Eastside Forest Scam–The Proposed Removal of the 21-inch Rule.

Eastside Forest Scam–The Proposed Removal of the 21-inch Rule.

Large and old-growth trees in the dry eastern region of the U.S. state of Oregon are under threat as the agency which regulates Forest Service lands plans to remove existing protections, George Wuerthner reports.

By George Wuerthner / The Wildlife News / August 13, 2020

Old-growth grand fir on the Ochoco National Forest could be logged if the proposed removal of the 21-inch rule is adopted. Photo by George Wuerthner

The Forest Service has begun a 30 day comment period on its proposal to eliminate the 21-inch rule or what is known as the Eastside screens. The plan would remove a prohibition against cutting trees larger than 21 inches in the drier forests east of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. The agency suggests that forests are denser than historical conditions and have shifted in their species composition. Not all researchers agree with this interpretation, but since these scientific studies don’t support more logging, they are usually ignored.

The agency researchers conclude that thinning forests is necessary to promote “forest health” and cutting of larger trees will hasten this transition. Since big trees enhance the profitability of timber sales, there is intense pressure from the timber industry for cutting big trees. However, the elimination of the 21- inch rule will increase the removal of large trees critical to healthy forest ecosystems.

The 21-inch rule was implemented in 1994 to protect larger trees from logging, partially in response to the realization that big trees have a disproportional ecological influence. Unlike the ancient forests west of the Cascades inhabited by the spotted owls, which gained some protection from the Endangered Species Act, eastside forests were vulnerable to the removal of old-growth forests.

Large trees, even if dead, provide important ecological functions such as carbon storage and wildlife habitat. Photo by George Wuerthner

In response to the loss of large trees created by excessive logging, Congress convened a scientific panel to review the issue. However, unlike many such scientific panels that rely exclusively on forestry schools and/or the Forest Service for advice, Congress asked the Wildlife Society, the American Fisheries Society, the Society for Conservation Biology, and the American Ornithologists’ Union to produce the Eastside Forests Scientific Society Panel report.  The panel came out with 13 suggestions, including a prohibition on cutting larger trees older than 150. The Forest Service adopted this policy recommendation.

But times have changed.

With the advent of the Trump Administration, there is intense pressure to increase the cut of timber. This pressure, along with collaborators who are more than willing to accommodate the timber industry’s and Forest Service demands (and rely exclusively on their science), many members of collaboratives including some so-called environmental groups support more logging.

In yet another example of the tail wagging the dog, the Forest Service now suggests that to “restore” eastside forests, and “save” them from (god forbid) death from wildfire or beetles, the agency must log the forest.

Part of the underlying assumption behind restoration is that forests are denser now than in the historical past due to fire suppression. The idea that you can restore the forest to some “historic” condition ignores the fact that all vegetation is a reflection of climate. The reason we see more mortality from fires, beetles, drought, and other ecological processes is primarily to changing climate. It’s warmer and drier. With less precipitation, higher temperatures, and more drought, you have the perfect ingredients for wildfire and bark beetle mortality.

There are many things wrong with this perspective.

Trying to emulate the historic forest condition created by the climate at that point in time, is not relevant to the forest structure today.

Part of the assumption behind removal of 21-inch screens is that eastside forests were characterized by open stands dominated by ponderosa pine as seen here. However, some researchers challenge the assumption that such forest structure was as common as presumed. Photo by George Wuerthner

Furthermore, natural evolutionary processes like bark beetles, drought, and fire are better, selecting which trees should and will survive than a logger with a chainsaw.  For instance, it has been demonstrated that some trees have greater resilience to bark beetle predation, but this genetic advantage is not readily visible to foresters. By randomly logging/thinning the forest, logging may reduce the number of trees with genetic resistance to natural stresses, degrading the “resiliency” of the forest.

In a sense, the Forest Service and its collaborative allies see natural ecological processes like fire and beetles as the “enemy”. Somewhat like the attitude of some hunters view predators like wolves and cougars as “damaging” the deer and elk herds, many foresters and agency personnel view natural mortality from fires and beetles as counter to forestry goals of “green trees” and a source of fodder for sawmills.

Western larch, Glacier Mountain, Strawberry Mountains, Malheur National Forest, Oregon

This industrial forestry perspective is widely held in the timber industry, Forest Service, and its collaborative allies.

Yet dead trees are essential to healthy forest ecosystems.

They store carbon. They provide habitat as snags and down wood to many species from salamanders to animals as large as bears. For instance, grizzly bears rely on ants found in down trees for a significant proportion of their summer diet. And down trees in streams enhance the productivity of aquatic ecosystems. A substantial portion of birds and other wildlife utilize snags and dead trees at some point in their lifecycles. This is why some researchers have reported high biodiversity in the snag forests that result after a wildfire or bark beetle attacks.

Another rationale for eliminating the 21-inch rule is to reduce competition for resources and increase the remaining trees’ growth. Fast-growing trees are a goal of the Industrial Forestry Paradigm, but it is not necessarily good for healthy forest ecosystems. Slow-growing trees have denser wood, which makes the snags and down wood that remains after they die more resistant to rotting. Therefore, such dense wood is retained longer in the environment providing the above wildlife habitat and carbon storage benefits.

Although it is seldom admitted, one of the chief reasons for removing the 21-inch rule is to increase the economic viability of logging projects.

This is revealed in a recent review of the 21 inch rule in a paper recently published by the Forest Service. In that review, the authors suggest, ” Including larger trees in restoration prescriptions can increase the acreages where fuel treatments are financially feasible. Prestemon et al. (2012) showed that allowing the harvest of live trees over 21 inches increased the acreage in the West where fuel treatments were economically viable, even without considering avoided damage values”.

The paper goes on to note that: “Throughout the West, including live trees over 21 inches in fuel treatment harvests increased the viable treatment area by 2.6 times.” The review also notes: “It is important for managers and stakeholders to consider how large harvested trees can be processed locally to support local mills and be consistent with collaborative group goals.”

Here we see that meeting the goals of the collaboratives is more important than preserving healthy forest ecosystems.

The review admits that: “if no timber products could be sold from forest restoration actions, there was no place on the east side where the expected net economic benefit from fuel treatment would be positive, even when accounting for avoided wildfire damage.” As a consequence, we get to the heart of the issue. Without logging big trees, most thinning and other projects on eastside forests make no economic sense.

One way logging is further justified is by stewardship contracts. Stewardship contracts permit the Forest Service to take profits from timber sales and utilize for other forest projects like mitigating the ecological damage from previous logging projects by removal of culverts or closure of roads.  I have often heard the so-called environmental representatives on collaboratives justify logging to me by saying, “ ?”

Of course, I support closing roads, but we don’t need to build more roads and log the forest to get some money to fix the damage from previous logging projects. Given the amount of money, the FS typically loses on timber sales. Putting agency funds towards road closure and other real restoration could be accomplished without having to log the forest to pay for these projects.

If you wish to send in your comments on the proposal to eliminate the 21-inch rule, individuals and entities are encouraged to submit comments via webform at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=58050.

Comments may also be sent via e-mail to: M.FS.EScreens21@usda.gov.

You can find the full & original article here: http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2020/08/13/eastside-forest-scam-the-removal-of-the-21-inch-rule/. Featured image by Max Wilbert.

The Life Support Systems of Planet Earth Are Failing

The Life Support Systems of Planet Earth Are Failing

By Max Wilbert

In medicine, shock refers to an extremely serious condition of inadequate blood perfusion. Shock is most often caused by heart problems, severe infections, allergic reaction, massive blood loss, overdose, or spinal cord injury.

Of the 1.2 million people who show up to U.S. emergency rooms with signs and symptoms of shock each year, between 20% and 50% of them die.

Shock can be understood to progress through two broad phases: compensatory (phase 1) and de-compensatory (phase 2). In compensatory shock, the body can “compensate” for the emergency by adjusting blood pressure, diverting resources from the extremities, and using other internal mechanisms.

Victims in compensatory shock may seem, at first glance, to be doing relatively well. They may be lucid and able to talk clearly. But medical professionals know that this is an illusion. Without treatment, they are likely to worsen quickly. Careful assessment of vital signs and mechanism of injury/history of present illness (MOI/HPI) will show that this person is in an extremely perilous situation.

If left untreated or if their injury is series, they will soon enter the second phase of shock: de-compensatory. In this stage, the body can no longer compensate for the underlying issue. As blood and oxygen circulation collapses, cellular metabolism begins to fail. Our bodies begin to die, cell by cell. Vital organs fail one after another. The damage becomes irreversible. Death is nearly certain.

Planetary Ecology and Shock

Like our own lives, life on this planet depends on a precarious balance: the stability of climate, oceanic pH, nitrogen cycles, soil erosion and formation, and populations of beings at the basis of the tropic cascade such as bacteria, plankton and other photosynthesizers, and insects provides the foundation on which the entire biosphere rests.

These major life-support systems of the biosphere function similarly to human organs, each fulfilling a different need for life to continue as we know it. Due to the predations of industrial civilization, these “planetary organs” are in a dire state.

Insect populations are collapsing. Plankton populations are collapsing. Bird populations are collapsing. Coral reefs are collapsing. Fish populations are collapsing. Most native forests have been destroyed and those who remain are at risk of dying due to drought and heat stress over the next 50 years.

Soil erosion due to agriculture and overgrazing has decimated carbon storage across large portions of the earth’s surface and released this to the atmosphere. The cryosphere (the portion of our planet’s water frozen in ice) is rapidly melting. Thawing permafrost in the far north is releasing methane emissions to the atmosphere. The assaults go on and on.

When a human being goes into shock, the body compensates by shunting blood from the extremities towards the more vital internal organs. The same process is playing out across this planet. Like a human being, the natural world attempts to maintain its own stability. As carbon pollution chokes the atmosphere, for example, plants increase their growth rate, which should capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soils and trees trunks, maintaining homeostasis. This is the delicate balance of geological and biological feedbacks that has made Earth an Eden for millions of species over millions of years.

That balance has been shattered by the explosion in agriculture, logging, and fossil fuel burning. Plants can no longer compensate, and “global greening” has been overwhelmed. Instead, we are entering a period of “global browning” as vast areas of vegetation begin to die from sustained drought and climatic changes.

The ecology of this planet is entering a state of de-compensatory shock.

Abundant Cheap Energy Allows Us To Ignore Reality

People living in wealthy nations are largely insulated from ecological collapse because of the availability of cheap energy.

They can ignore the collapse of fish populations since corporations send vast trawlers to remote oceans to vacuum up the last remaining reserves of wild fish. They can ignore the collapse of forests because energy-intensive industrial logging brings wood products from Oregon and Alaska and Indonesia to the world market. They can ignore water shortages because vast amounts of energy are used to pump entire rivers dry to feed growing cities.

Our ability to lie to ourselves, and to each other, is one of our society’s defining features. The urge to deny that anything is wrong is overwhelming. The scale of the immanent catastrophe, which has truly already arrived, is unthinkable. As with a patient in compensatory shock, so with the planet. Ignorance is bliss.

This won’t last. Ignorance is no protection against a burning planet, only against psychological wounds, and only in the short term. We are children of this living world. Our lungs are the oysters of this atmosphere, filtering out pollutants and capturing them inside our delicate tissues. We are permeable creatures, absorbing each chemical toxin industry produces. Like mites living on the surface of our skin, when the supraorganism begins to die, those who are dependent upon it are not long for this world.

What will a person do when they are confronted with the imminent death of themselves, of a loved one, of their civilization, of their biosphere? Deny that it is happening? Reject the science and the evidence of their own eyes? Lash out angrily against those who speak the truth? Try to bargain with reality? Retreat into depression?

These responses are all familiar to both the E.R. doctor and the Earth defender, and increasingly describe global politics. Denial and anger are the defining characteristics of the rising authoritarian tide. Modi, Putin, Trump, Erdoğan, and Bolsonaro are the figureheads of this death cult; there are hundreds of millions behind them.

Bargaining is the primary strategy of the liberals. As the biosphere bleeds from a million clearcuts and chokes on a toxic mixture of industrial chemicals and greenhouse gases, they promote so-called “solutions” that are no different from the status quo. Their fantasies of green energy, sustainable capitalism, and electric vehicles allow them to justify a lie that will kill the world: that they can have “normality”—modern, high-energy way of life—and a living planet at the same time.

Their plans are not even the equivalent of bandaging a bleeding planet. They are harmful in their own right—the equivalent of stabbing the victim elsewhere and claiming that since the wounds aren’t quite as deep, they are actually helping. This is the good-cop, bad-cop routine of modern politics.

That most people are simply depressed and apathetic, then, is no surprise. The normal functioning of industrial civilization is rapidly murdering life on this planet and destroying the capacity to support future life, and in the process immiserating billions of human beings. Anyone who is carefully watching the vital signs of this planet knows that the prognosis is not good.

Righteous anger is fitting response to this situation, but denial has no place now. Bargaining is worse than useless. And depression is understandable, but when paired with inaction it is not excusable. Only by accepting the reality of the situation can we begin to discuss meaningful action.

The reality is that the life support systems of our home, Earth, are failing. Without intervention, the organs of this planet will falter and die. Industrial civilization has shown itself to be incompatible with life. So the path forward is clear. Like open veins, the world’s pipelines must be closed off. The mining industry, opening great sores on the Earth’s surface, must be stopped and the land allowed to scab over. The abrasion that is industrial agriculture must be halted, and the soil bandaged with ecology’s first responders—those plants derisively called “weeds”—and eventually, replaced with forests and grasslands once again. The cancerous factories and toxic industry belching and circulating poisons around the planet must yield to the scalpel. The destruction must be halted, and the land must be allowed to heal.

And humans must find a way to live within the ecological limits of this planet, rather than constantly finding new ways to transgress them. If all you have ever known is how to live in a culture that is destroying the planet, this will take humility, and sacrifice, and a willingness to learn.

The process of ecological collapse has been accelerating for many years. It will not be reversed easily. Many wonders of the natural world are already gone—the billions of passenger pigeons, and the teeming flocks of Great auks. But there are many who remain: blue whales, redwood forests, loggerhead turtles, coral reefs.

Our task as a generation is to manage the coming collapse by accelerating the dismantling and destruction of the systems that must end (capitalism, industrial civilization, the fossil fuel and mining economy, industrial agriculture, etc.). At the same time, we most slow, halt, and reversing the collapse of forests, grasslands, soils, the carbon cycle, and the rest of the living world. And in the midst of all this, we must do our best to build human communities based in sustainability and human rights. Any of these elements in isolation leads to a bleak future. Only in combination do they represent some hope.

When we accept what is happening, the path forward becomes clear. Now we must gather our will and our community and get to work.

Max Wilbert is a third-generation dissident who came of age in post-WTO Seattle. He has been part of grassroots political work for nearly 20 years. His second book, Bright Green Lies, will be released in early 2021.

46% of Forests Have Been Destroyed by Civilization…and Counting

46% of Forests Have Been Destroyed by Civilization…and Counting

     by Max Wilbert / Deep Green Resistance

“Forests precede civilizations and deserts follow them.”

– François-René de Chateaubriand

New research in the prestigious journal Nature estimates that “the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.”

The study also suggests that about 15 billion trees are being cut down each year, and that the average age of forests has declined significantly over the last few thousand years.

The study was led by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with contributions from scientists at universities and research institutions in Utah, Chile, the UK, Finland, Italy, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Brazil, and China.

While fossil fuels have only been burned on a large scale for 200 years, land clearance has been a defining characteristic of civilizations – cultures based around cities and agriculture – since they first emerged around 8,000 years ago.

This land clearance has impacts on global climate. When a forest ecosystem is converted to agriculture, more than two thirds of the carbon that was stored in that forest is lost, and additional carbon stored in soils rich in organic materials will continue to be lost to the atmosphere as erosion accelerates.

Modern science may give us an idea of the magnitude of the climate impact of this pre-industrial land clearance. Over the past several decades of climate research, there has been an increasing focus on the impact of land clearance on modern global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2004 report, attributed 17% of global emissions to cutting forests and destroying grasslands – a number which does not include the loss of future carbon storage or emissions directly related to this land clearance, such as methane released from rice paddies or fossil fuels burned by heavy logging equipment.

Some studies show that 50% of the global warming in the United States can be attributed to land clearance – a number that reflects the inordinate impact that changes in land use can have on temperatures, primarily by reducing shade cover and evapotranspiration (the process whereby a good-sized tree puts out thousands of gallons of water into the atmosphere on a hot summer day – their equivalent to our sweating).

So if intensive land clearance has been going on for thousands of years, has it contributed to global warming? Is there a record of the impacts of civilization in the global climate itself?

10,000 years of Climate Change

According to author Lierre Keith, the answer is a resounding yes. Around 10,000 years ago, humans began to cultivate crops. This is the period referred to as the beginning of civilization, and, according to the Keith and other scholars such as David Montgomery, a soil scientist at the University of Washington, it marked the beginning of land clearance and soil erosion on a scale never before seen – and led to massive carbon emissions.

“In Lebanon (and then Greece, and then Italy) the story of civilization is laid bare as the rocky hills,” Keith writes. “Agriculture, hierarchy, deforestation, topsoil loss, militarism, and imperialism became an intensifying feedback loop that ended with the collapse of a bioregion [the Mediterranean basin] that will most likely not recover until after the next ice age.”

Montgomery writes, in his excellent book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, that the agriculture that followed logging and land clearance led to those rocky hills noted by Keith.

“It is my contention that the invention of [agriculture] fundamentally altered the balance between soil production and soil erosion – dramatically increasing soil erosion.

Other researchers, like Jed Kaplan and his team from the Avre Group at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, have affirmed that preindustrial land clearance has had a massive impact on the landscape.

“It is certain that the forests of many European countries were substantially cleared before the Industrial Revolution,” they write in a 2009 study.

Their data shows that forest cover declined from 35% to 0% in Ireland over the 2800 years before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The situation was similar in Norway, Finland, and Iceland, where 100% of the arable land was cleared before 1850.

Similarly, the world’s grasslands have been largely destroyed: plowed under for fields of wheat and corn, or buried under spreading pavement. The grain belt, which stretches across the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and across much of Eastern Europe, southern Russia, and northern China, has decimated the endless fields of constantly shifting native grasses.

The same process is moving inexorably towards its conclusion in the south, in the pampas of Argentina and in the Sahel in Africa. Thousands of species, each uniquely adapted to the grasslands that they call home, are being driven to extinction.

“Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable,” writes permaculture expert Toby Hemenway. “We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.”

As Hemenway notes, the massive global population is essentially dependent on agriculture for survival, which makes political change a difficult proposition at best. The seriousness of this problem is not to be underestimated. Seven billion people are dependent on a food system – agricultural civilization – that is killing the planet.

The primary proponent of the hypothesis – that human impacts on climate are as old as civilization – has been Dr. William Ruddiman, a retired professor at the University of Virginia. The theory is often called Ruddiman’s Hypothesis, or, alternately, the Early Anthropocene Hypothesis.

Ruddiman’s research, which relies heavily on atmospheric data from gases trapped in thick ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, shows that around 11,000 years ago carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere began to decline as part of a natural cycle related to the end of the last Ice Age. This reflected a natural pattern that has been seen after previous ice ages.

This decline continued until around 8000 years ago, when the natural trend of declining carbon dioxide turned around, and greenhouse gases began to rise. This coincides with the spread of civilization across more territory in China, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and certain other regions.

Ruddiman’s data shows that deforestation over the next several thousand years released 350 Gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, an amount nearly equal to what has been released since the Industrial Revolution. The figure is corroborated by the research of Kaplan and his team.

Around 5000 years ago, cultures in East and Southeast Asia began to cultivate rice in paddies – irrigated fields constantly submerged in water. Like an artificial wetland, rice paddies create an anaerobic environment, where bacteria metabolizing carbon-based substances (like dead plants) release methane instead of carbon dioxide and the byproduct of their consumption. Ruddiman points to a spike in atmospheric methane preserved in ice cores around 5000 years ago as further evidence of warming due to agriculture.

Destruction of the land as the root

The anti-apartheid organizer Seve Biko wrote in the 1960’s that “One needs to understand the basics before setting up a remedy. A number of organizations now currently ‘fighting against apartheid’ are working on an oversimplified premise. They have taken a brief look at what is, and have diagnosed the problem incorrectly. They have almost completely forgotten about the side effects and have not even considered the root cause. Hence whatever is improved as a remedy will hardly cure the condition.”

The same could be said of much of the modern environmental movement. While coal, oil, and gas are without a doubt worthwhile targets for opposition, the “climate” movement has forgotten the primary importance of the meadows, the grasslands, the forests, the mountains, and the rivers.

Without this, the movement has been led astray. It’s no wonder that ineffective solutions and tepid reforms that actually strengthen global empire are being promoted, instead of what is actually needed: revolutionary overthrow of this system of power.

Image: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Kate Evans/CIFOR, https://www.flickr.com/photos/cifor/35035343564

Groundwater threatened by industrial injection of 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquids into earth

By Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica

Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.

No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.

In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.

There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves — from which most Americans get their drinking water — remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn’t always work.

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

The boom in oil and natural gas drilling is deepening the uncertainties, geologists acknowledge. Drilling produces copious amounts of waste, burdening regulators and demanding hundreds of additional disposal wells. Those wells — more holes punched in the ground — are changing the earth’s geology, adding man-made fractures that allow water and waste to flow more freely.

“There is no certainty at all in any of this, and whoever tells you the opposite is not telling you the truth,” said Stefan Finsterle, a leading hydrogeologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who specializes in understanding the properties of rock layers and modeling how fluid flows through them. “You have changed the system with pressure and temperature and fracturing, so you don’t know how it will behave.”

A ProPublica review of well records, case histories and government summaries of more than 220,000 well inspections found that structural failures inside injection wells are routine. From late 2007 to late 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined — more than 17,000 violations nationally. More than 7,000 wells showed signs that their walls were leaking. Records also show wells are frequently operated in violation of safety regulations and under conditions that greatly increase the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination.

Structurally, a disposal well is the same as an oil or gas well. Tubes of concrete and steel extend anywhere from a few hundred feet to two miles into the earth. At the bottom, the well opens into a natural rock formation. There is no container. Waste simply seeps out, filling tiny spaces left between the grains in the rock like the gaps between stacked marbles.

Many scientists and regulators say the alternatives to the injection process — burning waste, treating wastewater, recycling, or disposing of waste on the surface — are far more expensive or bring additional environmental risks.

Subterranean waste disposal, they point out, is a cornerstone of the nation’s economy, relied on by the pharmaceutical, agricultural and chemical industries. It’s also critical to a future less dependent on foreign oil: Hydraulic fracturing, “clean coal” technologies, nuclear fuel production and carbon storage (the keystone of the strategy to address climate change) all count on pushing waste into rock formations below the earth’s surface.

Read more from ProPublica: http://www.propublica.org/article/injection-wells-the-poison-beneath-us

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

Editor’s note: If you search the keywords renewable energy problems you’ll be snowed under with deceptive synonyms like challenges, opportunities or even solutions. Most articles don’t go into the depth of why “renewable” energy is continuing the ongoing environmental atrocities.

In Germany the buzz word is energy shift (Energiewende), which means we allegedly shift from a “bad energy” to a “good one”. But in reality it’s just a shift of our addiction from one “drug” to another, that is similarly contaminating. As Boris highlights in his article, only through a transition to a de-industrialized society will we live in a truly sustainable relationship with Mother Earth.

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

By Boris Wu/DGR Germany

The word for world is forest. Long before humans existed, in the geological eras we now refer to as the Carboniferous and Permian, vast, dense swamp forests of ancient ferns, calamites, and the now extinct species of Sigillariaceae, Diaphorodendraceae, and Lepidodendraceae dominated the landmass of our planet. The high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere provided ideal growing conditions for plants and led to an overproduction of biomass that accumulated in the swampy soils of the primeval forests.

Over millions of years, parts of these swamps were regularly flooded by rivers and thus covered by sediments of clay and sand. These cyclical sedimentation conditions compressed and drained the swamp soils. Particularly in the Upper Carboniferous period, the organic source material was air sealed and compacted under high pressure and heat and thus finally converted into hard coal.

The other word for world is water. Alongside the primeval forests, nutrient-rich shelf and inland seas shaped the primeval landscape. Water is literally the source of all life, and even those of us who eventually left the seas in the course of evolution and learned to live on land still carry it in our blood. Our blood plasma contains salt and ions in a ratio remarkably similar to that of the oceans.

Our sacred Mother Earth, in her infinite love for all life, gave birth to an almost infinite variety of it. The primeval shelf seas were rich in life, with marine microorganisms such as algae forming by far the largest proportion of marine biomass. In the deeper zones, the dead algae were deposited on the sea floor together with clay particles. The low-oxygen conditions prevented the complete decomposition of the algal biomass and led to the formation of fouling sludge (Sapropel). The formations of thick sediment sequences with a high proportion of organic material, slowly accumulating and concentrating over millions of years, eventually became the energy source that made the industrialization of civilization possible: crude oil.

Ultimately, our planet has only one source of energy, namely the sun. All fossil fuels consist of millions of years of solar energy stored in fossil biomass. In the meantime, our holy Mother Earth, in her infinite love, created a further, almost infinite variety of life. The dinosaurs were followed by birds, mammals and finally the species that today quite immodestly calls itself Homo sapiens sapiens, the wisest of the wise. How wise it is to destroy the planet on which we live, however, must be questioned.

For the longest time of their existence, Stone Age people, who were primitive only in the imagination of the civilized, lived in harmony with ecological principles, until some cultures made a functional mistake: They cultivated annual grasses with nutritious seeds in large-scale monocultures. The surplus of easily storable and tradeable carbohydrates from grain monocultures led to unprecedented population growth, the construction of city-states with standing armies, patriarchal ruling cults, monotheistic religions, slavery and an endless wave of violence, war, colonialism and environmental destruction, in short, the form of culture we call civilization. Climate change is not a recent phenomenon.

The deforestation of primeval forests, the draining of swamps etc. for agriculture, mining, the construction of warships and other war machinery already had measurable effects on the global climate in ancient times, as we know from atmospheric data from gases stored in the no longer perpetual ice of Antarctica and Greenland.

In essence – and the essence is our relationship with the planet and our fellow creatures – there were and are only two human cultures: indigenous and civilized. While indigenous peoples live in harmony with biological principles, endless expansion, colonialism and overexploitation are the hallmarks of any civilization that eventually lead to its collapse. Civilizations have always displaced or destroyed indigenous peoples.

After the dominant Western civilization expanded throughout Europe and, after 1492, continued expanding to the Americas where it committed the greatest genocide on indigenous peoples in human history, in its endless hunger for resources it made a second, functional and fundamental mistake: it began to make use of the fossil fuels coal and oil, thereby increasing its destructive power to the extreme. Industrial civilization is civilization on steroids, and its steroids are fossil fuels.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. While indigenous peoples had always fought for the preservation of nature and thus their livelihoods, people in the Western world were now also beginning to gather and try to protect wild places and wild creatures from destruction by our civilization. Climate change only came to public attention in the 1990s, as scientists like James Hansen only began to understand in the late 1980s that the burning of millions of years of stored fossil solar energy within a single century, and the release of the carbon dioxide trapped in it, would wreak havoc on our planet’s climate.

Due to the unprecedented overuse of our planet on an industrial scale, we Westerners today have more resources and energy at our disposal than any previous human generation. Western affluence and the arrogance that comes with it have seduced the environmental movement into a very narrow public discourse that focuses solely on global warming and unrealistic technocratic utopias, and in which the most extensive, dramatic and rapid extinction of species of all time, which we are currently witnessing, no longer plays a role.

Global warming is only just beginning to have a serious impact on us. The destruction of the environment, the extinction of all non-human life, in short the fact that civilizations, and especially industrial civilization, are inherently destructive and overexploiting their resources. This by definition can never be sustainable and will inevitably collapse. Although the resulting fact that we should actually radically change our way of life, are a taboo subject in public discourse.

The functional error in the belief system surrounding so-called renewable energy is that the fossil fuels coal and oil are literally storage devices for millions of years of fossil solar energy. These “natural batteries” have a higher energy density than any energy storage system developed by humans. Diesel stores 46 times more energy per kilogram than the most modern lithium-ion battery. Fossil fuels are therefore incredibly practical because they are easy to transport, can be stored indefinitely and can be burned whenever needed.

The entire electricity grid infrastructure is built on these characteristics, although the term “grid” is inaccurate in more ways than one. Firstly, it is more of a network than a grid. Second, it is not a single grid, but hundreds of grids around the world, each supplying power to a specific region. The entire network essentially works like one big circuit that starts and ends at the power plants. Sub-circuits lead to individual households, companies, factories, server farms, hospitals, etc. Electricity still flows between the regions, but it is carefully regulated.

The wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric power plants that we summarize under the vague term “renewable energies” are not energies or energy sources in the true sense of the word, but technologies that can convert sunlight or the kinetic energy of wind and water into electricity. The terms used in public discourse, such as “energy transition”, “renewable energy” or “green energy”, suggest that we want to switch from one form of energy to another. This is where the error in thinking lies, because what we are actually trying to do is to replace fossil energy storage with modern technologies for generating electricity.

One of the many problems with this is that this additionally generated electrical energy fluctuates greatly, depending on the sunlight, the prevailing wind or the current. According to estimates, the modern electricity grid can only cope with up to 35% electricity from wind power and 12% electricity from photovoltaic, i.e. a total of around 47%, or just under half of so-called renewable energy, as these fluctuations can still be balanced out by conventional coal and gas-fired power plants.

High power fluctuations are not compatible with a functioning industrial power grid. Most household appliances can cope well with a voltage fluctuation of 5 to 10 percent, but modern factories, server farms and hospitals with their highly complex equipment and machines require precise, stable currents.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to combine the intermittent, highly fluctuating power flows from thousands of wind turbines and solar power plants into a reliable grid voltage because there is no buffer storage on a grid scale (currently, conventional coal and gas-fired power plants serve as a kind of buffer, as power generation can be ramped up or down quickly depending on demand). The fact remains that the grid was not built for so-called renewable energies, but for fossil fuels.

But quite apart from that, even if ingenious scientists and engineers managed to convert the electricity grid completely to solar, wind and hydroelectric power, there is still the small problem that our civilization is destroying the planet. The hope of saving our civilization through modern technologies, which in reality do not help the planet but are themselves destructive in many ways, is just a Bright Green Lie. We cannot live on a destroyed planet, and it is long past time for a serious and radical discourse that addresses in necessary depth the highly dysfunctional relationship between our culture and our sacred Mother Earth, who brought us all forth in her infinite love, and who is our only home.

Boris Wu is a father of two, a Permaculture farmer, radical environmental activist and cadre for Deep Green Resistance

Photo: Stone Age dwelling at Kierikki Stone Age Centre Oulo Finland, Ninaras/CCBY 4.0