A modest proposal for reforestation

by Judith Curry

Douglas Sheil from Uganda sent me an interesting article with the provocative title “A modest proposal for wealthy countries to reforest their land for the common good.”  Following in Swift’s footsteps, the paper uses satire to highlight some inconsistencies regarding international agreements on land cover and ecosystem conservation.

The paper is published in Biotropica and can be found online [here].  Some excerpts:

A Modest Proposal

The Coalition of Financially Challenged Countries with Lots of Trees, known as CoFCCLoT, representing most of the world’s remaining tropical forests is asking wealthy nations to share global responsibilities and reforest their land for the common good of stabilizing climate and protecting biodiversity.

‘We are willing to play our part, but we require a level playing field in which we all commit to equal sacrifices,’ a coalition spokes- woman says. ‘Returning forest cover in the G8 countries and the European Union back to historic levels will benefit all of us in the long-term.’

‘For all the forests we in Indonesia, Brazil or Central Africa do not cut down, G8 countries should reforest a similarly-sized area,’ says the CoFCCLoT spokeswoman. ‘Too many agricultural areas in Europe and the US are only kept in business because of tariffs and subsidies.’

CoFCCLoT points out that nature in wealthy nations needs urgent attention. ‘Large areas are degraded. Soils are compacted, soil fauna depleted, and their hydrology disrupted and contaminated.’

The coalition says that if wealthy nations restore their forests, they can help slow climate change by absorbing atmospheric carbon and provide people with clean water and healthy soils. It also highlights the benefits for species diversity and environmental services.

CoFCCLoT notes the opportunities to reintroduce bears, lynx, wolves, beavers and other threatened animals that have been decimated or driven to extinction by rampant exploitation of natural forests in much of the industrialized world.

It says, too, that in the longer-term, ongoing climate change and reforestation may permit tropical mega-fauna to thrive in temperate countries. Lions could be reintroduced to Greece, CoFCCLoT suggests, and gorillas might thrive in Spain. Both countries face economic challenges that could be reduced by the revenues from ecotourism.

New markets for local handicrafts and also cultural entertainments are anticipated in G8 countries. These developments would reduce agricultural pressure on the forests.

CoFCCLoT expects that their member countries will provide funds for local capacity building, awareness raising, dealing with human wildlife conflicts and law enforcement in the United States, Japan, and Europe. ‘The limited capacity in many of these regions is a concern. But we are willing to share our skills and experiences’ says the spokeswoman.

The coalition acknowledges that their demands will meet some resistance. People might be scared to live near large forests with wild animals and may be resentful of not being allowed access to forest resources. ‘But people will get used to it,’ explains the spokes- woman.

‘It is time to share these global responsibilities,’ she adds. ‘The G8 cannot have their cake and eat it too.’

Satire as a Source of Serious Insight

Many of these issues have been written about at length in social sciences journals and other worthy fora. Great stuff, but we suspect that these texts have seldom been examined let alone discussed by practicing tropical biologists—satire, by being entertaining, may make the message more palatable and thus more likely to reach its targets.

The point of Table 1 is not to make factual statements. Our point is that these opinions exist and feature to varying degrees in many interactions concerning international conservation. Certainly we are only looking at half the picture (what richer nations think)— but the point is that richer countries largely call the shots and often end-up feeling misunderstood.

In some cases there are subtle factors at work. As we have argued elsewhere all of us may be deeply deluded about tropical na- ture and the actions it would take to protect it. Few of us are good at recognizing different frames and viewpoints.

The paper then examines two specific examples: spiking trees and oil palm plantations.

From the paper’s concluding synthesis:

Our nature-biased views are a strong motivator for conservation action but they can also blind us to alternative perspectives. If we hear that local people strongly support local oil palm development, we ignore it as an aberration or insist that they do not fully understand the associated ecological costs; if someone tells us they oppose such developments we use it for our cause. This may help win bat- tles but undermines long-term solutions. Many people in the tropics express feelings of injustice regarding how conservation is judged and implemented (Meijaard & Sheil 2008). To us that is a major concern as the world becomes more democratic. We need to be aware of different viewpoints, trying to understand, qualify and quantify them, and find ways to incorporate them into conservation solutions. This might feel like diluting our agenda, but the costs of not doing this outweigh the benefits.

We need to rethink our judgments and roles in conservation. Opening our eyes to inequity and double standards helps level the playing field and clarifies communication and debate. With the economic balance in the world shifting east and south, conservation power and ethical thought will similarly change. The sooner we recognize this and respond the more conservation stands to gain. CoFCCLoT has a point and we need to hear it.

JC comments: I find this paper interesting for two reasons.  The first is that international top-down environmental agreements are invariably going to be associated with inequities and double standards.  A more bottom-up adaptive governance approach is likely to be much more effective.  Second, the use of satire here is a superb communication tool, far more effective than pleading consensus and shouting “denier.”

97 responses to “A modest proposal for reforestation

  1. I love it. I have felt for a long time that the US at least, should lead by example. While there are some lofty goals in the alternate energy areas, the timing and economy work against them. On the other hand, the US has dozens of game corridors, wetlands reclamation and forestry projects that are partially funded and have been so for decades with no real progress. More has been done privately in these areas by those ignorant, (pick your derogatory term), right wing, gun toting Neanderthals that only think in terms of net than the warm and fuzzies.

    • Absolutely right. In Australia we have 3 million hectares of abandoned farmland. Soil carbon stores in agricultural lands gas have decreased by 50% in the past 100 years. The Australian landscape has been fired farmed for 60,000 years – changing that results in much of the carbon being above ground and going up in smoke in fierce bushfires.

      To quote myself –

      The Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment found that riparian zones are declining over 73% of Australia. There has been a massive decline in the ranges of indigenous mammals over more than 100 years. In the past 200 years, 22 Australian mammals have become extinct – a third of the world’s recent extinctions. Further decline in ranges is still occurring and is likely to result in more extinctions. Mammals are declining in 174 of 384 subregions in Australia and rapidly declining in 20. The threats to vascular plants are increasing over much of the Australia. Threatened birds are declining across 45% of the country with extinctions in arid parts of Western Australia. Reptiles are declining across 30% of the country. Threatened amphibians are in decline in southeastern Australia and are rapidly declining in the South East Queensland, Brigalow Belt South and Wet Tropics bioregions.

      It is well known what the problems are. The causes of the declines in biodiversity are land clearing, land salinisation, land degradation, habitat fragmentation, overgrazing, exotic weeds, feral animals, rivers that have been pushed past their points of equilibrium and changed fire regimes. The individual solutions are often fairly simple and only inaggregate do they become daunting. One of the problems is that the issues are reviewed at a distance. Looking at issues from a National or State perspective is too complex. Even if problems are identified broadly, it is difficult to establish local priorities. Looking at issues from a distance means that a focus on the immediate and fundamental causes of problems is lost. There are rafts of administration, reports, computer models, guidelines and plans but the only on ground restoration and conservation is done by volunteers and farmers. Volunteers are valiantly struggling but it is too little too late. Farmers tend to look at their own properties, understandably, and not at integrated landscape function.

      We have lost generational opportunity to CO2 nonsense.

    • Yes, CO2 is gaseous plant food – not a dangerous air pollutant!

      New policies proclaimed by leaders of the US scientific community that:

      a.) Failed to understand that CO2 is gaseous plant food, and

      b.) Failed to speak out when climate scientists were caught in November of 2009 fudging experimental data to support the politicians false claim of CO2-induced global warming

      Will be suspected of generating more “hot air.”

      That charge would be more valid than their AGW claim.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

  2. Ok … so AGW believers wanted biofuels to save the world, so now 40% of the US corn crop is used for biofuels.

    Now they want the US to plow under all the corn and replace it with trees?

  3. Ah, but according to a “sophisticated climate model”

    “Trees do suck carbon out of the air, but the study highlights that their dark leaves and needles also decrease the amount of solar radiation that gets reflected by the landscape, which has a warming effect.”

    Read more: http://www.leaderpost.com/technology/Study+trees+cure+global+warming/4967756/story.html#ixzz1VcwNv6gs


  4. As an example of what some countries do already, I give you info from British Columbia in Canada.

    “The Canadian forest industry harvests less than 4 percent of the nation’s forests annually.

    BC’s entire annual harvest comes from less than 200,000 hectares – less than 1 per cent of the working forest.

    Almost 50% of all silviculture expenditures in Canada occur in BC.

    By law all harvested areas are to be reforested. The seedlings we use are native species and none of them are genetically modified. These young forests are natural forests, not plantations.

    More than 200 million seedlings, or about three seedlings for every tree cut, are planted every year to supplement natural regrowth. That’s an amazing six trees every second.

    BC surpassed the 5 billionth tree planted in May 2002.”


    What more would you have BC do?

    • Don’t confuse the eco-zealots with facts. Yes, there are more trees in North America than there were 100 years ago. Given the levels of educational and “science” disinformation in the society I’m sure less than a quarter would get this “True or False” question correct.

      • ‘It is estimated that – at the beginning of European settlement – in 1630 the area of forest land that would become the United States was 423 million hectares or about 46 percent of the total land area. By 1907, the area of forest land had declined to an estimated 307 million hectares or
        34 percent of the total land area. Forest area has been relatively stable since 1907. In 1997, 302 million hectares – or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States – was in forest land. Today’s forest land area amounts to about 70 percent of the area that was forested in 1630.
        Since 1630, about 120 million hectares of forest land have been converted to other uses—mainly agricultural. More than 75 percent of the net conversion to other uses occurred in the 19th century.’



      • “Since the 1990s, the forest area in Europe, North America, Caucasus and Central Asia has been increasing steadily. Forest area in the region has grown by 25 million hectares over the last 20 years (a size equivalent to the surface of the United Kingdom), or an average of 1.25 million ha per year (equivalent to an area slightly smaller than Montenegro). In the pan-European region* alone, the forest area increased by 17 million hectares in the last two decades. In addition to forest area, the volume of wood in pan-European forests is growing – by over 430 million cubic meters every year (which corresponds to a 1 cubic meter ring around the globe) due to the expansion of the forest area and increases in stock levels. In North America, the area of forests increased by almost 8 million hectares in the same period, mainly due to afforestation in the USA. ”


        It would appear it is a myth that new or greater reforestation efforts are needed in the non-third world countries.

      • Interesting information Bruce.

        http://www.bitsofscience.org/crop-geoengineering-root-carbon-soils-2602/ has some interesting notions about net biosequestration based on root depth. (Another version http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/08/03/aob.mcr175.full)

        It may well be that the carbon inventory of a nation is extraordinarily plastic (http://f1000.com/reports/b/2/65 and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/009884729390060S), and cycling crops and ornamental species that concentrate more development below the soil (http://www.jstor.org/pss/2258984), applying auxins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auxin) in ways that best promote increasing root mass — I mean, if the Idsos can blithely and without thought of the downsides or study of the fullscale implications glorify CO2 ‘benefits’ why not look at other plant hormonal agents too? — selecting species for reforestation (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v372/n6507/abs/372666a0.html) that tend to deeper root growth and faster root development, and managing soil microbes with an eye toward more rapid GHG fixing and less GHG emission or other benefits (http://www.glbrc.org/education/educationalmaterials) might be as productive at managing net CO2 emissions as any effort in the fossil management area, in addition to other potential benefits.

        I’m loathe to propose widescale tweaks to the planet based on poorly understood interdependent biosystems, however, as right now we’re tweaking the planet without plan or understanding at all, it’s not as if having an actual goal and working toward real scientific comprehension is likely to be worse. (http://www.science.smith.edu/~aguswa/papers/Guswa08_2007WR006384.pdf)

        And, as there appear to be other longterm economic benefits, only economically backwards thinking could object to the principle of such land use changes.

        I mean, really, why would there be cities that require planting of such water-wasting shallow-rooted species as short grass lawns when many times the vitality in the soil would be fostered by deep rooted grassland species, anyway? A plan based on vanity and some narrow view of beautification ignorant of what goes on below the surface? Primitive mentality, that.

        Likewise for management of the health of coastal biosystems. Can’t imagine dead zones do much sequestration, besides being useless otherwise, and if practical methods of reducing dead zones are economical on other basis — for example making more productive seafood harvests — silly to not look into the possibility.

      • Far as I know, dead zones release more GHGs (N2O) than otherwise, due to modification of the denitrification process…?

      • BillC

        At first glance, that sounds about right.

        Do you have any commentary on the following proposal: auxins, the plant hormone sometimes called ‘rooting powder’ in some concentrations can encourage deeper and more massive rooting of terrestrial plants. (Though one must be careful to get the timing and ratios exactly right to avoid the opposite effect.)

        In relatively tiny cost applications of this powerful hormonal agents over forests and farmlands, fields and suburbs, jungles and prairies and green spaces of all types, it ought be possible to force rooting to sequester carbon at a rate many times the natural level.

        This would have to be done in such a way that soil microbes not be primed to digest more carbon and emit more GHG’s, but to have the opposite effect and prompt the microbes too to enhance biosequestration of GHG’s.

        Certainly it would cost less than one percent of all the ethanol subsidies in the USA, and once begun the added retention of moisture deep in soils would promote absorbtion of phosphates (a principle agent implicated in much of the growth of dead zones in the oceans) and other fertilizers.

        The net effect might even be engineered to become self-sustaining, or at least to enjoy maximal results of positive feedback.

        What would be the downside of such aggressive terraforming, one wonders?

        More to the point, except that it’s planned and purposeful with the goal of driving GHG levels down to pre-Industrial levels, how in quality in any way does it differ from uncontrolled GHG emission?

    • Recycle your bread crumbs. Save the wheat!

  5. Second, the use of satire here is a superb communication tool, far more effective than pleading consensus and shouting “denier.”

    How about pleading “fraud!!” and shouting “Socialist/statist/warmist/Eugeniist/Eco-Nazi?” Is it also more effective than that?

    • Mommy’s boy whines after getting caught shouting denier 2000 times.

      Sad Joshua. Sad.

      • Actually, you got me on that one, Bruce. See, you are learning how to identify a “Mommy, mommy” whine. I consider that solid progress, and you made that progress in a relatively short period of time (it usually takes “conservatives” longer to learn that lesson).

        Now, learning can usually be broken down into three basic steps.

        The first step is the introduction (I tell you “This is a “Mommy, Mommy” whine).

        The second step is recognition (You say, “Oh, that is a “Mommy, mommy” whine).

        The third step is where independently, you apply what you’ve learned to a new situation. Now in this case that will be a bit tricky, because you’re going to have to apply your newly learned lesson by not “Mommy, mommy” whining when someone points out sub-optimal behavior in your part or that of other “conservatives.” It will be difficult for us to measure how well you apply this lesson, but I think we’re up to it. So we’ll give you some time, and we’ll see whether you can manage to not whine “Mommy, mommy” whenever someone points out sub-optimal behavior by conservatives.

        I have great hope for you, Bruce. You’ve made outstanding progress, and I see every reason to believe it will continue.

      • Joshua – can you try to be a little bit more tedious. I have got used to this level of tedium – and want to go the next level egregious tedium. Simply because I am not sure you can go the other way – not in you. WTF happened to precriptivism? Not you know I don’t believe in it. It appears to be turgid and stupid – however – you claimed to be a precriptivist and I expect you to apply the same moral standard in all situations. Unless you are a hypocritical little fart with no sense to speak of.

        As I said before – speaking to you and not past you – what I object to is this poor form of dropping in with an insubstantial and distracting snipe – disturbing the steady flow of thought of the denizens gravely cogitating at the edges of the known universe. This is despite and not because of my many and varied divergences from sober, serious and let’s face it – self satisfied and smug – utterances of apparently great import.

        Rely – what is your point point other than other than proving your pedestrian non cleverness?

      • I mean really – what is your point…

      • Chief – I think that the “point” of my posts is rather apparent, and in fact, I have been accused many times of making my (basic) point far too often.

        I get a kick out of snarking- especially with commenters of the caliber of Bruce. I think that you’ll find that I work hard to avoid the snark when engaging in serious and civil “denizens” who post comments of substance.

        I’ll let you figure out why sometimes I respond to you with snark and sometimes my responses to you are snarkless.

        As always, Chief, thanks for reading – be my comments insubstantial and distracting or not.

      • Oh – and Chief – you seem to have prescriptivism and descriptivism confused. I am a descriptivist (as can be seen by my use of the word “snarkless”).

        And just to explain further, I brought up the subject of prescriptivism vs descriptivism when you responded to my pointing out your unintentional irony by posting a dictionary definition of the term irony, (which I consider to be the action of a prescriptivist), apparently in a failed attempt to prove that you aren’t a master of (unintentional) irony. You knew what I meant, and so posting a dictionary definition to somehow disprove my point seemed to me to be rather rigid, turgid, pedantic, and boring (note, I did not say stupid. I don’t think you’re stupid).

      • Oh Joshua – the tedium of undergraduate sophism aside – If I actually gave a rats arse about either prescriptivism or descriptivism there might be some point to anything you say.

      • C’mon, CH – please don’t bother

        As I’ve said previously, your posts on the actual science are worth a thousand stunted Joshua trees

      • Missed this earlier, Chief.

        You post on the subject, get the basic definitions wrong, and then accuse me of sophistry when I explain your mistake.

        Another of your “poetic” posts, I see.

      • While Joshua did, in his earlier comments, use the term “denier” rather freely, his comments lately have not used that term, I believe. Indeed, in my poor semi-lurker opinion, Joshua’s most recent comments (and those of Robert) now exhibit a civility and thoughtful engagement that might give others pause.

      • MIke –

        I believe you are mistaken about my “free use” of the term denier. If you could provide any evidence of what you said, I’d appreciate it.

        I have always been pretty careful about my use of that term because I recognize that to use it indiscriminately is inaccurate. I have a problem when those on the believer side of the “skeptical convinced/believer” side of the slash line use that term without regard to whether the person being categorized bases their “skepticism” on scientific analysis or an a priori disposition to reject the theory that GW is 90% likely to be A for ideological, religious, or psychological reasons.

        The fact that I have been accused of “free use” of the term does not make it so.

      • Joshua,

        No need to research, if you say you didn’t use the term, I take your word for it, and I stand corrected, and apologize for my error. Further, I continue to appreciate your prodigious contributions and, possibly again in error, your latest comments seem to me a cut above your previous efforts, which were valuable enough, in their own right.

        Once more, I regret the error on my part and, again, offer you my apologies.

      • Joshua,

        I see I left something out, above. Thank you for your correction, Joshua. An astute constructive criticism is always to be welcomed–or as I learned it, “A good butt-chewing is worth a dozen pats on the back when it comes to professional development!”

      • Bruce,
        Now you have done it.
        We are going to get yet another regurgitation of Joshua claiming that it is OK for him to do anything because if skeptics point out what a boor he is, that is somehow like telling mommy he did it first.

  6. Alexander Harvey

    Thanks Judith,

    that was a hoot!

    In terms of lopsided thinking a lot of it seems to be true.

    “Support traditional lifestyles and keep development away from traditional
    peoples. Encourage them to accept conservation by offering new sources of
    income such as bee-keeping and traditional dancing for tourists”

    “Large animals need to be protected from people. Hunting of those animals by local people is intolerable (even for subsistence)”

    This I know happens and sometimes with the best of intentions and sometimes very cynically. I have seen it mostly as a biproduct of eco-tourism alongside conservation efforts.

    I heard this from the manager of a hotel that was a large (relative term and also sole) employer in a small town.

    “You must not give them too much education, it might give them ideas.”

    At the same time they were being encouraged to get used to having many more elephants, wild black rhino, leopards, hyena, and finally lions roaming about. Meanwhile eating the prey animals was a no-no.

    Now whereas many think it fine to visit lions, few might like for them to make house calls where they live.

    To be fair the people were enthusiastic about the wildlife and thought the jobs a benefit but realised how exploitative the tourism industry is.

    The field conservationalists I knew were pretty red in tooth and claw and in someways not at all green. Dealing with the mega-fauna and the issues they cause is complex and dealing with the populace that share the same land makes for hard bargains and much compromise. I think that many of the people that actually do the conservation are a different breed and much of what they do and don’t do would not meet with the approval of those that provide external funding. On the other hand the some of the bigger charities may like the WWF be a bit coy about some of their roles notably in the trophy hunting area. From the little I have seen there is a disconnect between what people are told goes on and what actually goes on.

    Personally I cannot understand why anyone would wish to shoot an elephant, they are neither difficult to stalk to within 50 yards nor exactly difficult to hit. However it is a very lucrative business for the outfitters if not the local people.

    Another huge disconnect is that many “westerners” have a strange notion concerning the protection of endangered species. Perhaps many or even most of the fauna that people feel are protected are in fact hunted. CITES is what its name implies, an international trade convention. If one wishes to play big game hunter and one has deep pockets then permits for lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino (white and captive) were available last time I checked.

    I was once, to a limited degree involved with wild rhino and elephant conservation in Africa and somewhat naive at some level. I am always interested to find out in such enterprises how one knows when you have one. The answer is sometimes simple, when there are enough to start shooting them. FWIW estimates for the value of a black rhino permit at auction should one come up have been guestimated at around US$250,000 but it could be half or many times that amount. Of course, under CITES one would be unlikely to get an export permit for the horn.

    If I sound like I am having a go and the conservation “industry” I am not. It is mostly fine on the ground but it was a very different industry to the one I had imagined from afar.


  7. Second, the use of satire here is a superb communication tool, far more effective than pleading consensus and shouting “denier.”


    May he, whom Nature’s laws obey,
    Who lifts the poor, and sinks the proud,
    “Quiet the raging of the sea,
    And still the madness of the crowd!”
    While some build castles in the air,
    Others build them in the seas;
    Subscribers plainly see them there,
    For fools will see as wise men please
    “Now buried in the depth below,
    Now mounted up to Heaven again,
    They reel and stagger to and fro,
    At their wits’ end, like drunken men
    Ye wise philosophers, explain
    What magic makes snow and ice arise,
    When dropt into the Southern main;
    Or do these jugglers cheat our eyes?
    (With apologies to Jonathon Swift)


  8. Excellent point is being made in this paper. In order to achieve societal chnage it has to be “bottom up” rather than “top down.” The latter always results in resistance, resentment and ultimately rebellion. Though it is, I suspect, written with a certain amount of tongue in cheek, the satire and the humour in it make it a great way to get the message over. Far too many of these “reforestation” schemes are drawn up by environmentalists who have no understanding of the local needs and conditions of the people they want to impose them on.

    Thanks for bringing this to the fore!

  9. An interesting thought – I live in Germany, in Hessen to be precise, and the farmers here are concerned because wolves, the European Lynx and several other predators we have not seen for several centuries are re-establishing themselves. The environmentalists are delighted – but ramblers, hikers and campers are already having the odd encounter of the aggresive kind …

  10. In Sweden we cut down 80 million cubic metres of woods, the growth are 100 million cubic metres. The total volume of wood have doubled compared with 100 years ago. I can agreee with the author, not to subsidy farmers… But I think he is wrong about the woods.

    • That’s true in Sweden and several other countries (including Finland), but that’s not really the point of the article. The point is more in the patronizing approach taken by very many influential people and bodies who formulate proposals for international agreements and the ways the agreements are put into effect.

      I have just a little personal experience on one African country. I have been looking at some alternative development policies on behalf of the Finnish foreign ministry discussing both with local people from administration, businesses and NGOs as well as some people of World Bank and embassies of a a couple of countries. The issue of combining environmental goals with economic goals and looking at the issues from the point of view of local people, businesses, government, and international interests, was clearly very badly understood. Nobody could give convincing arguments to support one policy choice over incompatible alternatives.

      Would jathropa growing in a certain area be beneficial or not?

      Are small scale very local energy solutions better than grid extensions, and are they really alternatives?

      Should private money be encouraged to invest in hydro power, when it means that the cost of capital is excessively high and the price of electricity also excessively high compared to an alternative, where the funding is arranged in some other way? (The interest is so high, largely because of political risks and some other extra uncertainties not severe in developed countries.)

      Such questions are innumerable. My questions were related to energy, but other issues of land use are even more pressing.

      • Pekka,

        We have the mentality of keeping the native species in the areas that they we formed from. But much of the planets development was from winds, birds and animals visiting, etc. to bring in species that adapt to that particular climate.
        Unless the species is harmful to the surrounding vegetation or animals, then what projection of mans needs for the future for harvesting what is planted today has to be the priority rather than slapping some invasive species.
        Will the climate changing slightly effect what is planted to survive?

        As for the price of electricity, it is the discretion of profits to build inefficient units so that they can be repaired or replaced. A company cannot survive being too efficient in todays economy of copying and cheaper manufacturing.
        Inversion is a higher efficiency’s of using every molecule of energy with centrifugal force working with and not against the unit by friction.

      • Alexander Harvey


        One sometimes comes across seemingly surprising cultural references remote from their origins.

        In the region of the much discussed and argued over Kunene River Dam Angola/Namibia one may be greeted with the Finnish “Moro! Moro!”. I have been told by a Finn that it was due to long forgotten missions. It seemed strange for it appeared to be the sole cultural reference of Finland.

        Do we have much joined up thinking to offer concerning how energy poor Afican countries should plan their energy futures? In a vast continent I think there is only the one SA installed nuclear power plant. Some are blessed with hydro-electricity and although there are further potential sites progress can be measured in decades/project stage.

        What do we want from Africa and for Africa? In the 2050-2100 timeframe it is perhaps the biggest unknown, with the potential for the highest growth rates for both population and energy, in developmental terms it is a whole addtional China and India. When I really worry about all this my thoughts go to Africa.


      • Namibia is both a former German colony and a country influenced by two Finnish men with first name Martti. The first one (Rautanen) was a missionary, who built schools in Amboland, the second Martti Ahtisaari, who was the UN representative with the largest role in reaching the agreement on the independence of Namibia. I have heard that there are many native Martti’s in Namibia.

        My own experience is not from Namibia, but not very far from there.

        Altogether I have spent perhaps two months in Sub-Saharan Africa one or two weeks at the time. Not very much, but enough to learn many interesting things, when I have had the possibility to meet people of widely varying background.

      • Alexander Harvey


        Thanks, I have been to the wiki for Rautanen, and I now see that his mission was in the 4Os region and Moro has crept West into the old Kaokoveld where I heard it most.

        This is not the place to discuss the issues of particular nation states, but some of them seem deeply structural, highly charged, and unattended to, such as land, resource and economic division. I think that Namibia may still have the highest Gini index of any nation state.


  11. If it wasn’t for the liberal alarmist attempts to “save” the rainforest, logging companies would have already converted those trees into profitable lumber and farmland. The market has already decided we don’t need an Amazon rainforest on this planet. Just another example of big government interfering in the holy market.

    • Surely you mean the rainforest in Australia has expanded because the free market saw no profit in destroying it.

      • Are you back again Numbnut – http://ianluntresearch.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog – subscribe to the blog and you might learn something.

        Didn’t I say that grassland is the hugely endangered (1% left) ecosystem with the highest plant biodiversity? Because we stopped fire stick farming 200 years ago? And rainforests expanded because they are fire sensitive? If you are going to talk about losing rainforest – talk to the first Australians and not me. Save the rainforest – la la la – save the rainforest – la la la. Idiots.

        And you still want to make some stupid point about free markets?

      • don’t worry i am sure the holy free market will save the grasslands

      • Not if the green/socialists and the government have their way. We have stopped farmers or anyone else from managing rangelands to meet the Kyoto commitment – and so weeds grow and crowd out biodiversity – and then burn fiercely releasing the carbon dioxide.

        Somehow free markets are a religion? In a civil sense I don’t need to believe in anything other than freedom, the rule of law and democracy. There are rules for a functioning civil society that we ignore at great cost. I commonly suggest Friedrich Heyak’s ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ and ‘The Road to Serfdom’ – because understanding and defending our enlightenment heritage is the key to a secure polity.

      • CH,
        lolwot’s religion is that government does it better.
        History holds people of that religion as the ultimate fools, worse than any fundamentalist.

      • Uh O, hunter, here comes the judge…


        don’t worry slick, your safe & sound.

      • lowot, From what I have read, after our accounts are settled here, we will be living by the fruit of our labor in a world where we no longer need to water or weed our gardens. If you want a job; ask Him.
        Haven’t y0u always wanted to run away & join a commune anyway?

    • Or … you could be misinformed (as usual).

      “Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

      These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.

      “There is far more forest here than there was 30 years ago,” said Ms. Ortega de Wing, 64, who remembers fields of mango trees and banana plants.”


      • Bruce –

        Are you reading those liberal rags again? I thought that you said that you stopped reading them because what they print is entirely untrustworthy, and only intended to promote the socialistic goals of statists and eco-Nazis? Don’t you know that nothing printed in the NY Times can be trusted.

        I mean – it’s not like you’d pick and choose between articles and determine that only the ones that don’t jibe with your extremist political viewpoints are not inaccurate and propagandistic, right?

        You really should be careful, Bruce, because as we all have seen proven by Obama, exposure to such untrustworthy and propagandistic media, such as the NY Times, can “indoctrinate” people into believing complete nonsense. Now I know that you’re far, far, intellectually superior to Obama – but even you, Bruce, might in a moment of weakness (no doubt, exhausted from fighting the keyboard war and slaying legions of socialistic statists), might fall prey to their evil plot.

      • I think there is nobody LESS open minded than you on this website.

      • I think there is nobody LESS open minded than you on this website.

        A badge of honor, considering the context, Bruce. And hard-earned, I might add.

      • “If you keep an open mind, people will try to put garbage in it.”

        Albert Einstein

      • And if its closed there will be nothing in it.

      • “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

        Mahatma Gandhi

        Sounds like a loser to me:

      • Louise, that’s not an Einstein quote

      • I’m happy to be corrected, after all, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. This is my source :http://capecodhistory.us/quotes/people.htm

      • Tell me Joshua and Louise, how many trees have you ever planted?

      • I’m afraid your point is too cryptic for such a simple mind to comprehend, tallbloke. Please elaborate.

        BTW – did you see my response to you on the Postma thread?

      • Well you could always just answer the question…
        Give me a link to the Postma reply. ta.

      • Sorry tallbloke –

        wrong thread and I see that you did respond. In answer to your question – yeah, to some degree I feel the same way about people who make charges about shills to big oil. Anyone who so characterizes all on the “skeptical un-convinced/denier” side of the debate is, IMO, wrong.

        Apparently you missed this part of my response – I’ll add some emphasis to help you out here:

        But then, in that regard, another “tell” for me is when people flat-out deny the overwhelming role of “motivated reasoning” for everyone involved in the debate. That’s where Judith’s position looses weight in my book. I am very sympathetic to her focus on quantifying uncertainty – but when she then turns around and expresses absolute certainty about the role of politics in the debate, or when she fails to accurately describe the arguments of combatants on one side of the debate or the other, I can’t accept it when she says that the ideas of someone like Postma are a non-starter because of their poor grounding in foundational physics.

      • tallbloke –

        I’ve planted a few. I have a big yard. Not all of them survived, though!

        Now, would you mind explaining how your question is relevant?

      • And one more thing, tallbloke:

        Please point out where “the rodent” or Chris (the subject of your original post) ‘rant[ed] about scientists being ‘paid shill’s of Big Oil’ etc.”


      • Like Louise I have planted many trees. Somewhere over 50,000 at a guess. No big deal about asking. I’m always interested in where people are coming from. Louise is obviously, like me, someone who is concerned about the environment.

        I don’t waste my time trying to analyse Judith’s motivation, she’s just getting on with building the brightest climate blog on the net. Awesome amounts of her time and effort are going in to it. We owe it to her to raise our game and make good use of the opportunity for meaningful communication she has presented and nurtured.

      • Countless beyond number as a member of my local community forest programme.

      • I also (always) voted Tory whilst living in a northern city where Labour is always elected and I read the Telegraph – anything else you want to know?

      • Good for you. (on the tree planting, not the Tory voting).
        I don’t read daily newspapers.

      • Young forest absorbs more co2.

    • You are either repeating some Greenpeace trash or you just made it up.
      Either way, you are factually uninformed on this.

  12. Lots of healthy, growing, trees around where I live on Vancouver Island. And lots, and I mean little herds of five or ten, of deer munching on pricey plantings. We need a few cougars.

    The newer suburbs, where forest was turned into three bedroom houses, are working their way back to a semi-forest with trees maturing.

    While I doubt this has any effect on CO2 (not that it matters) the reforestation of the burbs will, in time, alter the temp effects of sprawl. Land use change is, I suspect, a rather more significant human element in the warming equation than CO2 and the urban forest will go some distance to decreasing the UHI which, in my view, accounts for much of the observed warming. (Phil Jones and the missing Chinese data notwithstanding.)

    • So much of the warming detected by the satellites is caused by the expansion of floating cities in the sky?

  13. Financially Challenged Countries

    That would include the United States, Japan, pretty much all of Europe…

    • There’s a direct link between wealth and brains. I have a feeling the people in these countries have all become “mentally” challanged too. Wonder what happened? When? Think we could get a grant to study this? Maybe if we blame too much CO2 as the cause? That’s it! CO2 causes Global Warming, Global Warming causes Stupidity! That will work. We’re rich!

  14. So what we need now is a government “Give a tree a job” program?

  15. Writing from Massachusetts, all I can say is ‘been there, done that.’ By the mid-19th Century, every tree in the state had been cut down for either fuel, building or manufacturing. The state was covered with farmland and pasture. There is no old growth forest in Massachusetts, unless you allow for some unknown little ravine that might have survived due to the difficulty of harvest in the area. Today, the state has been reforested, simply by the failure of farming in the state and the move away from the use of wood for fuel. In the temperate rainfall climate of Massachusetts, trees grow naturally like weeds. Fly over densely-populated suburbs today, and all you see is treetops.

    On the other hand, much of the country’s prime farmland didn’t start as forest – it was grassland. The prairie once extended east to the edge of New York. So the premise of the article – tongue in cheek or not – fails.

    • You’re absolutely right! Everyone West of St Louis needs to be relocated to LA, everyone East of St Louis needs to be relocated to NYC. It’s time to bring back the Buffalo. Anyone who isn’t 51% Indian (the American Native kind, not the India kind) and hasn’t relocated to one of these Safe Cities before 1 September 2011, should be fair game for the natives in this region. It’s time to get back to basics; to put the planet back on an even keel. Oh yes, all Europeans who aren’t 51% Neanderthal must relocate East of the Urals –pick your own city. All Southwest, South, and Southeast Asians need to relocate to Terhan. All Chinese need to go to Hong Kong. All Africans.. I don’t have to spell it out.. everyone knows where they need to go.. just get there before 1 September. OK? Warning!! If this doesn’t work, it’s back to Eden, and you know what that means, there’s only room for two. (SarcOff;-)

    • I have a related question for you.

      I was recently hiking on a pretty steep ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and thought about what an impossible place it would be to log. But then I realized that I’ve heard that there are no “old growth” trees left in New Hampshire. So do you know for a fact that trees that exist in places that would seem impossible to log are considered old growth?

  16. ThinkingHeretic

    lolwot running away & joining a commune?
    Ah, bliss were it in that dawn to be alive ……..

  17. Svend ferdinandsen

    Reminds me of an antropologist from India arriving in Denmark to study how danes lived.
    After some thinking and strange comments, it was an eyeopener.

  18. What a beautiful thread.

    First we have the assertion that first world countries should do more to reforest … and it turns out they already are.

    Then we have the assertion that rain forests are shrinking … and they aren’t.

    And to top it off, Joshua and Louise are asserting that the NY Times is a left wing commie rag and nothing they say should be trusted.

    Could it get any better?

    • Bruce – I think you’ll find that I didn’t say a word about the NY Times – I’ve never even read it. Why do you make up these lies? Do you think it makes your position sound reasonable?

      • Bruce, I think I’ve found the bit about politicised media here: http://judithcurry.com/2011/08/19/week-in-review-81911/#comment-102559 where YOU say “I used to read 2-3 newspapers a day. Now that most are left-wing rags peddling AGW, they don’t get my money. ”

        I have made no comment about the NY Times or any other media other than to post a mildy funny You Tube clip about the Daily Mail (not that I’d ever call that particular newspaper a “left wing commie rag”).

        Why did you state that I am “asserting that the NY Times is a left wing commie rag and nothing they say should be trusted”?

      • You weren’t coming to Mommy Mommy’s defense and attacking the NY Times?

      • No

      • I’m pretty sure your Albert Einstein quote: ““If you keep an open mind, people will try to put garbage in it.” was supporting Mommy Mommy’s attack on the NY Times.

        Which “garbage” were you referring to?

      • It was a general comment regarding the dangers that Albert Einstein saw of being open minded. Nothing to do with the NY Times or any other media.

        Try to read what I write and not what you think I write.

      • With the implication that the NY Times supplies garbage.

  19. Trees or no trees the pseudo-science of `global warming’ which metamorphosed to … Voila! … the latest flailing paradigm called ‘global climate change,’ may soon transmogrify itself yet again and not to ‘global cooling alarmism’ but rather hopefully to something far more realistic–e.g., ‘it’s the weather, stupid.’

    Unlike the Eskimo, our culture does not require 20 different words to describe snow. However, for the survival of Western civilization we must be far more accurate in describing the world around us. Paying government schoolteachers to label an increase in atmospheric CO2 as the sole cause of a change in the climate–which of course will be catastrophic–is not education. It is indoctrination.

  20. Nothing of consequence will ever result from counting spotted owls in trees. It is all so politically correct but also is simply one of a million other ways to avoid facing the truth.

    All of the global warming alarmists are Leftists. The tribal belief of these AGW True Believers is to fight to the death of the productive if it serves the greater purpose of helping the Left achieve its mythic secular, socialist Utopia.

    In this potatoe head Utopia of their dreams the principles of individual liberty are seen as anathema to what the Left sees is the public good. The politically correct liberal fascist Bureaucracy of the Left is now greatest threat to personal freedom and has become a runaway matrix of oppression of the will of the individual to overcome adverstity through personal achievement.

    • actually we aren’t all leftists. Although maybe as long as you define anything to the left of the tea party as leftist.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Counting owls is actually great fun. Naturalism is a fabulous tradition and a great example of pure science.

  21. Hi Judith,

    I watched ‘Stop the Environment’ and had a really good laugh. It worked just as well for me, here in the U.K. as I am sure it did for its U.S. audience.

    Then I read this and was nearly ROTFLOL. And it was the insiteful truth that made it so funny. People in the U.K. would be horrified at the thought of the re-introduction of wolves and bears in the U.K. Particularly as we don’t any
    top predators left in the U.K. Humour is indeed a superb communications tool and I am just glad that the alarmists seem to be distinctly lacking in the sense of humour department.

    Whilst a bottom up approach is essential to obtaining grassroots buy-in, frameworks need to be established by government. E.g. I have always thought that the best way to conserve South American rain forests is to make then
    ecconomically viable by licensing sustainable logging. This could give the logging companies an incentive to prevent slash and burn extension of farms.

    However, one thing I have learnt from taking an interest in the climate is that conservation is probably as technically complex as understanding the climate and I know that I have insufficient knowledge to propose solutions and
    that means that gonvernments and NGOs with their own self interests are very likely to go for poor solutions.


  22. “international top-down environmental agreements are invariably going to be associated with inequities and double standards”.

    That’s probably an unfortunate reality, and does imply that other approaches, including “bottom up” must be entertained. However, “inequities and double standards” raise another troubling issue – the notion that important principles can conflict and may require us to act without fully resolving the conflict.

    In this case, as is often true in real world situations varying from global to interpersonal, the conflict is between fairness and benefaction. If something should be done, do we accept a possibly unfair burden to accomplish it or do we refrain from acting until we are assured of complete fairness (as seen from our perspective). The problem of course is that a demand for fairness, however warranted, is often a recipe for not doing what needs to be done. As I see it, a mature society, as with a mature set of personal relationships, will assign appropriate priorities to these conflicting principles, and in some cases, will engage in action without an absolute guarantee of fairness, while concurrently pressuring other participants to do their share.

    An extreme position that conforms to only one these two principles is likely to lead to dangerous, even disastrous consequences in some critical circumstances. With climate change, I think we have to take the prioritization issue seriously. This includes attempts to ensure adequate participation by all relevant nations, without demanding that such participation be completely guaranteed before our own nation begins to act. After a beginning, it is perfectly appropriate to look back to see if others are following, and to act further in accordance with what we find.

  23. The problem with trees is they become forests and one of the hardest things to grow in a mature forest is additional trees. Or anything save for moss. And trees, like the C&W song about men, well, you just can’t kill them. All that carbon is released into the world when their lumbering old hearts quit beating, so you’re stuck with them. Trees also suck up a lot of water, most of which is released into the atmosphere where it is a GHG, and as we’ve been told for years, all ground water that is removed to the surface raises the sea level putting millions of Tuvaluvians at risk and washing away the barrier islands as well. Can’t have that guilt following us through life, can we?

    The tree solution does not scale – new trees have to outpace the death of old trees to maintain a carbon edge. Sooner or later that non-stop expansion is going to lead to clogged gutters in the Hamptons and that will never do. They like their green policies, but only in the Adirondacks and Appalachia where common people live amongst windmill farms. That is not what the Hamptons is about.

    So you see, trees are not the solution for the problem – trees are the problem.

  24. Judith,

    Unless you’ve worked with trees, you would not know this.
    But, trees developed a survival technique of having their sap around it’s trunk with very little at it’s heart for cold winter weather. You have extremely heavy sappy trees in the winter when they are harvested and light sappy trees in the summer time as most of the heart is full of moisture. Very cold mornings have a nice snappy sound of the cracking of the frozen moisture where the heart of the tree is protected by the lack of moisture.

  25. Humor, especially sarcasm in it’s meanest form, has a way of shedding light on underlying pessimism. It tells those who believe they have been endowed by their Creator with something special to go take a flying leap off a high cliff into the deep blue sea below. We’ve past the ‘Point of No Return’. Only reasonable and hard choices remain, there’s no going back to yesterday, there’s only today and maybe tomorrow. Right now the hardest choice is determining who is/are the most reasonable among us. Hummmmmm… I think I’ll vote for my cousin Vinney, when he says something’s a great idea, you can bet it will fail. He’s the best barometer I know.

  26. Please… even the founder of Greenpeace concedes that the environmentalism movement was hijacked by the Left.

    “I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment.” ~Patrick Moore

  27. Unmanaged Mediterranean forests are destined to burn every 25 years or so (see Professor Rackham of Cambridge for relevant evidence). Does the natural burn increase or decrease total CO2 in the atmosphere?

    Kudos for the tongue in cheek attitude of the original article though. It would be SO much fun to see wolves roaming the Dutch countryside! With 40 million cows there, survival would be no problem! An as Dutch and other documentary makers tell us, the predator guarantees the health of its prey!