Time to terraform the Earth


The public discourse on Climate Change has been one characterized by a near singular focus on emission levels. While undoubtedly playing a central role in the disturbance of the planet’s natural climate cycle, the direction of the solutions presented have been so pointed towards emissions-reductions that we for many years collectively have failed to address other means of trying to regulate the climate and avert or soften the consequences of altered average temperatures. 

For decades, however, there have been proposals circulating regarding other means to control carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Just recently, we have seen proposals ranging from releasing particles in the atmosphere to moving sea-water to Antarctica. 

Many of the recent ideas have touched upon utilizing drones in operations intended to reduce the amounts of  greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. One potential innovation is to design and implement drones that will consume urban CO2 and use it to fertilize plants. This can increase the productivity of our planet’s ecology, and possibly propagate plants which could also assist in CO2 regulation.

Drones are capable of assisting in terraforming processes: this video documents a current method already deployed; in this case, they disseminate seeds in plantations producing food:

Reseeding the earth of trees (especially close to the equator) could perform a vital process in the capture of carbon which is in the atmosphere, in the form of CO2.

But this simple solution for seed dissemination can only ease one problem, and it doesn’t address the root problem – namely, that the Earth’s surface is overburdened by land use which does not help to store carbon, but release it.

Wood is not only extracted for its use and industrial process value, but also because forests take up space which can be used to raise up suburbs, parking lots, cattle pastures and agricultural fields. In fact, about a third of the world’s total ice-free surface is used to support animals which are bred for their meat. These usage models store less carbon, and emit more CO2.

Why forests and not grass? 

Some may argue that grass – like all plant-life – nourishes itself on carbon dioxide. Grass however has the tendency to combust during dry seasons, and has a far shorter and faster life cycle, meaning that the storage of carbon isn’t having the same impact as that consisting of trees living for centuries. 

The forests – and especially the great rainforests of the tropical regions – have not been referred to as ”the lungs of the Earth” for nothing. The temperate forests on the northern and southern hemispheres are ”inhaling” carbon dioxide during the summers and ”exhausting” it during the winters. 

The amount of forests on Earth have historically affected the global average temperatures. 

  • When large forests have covered the northern hemisphere in a green sheet, the greenhouse effect has been weakened and the result becomes a colder average temperature.
  • That has led to ice ages and lower sea levels.
  • This further leads to altered and weaker rainfall patterns, a drier climate and subsequent desertification and forest fires.
  • This releases carbon and heats up the Earth.
  • Further heat leads to melting of continental ice sheets, higher sea levels, a wetter climate and more room for forests to grow.

Usually, we think about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve, the ECB or the Bank of England when we think about large banking institutions. But they are dwarfed in magnitude in comparison to the magnificent forests of the Earth.

There we can truly speak of ”too big to fail”. 

During the beginning of our agricultural age, we had double the amount of trees on Earth than what we have today. If we could increase the amount of trees on the Earth in a manner which considerably increases carbon capture and biological productivity on our planet, it would pit a damper on antropogenic climate change and give us time to develop new solutions. 

To plant trees is also a relatively cheap solution, and would probably be far more manageable and easy to overview than dimming the atmosphere using particles. It could not offset the monsoon rains either, but it could actually help to alleviate droughts slightly in the long term. 

To plant trees can sound like an easy solution, but it isn’t. The issue is not only how to restore logging areas, but how to reforest areas presently used to other endeavours, chief among them industrial agriculture. It is not that the seeds are hard to come by, but rather the land.

The challenge of redistributing our usage of space 

To expand the Earth’s forests is an attractive idea, since it would not only create a smoother and gentler trajectory for reversing the damage of man-made climate change, it would also gradually build up acquifiers, give red-listed species a fighting chance and give nature room to thrive.

All of these conditions are not just good for the health of wildlife and plants, but they produce a supremely healthy environment for people.

Reforestation has its prices. 

If we – as a species – move towards that path, we must reduce our usage of the planet’s surface and gradually shift away from industrialised agriculture focused on producing feed for cattle, pigs and chickens. We must achieve it without inadvertently causing an even larger famine or disaster. In fact, since 800 million people are outright starving in this day and age, we must ensure that they can get the access they need to be able to nourish themselves. And we need to do something akin to that during our lifetimes (and probably coupled with more interventions).

These steps for a healthy mankind don’t just protect our environment, but they create a social environment which has much better outcomes, stability and safety for all.

We need to form strategies on the regional and local levels on how to achieve this reforestation. We must shift our entire farming culture, and we must learn to grow sufficient food to provide for the human population of the planet while utilizing less surface. To do that, we need detailed scientific projections, measurements and models which indicate the kind of farming we need to use in order to maximise the reforestation of the Earth while also ensuring that all human beings will have access to food. 

Such a process cannot be just be a matter for organisations, scientific panels and public organs to implement, but a large a part of the people of Earth must actively participate and be represented in this process. The solutions must be adapted to the local and regional conditions, and for them to be successful demands the active participation of farmers and the rural and urban populations of the affected regions. We all must participate and buy-in to the solutions we need for survival.

TL;DR Summary 

While reforestation is not a perfect strategy and won’t solve all problems with global warming, it would certainly help bind up carbon dioxide for a while and, possibly in the medium to long term, help slow the destructive effects of climate change. 

Reforestation is only possible with changes in our local and regional food production systems. Food distribution must meet the needs of all of humanity while shifting away from industrial mono-cultures, linear supply systems, and the growth-driven paradigm which runs on a debt-based financial system, and we cannot do that without empowering the people of Earth.

That challenge is as great, if not greater than reducing emissions. 

The time has come to terraform the Earth. It is my hope that Earth Organisation for Sustainability can assist in that goal. The people of Earth deserve the dignity of a healthy environment whose conditions are sustainable, and the beauty of that possible Earth is worth every ounce of effort.

Dean Sayers also contributed to this article.


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