The Political Economy of Half-Earth – The Bullet

A fascinating 6 page read. Troy Vettese, an environmental historian at New York University, starts by saying the killing of 54 million indigenous peoples in the Americas and the removal of some 12 million west Africans along slavery’s “Middle Passage” left millions of hectares of cropland fallow, and that their subsequent natural reforestation sequestered sufficient carbon to lower northern hemisphere temperatures by nearly one degree centigrade – ‘a little ice age‘. He then goes into Natural Geo-Engineering (NGE – vs artificial geo-engineering, AGE), outlines the phenomenal dangers of releasing millions of tonnes of sulphate aerosols to reflect sunlight back into space vs vastly increased carbon sequestration via afforestation, reducing forest scarcity by growing food crops instead of pasture. Of 5 billion ha. of global agricultural land, 3.5 B ha. is in pasture, with less than 1 B ha. to grow food for people vs industrial use or animal feed. He compares the power density of increasingly scarce fossil fuels (10,000 Watts/m2 – based on 300 million years of accumulated photosynthesis) vs solar (2-10 Watts/m2) or bio fuels (0.2 Watts/m2). He champions our need to free up much more land for afforestation to sequester enough carbon to counteract the worst effects of climate change. He dismisses the questionable proposals of Monbiot and Lovelock for a nuclear transition involving an increase from the current global 444 reactors to 2135 [dangerous] new reactors by 2050 to cover only electrical production, which wouldn’t even put a dent in fossil fuel energy for transportation or air conditioning. If 800 million ha. of land were reforested, billions of new trees would sequester 215 gigatons (GtC) over the next century, bringing atmospheric carbon to a much safer level in the low 300s ppm. (compared to today’s 410 ppm) But this can only come about if the richest make drastic cuts to their energy consumption and it cannot be fixed by the market. He presents the Swiss ‘2000-Watt Society‘ (48 kWh/person/day) vs the 12,000 W of average US citizens, 6,000 W for Europeans and 1,000 W in India and discusses the eco-socialist accomplishments of Cuba’s transition after the collapse of the USSR based on an average Cuban consumption of much less than 2000 watts.

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