Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ecology etc...


A fascinating article in today’s Grauniad, where a variant strategy of Iron Fertilisation as a coping/mitigating tactic in the fight against climate change is under discussion. This particular idea is also simple, by adding silicate dust to the ocean you encourage photosynthetic plankton to bloom, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere/ocean system and locking it under the ocean floor, as the plants eventually die.

The silicate dust idea has advantages over iron fertilisation. Firstly there’s a lot more silica around than iron. If you’re outdoors you’re standing on some of it already, basic rock and earth. Silicate fertilisation of the ocean already goes on. It’s what rivers do when they reach the sea. There is also the added bonus that silicates are alkaline. Water acidification is one of the by-products of climate change.

There are a number of hurdles that this idea must surmount, legal and financial. There’s also the issue of how the silicate dust is made and transported, currently this would be largely by fossil fuel energy. It is also not a substitute for turning to renewable energy. Finally there is the issue over the knock on effects of altering the biology of the ocean such.

It reminds me of the revolutionary-frontier potential of Environmental Science. It’s a relatively young area of study that attempts to combine discrete sciences, biology, geochemistry, atmospheric science and so on. It was developed in the 60s and 70s and had reached the A Level syllabus by the time I was going through FE. The leading edge in other sciences, physics, genetics and so on, is small, even vanishingly small. Environmental science is different in that it deals with the tangible.

A complete understanding of the totality of natural relations, the aim of environmental science, would be as revolutionary as a as a complete understanding of social relations (in my opinion best described in Marx’s Capital). By revolutionary understanding I mean applied knowledge, knowledge in action, humanity transcending the limits imposed on it and achieving a higher level of existence.

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