Tag Archives: forest

The real worst and best cases of climate change

What do you want? The planet Venus? The current degraded Earth? Or a better world we know how to create?

What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
Joel Pett, Lexington Herald Leader, 18 March 2012, The cartoon seen ’round the world

Mostly I post about solar and wind power winning, which is what I think is happening. But sometimes it’s worth a reminder of what could happen if we do nothing about climate change, and I posted on my facebook page a story about that. Which actually didn’t go far enough to the real worst case. Nonetheless, that story has been attacked by numerous parties of all political and scientific and unscientific stripes for being too doom and gloom. Yet none of the attackers bothered to mention a best case beyond “the same world we have now”. I have news for you: the world we have now is an ecological catastrophe, and we can do a lot better. So here’s the real worst case, the current case, which is far from the best of all possible worlds, and the real best case, as I see it. Plus what we can do to head for the best case.

grinning fossilized skull

First, the story I posted: David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine, 9 July 2017, The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. Notice that word “could”, which a lot of his critics seem to have ignored. He didn’t say “will”, and he clearly labeled what he was presenting as worst case scenarios.

In case anybody thinks he was making any of that stuff up, Wallace-Wells has also linked to an annotated version with footnotes for every substantial assertion. The annotated version notes at the top: Continue reading

Reconsider Chaste trees: try native bottlebrush buckeye

Karan Rawlins I spoke to Karan Rawlins of the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health (bugwood.org) at the SoGa Growing Local & Sustainable Conference in Tattnall County 26 January 2013 (coming to Lowndes County next year).

A Homeowner s Guide to Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Invasive Plants in Georgia At the mention of Chaste Tree, she picked up a copy of A Homeowner’s Guide to Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Invasive Plants in Georgia, and turned to page 6, which says:

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Tree Commission offers Chaste trees wholesale

Tree Commission offers Chaste trees wholesale The Valdosta Tree Commission is offering Chaste trees “to citizens at wholesale prices with the hopes of planting 100 trees in the city limits”, but this may actually be a bad idea, since this species is exotic, does not support local insects and birds, and in Texas has become invasive.

The Tree Commission’s writeup says this tree:

“has no serious pest problems and attract butterflies to the garden.”

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas Tallamy That first phrase is a red flag after reading Dr. Douglas Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Local insects mostly cannot eat exotic plants, and local birds eat local insects, so planting exotic trees may look good, but is not helpful to native insects and birds. Yes, Chaste trees may attract some butterflies, but how many, compared to native trees? And “no serious pest problems” means not many native insects munching on the leaves or stems of the tree.

So what to plant instead? See next post.

The City of Valdosta posted PR 3 January 2013, VTC Offers Chaste Trees at Wholesale Prices to Encourage Tree Planting,

Continue reading

Luckie Street Solar Project

So whose solar parking lot is that in Atlanta?

According to Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Luckie Street Solar Project (New Development)

157 Luckie St NW, Atlanta, GA 30303
CATEGORY: Institutional Development
Developer: Turner Enterprises
Solar panels added to a surface parking lot that will produce nearly 200 kilowatt hours of energy, making this the largest solar project installed in Downtown Atlanta
$1 million
Completed 2011

That’s 20 cents per kilowatt hour. Which won’t take many years to pay for itself.

Why did Ted Turner do this? According to Maria Saporta for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, 10 December 1010, Ted Turner builds solar project on parking lot next to his building,

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Subsidize Solar, not Coal or Biomass

The WSJ article about economic problems of biomass plants goes on to suggest the government subsidize biomass more. Clean Technica suggests a better idea: If solar got the same subsidies as fossil fuels, solar would be cheaper than current grid power everywhere in the U.S. Each taxpayer has spent about $521 towards coal over the past five years and only $7.24 towards solar. How about we reverse that?

Solar needs no fuel, no truck deliveries, and no emissions.


WSJ on Economic Problems of Biomass Plants

Jim Carlton points out in the Wall Street Journal some of the problems of biomass plants.
With all the plants and trees in the world, biomass energy would appear to have boundless potential.
Or as Georgia politicians are fond of saying, “Georgia is the Saudi Arabia of forest energy.”
Yet in the U.S., biomass power—generated mainly by burning wood and other plant debris—has run into roadblocks that have stymied its growth.

Here at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, officials in 2007 built a $7.7 million biomass plant to meet all the power needs of the medium-security prison. But last month, two years after the plant opened, prison officials closed it, citing excessive costs.

“This was a project that was well intentioned, but not well implemented,” says Jeff Mohlenkamp, deputy director of support services for the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Even with a captive market (pun intended), biomass was not economically feasible.

Maybe it was an isolated case? Continue reading

Sprawl to ruin, or dense with green space for quality of life

Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Professor, Dept. of Agricultural & Applied Economics, The University of Georgia:
Local governments must ensure balanced growth, as sprawling residential growth is a certain ticket to fiscal ruin*
* Or at least big tax increases.
See The Economics of Growth, Sprawl and Land Use Decisions.
  • Green spaces increase property values of surrounding land
  • Green and open spaces can provide environmental amenities for free
  • If green spaces contribute to quality of life, you attract people and jobs to community
Note and jobs, not just people: jobs so the people can work and afford the houses they live in.

But this doesn’t mean exurban subdivisions with big yards: Continue reading

Effects of proposed biomass plants in Massachusetts

Very interesting projection of Massachusetts Forest Impacts if Proposed Biomass Incinerators Are Allowed by Chris Matera, P.E., and Ellen Moyer, Ph.D, P.E., with GIS analysis and programming by Gordon Green:

The animations add the demand for wood for 5 proposed biomass incinerators in Massachusetts to the current wood demand, which is mainly for lumber and cord wood. The animations demonstrate the land area in western and central Massachusetts that would be required to be logged to satisfy the total demand for these 5 plants which would add only about 1 percent to Massachusetts’ electrical generating capacity (see calculations below).

Quite a price for such a small percentage of electricity generation. Solar, wind, and wave could generate far more electricity, even in far northern Massachusetts.

And the animation above is a conservative projection. Follow the link for

…the extreme case where all forested land in central and western Massachusetts would be made available for biomass cutting – including rare species habitat, scenic landscapes, public “protected” land, and other protected open space. In this case, all forested land in central and western Massachusetts would be logged in only 16 years.

In Georgia, that would include places like Reed Bingham State Park.


South Losing Trees

Doyle Rice writes in USA Today about U.S. losing trees faster than other heavily forested nations:
Out of seven of the most heavily forested nations on Earth, the United States experienced a greater percentage of forest loss from 2000 to 2005 than did any of the other countries, a study said Monday.
But what part of the U.S.?
The one part of the contiguous USA that experienced the most forest loss was the Southeast, a large chunk of which lost more than 10% of its forest cover from 2000 to 2005, the year for which the most recent data were available.
Compared to what? Continue reading

Nature Makes Healthy

Wide base Something to consider when planning development:
The closer you live to nature, the healthier you’re likely to be.

For instance, people who live within 1 kilometer (.6 miles) of a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression, Dutch researchers report.

The findings put concrete numbers on a concept that many health experts had assumed to be true.

“It’s nice to see that it shows that, that the closer humans are to the natural environment, that seems to have a healthy influence,” said Dr. David Rakel, director of integrative medicine and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

That’s Amanda Gardner, writing in USA Today. A few other points:
Children and poor people suffered disproportionately from lack of green acres, the researchers found.
And what affects the most vulnerable affects all:
More green space may also be a way for whole communities to become healthier.
The cypress pictured is much like those in the swamp on Val Del Road that the county let a developer cut down last year.