Tag Archives: afforestation

Friday Linkage 7/12/2019

July really walloped us with heat and humidity this week in eastern Iowa.  After a wet and cool May and June, this month came in hot, humid, breezy, and dry.  It is just strange to be talking about high humidity and the soil drying out at the same time.  Yet, here we are.

On to the links…

The Most Important Thing You Can do Right Now to Fight Climate Change, According to Science—The best thing we can do is to keep hammering away at building consensus.

The Biggest Lie in Trump’s Environmental Speech Today—The fact that Ol’ Donnie Two Scoops felt the need to walk up to the podium and deliver a speech about his “environmental leadership” is, perhaps, the most appalling example of the man’s deranged ego run amok.

Tree Planting ‘Has Mind-Blowing Potential’ to Tackle Climate Crisis—Regardless of the degree to which this would be effective in combating climate change the question remains: What is the downside?  We have more forests?

Toilet Paper is Getting Less Sustainable, Researchers Warn—If your toilet paper is not recycled or tree free you are wiping your ass with carbon.  Until you clean up your triple ply, soft as angel wings toilet paper habit you are just destroying forests.

Beverage Companies Embrace Recycling, Until It Costs Them—I live in a state with a longstanding bottle deposit law and every couple of years the beverage industry lines up to try for repeal.  That is how you know it must be working to some degree.  Anything that can unite companies that normally fight like cats and dogs must be some kind of good.

New Wyoming Coal Company Abandons Mines and Miners—Coal companies have always treated workers like crap.  It is now just getting more mainstream coverage.

First Major U.S. Insurance Company Moves Away from Coal—Boring but important notice: If you cannot get insurance a lot of projects cannot get financing.  Financing is the lifeblood of fossil fuel projects.

This Is Exactly Why Clean Coal Is A Joke—There can never be “clean coal.”  Just like there cannot be “safe crystal meth” or “healthy White Castle.”

A President, A Parasite And A National Energy Policy Gone Awry—It is amazing that people want clean air and clean water.  Oh wait, that is just basic knowledge about humans desires.

Cheap Clean Energy Makes New Natural Gas A Risky Bet Utility Regulators Should Avoid—This is an editorial written in Forbes, bot Mother Jones.

It’s Time to Expand the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit—Again, Forbes.  It is like these ideas are hitting the mainstream.

Why Blue Jeans are Going Green—It may seem like we live in a business casual and athleisure wear world, but blue jeans are still a core component of our fashion lives.  These pants also happen to be an ecological nightmare.

Herbicide Is What’s for Dinner—Commodity agricultural practices have led us down this path and it is not sustainable.

One-Fifth of Americans are Responsible for Half the Country’s Food-Based Emissions—It’s almost like the 80/20 rule for emissions.  It just goes to show that relatively small changes for a slice of the population can make a big difference in emissions.  Too bad these are also the same people who gobble up “MAGA” hats and loudly proclaim Trump the be the biblical Cryrus.

8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning—The air conditioning impacts are too damn high!  The fact that almost twenty percent of people set their thermostats below 70 degrees is mind blowing to me.

Something is Missing from the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is the shiny new thing in the 116th Congress.  This an unalloyed good thing.  We need to be talking about the big ideas that can move this country forward instead of always arguing about small ball politics.

However, I fear that something is missing from every discussion about the contents of the Green New Deal.  Trees.  Rather, forests.  Forests?  You know, those mass groupings of trees.

What about forests?

Forests are the unsung hero of our fight against climate change.  Decidedly analog, forests do not get any of the hype afforded to electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, or even god damned nuclear fusion.  Why?  It is probably because people’s eyes glaze over when someone talks about forests and stereotypes of treehugging hippies run through their minds.

However, before we can deploy enough renewable energy or replace enough automobiles with EVs forests can help us combat the coming climate apocalypse.  Trees absorb carbon dioxide and capture it in their wood fibers.  Trees help to slow down the rainfall preventing erosion, top soil runoff, and even filter rainwater as it falls from the sky through the canopy to the ground.  Trees help to cool the surrounding area.  Trees provide habitat for animals.  Unless you are the most Trumpian right wing reactionary there is no denying the enviable service record of trees.

The key is not to just save the forests that we currently have, but to recover the forests that we have lost.  I propose a nationwide effort to recover as many acres of forest covered land as possible.  There are literally tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of acres of land that were once covered with forests that could become verdant again.

In the region known as Appalachia it is estimated that more than 1.5 million acres of mountain top land has been reduced to bare earth and rubble by coal mining over the last fifty years.  Reforestation of these degraded lands is an opportunity to provide much needed jobs in the region, improve the environment, and build a legacy for future generations.  All by planting some trees.

In 2018 California saw almost 1.9 million acres burned in wildfires.  Reforestation of these lands is an opportunity to reduce the ecological impact of wildfires in that state and ameliorate some of the secondary impacts like mudslides in subsequent years.

In Colorado, as a result of the invasive mountain pine beetle, one in 14 trees in the state is dead and almost three quarters of the state’s lodgepole pine stands are impacted.  In the end the infestation and resulting tree die off may leave an area the size of Rhode Island deforested.  Reforestation is an opportunity to reverse some of this damage and restore Colorado’s forests to their majestic beauty.

These are just a few examples, but I could have chosen examples in the Pacific Northwest or northern Minnesota or Arizona.  Almost every state in the United States could benefit from reforestation.

Here is the best part.  Reforestation does not require any new technology or industries to be created.  Reforestation does not require any new government agencies to be created.  We possess the knowledge, organizations, and infrastructure to implement a nationwide reforestation plan.  We just lack the money.

Ahhhh, money.  How much money exactly?  Who knows?  How much land do you want to cover in trees?  Piedmont Land and Timber, a timber management company in Georgia, publishes a very concise breakdown of the costs to reforest an acre:

  • Herbicide application: $125/acre
  • Controlled burn: $60/acre
  • Planting @ 500 seedlings per acre: $74/acre
  • Landowner cost: $45/acre

The total to plant an acre of trees, albeit for timber production, is ~$300 according to a private company.  The largest part of that expense is the application of herbicides which could be eliminated in many cases where the goal is not to develop a stand for logging at a later date.  Regardless, I will use $300 per acre as a baseline for cost.

Let’s use the lands degraded by coal mining in Appalachia as a model.  So, we are working with ~1.5 million acres over several years.  Total cost, assuming $300 per acre, would be $450 million.  Over five years the annual cost would be $90 million.  That is about the cost of a single F-35A fighter plane per year.  Imagine what restoring 1.5 million acres of land would look like from an environmental standpoint.

The money is large when it is looked at in isolation, but it is paltry when compared with so many things in Washington D.C.  Just consider our current president’s pet border wall.  Each mile is estimated to cost $25 million dollars.  We could trade four miles of border wall per year for a restoration of Appalachian forests.  I am willing to make that trade.

Will anyone in Washington D.C. speak for the trees?

Friday Linkage 12/14/2018

If you needed another reason to be thankful that Democrats whooped Republicans’ asses in the midterm elections look no further than Iowa’s own Steve King.  During a recent hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, King managed to claim the throne of “biggest asshat in Congress” by actually demanding the names of approximately 1,000 people who worked on the company’s search algorithms.  Yep, a sitting member of Congress just asked a private company for the names and social media profiles of 1,000 employees to check for bias.

Now, I ask Steve King or any of his cronies what law has been broken to make this demand even the least bit tenable?  I will hang up and wait for the answer.

On to the links…

The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology—It is not just about preserving the forests that remain.  We need to institute a broad effort to regenerate the forests that we have lost.

The EU Could Halve Emissions By 2030 By Acting In Just Three Key Sectors—Cutting carbon emissions is not rocket science.  It is actually a lot like supply chain planning.  You identify the big movers in your supply chain and act accordingly.  If something is responsible for 2% of your supply chain cost you will not spend as much time and effort on it as something that is responsible for 25% of your supply chain cost.

Trump Prepares to Unveil a Vast Reworking of Clean Water Protections—Thanks to the utter ass beating that Republicans took in the midterm election the worst impulses of the Trump regime will be checked.  The latest bad idea to come from the worst presidential administration in U.S. history is just further proof that getting 2020 right is critical.

Getting Interior to Respond to Your FOIA Requests Just Got a Lot Harder—Absolutely nothing says corruption like making it harder for the public to know what is happening within your department.  Ryan Zinke is a corrupt public official.

New House Science Committee Chair to Climate Scientists: We’ve Got Your Back Again—At least there will be one venue in Washington D.C. where science is actually trusted.

Is Nuclear Energy the Key to Saving the Planet?—I do not know what to do with nuclear energy.  Yes, it is carbon free electricity.  However, the legacy of uranium mining in the West is not pretty and the waste is a real problem.

U.S. Coal-Fired Plants Depend on Maintenance Projects as Market Toughens—The economics do not favor coal and the current political climate is making many of the projects toxic.  When Donald Trump is no longer in office who will coal barons go to hat in hand?

Twin Cities’ Metro Transit plans to shift bus fleet to all-electric—Combine electric buses with bus rapid transit and you have an electrified way to move a lot of people without having to spend the time and money to deploy light rail or other infrastructure heavy projects.  If less people are driving for various reasons why not utilize the roads that we have already built?

Good News: Bitcoin is Becoming Worthless—Bitcoin is probably going to be remembered like those Tamagotchi things that seemed to be everywhere for a hot minute and then got lost in junk drawers across America.

From Freecycling to Fairphones: 24 Ways to Lead an Anti-Capitalist Life in a Capitalist World—I do not know if it is anti-capitalist or just a little less consumer focused.  Either way these are not bad ideas to spend a little less time worried about shopping during the holiday season.

The Golden Age of Rich People Not Paying Their Taxes—The pendulum has swung so far in favor the rich that you have to wonder if Donald Trump is the supernova before the inevitable fading.