Global work party time to toast

by | 5 Oct 2010 | Mahurangi West Hall | 0 comments

Planting 10 October 9.30am–10am start
Location Mahurangi West Hall

Summertime, and the planting is easy.

At least it was on Saturday, in the sand. Two hundred sand-binding plants were established above the wrack line of the beach at Ōpahi, with ease—in marked contrast to the bulk of restoration planting, in the typically tight Mahurangi clays soils.

Admittedly, since Mike Neil has shown what one man and one one-man posthole auger can achieve, the hard work of planting is reduced to the painstakingly packing of far-from-friable soil back around the plant’s root systems.

An added bonus of the Neil method is that the work proceeds apace as planters are prevented from verbally putting the world to rights until lunch break, or when refuelling the two-stroke provides a brief respite.

On Sunday, Brent Atherfold is seeking volunteers to plant the final 100 plants of the season, at the Mahurangi West Hall. The date is auspicious, as the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year of the 21st century. It is the day that 350.org, an organisation much into numbers, has chosen to for a ‘global work party’ to send politicians the message

We’re getting to work—what about you?

In reality, it is as much the people holding back their politicians.

In 2008, the Green Party polled a paltry 6.72%. The Greens may lack focus and charisma, but not sufficiently to account for their pathetic performance. And while it is clear that voter confusion results in considerable Green votes being wasted on electorate candidates, even doubling the party vote wouldn’t provide a strong mandate for parliament to legislate to slash carbon dioxide emissions.

Recent polling by UMR Research for a greenhouse gas emitter lobby group relegates climate change to last place in a list of 10 most common concerns, down from eighth last year. Fewer than half, 45.8%, agreed that climate change was happening and caused by humans—a percentage that is probably similar amongst politicians.

Political leaders have the moral responsibility to lead public opinion, not simply navigate with the aid of pollsters with the sole purpose of retaining or regaining power.

Be that as it may, groups such as 350.org seek to drive change from the bottom up, with over 6000 events in 184 countries registered for Sunday.

The number 350 is, unsurprisingly, 350.org’s ‘safe upper limit’ for atmospheric carbon dioxide, in parts per million.

Most groups advocating an upper limit of 350 parts per million attribute the figure to Dr James Hansen, including 350.org itself. But as Dr Hansen explains in Storms of My Grandchildren, that figure was only ever intended to be provisional—he was responding to a very persistent Bill McKibben who had decided that establishing a target level for carbon dioxide was all-important; 350.org was the result.

In less polite but more scientific circles, figures of 300 and 325 have far more credence. James Hansen says of the Arctic

~300–325 ppm, may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.

The two other numbers are arguably more powerful for mobilising climate action: 280 and 393.

The first figure is the pre‍–‍ industrial revolution carbon dioxide level—in fact the average for the 2.1‍ ‍million years before the industrial revolution.

The second, the 392.94 parts per million, is the highest level recorded at Mauna Loa Observatory, in May of this year, since Charles David Keeling (1928–2005) started high-precision measurements there 52 years ago.

Trees, of course, take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Provided that it is not at the expense of food production, as much of the Earth’s dry land as possible should be growing trees. That even goes for semi‍–‍ dry land—mangroves are trees too. To sequester the carbon, however, the resultant wood needs to be locked up in long-lasting products—leaky homes were no great help.

Biomass unsuitable for building can be converted to biochar. Although decomposing wood can contribute to creating topsoil, the carbon is returned all too quickly to the atmosphere.

But on Sunday morning, power tools permitting, the predictable planting conversation will be of the new mayor of Makaurau, and new councillor for Tamahunga.

May it be time to toast Len Brown and Christine Rose.

Toast Before 350: The wonderful award-winning CO2Now widget, which however is probably insufficiently precautionary in its target. widget Franke James and CO2Now

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