by John M Repp
One of the things we must learn from our experience of the Covid-19 pandemic is to listen to our scientists. The United States has some of the best scientists in the world. Epidemiologists tried to warn the Trump Administration for months that they needed to take precautions as a pandemic could break out at any time. Epidemics from newly evolved viruses have become more common over the last forty years. Think of SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and Ebola among others; even though those viruses did not spread here in the U.S. Biologists tell us “the rate of deforestation in a given area was the number one predictor of where the next pandemic would occur”.
Climate scientists told us “their hair is on fire.”. They are trying to explain the urgency. Despite the fact that our corporate media frames the issue as a debate between two sides, the consensus among climate scientists is closer to 98 to 2 that climate change due to human activity. Climate change will cause more wild fires, heat waves, super tropical storms, drought, floods, forced migrations, sea level rise and more epidemics.
Recently a scientific study has also told us that the planting of one trillion trees would be the least expensive way to drawdown two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that is the main greenhouse gas. Admittedly the scale of that project is massive but at least it is something everyone can imagine. It would be a part of the Green New Deal. The House Resolution 109 submitted by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey lists “afforestation” as a goal, just not as prominently as we would hope. Citizens who know U.S. history know that the Civilian Conservation Corps was a part of the original New Deal and tree planting was a CCC project to mitigate the dust bowl problem that was happening at the same time as the Great Depression.
Public banks are mentioned in H. Res. 109. The champion of the public banking movement in the United States, Ellen Brown, wrote an article that suggested the planting of millions of acres of hemp worldwide as another way to drawdown carbon dioxide. She noted that trees grow slowly so in addition to planting one trillion trees we need to plant millions of acres of hemp. Why? She noted that hemp grows very fast and would do drawdown as the trees grow up. At the same time hemp could be a resource that can replace oil in the making of plastic and replace trees in the making of paper.
Finally, we can farm kelp along our shores and even in deeper parts of the ocean if we build structures that act as floors for the kelp. The Chinese are doing this. Kelp farms would attract a whole variety of sea weed and provide a place for a rich ecology of fish and other sea creatures. Kelp also grows fast. In addition, seaweed farming can make the ocean less acidic which is a problem caused by our putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In conclusion, a massive global planting of trees, hemp and kelp could help us deal with the approaching climate catastrophe that scientists have been warning us about for decades. The current idea that private corporations and banks should make the key decisions in our economy must be questioned. These economic forces are leading us into an ecological collapse that in the long run will make the Covid-19 pandemic seem small. We need to recognize the concept embodied in the title of H. Res. 109, that it is “the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” Besides dealing with climate change, the goal of H. Res. 109 is the creation of millions of living wage union jobs that should be part of reparations for black and brown people in the post-George Floyd era.