Do we have the resources available to re-vegetate areas of the Earth that have gone desolate?
We do, yes.
And biospheric resources compound as we bring ecosystems back.
I want to share a few thoughts on Creating Climate Resilience and relying on the restoration of Earth’s biospheric productivity paradigm, as the model by which re-vegetation and restoration are guided. Big picture stuff.
- Restoration (R) goes fast. Especially where it’s most important. This is good. . . Ecosystem restoration takes three to 10 years to really transform lands and generally far less time to transform waters. These rates are pretty constant regardless of ecosystem size, across the planet. Rates of growth (whether it takes 3 or more years to re-establish an ecosystem) are determined by daily, quarterly, and annual cycles of biospheric income and stress — moisture availability, ideal temperature, nutrient availability, geological conditions, and trauma/disturbance. These five factors determine how fast ecosystem / organism restoration takes place. Earth’s vital organ ecosystems — the Tropics, coastal oceans, and high lattitude oceans, restore quickest because they are most productive.
- Reconnection (R) is required. The reconnection of fertile ecosystems (self-maintaining wildernesses) is required for the continued functionality of the global biosphere. That’s kind of the point of this blog series. )) The only way forests, coral reefs, grasslands, and other ecosystems can avoid the worsening impacts of our warming biosphere — drought, bleaching, wildfire, extreme weather, and etc. is to restore the ecological integrity of the greater biosphere. This means more connected vegetation across the Earth, across our cities and trade routes, and more wilderness in general. Why should we do that? The biggest reason is moisture flow consistency. This fundamental of our existence affects temperature and productivity for the whole of our life-support system. Just like your body’s lymphatic system, Earth’s moisture sharing infrastructure (wildernesses) demands connectedness to function and thus irrigate the living body; the biosphere. Humans have radically scaled-back and fragmented Earth’s moisture sharing infrastructure (wildernesses) since WWII, as population has grown from roughly 2.5 billion to nearly 8 billion in the last 75 years. Reconnecting wild ecosystems restores irrigation and hydrological functions and thus bio/eco resilience, stability, and internal balance, each of which compound as the ecosystem matures.
- R + R = Greater Security. Restoration and Reconnection bring greater planetary security. . . So, once given the chance to re-establish, an ecosystem will seek to maximize its biological productivity, every year. That vigor is determined by the ecosystem’s community members, who are mutualistic and kaleidoscopic in their contributions to the community, and who are controlled by moisture availability, ideal temperature, nutrient availability, geological conditions, and their ability to manage trauma/disturbance. Ultimately, the portfolio of organisms maintaining a given ecosystem grow its biological wealth and thus provide its resilience. The greater and more integrated the biological resource base, the greater our security.
- Tech Matters, too. We should innovate for continuation. We have virtually no focus on biospheric continuation in the direction of our current technology. In the ongoing process of revegetating and stewarding Biosphere Earth, we need to be able to address short term catastrophes, such as wildfire, more effectively. We need to transition the global food system so that it’s regenerative, not self-destructive. We need to be able to buffer and strengthen all wildernesses from intensifying climate change. And so on. There will be numerous unpredictable challenges at unpredictable scales, as revegetation progresses. The Tech sector, especially those who’ve become enormously wealthy and have extra resources to deploy, should focus on innovating for the biosphere and conform its primary purpose to facilitating biospheric reformation of global Civilization.
- The More Biosphere the Better. Biospheric nurturing enhances bio-wealth and resources, carbon reductions and climate functions. We should be maximizing this every day. The biospheric system is made-up of living beings — collectively, it wants to succeed and is our most reliable creative partner. Utilizing technology and economic wealth to reverse collapse of our life-support system obviously makes sense.
- Life is in charge. It is true that today’s organisms are adapted to “the Goldilocks climate” of the last 12,000 years and thus extremely threatened by climate change. But it is also true that the climate does not, on its own, determine the biosphere: the biosphere determines the biosphere. We have both evidence and science which show that rescuing and rebuilding super-rich ecosystems can occur even in the most difficult conditions, from the deserts of Jordan across the oceans & freshwaters to the cold climates; and in the most limited conditions, from isolated small systems to integration into our cities. Who knows what we’re capable of creating, in terms of biospheric security, when we align modern human potential and empathy with biospheric reality.
So — if you’re trying to regrow a forest it’ll be like watching a pot boil for three to five years, then, suddenly, you turn around and there’s a massively verdant, productive young forest. “Wow!” you might say, “look at that thing!”
In terms of having enough seeds or enough soil… Yes, we have enough seeds (the biosphere thrives on “over-delivery” of seeds), can always make more soil, and can crop trees and vegetation to rapidly increase the amount of plantings we do. Plus natural regrowth is a force to be reckoned with. Keep in mind the global biosphere built itself, via 4 billion years of life in water and at least 600 million years of life on land. It learns and adapts. Its reserves are immense. Yes, there are genetic and biodiversity loss crises in seeds and amongst all organisms today, but even in this scenario the only way to reverse these crises is to reverse them: to restore habitat integrity, migration ranges and reproduction normalcy for other species. The more biosphere, the better.
We can also improve our restoration IQ. Not all reforestation projects of the last 50 years have been successful, for instance. We are changing that as best practices become better known. We’re learning more from science, evidence, and traditional knowledge-keepers all the time. As we improve successful re-vegetation, reconnect biospheric integrity, and encourage and stay out of the way of natural regrowth, we compound the feasibility and resilience of the global biospheric system and its stewardship.