Now, here’s the thing. I’ve always wondered if the solutions to all these problems might be simple. After all, that’s the way it works in my own life; I spend endless hours and energy running through mazes and jumping through hoops only to discover that the solution was down a straight and simple path. Perhaps this is what we are doing to ourselves in the matter of planetary warming. Perhaps there is a lot of money in making it complicated. And be it not me who would deny people work and income. Yet, I can’t help but think about something I heard.

The sad part about our abilities to move ahead on this problem is the global economic crisis, which has taken precedence. The cost of proposed green initiatives is becoming a huge factor as world governments consider drafting environmental policies. This shift in priorities was evident in the last round of U.N. climate talks in Poland. After a full two weeks of negotiation, it looked as if participants were no closer to consensus on the terms of the treaty that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. The current treaty, created in 1992, requires most developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions. But, currently, overall cost is one of the main reasons for this persistent stalemate on emissions caps.

But there was one interesting solution presented. The IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a report that notes that if governments worked to exploit the natural capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide and deliberately aimed to increase the carbon sink that forests create, as much as 40 to 50% of human carbon emissions could be offset. I think this is fantastic and should be done like now. Please refer to my previous post on carbon sinks. Still, to my mind, the even more astounding fact is that this extraordinary possibility has been largely ignored.

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According to reports I have read, the USDA is seeking approval for a massive experiment, which involves genetically engineered trees. This experiment, to be conducted by the company ArborGen will conduct 29 field trials of Eucaplytus trees which will be genetically engineered to be “cold tolerant”. Why we need Eucalyptus trees on this scale and in the areas where it is cold is a mystery to me. However, this project is close to being greenlighted. Not only will it cost a bundle but I am unsure of it’s safety. They will literally be using nature like a laboratory, testing more than a half million trees, or “frankentrees”.

Scientists across the U.S. are voicing concerns over this proposal including:
-The USDA has failed to create an Environmental Impact Statement to assess potential negative issues related to the proposed field trials.
-The spread of the these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, making them an invasive threat. The impact of their invasive growth on native ecosystems are unknown.. Eucalyptus trees are not native to the US.
.-One of the experimental GE tree varieties is already known to be a host for cryptococcus gatti , a fatal fungal pathogen whose spores cause meningitis in people and animals.

The USDA is currently taking public comments on whether or not the company ArborGen should be allowed to conduct 29 field trials of genetically engineered “cold tolerant” eucalyptus trees in the U.S. Comments are being accepted by the USDA until July 6, 2009. Go HERE to register your comments. Or go directly here to sign a petition to stop this trial from being considered.

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There is an alarming environmental situation surrounding the popularity of ‘ultra-soft’ toilet paper. In order to obtain the soft, fluffy, quilted texture that has become preferable to many consumers, manufacturers use fiber from standing trees and not recycled material. This disturbs me greatly because it means that toilet paper is made from ancient forests, old growth forests, virgin forests, second growth forests, natural forests, high conservation value forests, temperate forests, tropical and sub-tropical forests and boreal forests. All areas of the planet in great peril of decimation and which will have profound effects on the air quality of the environment.

The New York Times has reported: “Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them… Although brands differ, 25 percent to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in this country comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. In addition, some of the pulp comes from the last virgin North American forests… Greenpeace, the international conservation organization, contends that Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.”

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Online at Reuters.com, last summer, I saw a report from Mexico City. It is reported that the Mexicans have planted more than 8 million trees as part of a push to correct it’s reputation for environmental indifference. It has become well known that Mexico has been poor in their environmental management, even to the extent of rampant mismanagement and continuously ignoring the rampant illegal logging of trees.

The government uncharacteristically supplied the saplings and large groups of volunteers trekked up and down Mexico wielding shovels and wheelbarrows. They actually planted a 8.3 million trees, according to the environmental ministry.

Illegal logging in Mexico destroys some 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) of Mexican forest each year, according to government reports, putting Mexico near the top of a U.N. list of nations losing primary forest fastest. Worldwide, environmental activists say the figure is much higher.

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For years the use of monosodium methanearsenate, or MSMA, was prevalent in British Columbia as a means to control Pine Beetles. Sold for a long time under the trade name, Glowon, it was considered safe and useful, posing no threat to the environment or to human health. This sounds like a song I’ve heard before, how about you? Even though this product was no longer in use as late as 2005, mainly because the manufacturer did not renew the permit, the residue of this product remains all throughout the region. IN fact, they are now issuing maps of areas that they are urging loggers to avoid because the residue is that bad. And what is the residue? Arsenic.

Now, my first question, as an intelligent, alert individual with common sense, is to ask how on earth anyone could think that arsenic, a known volatile and dangerous poison, could be environmentally safe and non toxic to humans? Seriously. To it’s credit, the US EPA decided in 2006 not to re-register MSMA as a pesticide because it “posed a cancer risk”. This is because of it’s potential to “transform to a more toxic inorganic form of arsenic in the soil with subsequent transport to drinking water.” Yep. You heard right. Drinking water is likely contaminated with this poison through natural run off.

And the Forest Practices Board recommended, in it’s 2004 annual report, that the ministry track MSMA treated trees to ensure they are not harvested or milled. This board found, in it’s studies, that MSMA was used near human habitation and that treated trees had been logged and milled within the past year. Therefor the restriction on access to these trees was decided upon.

Guess what? MSMA is still being sold in the US. I don’t know if anything will amaze me but this does upset me… does it you?

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I got this item from Science Daily online and I wanted to pass it along because of how I feel about old forests. If I can do anything, write a letter, sign a petition, post it on my blog, I feel like I should. The tearing down of the rain forests and other old growth forests throughout the world for the silly use of making paper that ends up in a landfill is a sad reality I find disturbing. And this article makes the argument for old forests viable and alive.

According to Science Daily, old growth forests are “carbon sinks”, in that they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries. Yes, I said centuries. And this is contrary to 40 years of “conventional wisdom”, which was largely based on findings of a single study done back in the late 1960s which has since been disproved. Did you know that old growth forests are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national “carbon budgets” as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol?

The world is changing around us, it’s about time we changed, too.

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