We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Empire of the Beetle
just read this book and think anyone who cares about the environment needs to
read this book.It is a long painful
history of good intentions running squarely into Mother Nature.
great conifer forests of North America are
visibly under attack and are been progressively reduced mostly as a result of
ultimately misguided attempts at silviculture.The climate warming we have experienced is certainly a trigger but not a
cause.The lesson is that meddling with
forests is tricky to say the least.
I am personally
convinced that the future of silviculture will descend into local individual
tenure arrangements sufficient to support a sole operator.Such an arrangement would demand selective
harvesting, forest grooming, and some selective planting to expand complexity
and general resilience.
forest would give up its seventy year old mature pine trees just before they
become a beetle meal, it will rapidly recover blown down wood before it is lost
and it will convert all waste wood into chips.There is a natural sequence to all this and it produces continuous value
to the owner operator.
We are also
about to see the advent of airships as heavy lifters.Mature trees can be individually spotted, an
airship is able to come in and grab the tree top with a grapple or similar grasping
device and then allow the airship to actually shut down while applying full
lift to the tree itself.The operator is
then able to sit back expending no fuel whatsoever while he waits for the tree
itself to be cut at the base.
faller then makes the cut in a safe manner and at the point of release the stem
will shoot straight up out of harms way.It should be possible to provide extremely safe methods that will
obviously surpass just about every other method available.
the airship powers up and takes the tree to a processing yard close by.There the tree is laid down and released.A crew then works to clear the branches and
to section the stem.The waste can be
directly chipped.We capture all the
waste and leave the forest itself largely undisturbed.
important the need to attempt a monoculture quickly disappears.
Empire of the Beetle, by
16, 2011 – 8:30 AM ET | Last Updated: Sep 15,
2011 6:08 PM ET
When renowned biologist J.B.S. Haldane was asked
if his work had given him any universal insights, he replied that “God must
have an inordinate fondness for beetles.” In fact, there are more beetle
species — some 400,000 now, with many more waiting to be discovered — than any
other animal on the planet. The total number of insects on Earth, including
beetles, is estimated at 10 quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeros). They weigh
300 times more than the combined weight of the entire human population.
And they will no doubt still be here when the
human race is long gone.
Subtitled “How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are
Killing North America’s Great Forests,” Empire of the Beetle is about the devastation wrought by
the bark beetle, a voracious insect the size of a grain of rice that often
swarms in masses larger than schools of killer whales. Beginning in the late
1980s, a series of unprecedented bark beetle outbreaks killed more than 30
billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico, resulting in the greatest tree die-off since
the deforestation of Europe by peasants
between the 11th and 13th centuries.
The key word here is “unprecedented.” Bark
beetles have been around for hundreds of millions of years, playing a vital
role in the regeneration of forests, and thus the world’s carbon cycle, by
consuming dead trees. Why are they suddenly swarming out of control, even
attacking healthy trees, and defying all efforts to contain, suppress or kill
Andrew Nikiforuk explains why, in what I am sure
is the world’s only page-turner about beetles. Over the past two decades this
award-winning Canadian journalist has tackled subjects ranging from education
and economics to the environment, in the process winning a Governor General’s
Award (forSaboteurs) and the
Rachel Carson Environment Book Award (for Tar Sands). He has a clear, muscular style and a masterful
command of simile, metaphor and analogy to illustrate otherwise dull or obscure
scientific data. His research is awe-inspiring, his conclusions irrefutable,
and the implications dismal.
The bark beetle has been released from its
ancient natural constraints by two factors. The first is human activity: bad
public policy, out-of-control logging, and the bad or misguided science that
led a hundred years’ worth of forest managers to the mistaken conclusion that a
key factor in habitat management is fire suppression, rather than the
recognition that fire plays a vital role in long-term sustainable forest
health. The second factor is climate change. Together these two factors set
the stage for a swarming plague of bark beetles whose predations have cost
untold billions of dollars and are a foreshadowing of many biological disasters
It is impossible to even begin enumerating the
wealth of astounding facts peppering this book, so I will simply note that
Nikiforuk artfully breaks up his science with a social history of mankind’s
age-old fascination with beetles, from Aesop to Darwin.
He also interviews an enchanting collection of
beetle-mad scientists and eccentrics, including the University of Montana’s
Diana Six, former biker and drug addict, now bodybuilder and world-renowned bug
expert. Then there’s the collaboration between “the entomologist, the musician,
and the pool hustler … on one of the craziest science experiments in insect
history.” Suffice to say the experiment involved woody “phloem sandwiches” and
a contraption made of a meat thermometer and a piezoelectric transducer from a
Hallmark greeting card. This bizarre homemade device was deployed to record
bark beetle singing, which is how they communicate apart from odour. The songs
were then played back to living insects in the tree in the wrong order, thus
driving them to crazy self-destructive behaviour, including cannibalism.
Whoever thought that music rather than toxic clouds of insecticide might be the
key to saving the world’s forests?
This fascinating and thought-provoking book about
an ancient insect pest exposes the frailty of seemingly stable man-managed
habitats and presages the climate-induced ordeals to come.