The Intuitive Wisdom of Organic Gardening
Above are the vast healthy forest that cover 90% or more of Appalachia. In this case my hometown of Norton, Virginia.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the $150 million Biosphere 2 was a total failure. Eight humans (4 men, 4 women) entered a dome in the Arizona desert to prove humans could live in a closed self-contained ecosystem isolated from the earth's biosphere (known as 1). With thousands of plants, the "dome" community was to generate its own food and oxygen. Designed to last 100 years this group of 8 was to stay isolated for 2 years. The idea was to learn to live in space.
Soon the group faced danger as oxygen levels plummeted forcing scientists to pump in massive amounts of oxygen. It seems the plants weren't providing enough oxygen as bacteria, fungus, etc. was consuming the peat, loam, and waste plant material consuming more oxygen than the plants could produce.
This is what Nature normally does. Plants grow converting water and CO2 into plant material and oxygen. The plants die, shed leaves, etc. and composters (insects, fungus, bacteria, etc.) break down the waste using OXYGEN to put CO2 right back into the environment.
In addition, CO2 was being absorbed by the concrete walls (110,000 sq. ft.) throwing off those calculations until they figured out where part of the CO2 disappeared to. It seems this collection of Ph.D. experts in biology and ecology were clueless. Nothing has been heard of this project since the 1990s.
Near the end, they injected 23 TONs of pure oxygen into the system to raise the oxygen content from 14% back to 21%. The New York Times noted the entire project had "New Age overtones". They "used powerful computers to predict the various combinations of plants, animals, and soils would affect the structures atmosphere." The goof occurred when the models assumed 4-5% organic material in the soil, not the almost 30% they used.
Yet in the real world where we do have forests 30% decaying organic material covers the forest floor. In the forest around my house, it's several inches deep and an acid PH. This is because this material breaks down the soil become more acid. The acid leaches out needed minerals from rocks, etc. Biology 101.
Their possible solution was to use soil with low levels of organic material and paint the 110,000 sq. ft. of concrete with sealer. And that is the problem - rich soils (meaning organic matter and composters) means better plant growth, more oxygen, more oxygen consumption.
It's a symbiotic relationship where land plants simply produce little of the earth's free oxygen unless the organic material is removed. That's not how the natural system works most of the time. In systems such as swamps with oxygen-depleted waters (anoxic) other bacteria will produce methane instead of CO2.
Planting trees etc. does little to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Why did this project fail as has most environmental claims and computer models in the real world? To quote, "the original error occurred because the group was led by environmental zealots who chose the intuitive wisdom of organic gardening over scientific advice."
Ref. "Too Rich a Soil: Scientists find the Flaw that Undid Biosphere (2)" New York Times Oct. 5, 1993
Where do most of the world's oxygen come from? If it isn't trees then where? We constantly read "more than 20% of the world's oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest." (www.rain-tree.com)
Many like to claim the Amazon is the "Lungs of the Planet." But is it?
Yet the same claim is repeated on numinous websites denouncing logging and agriculture. Others claim 40% of the world's rainforests are in the Amazon, thus the other 60% are elsewhere. That could easily mean 40-50% of our oxygen comes from just rainforests. What about all of the non-rainforest forests? I can find zero science to back these claims yet lots of environmental "zealots" continue making the claims.
Why would we assume the rainforests act any different than my local forests or the plants in Biosphere 2? Plants grow, produce organic material that fungi, bacteria, insects etc. use oxygen to change back into CO2. It is called the carbon cycle - Earth Science 101. All they say is "estimated" meaning they really don't know. We are right back to "the intuitive wisdom of organic gardening".
The oceans produce an "estimated" 50-85% of our oxygen. Again they really don't know. It is mainly the photosynthesis of phytoplankton, and I'll throw in algae and cyanobacteria. (earthsky.org 6-8-2015) It was the oceans that produced atmospheric oxygen BEFORE the evolution of land plants 400 million years ago. More Earth Science 101. Scientists really don't know just how much is produced but it's certain most oxygen isn't produced by land plants. Rainforests likely produce less than 10% if any surplus oxygen.
The fact is the planet isn't running out of plants. In fact, due to a slightly warmer climate and extra CO2 (a plant food), there has been an astounding expansion of foliage, etc. According to NASA.gov. April 26, 2016, to quote,
From a quarter to half the earth's vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25." This was from a team of 32 authors from 24 institutions. This "greening" is equal to an area twice the size of the continental United States.
Yet we have been told for years the earth was becoming a desert or underwater by the year 2000.
This isn't just CO2 alone there are other factors. Their own map shows massive "greening" of 35% to over 50% in the Amazon Rainforest! That right kiddies, the Amazon is greening. They went into the usual climate change disclaimer for CO2. They also tried to play down their entire article as usual because it is good news. How about staying with facts?
Note: this isn't license for irresponsible land use. Reasonable conservation efforts should be practiced while meeting human needs. But treating human activity as somehow evil or even religious blasphemy is another issue. Stick to science, not New Age spiritualism.
NASA further claims, "the beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide on plants MAY also be limited...the fertilization effect diminishes over time." How do they know this? They don't. We have used this in greenhouses for decades yet the tomatoes just keep coming.
Yet every study I've read says some plants do better at various CO2 levels than others. Simply put the distribution of the type and quantity of plants changes based on environmental factors. Evolution and adaptation - Earth Science 101.
To further quote, "While the detection of greening is based on data, the attribution to various drivers is based on models." Then stay with the damn data which further proves these earlier computer climate change models have been 100% wrong just like they were with Biosphere 2.
Stop inserting "the intuitive wisdom of organic gardening" into every argument. This wasn't supposed to happen, so the models failed. The Amazon was supposed to be a desert by now, far from it.
Stick to science and stop meddling in public policy.
New essays on this subject October 2018:
- Nature's End? Hardly
- Growing Up Under Armageddon Any Day
- The Intuitive Wisdom of Organic Gardening
- Common Sense Environmentalism and Reason
- Common Sense Environmentalism 50 Years of Observation
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