The Science is wrong: it's soil, not oil.
A thread about #ClimateChange.🧵
#ClimateBrawl #SoilNotOil #Permaculture #RegenAg
- Corporate green solutions are shams
- Promote gardening if you care about fossil fuels
- An accounting chicanery keeps natural emissions out of view
- The hockey stick is actually about canopy loss
- Switching to alley cropping would reverse it
Not that long ago, I'd have told you that we'd be better off living in edible landscapes to maximize our resiliency and minimize our energy use. I still think this today, but for different reasons.
My thinking at the time was that alienation and environmental destruction were not sustainable. We'd be better off borrowing from Russia's Dacha gardening culture, Cuba's urban gardening culture, and Korea's natural farming culture.
I had arrived at that by looking into the data. This engineer has terrible work habits: I take the time to step through source code manually after reading the manual front to back. I had time one day. I began to step through energy use.
Irritation is what had driven me to do this. If you're anything like I was back then, you'd like the scientists who squeal about fossil fuels to stop throwing temper tantrums and instead advocate for practical ways to stop using the stuff.
Green tech is not such a way. It's an egregious sham. The carbon accounting is sloppy and detached from reality. Your good conscious is not worth subjecting brown people to drone strikes and cancers.
Carbon offsets are no better. They're nothing but carbon indulgences that fuel land theft (nature reserves) and subsidize commercial tree plantations (tree planting) in developing countries.…
Carbon capture and storage is preposterous. The capturing and the pipelines are ludicrous, and the storage will soon let fossil fuel giants rebrand themselves as climate saviors.…
This points to using less energy and #degrowth, but corporations have coopted those also. They seem to envision us tracked, packed, and stacked in communal hutches, plugged into the metaverse, and eating fake meat made with bugs grown in sewage.
At any rate, pointless data was what had prompted me to step through energy use that day. You can only manage what you track, and figuring out how to look at a problem is key to solving it. This manager was not impressed.
Categories like steel or cement, for instance, are not helpful. You need to dig deeper to make them actionable: who uses the stuff and what for? (Hint: look into rail infrastructure, wind turbines, or the military.)
Forestry, transportation, and mining are not helpful either. The goods that you order online need to be packaged, shipped, and tracked. So does the resulting waste. Rinse and repeat this across all economic supply chains.
The fuzzy image of repeat consumption soon emerges when you step through energy use. Think low quality products, electronic devices, or single-use items. A yacht is a large one-off, but the small numbers that add up matter more.
You buying industrial food on a shelf, for instance, depends on complex supply chains and infrastructure, warmongering and policing to secure them, you having a job to pay for it, and bankers to facilitate this Rube Goldberg machine.
Almost all of that energy use goes away when you instead eat what comes out of your garden. Food is by far your biggest energy footprint. Nothing else comes close. The runner up is your use of heat. The rest is one-off or paltry.
It follows that the best way to reduce your fossil fuel use is to grow food or to buy it from your farmers' market. Concerned activists ought to be promoting gardening and urban farming. (Some do.) For heat, use a rocket mass heater.
I still think the above, but for other reasons. There's not much you can change about a system that you depend on. Good things happen when your food, water, and heat no longer do. You've less pressure to find work, for one.
Anyway, two data points emerged soon after the 2020 lockdowns. One was that fossil fuel use had dropped, but by so much only. You need to eat even when at home, so no surprises there.…
The other data point puzzled me. Atmospheric carbon dioxide had increased like clockwork despite the drop in fossil fuel use. It was as if something else was behind the carbon hockey stick.
A hodgepodge of dots began to connect as I sought to figure out why. One was that NASA models couldn't explain where half of the fossil fuels ever burnt since the industrial era had gone. That's a big amount.
Another was that industrialized agriculture results in topsoil loss over time. The proverbial dirt moved around by wind and water is the surface. Topsoil loss is also about soil losing its carbon contents.
Yet another was that tilling and harvesting produce huge carbon emissions. They fuel decomposition processes by killing a lot of biology. They also remove the plants that could have soaked up the associated carbon emissions.
The latter had prompted me to revisit carbon emissions data. It is only then that fine print that excludes land-use changes caught my attention. That fine print is misleading, btw: the data actually excludes most natural emissions.
This fine print led me to notice an accounting chicanery in carbon accounting rules. We track industrial emissions, but we stash most natural emissions inside a carbon stock blackbox.…
That keeps natural emissions out of sight, with a few cherry picked exceptions like cow burps. This begs the question: is that choice legit, or do avoidable natural emissions exist? The answer is of course the latter.
A forest clear cut generates several kilograms of carbon emissions per square meter over the next few years. These go away as the canopy recovers. Thinning the forest instead would have left the canopy intact.…
Put another way, experts are fussing about your car's tailpipe even as a patch of tree stumps emits as much as a town, and thinning that forest instead would have avoided those emissions. That makes no sense.
These avoidable emissions were enough for me and others to assume that topsoil loss contributed to the carbon hockey stick. Natural emissions are, after all, an order of magnitude greater than industrial ones.
At the same time, I still couldn't explain the carbon hockey stick to myself. Soil disturbances such as tilling emitted, but farmers have been doing these things forever. Plus, some fossil fuel emissions might be up there after all.
My early hunch was that improvements in tilling technologies were key. I still think they mattered. Bison herds had so compacted the Great Plains that it took new plows to farm them. But that seemed situational.
Another hunch was the development of paper. In the past we'd use rag paper made using cloth. The industrial era led to using pulp instead. The burgeoning field of management introduced clear cutting soon after. But that seemed too local.
My suspicions then turned to mineral fertilizer. Plants nurture soil biology to get the nutrients they need. Salting soil shuts that down and basically starves that biology. But it didn't add up: plants would soak up the carbon emissions.
Toxic biocide spraying and trace elements in fertilizers could not explain the hockey stick for the same reason. However damaging they are to soils, plants above ground would soak up the resulting carbon emissions.
It then hit me: the hedgerow loss tied to tractors had removed the light tree canopy around farm fields. Trees break the wind, which keeps emissions around. They also feed soil biology, which helps keep it alive in the absence of crops.
Put another way, tilling and harvesting would have led to emissions in the past, if less, and the lower wind would have allowed the hedgerow canopy to soak it up. Without the hedgerows, farm fields emit like cleared forests.
It follows that farmers and loggers just need to put canopy back in to reverse the carbon hockey stick. Alley cropping is a simple way to do this. It's like normal cropping, but in between hedgerows. This is typically done on contour.
Scientists will no doubt want to confirm these claims with field experiments. Farmers and loggers will be watching, and remembering the amateurs who sought to discredit rotational grazing by rotationally overgrazing livestock.
The hedgerows can be thicker than one tree. They can be managed in a way that doesn't destroy habitat, or left to manage themselves. Perhaps they can be native prairie, too. That would solve our habitat loss problem as a side effect.
Putting hedgerows on contour allows to harvest more water. This helps prevent desertification processes that result in water evaporation (heat), wildfires, droughts, and floods. These will no doubt sound familiar to climate activists.
Enough water harvesting can rehydrate landscapes or even re-green a desert. You can do this slowly with shovels, or at scale with bulldozers and seed pellets.
For completeness, water is the actual link between human activities, carbon, and climate. Soil with less carbon and less cover retains less water. That leads to runoffs and water vapor. Bare soil adds insult to injury by acting like a black body.
This leaves us with two lose ends to cover. One is the amount of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that is in our atmosphere. A recent paper pinned the amount at a whopping 12%.
12% struck me as huge because a corn field has almost no carbon dioxide within meters of it. The number likely comes from emissions that plants can't soak up. Think airplanes, industrial chimneys, or vehicles with no plants anywhere near.
A good chunk of that would likely go away by piping the output of industrial smokestacks into hemp fields. This would work like a rocket mass heater, but you'd instead pipe the smoke through a glorified drip irrigation system.
Plants would know what to do with water and carbon dioxide. Hemp has countless uses, like paper or construction. Wind breaks and mist sprayers could help the hemp absorb the toxins. Perhaps this setup could also help dispose of coal ash.
The other loose end is the potential contribution of aquatic ecosystems. These are much more productive than land-based ecosystems, so it stands to reason that their suppression might have also put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
A direct contribution seems plausible when the carbon emissions occur in waters shallow enough for the emissions to escape with no nearby plants to soak them up. Think coastal dead zones, lost mangroves, or trawlers disturbing shallow sea floors.
The rest would be depleted carbon stocks. We could replenish those by nurturing habitat near our shores. This would yield seafood and algae to make biofuels. We could harvest wave energy, too. That beats wind turbines. Water is denser.
Put together, the science is wrong: it's soil, not oil. There are no reasons to worry about carbon dioxide, declare a climate emergency, or reduce your carbon footprint. The actual problem is desertification tied to poor land stewardship.
This counter-narrative will, I hope, convince enough readers to help change the climate change conversation. If not, perhaps enough communities will decide to take back control by reversing the carbon hockey stick one watershed at a time.
You can do your bit by spreading the word: share the article at the top or this thread with media voices, politicians, farmers, loggers, scientists, activists, investors, fossil fuel interests, and lawyers who are battling climate lawsuits.
One last point. We're broke in Mexico and $5k or so short to finish our palapa. We'd be grateful if you can chip in (see link) or retweet this. More would get us nice to haves like hot water. @elonmusk?

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