'Defend the Living Planet': Bold Campaign Says Healing the Earth Can Fight Climate Breakdown
By Jessica Corbett
A group of activists, experts and writers on Wednesday launched a bold new campaign calling for the "thrilling but neglected approach" of embracing nature's awesome restorative powers to battle the existential crises of climate and ecological breakdown.
Averting catastrophic global warming and devastating declines in biodiversity, scientists warn, requires not only overhauling human activities that generate planet-heating emissions — like phasing out fossil fuels — but also cutting down on the carbon that is already in the atmosphere.
In a letter to governments, NGOs, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Natural Climate Solutions campaign calls for tackling these crises by not only rapidly decarbonizing economies, but also by "drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems."
Along with stopping fossil fuel emissions, we badly need to restore natural systems. Important new effort spearhead… https://t.co/tq9OPRoiR1— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1554296301.0
"By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds, and other crucial ecosystems, very large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored," the letter says. "At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimize a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people's resilience against climate disaster."
The letter urges the politicians, nonprofits and international bodies to support such solutions with research, funding and political commitment — and to "work with the guidance and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people and other local communities."
The campaign also put out a short video that outlines "how nature can save us from climate breakdown."
The video notes that "exotic and often dangerous schemes have been proposed" to reduce atmospheric carbon — referencing controversial geoengineering suggestions favored by some politicians and scientists — "but there's a better and simpler way: let nature do it for us."
Writer and environmentalist George Monbiot, a leader of the campaign, laid out the scientific support for this approach to carbon drawdown in an essay on the campaign's website as well as in his Wednesday column for The Guardian.
Detailing the potential impact of restoring lands worldwide, Monbiot wrote for the newspaper:
The greatest drawdown potential per hectare (though the total area is smaller) is the restoration of coastal habitats such as mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass beds. They stash carbon 40 times faster than tropical forests can. Peaty soils are also vital carbon stores. They are currently being oxidized by deforestation, drainage, drying, burning, farming, and mining for gardening and fuel. Restoring peat, by blocking drainage channels and allowing natural vegetation to recover, can suck back much of what has been lost.
"Scientists have only begun to explore how the recovery of certain animal populations could radically change the carbon balance," he acknowledged, pointing to forest elephants and rhinos in Africa and Asia and tapirs in Brazil as examples.
"Instead of making painful choices and deploying miserable means to a desirable end," Monbiot concluded, "we can defend ourselves from disaster by enhancing our world of wonders."
Key supporters of the campaign include youth climate strike leader Greta Thunberg; journalist Naomi Klein; author and activist Bill McKibben; Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann; former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; and activist Yeb Saño,along with more than a dozen others who signed the letter.
"Healing and restoring the natural world is key to carbon drawdown," Klein tweeted Wednesday, "plus it makes life fuller and richer and can create millions of jobs."
Proud to be part of this great call. When we think about a #GreenNewDeal we tend to focus on the built environment… https://t.co/4GLFeRLTH7— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1554310736.0
Despite the high profiles of many supporters, the campaign launch did not attract the attention of the corporate media.
Monbiot took to Twitter to call out broadcast outlets for failing to cover not only the climate and ecological crises, but also potential solutions like those offered by the new campaign. As he put it, "They are living in a world of their own."
One less than thrilling aspect: despite a concerted effort by a PR company working pro bono with us on… https://t.co/NsStc8KvWP— George Monbiot (@George Monbiot)1554281411.0
They'll reproduce a rubbish corporate press release, but not a single BBC programme has reported our exciting and w… https://t.co/CP1PKiGRos— George Monbiot (@George Monbiot)1554297987.0
The climate needs your help, the water needs your help, the land needs your help. Here are just some of the ways yo… https://t.co/cXC0bkJgnl— Seeds&Chips (@Seeds&Chips)1546956126.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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