards other means of subsistence. It means moving away from a way of life 10,000 years old. It means rethinking the entire structure of our food system – in some ways, the entire structure of our culture.

Some ambitious, visionary individuals are working in parallel with this strategy, racing against time to restore grasslands and to stabilize Earth’s climate.

In Russia, in the remote northeastern Siberian state of Yakutia, a scientist named Sergei Zimov has an ambitious plan to recreate a vast grassland – a landscape upon whom millions of herbivores such as mammoths, wild horses, reindeer, bison, and musk oxen fed and roamed until the end of the last ice age.

“In future, to preserve the permafrost, we only need to bring herbivores,” says Zimov. “Why is this useful? For one, the possibility to reconstruct a beautiful [grassland] ecosystem. It is important for climate stability. If the permafrost melts, a lot of greenhouse gases will be emitted from these soils.”

Zimov’s project is nicknamed “Pleistocene Park,” and stretches across a vast region of shrubs and mosses, low productivity communities called ‘Taiga’. But until 12,000 years ago, this landscape was highly productive pastures for a span of 35,000 years, hosting vast herds of grazers and their predators.

“Most small bones don’t survive because of the permafrost,” says Sergei Zimov. “[But] the density of skeletons in this sediment, here and all across these lowlands: 1,000 skeletons of mammoth, 20,000 skeletons of bison, 30,000 skeletons of horses, and about 85,000 skeletons of reindeer, 200 skeletons of musk-ox, and also tigers [per square kilometer].”

These herds of grazers no only supported predators, but also preserved the permafrost beneath their feet, soils that now contain 5 times as much carbon as all the rainforests of Earth. According to Zimov, the winter foraging behavior of these herbivores was the mechanism of preservation.

“In winter, everything is covered in snow,” Zimov says. “If there are 30 horses per square kilometer, they will trample the snow, which is a very good thermal insulator. If they trample in the snow, the permafrost will be much colder in wintertime. The introduction of herbivores can reduce the temperatures in the permafrost and slow down the thawing.”

In the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, a similar plan to restore the landscape and rewild the countryside has emerged. The brainchild of Deborah and Frank Popper, the plan calls for the gradual acquisition of rangelands and agricultural lands across the West and Midwest, with the eventual goal of creating a vast nature preserve called the Buffalo Commons, 10-20 million acres of wilderness, an area 10 times the size of the largest National Park in the United States (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska).

In this proposed park, the Popper’s envision a vast native grassland, with predators following wandering herds of American Bison and other grazers who follow the shifting grasses who follow the fickle rains. The shifting nature of the terrain in the Great Plains requires space, and this project would provide it in tracts not seen for hundreds of years.

In parts of Montana, the work has already begun. Many landowners have sold their farms to private conservation groups to fill in the gaps between isolated sections of large public lands. Many Indian tribes across the United States and Southern Canada are also working to restore Bison, who not only provide high quality, healthy, traditional food but also contribute to biodiversity and restore the health of the grasslands through behavior such a wallowing, which creates small wetlands.

Grasslands have the power to not only restore biodiversity and serve as a rich, nutrient-dense source of food, but also to stabilize global climate. The soils of the world cannot survive agricultural civilizations for much longer. If the plows continue their incessant work, this culture will eventually go the way of the Easter Islanders, the Maya, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Harrapans, or the Roman Empire – blowing in the wind, clouding the rivers. Our air is thick with the remnants of ancient soils, getting long overdue revenge for their past mistreatment.

The land does not want fields. It wants Bison back. It wants grasslands, forests, wetlands, birds. It wants humans back, humans who know how to live in a good way, in relationship with the soil and the land and all the others. The land wants balance, and we can help. We can tend the wild and move towards other means of feeding ourselves, as our old ancestors have done for long years. It is the only strategy that takes into account the needs of the natural world, the needs for a land free of plows and tractor-combines.

In time, with luck and hard work, that ancient carbon will be pulled from the atmosphere – slowly at first, but then with gathering speed. The metrics of success are clear: a calmed climate, rivers running free, biodiversity rebounding. The task of achieving that success is a great challenge, but guided by those who believe in restoring the soil, we can undo 8,000 years of mistakes, and finally begin to live again as a species like any other, nestled in our home, at peace and in balance, freed at last from the burdens of our ancestors’ mistakes.

Bibliography

Climate meddling dates back 8,000 years. By Alexandra Witze. April 23rd, 2011. Science News. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/71932/title/Climate_meddling_dates_back_8%2C000_years#video

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Global Emissions. Accessed June 23rd, 2012. http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

The prehistoric and preindustrial deforestation of Europe. By Kaplan et al. Avre Group, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 3016-3034.

‘Land Use as Climate Change Mitigation.’ Stone, Brian Jr. Environmental Science and Technology 43, 9052-9056. 11/2009.

‘Functional Aspects of Soil Animal Diversity in Agricultural Grasslands’ by Bardgett et al. Applied Soil Ecology, 10 (1998) 263-276.

Zimov, Sergei. Personal Interviews, June/July 2010.

NASA: Satellite Data Shows U.S. Methane ‘Hot Spot’ Bigger than Expected

By US National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Methane emissions from the Four Corners region of the United States
The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher).
Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan

One small “hot spot” in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate — according to a new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.

Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming. The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.

In each of the seven years studied from 2003-2009, the area released about 0.59 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union’s widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research.

In the study published online today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers used observations made by the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY) instrument. SCIAMACHY measured greenhouse gases from 2002 to 2012. The atmospheric hot spot persisted throughout the study period. A ground station in the Total Carbon Column Observing Network, operated by the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided independent validation of the measurement.

To calculate the emissions rate that would be required to produce the observed concentration of methane in the air, the authors performed high-resolution regional simulations using a chemical transport model, which simulates how weather moves and changes airborne chemical compounds.

Research scientist Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, first noticed the Four Corners signal years ago in SCIAMACHY data.

“We didn’t focus on it because we weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” Frankenberg said.

The study’s lead author, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, noted the study period predates the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, near the hot spot. This indicates the methane emissions should not be attributed to fracking but instead to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.

Natural gas is 95-98 percent methane. Methane is colorless and odorless, making leaks hard to detect without scientific instruments.

“The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried,” Kort said. “There’s been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.”

Coalbed methane is gas that lines pores and cracks within coal. In underground coal mines, it is a deadly hazard that causes fatal explosions almost every year as it seeps out of the rock. After the U.S. energy crisis of the 1970s, techniques were invented to extract the methane from the coal and use it for fuel. By 2012, coalbed methane supplied about 8 percent of all natural gas in the United States.

Frankenberg noted that the study demonstrates the unique role space-based measurements can play in monitoring greenhouse gases.

“Satellite data cannot be as accurate as ground-based estimates, but from space, there are no hiding places,” Frankenberg said.

In March 2014 the Obama Administration announced a strategy to reduce methane emissions under its Climate Action Plan. The strategy includes improving the measurement and monitoring of methane emissions and assessing current methane emissions data.

“Utah’s Carbon Bomb”: State Plots Massive Tar Sands & Oil Shale Projects Despite Climate Concerns

 

Map of oil shale and tar sands deposits in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

Map of oil shale and tar sands deposits in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

 

While the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline and the Alberta tar sands has galvanized the environmental movement, far less attention has been paid to a related story here in the West. The state of Utah has begun making preparations for its own major tar sands and oil shale extraction projects. According to one U.S. government report, land in the region could hold up to three trillion barrels of oil — that’s more recoverable oil than has been used so far in human history. Critics say Utah is sitting on a tar sands carbon bomb. The Utah Water Quality Board has recently begun giving out permits for companies to extract from the state’s tar sands reserves. We speak to Taylor McKinnon, energy director of the Grand Canyon Trust.

TAYLOR McKINNON: In Utah, we have vast deposits of oil shale and tar sands, up to 20 billion barrels’ worth of oil in the tar sands deposits. And the USGS, the United States Geological Survey, estimates up to a trillion barrels of developable oil in the oil shale. These are unconventional fuels. Like Alberta’s tar sands, they need to be mined, melted, before they’re turned into a liquid hydrocarbon. So the energy investment on the front end of their development far exceeds that of conventional oil, and as a result, the resulting carbon emissions from developing these fuels also far exceeds that of conventional oil. When we’re facing climate change and the IPCC is saying we have a carbon budget within which to work in coming decades, this is the exact wrong policy direction from a matter of energy and climate.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, we’ve heard so much about tar sands in Alberta. Why do we hear so little about what’s going on in Utah? And place it exactly for us in Utah.

TAYLOR McKINNON: We’re talking about deposits that are located in the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah and into western Colorado. It’s the heart of the Colorado River Basin. I think the reason we’ve heard more about Alberta’s tar sands is because they’re being developed. In Utah, the deposits are not being developed. It’s prospective. And we’re seeing really the onset of development, the onset of significant investment on the part of industry. We have—

AMY GOODMAN: What are the telltale signs? Like highways being built?

TAYLOR McKINNON: Highways are being built, publicly funded infrastructure. There’s, for example, an $80 million publicly funded road that’s been punched south into the Book Cliffs at the behest of an oil shale lobby in the state Legislature in Utah. So we’re seeing public investment, over a million acres of land, state and federal public land, available for leasing. And we’re seeing the very beginnings of commercial plays, attempted commercial plays, in those deposits, in the shallow deposits in the Uintah Basin.

AMY GOODMAN: How would they get the shale—the shale oil below? How does it—how would the equipment go in? And how would it affect the water?

TAYLOR McKINNON: Right now, the shallow deposits are being targeted, which would mean it would be—it’s strip mining, much like you see mountaintop removal or other coal mining in the U.S. So we’re talking about strip mining.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet isn’t tourism in Utah one of its main sources of revenue?

TAYLOR McKINNON: There’s a lot of tension between fossil fuel extraction—industrializing landscapes for fossil fuels and protecting them for tourism.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the Grand Canyon Trust, your organization, doing?

TAYLOR McKINNON: We’re engaged on a number of different fronts. In 2012, the Obama administration allocated 800,000 acres of public lands as available for oil shale and tar sands leasing. We’re challenging that leasing framework in court, in federal district court. We’re also challenging several of the individual projects that are moving forward: the first tar sands lease pursuant to that leasing program, in addition to oil shale projects on state land.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the companies that will stand to benefit?

TAYLOR McKINNON: One is Enefit American, which is an Estonian company.

AMY GOODMAN: A company from Estonia?

TAYLOR McKINNON: Essentially, yes. Estonia has relied on oil shale for a long time for much of their power, and they’re one of the most carbon-intensive nations in the world, and they have vast pollution problems right now as a result of burning and mining oil shale. US Oil Sands is one of the leading players in the tar sands in the region. They’re pursuing tar sands mining on state land. And they are—

AMY GOODMAN: US—

TAYLOR McKINNON: On U.S. state land. They are—they plan to take that technology and use it in Alberta. Another company is Red Leaf—

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a U.S. company?

TAYLOR McKINNON: They are—they are, I believe, American, but with Canadian interests, if not Canadian-owned. These are foreign companies that are here in the U.S. on the front end of a play to try to get a foot in the door.

AMY GOODMAN: Total also involved?

TAYLOR McKINNON: Total is—dumped—

AMY GOODMAN: The French company, oil company.

TAYLOR McKINNON: Total allocated about $300 million in support of Red Leaf Resources, which is one of the oil shale plays that we see in the Uintah Basin.

AMY GOODMAN: Geographically place this for us in Utah in terms of cities, like Moab, for example.

TAYLOR McKINNON: We’re talking about north of Moab and to the southeast of Salt Lake City and to the northwest of Grand Junction, Colorado.

AMY GOODMAN: And the residents in these areas, how divided are they?

TAYLOR McKINNON: There’s division. There’s also a lot of support for jobs in some of the rural committees. So, some of the ranchers—the folks who stand to lose from the industrialization of these landscapes and who stand to lose from the pollution of groundwater and surface water are opposed to it. So some of the ranchers around there are opposed to it. But the people who want the jobs are often for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Compare this to the area of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, the size.

TAYLOR McKINNON: The oil shale deposits, in terms of barrels, are larger—in terms of the barrels of oil, are larger than Alberta’s tar sands. They’re not as accessible. And that’s good news.

AMY GOODMAN: Requiring more energy to—

TAYLOR McKINNON: Requiring more energy to get at. And that energy investment thus far has precluded them from being commercially viable. But as supplies of conventional oil wane, we see, as in Alberta, more and more investment being put towards these more energy-intensive and carbon-intensive unconventional fuels.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does the Bureau of Land Management stand, and President Obama himself?

TAYLOR McKINNON: The BLM and President Obama have allocated about 800,000 acres of public lands as available for oil shale and tar sands leasing. There are conditions imposed on when a lease can be let, but those lanes are available. And as a matter of climate and energy policy, it’s difficult to reconcile that with our climate goals.

Excerpted from Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, 3/14/2014.

A Slow-Motion Colorado River Disaster

The high water mark for Lake Mead is seen on Hoover Dam and its spillway near Boulder City, Nev. After back-to-back driest years in a century on the Colorado River, federal water managers are announcing a historic step to slow the flow of water from a massive reservoir upstream of the Grand Canyon to the huge Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / April 15, 2013)

The high water mark for Lake Mead is seen on Hoover Dam and its spillway near Boulder City, Nev. After back-to-back driest years in a century on the Colorado River, federal water managers are announcing a historic step to slow the flow of water from a massive reservoir upstream of the Grand Canyon to the huge Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / April 15, 2013)

Original article by Craig Mackey, Los Angeles Times


On Aug. 7, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority called for federal disaster relief to address the consequences of water scarcity in the Colorado River system. On Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be forced to cut the flow of water into Lake Mead in 2014 to a historic low. Dominoes may now fall from California to Washington, D.C.

A nearly century-old body of agreements and legal decisions known as the Law of the River regulates water distribution from the Colorado River among seven states and Mexico. Two major reservoirs help collect and distribute that water. Lake Mead disburses water to Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico. Mead gets its water from Lake Powell, which collects its water from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. For the first time, Lake Powell releases will fall below 8.23 million acre-feet of water, to 7.48 million acre-feet, potentially reducing allotments down the line and setting off a cascade of significant consequences.

First, if recent dry weather in the Colorado River basin continues, declining water levels in Lake Powell could cut off power production at Glen Canyon Dam as early as winter 2015, affecting power supply and pricing in six states.

Second, less water coming into Lake Mead from Lake Powell may bring the level in Mead below an intake pipe that delivers water to Las Vegas by spring 2015. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been racing to construct a deeper intake pipe by the end of 2014.

By winter 2015, Lake Mead also may dip to a level that would result in a major decline in power generation at Hoover Dam. That would affect the supply and cost of power for consumers in Nevada, Arizona and California. Southern California uses below-market-rate power from Hoover Dam to pump water to its cities and farms; if the region was forced to buy market-rate electricity from elsewhere, the price of water for Southern California consumers would surely rise.

These Bureau of Reclamation projections prompted Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, to call for federal disaster relief to mitigate the situation. She wasn’t specific about how much money would be needed or how it would be used, but disaster relief could go toward completing Las Vegas’ new intake pipe project, or for things like paying farmers to temporarily fallow their fields as a means to get more water in the reservoirs, or to finance a controversial new groundwater project in the region. Mulroy referenced Superstorm Sandy and said: “Does a drought not rise to the same level of a storm? The potential damage is just as bad.”

If anything, Mulroy is understating the situation. What’s at stake on the Colorado River, in addition to increased power and water costs, is drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigation water for 15% of our nation’s crops and a $26-billion recreation economy that employs a quarter of a million Americans.

“Disaster relief” implies temporary measures, but the drought in the Southwest is not an isolated incident; it is a long-term reality. We need strong measures to head off further disaster, not just aid to help address the aftermath.

Demand on the Colorado River’s water exceeds supply. According to a 2012 Bureau of Reclamation study, average river flow could decrease by nearly 10% by mid-century. Carrying on with business as usual by continuing to build new diversions from the river and failing to significantly improve the efficiency with which we use the river’s water is akin to rebuilding wiped-out beach homes after a hurricane and then beckoning another storm to come in and destroy those homes again (requiring, of course, another government bailout).

Fortunately, that 2012 Colorado River study determined that urban and agricultural water conservation and recycling, along with market-based measures like water banking, are cost-effective measures that can lead the way to a secure water future for the Southwest. The Department of the Interior has convened a process with the seven Colorado River states and other interests to determine the next steps on water conservation and improving river flows. A report from the group should arrive next year. A robust plan is needed from this process to ensure a successful economic future for the Southwest, or else the dominoes will fall.

Craig Mackey is co-director of Protect the Flows, a network of businesses that advocates for healthy flows in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times