Tags Archives: Deforestation

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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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Deep Green Resistance Southwest February News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

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.

Sign this petition with us and ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests

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 Water Tour

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

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.

Join us in May of 2016!

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

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon – What makes this canyon and the surrounding Hurricane Cliffs so special is its geographic location at the transition of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin geologic provinces, giving rise to a unique collection of plant species.
Deep Green Resistance Colorado member Deanna Meyer interviewed on Resistance Radio – Recently she has been involved in advocating for the forests in her area as well as the rapidly disappearing prairie dogs throughout the mid-west. She elieves that the strategies and tactics of people who care about the living planet must shift from asking nicely to defending those they love by any and all means necessary.
More Than Words – The race to save a Northern Paiute dialect that’s down to a handful of speakers reveals what we stand to lose when a language dies.
Tell the BLM that you care about wildlands in southwestern Utah (petition)
Bighorn Sheep Die-off in Montana Mountains, Nevada
A Biocentrist History of the West – Wildlife Services, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, acts as “the hired guns of the livestock industry.”
USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife (video)
Even more about Wildlife Services and how they torture dogs and kill endangered species
A New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Nearly Tough Enough – The industrial agriculture system is violent. It murders humans and so many other beings – entire living communities. Policy-makers such as those in this article covering the UCLA study – people who maintain the validity of this systematic murder – are culpable and must be held accountable.
How big oil spent $10m to defeat California climate change legislation
In Utah, a massive water project is gaining ground – The project could divert 86,000 acre-feet from Lake Powell to the retirement community of St. George.
Massive Gas Pipeline Project Endures in Texas – Even in oil and gas friendly Texas, there is a growing outcry about the egregious abuse of landowners rights’ carried out by the company behind a new gas pipeline.
In Parts of the West, Grazing Cattle Are Making the Drought Worse
Lost Bones, Damage and Harassment at Ancient Sacred Site

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen Interviewed About Deep Green Resistance, “Transphobia,” and More

Recognizing Greenwashing comes down to what so many indigenous people have said to me: we have to decolonize our hearts and minds. We have to shift our loyalty away from the system and toward the landbase and the natural world. So the central question is: where is the primary loyalty of the people involved? Is it to the natural world, or to the system?

What do all the so-called solutions for global warming have in common? They take industrialization, the economic system, and colonialism as a given; and expect the natural world to conform to industrial capitalism. That’s literally insane, out of touch with physical reality. There has been this terrible coup where sustainability doesn’t mean sustaining the natural ecosystem, but instead means sustaining the economic system.

Police Intimidation: From Dalton Trumbo to Deep Green Resistance

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security agents have contacted more than a dozen members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a radical environmental group, including one of its leaders, Lierre Keith, who said she has been the subject of two visits from the FBI at her home.

DGR, formed about four years ago, requires its members to adhere to what the group calls a “security culture” in order to reduce the amount of paranoia and fear that often comes with radical activism. On its website, DGR explains why it is important not to talk to police agents: “It doesn’t matter whether you are guilty or innocent. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Never talk to police officers, FBI agents, Homeland Security, etc. It doesn’t matter if you believe you are telling police officers what they already know. It doesn’t matter if you just chit chat with police officers. Any talking to police officers, FBI agents, etc. will almost certainly harm you or others.”

Derrick Jensen: To Protect and Serve

So here’s the question: if the police are not legally obligated to protect us and our communities — or if the police are failing to do so, or if it is not even their job to do so — then if we and our communities are to be protected, who, precisely is going to do it? To whom does that responsibility fall? I think we all know the answer to that one.

If police are the servants of governments, and if governments protect corporations better than they do human beings (and far better than they do the planet), then clearly it falls to us to protect our communities and the landbases on which we in our communities personally and collectively depend. What would it look like if we created our own community groups and systems of justice to stop the murder of our landbases and the total toxification of our environment? It would look a little bit like precisely the sort of revolution we need if we are to survive. It would look like our only hope.

Derrick Jensen: Calling All Fanatics

I’ve always kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.

The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want — and quibble too many do — about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.

Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet — the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

Beyond Flint, Michigan: The Navajo Water Crisis

Recent media coverage and spiraling public outrage over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has completely eclipsed the ongoing environmental justice struggles of the Navajo. Even worse, the media continues to frame the situation in Flint as some sort of isolated incident.

Madeline Stano, attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, assessed the situation for the San Diego Free Press, commenting, “Unfortunately, Flint’s water scandal is a symptom of a much larger disease. It’s far from an isolated incidence, in the history of Michigan itself and in the country writ large.”


Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

At this moment, the liberal basis of most progressive movements is impeding our ability, individually and collectively, to take action. The individualism of liberalism, and of American society generally, renders too many of us unable to think clearly about our dire situation. Individual action is not an effective response to power because human society is political; by definition it is build from groups, not from individuals. That is not to say that individual acts of physical and intellectual courage can’t spearhead movements. But Rosa Parks didn’t end segregations on the Montgomery, Alabama bus system. Rosa Parks plus the stalwart determination and strategic savvy of the entire black community did.


2014-02-28-build-and-strengthenPlease join us or provide material support to make Deep Green Resistance possible.

Paiute Nation Protests Forest-Service Clearcutting of Pine-Nut Trees Near Reno, NV

By Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

BREAKING NEWS: Paiute Nation Protests Forest-Service Clearcutting of Pine-Nut Trees Near Reno, NV

Tubape Numu: Pine-nut People

Members of the Paiute nation living in northeastern Nevada are angry after the Forest Service clearcut more than 70 acres of pine nuts trees that have been used by the tribe for thousands of years, until the modern day.

According to the Forest Service, the trees were cut “by mistake” as part of a federal plan to improve habitat for the Sage Grouse (a story that Deep Green Resistance Great Basin has previously covered). Tribal members disagree, stating that clearcutting these forests will not help the Sage Grouse and should not be done without consultation and approval from the native people.

More than 70 acres of pinenut and cedar trees were cut.

Here at Deep Green Resistance, we are all too aware of the long history of “destruction disguised as restoration.” It’s a pattern that the Forest Service has been guilty of in the past, when it has used the cover-story of “forest health” to justify extensive clearcutting — including cutting old growth forests — in the Pacific Northwest.

More information about this situation is documented in the book Strangely Like War by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan, which begins with a quote from the logging industry:

“It was strangely like war. They attacked the forest as if it were an enemy to be pushed back from the beachheads, driven into the hills, broken into patches, and wiped out. Many operators thought they were not only making lumber but liberating the land from the trees.”
— Murray Morgan, 1955

This video posted on Facebook last week by Myron Dewey, a Paiute tribal member, explains more about the issue of these pine nut trees:

Dewey and others in the Paiute Nation protests group have set up a website,www.Tubape.org, to address the issue further. Here is an excerpt from the website:

From Facebook: "Pictured here is a Grinding Stone with rainwater collected from snow & rain. Behind is the Pinenut Tree that was cut down not too long ago. Goes to show we been in this area and no matter how they put it we had been coming into the Sweetwater area for thousands of years. #PinenutsAreThePeople No Justification to cutting down our relatives. They need to set it right and leave this area alone. Ndn people come from all over to pick in this area and if we say it's ok for 1 area, they gonna want more. Greed and $$$ can't bring back our pinenuts."

“The local Tribal governments and Indigenous people of Nevada and California are aware of the Carson City District resource management plans to conserve, enhance, and/or restore habitats to provide for the long-term viability of the Greater Sage-grouse Bi-state Distinct Population Segment. This action is needed to address the recent ‘warranted, but precluded’ Endangered Species Act (ESA) finding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by addressing needed changes in the management and conservation of the Bi-state Distinct Population Segment habitats within the project area to support overall greater sage-grouse population management objectives within the states of Nevada and California.

“However, we disagree with your proposed action and request that you CEASE and DESIST immediately! Your agency’s are destroying our fishing, hunting and gathering sites as well as sacred sites within the Sweetwater Range and all areas within your DEIS. We have pictures and video’s taken by tribal members from the local areas. We demand that you comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that specifically states your agency is legally bound to comply with Executive Order 13175 and your Trust Responsibility to the Tribes.
You have intentionally destroyed our Pine trees (Tu’ba’pe) forests in Sweetwater (Pehabe Paa’a), Desert Creek (Pazeeta Nahu Gwaytu), Sand Canyon (Kiba Mobegwaytu), the territory of the Paiute (Numu) people and all of the Pinenut (Tu’ba’pe) trees and cedar (Wapi) trees in the Great Basin.”

Read more at www.tubape.org

Local news coverage in the Reno Gazette-Journal:http://www.rgj.com/videos/news/2015/02/07/23049559/

We will continue to post information about this struggle.

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.

Forest Service Moves Forward With Old-growth Logging on Rim of Grand Canyon

By The Center for Biological Diversity

TUCSON, Ariz.— Thousands of trees that have stood on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for more than a century will be cut down later this year as a result of the scheduled “Wild Buck” timber sale today at the North Kaibab Ranger District office of the Kaibab National Forest.

The Center for Biological Diversity has aggressively fought this timber sale for more than a decade, delaying its progress for years. Despite outcry from citizens across the country, the Forest Service is pushing the logging forward under the guise of “forest restoration” and has scheduled a public timber auction where logging companies will bid to log the trees.

“Old-growth ponderosa pine is extremely rare in the Southwest and critically important to the survival of rare animals like northern goshawks and Kaibab squirrels on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon,” said Center Public Lands Campaigner Katie Davis. “While the Forest Service has raised the specter of high-severity fire again and again to justify cutting down old-growth pines in Arizona, any forest ecologist can tell you that big, old ponderosa pines are naturally fire resistant.”

The Center has advocated selective thinning on the Kaibab National Forest that would retain large, old trees, recognizing that decades of fire suppression and livestock grazing have increased the risk of fire on the forest by allowing overcrowding of smaller, younger trees and the spread of flammable invasive grasses. But the Forest Service continues to reject this strategy, opting instead for projects that put more money in the pockets of timber companies.

Logging thousands of majestic old trees from the forest surrounding the Grand Canyon will put the species that depend on these large trees at even greater risk, exacerbating the impacts already being felt due to climate change.

“This destructive and irrational timber sale highlights the need to permanently protect the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from logging and other damaging extractive industries,” said Davis.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.