Monday, July 6, 2015

John D. Liu from Hope in a Challenging Climate #1 of What If Change? Series

"One thing that became apparent early on is the connection between damaged environments and human poverty. In many parts of the world there has been a vicious cycle . . . continuous use of the land has led to subsistence agriculture. And generation after generation this has further degraded the soils. The vital question we have to ask is: Can this destructive process be reversed?"

"As on the Loess Plateau centuries of subsistence farming practices have stripped the land of natural vegetation. The dry gullies bear the scars of flash floods. These gullies are evidence of the enormous power of runoff during a rainy season. Without vegetation on the hillsides when the rain comes, the water doesn't soak into the ground, but flows away in a flood. Then it's not available for agriculture for the rest of the year. This leads to drought, and famously for Ethiopia: famine."

"What the Rwandans recognized is that the marshlands are far more valuable as a natural system providing water for energy than as farmland. This principle is the same for the remaining hillsides and ravines. What we are seeing here is very interesting because its a line between human activity and natural systems. And in human activity we have been able to value the productivity from agriculture and give it a monetary value, but in natural systems we haven't been able to value the trees, the biodiversity, the water that's absorbed into the biomass, and into the soils. And there is another vital service that the trees and plants provide: photosynthesis. Vegetation reduces the greenhouse effect by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. 'Climate change is better withstood with trees. You know humans, no matter how intelligent we are, no matter how capable we are with all of our technologies, we are helpless in the face of climate change. We have not yet properly understood the miracles performed by trees.' "

"A measure of what restoring nature can do, has been shown here on China's Loess Plateau, where farmers have continued to prosper despite the worst drought in decades. Since the beginning of the project, the soil that nurtures their crops has been accumulating organic material from plants and animals. This holds moisture and contains carbon. What is interesting about this is that all these root materials, all this stuff, this is organic material. And this organic material is mixing together with the Loess, the soils here, and its making a living soil. This is where the moisture resides. Yesterday it rained and there is still moisture in the soil. This is where the nutrients are recycled so that each generation of life emerges here. And this is where the carbon is. What is interesting about this. They made this field. This is new. So they are helping to sequester carbon. Living soils like these contain on average three times the carbon as foliage above ground."

"It is actually by investing in our ecological infrastructure and ecosystems in expanding the ability of nature to sequester carbon that we have the greatest opportunity to do something and the wonderful thing is its not only carbon sequestration, we are also faced with ecosystems that will affect our food security, our water security, we're losing species at an unprecedented rate. So maintaining, restoring, protecting, expanding natural ecosystems has multiple benefits: immediate in terms of climate change but also fundamental to many of the services that we simply take for granted from nature." (Achim Steiner --- Executive Director United Nations Environmental Program)

"My hope is that the developed countries those most responsible for climate change will recognize the enormous potential for restoration. What we've seen in China, in Africa and around the world is that it is possible to restore large-scale damaged ecosystems. If we can transfer the capital, the technology and empower the local people to restore their own environment it will have enormous benefits. Restoration can sequester carbon. Reduce biodiversity loss. Mitigate against flooding, drought and famine. It can ensure food security for people who are now chronically hungry. Why don't we do this on a global scale?"

Watch documentary at link below

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