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Human effects on_spaceship_earth


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Ecosystem simplification is the second most important cause of human-caused climate change. What can we do?

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Human effects on_spaceship_earth

  1. 1. Systems Ecology 101 Human Effects on Spaceship Earth By Joe Anderson, 2011/09/19
  2. 2. Life reduces the temperature A forest is cooler than a parking lot; we all know this. Life processes, such as multiple uses of the incoming exergy and evaporation do the trick. The sun’s energy comes in with high exergy (potential for work, or temperature). The same amount of energy, with it’s exergy reduced, leaves the earth as Outgoing Longwave Radiation. Note the black continental outlines, and the darkness (low temperature) of the African and South American rain forests in this NASA satellite image.
  3. 3. Living systems support Life Properties of the earth without life are estimated by interpolation between Venus and Mars. The striking differences in atmospheric properties are due to life processes.
  4. 4. Net Primary Productivity Also known as Net Photosynthetic Productivity , (NPP) is the total annual photosynthetic production of biomass from the sun, less the energy requirements of the plants and algae for their own needs. NPP is the energy stream that powers life. Earth’s Total NPP ~= 225 x 10 9 metric tons/year
  5. 5. NPP appropriation <ul><li>In 1986, Vitousek et. al. 1 estimated we appropriate ~40% of terrestrial NPP and ~26% of aquatic NPP. That’s SCARY! It means we are using and foregoing the NPP of over ¼ of the world’s available biomass production. </li></ul>1) HUMAN APPROPRIATION OF THE PRODUCTS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS by Peter Vitousek, et. al. (1986)
  6. 6. NPP appropriation <ul><li>But, how much of the total NPP is actually accessible to human exploitation, and how much more is available for population growth? </li></ul><ul><li>Extremely diffuse productivity areas such as the arctic, desert, high mountains, open oceans far from shore and biomass unusable for even goat fodder, can be removed from the calculation. </li></ul>
  7. 7. NPP appropriation <ul><li>Adjusted for accessibility per Sundquist, 1 available NPP is 144.7 Gt/yr. </li></ul>1) Mark Mortimer, Civilization’s Future, 1) Bruce Sundquist, Human Cooption of NPP, Co-opted NPP is 139.3 Gt/yr, ~96% of available NPP!
  8. 8. NPP appropriation Let’s repeat that! Co-opted NPP is 139.3 Gt/yr, ~96% of available NPP! <ul><li>There is virtually no growth room left for us at the bottom of our food chains. </li></ul><ul><li>There is little “left over” for wild animals. We call it “habitat loss.” This alone explains the high rate of extinctions and. </li></ul><ul><li>We can at lower trophic levels, such as meats for grains to increase our “efficiency.” </li></ul><ul><li>All future increases of human populations will likely lead to lower food security and standard of living. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Symptoms of over-appropriated NPP <ul><li>Maintenance is deferred, resulting in deterioration of capital goods, especially long-lived infrastructure. </li></ul><ul><li>Resources are more often located in fewer, more remote, or more hostile regions, increasing industrial and/or military costs. </li></ul><ul><li>Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) 1 , which is GDP less costs of crime, pollution abatement and so on, is flat or declining. </li></ul><ul><li>Education, health care, or human shelter expenditures have been cut due to immediate consumption, security, or debt service. </li></ul><ul><li>Health care and environmental goals are eroding. </li></ul><ul><li>More people are buying what they can afford rather than what they want. </li></ul><ul><li>Respect for the government declines as it is increasingly used by the elites for their benefit. </li></ul><ul><li>Capital, resources, and labor are diverted to activities compensating for the loss of services that were formerly provided without cost by nature (e.g. sewage treatment, air and water purification, flood control, fertilization, pollination, or the preservation of species) </li></ul>If you observe any of these symptoms, NPP is likely over-appropriated . 1)
  10. 10. Earth’s Ecosystems In Trouble <ul><li>Dead Zones and Toxic Algae Blooms are increasing </li></ul><ul><li>Desertification is proceeding </li></ul><ul><li>Wild Fish, shellfish and mammal populations are generally declining </li></ul><ul><li>Habitat and species losses are endemic </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution of land, air and water is more and more problematic </li></ul><ul><li>Waste recycling systems are over loaded </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Human “progress” usually means changing CYCLES to FLOWS . Resources are “wasted” faster and NPP declines. </li></ul>sources flows sinks MATERIALS & ENERGY FLOW FROM SOURCES TO SINKS Minerals FOSSIL ENERGY INDUSTRY AGRICULTURE WATERS, LAND AND AIR PEOPLE
  12. 12. A v a i l a b l e s o l a r e x e r g y Immature system <ul><li>Low diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Annual plants </li></ul><ul><li>Parasitism </li></ul><ul><li>Nutrient leakage </li></ul><ul><li>Fast changes </li></ul><ul><li>Water export by drainage </li></ul>Mature system <ul><li>High diversity </li></ul><ul><li>Perennial plants </li></ul><ul><li>Mutualism </li></ul><ul><li>Nutrient cycling </li></ul><ul><li>Slow changes </li></ul><ul><li>Water export by evaporation </li></ul>All these changes increase exergy consumption Exergy, the “quality” of Energy Humans tend to reduce ecosystems maturity and reduce exergy consumption increases system maturity
  13. 13. Human activities generally reduce system maturity Logging Forest Prairie Farms Construction & Mining Human-caused ecosystems maturity reduction is another way of increasing global warming
  14. 14. Ecosystem Maturity Declines <ul><li>With predictable issues: </li></ul><ul><li>Ecosystem simplification and disruption </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wild life habitat loss, extinctions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased global warming </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Desertification </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pollution increased </li></ul><ul><li>Ecosystem simplification is the SECOND most important cause of global climate change </li></ul>
  15. 15. As Ecosystem Simplification Proceeds Truly wild animals will further disappear. <ul><li>Cattle </li></ul><ul><li>Chickens </li></ul><ul><li>Coyotes </li></ul><ul><li>Pigeons </li></ul><ul><li>Wheat </li></ul><ul><li>Weeds </li></ul><ul><li>Fleas </li></ul><ul><li>Viruses </li></ul><ul><li>Drought </li></ul><ul><li>Hurricanes </li></ul><ul><li>Meadow Larks </li></ul><ul><li>Elk </li></ul><ul><li>Egrets </li></ul><ul><li>Native wildflowers </li></ul><ul><li>Edible seafood </li></ul><ul><li>Monsoons </li></ul>“ Companion” species will become more predominant and the weather more uncomfortable.
  16. 16. Ecosystem maturity reduction, Palmyra, Syria was once a city with gardens Near al-Fasher, Sudan, few living things remain the end game Note the house in the right background
  17. 17. By continuing business as usual we are in fact silently, unknowingly, choosing to end the world as we know it. The Middle East is already mostly desert, as is Northern Africa & SW United States. Take another look at where we are today. 33% of land area is subject to desertification
  18. 18. 70% of farm land is estimated as degraded Land productivity is declining due to soil nutrient depletion, salinization, erosion & compaction 33% of land area is subject to desertification All due to human activities on our spaceship, earth.
  19. 19. The usual response is to be angry, or depressed and do nothing. Our human culture is not only unsustainable, it is spectacularly so, and we are approaching the end game! Think about it. What will you do? Anything?
  20. 20. We Can Increase Ecosystem Maturity! Hopefully we can learn a lot, become teachers and recruiters, work with helpful organizations, and get politics going in the right direction
  21. 21. Increasing Ecosystem Maturity Gaviotas village, founded in 1962 in the Eastern Llanos (plains) of war-torn Colombia, shows the benefits of ecosystem maturation.
  22. 22. In 1984, the 200 Gaviotans began to plant Caribbean pine trees on 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres). ~ 20 years later: <ul><li>~6 million pine trees planted </li></ul><ul><li>Rainfall up 10% </li></ul><ul><li>Soil went from the acidity of vinegar to near normal </li></ul><ul><li>~250 species of native rainforest plants are growing </li></ul><ul><li>Economic self sufficiency achieved from forest products. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Wangari Maathai of Kenya through her Green Belt Movement has inspired the widespread planting of trees. <ul><li>Since 1977: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>30 million Green Belt trees are now living. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kenya’s forest cover has declined from 2.9% to 2% </li></ul></ul>Sadly, the primary causes of deforestation have not been fixed.
  24. 24. Increasing Ecosystem Maturity: Hedgerows add a diversity of beneficial plants, animals and insects and reduce wind erosion. Urban green roofs and gardens add maturity and can reduce energy consumption.
  25. 25. The Most Important Things: <ul><li>Preserve meaningful wild areas. </li></ul><ul><li>Restore what wildness we can. </li></ul><ul><li>Most important; fix the systematic causes of human ecosystem maturity reduction: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Over population </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>High consumptive life styles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laws and subsidies that encourage rampant development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision-making that doesn’t consider ecosystem costs. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. The Most Important Things: Personally, we can change our lives, join with others of like mind and work for the greatest good. We can use our creativity to go far beyond the thoughts in this presentation
  27. 27. Earth’s our only spaceship. What will YOU do? Anything?