The Street Voice & Photosynthesis

From the American Revolution to Woman’s voting rights to Civil Rights, and so much more, the Voice of the Streets is the tactic that forced the change we now take for granted. The stakes have never been higher than now; we are living in the most important moment in human history as a hotter and drier world is far more conductive to fires, floods, hurricanes and other forms of what used to be thought of as natural disasters threaten to overwhelm civilization.

What so few appreciate is that diseases such as COVID-19, bird flu and HIV are entirely driven by animals removed from wilderness for farming, logging and trade in wild species which has brought people into contact with dangerous microbes. Unless the destruction of the natural world is halted, this current “era of pandemics” will become permanent due to the due to the estimated 1.7 million unknown virus, the release of 540,000 to 850,000 of which may infect humans. A November, 2020 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services concludes that the same activities that drive the climate and species extinction crises are driving pandemic risks – consumption and growth.

Consumption by whom? The social crime of consumption that threatens survival is dominated by the lifestyles of those earning $34,000 or more a year, the top 1% of the world’s income earners. If you’re reading this, that likely means you. Us too. Another 2020-year study in the journal Nature Communications, “Scientists’ Warning on Affluence,” concludes that “the most fundamental driver of environmental destruction is the overconsumption of the super-rich.” Excessive consumption is the chief driver of industrial agriculture, stockyard beef, deforestation, fossil fuel use, air travel and the other contributors to the climate crisis.

It turns out that the economic theory that created the world’s most powerful nation has a structural obsession with endless growth that is destroying the conditions for the survival of life on the planet Earth. Capitalism has fostered a global structural inequality where the richest 10 percent of people in the world are responsible for 43 percent of destructive global environmental impacts while the poorest 10 percent cause about 5 percent, an imbalance intimately related to the downturn in environmental stability threating the very existence of human societies. The paper concludes: “It is clear that prevailing capitalist, growth-driven economic systems have not only increased affluence since World War II, but have led to enormous increases in inequality, financial instability, resource consumption and environmental pressures on vital earth support systems.” The top 1 percent (the richest 1 in 1,000 Americans, fewer than 200,000 families) holds as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of Americans (about 110 million households) These few Americans have risen to levels of income and wealth unseen in the short history of democracy.

Consumption is the problem, significantly reducing it and a sharp uptick in habitat restoration are the core solutions. Consuming less and the elimination of fossil fuels will prevent the worsening of these three crises, but the legacy load of atmospheric CO2 must be captured and returned underground where it belongs and where it was until the Industrial Revolution and our near exclusive reliance since then on coal and other fossil fuels. Current CO2 levels are around 415 parts per million (ppm) when 350 ppm is the safe level.  There is an inexpensive and natural way to accomplish the draw-down.

Natural climate solutions are a relatively inexpensive, nature-based way to accomplish the draw-down of excess atmospheric carbon. Two recent papers – Natural Climate Solutions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, Environmental Studies, maintain that as much as 37 percent of the Paris Climate Accord goals can be attained by a combination of 21 natural-climate solutions. The cure entails living on the planet differently, more responsibly. Technologically or naturally, there is no other known way to extract the 65 ppm (415 less 350) legacy load of carbon from the overheated atmosphere. The proposition of natural-climate solutions means humankind must make another major civilization transition. First, we moved from hunter-gatherer way of life to an Agricultural Civilization, next to Industrial Civilization and now we must transform our world into an Environmental Civilization.

As mention earlier, nature’s Mangum Opus is the remarkable process of photosynthesis where plants ingest carbon dioxide (CO2, 1 Carbon atom and two Oxygen atoms), return to O2 for us to breath, consume about 60% of the C nutrients and transfer the rest to the multiple upon multiple of zillions of earthlings living under foot in the subsurface word. Remember this from you sixth grade science class:

You’ll likely remember that from you sixth grade science class. What you didn’t learn in elementary school because science didn’t fully understand the importance of the little-known subsurface microbial species world of soil is that the dirt we live on and from is far richer than we ever imagined.

  • There are more microorganisms in a cup of healthy soil than the number of all the humans who have ever lived — 113 billion people.
  • The dark, underground world is thought to account for up to 95 percent of the planet’s species diversity.
  • Healthy soil contains as many as six billion tiny organisms per tablespoon or two hundred billion microbes in a handful of soil.
  • Scientists guess that as many as 75,000 species of bacteria could be in a single teaspoon, along with 25,000 species of fungi, 1,000 species of protozoa, and 100 species of tiny worms called nematodes.

Soil organisms and their role in decomposing residues. Modified from D.L. Dindal, 1978.

This densely populated world requires carbon for survival and photosynthesis can provide sustenance for their realm, while simultaneously saving the domain for the life that lives above ground. Photosynthesis truly is nature’s Mangum Opus.