Going Green by Driving Your Car?

Are human carbon emissions actually greening the Earth? According to the UK’s Independent, a new study says that trees today are growing faster in Maryland than they did 225 years ago (the oldest trees in the study), and the researchers attribute this to human-induced climate change:

The study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that northern forests may become increasingly important in terms of moderating the influence of man-made carbon dioxide on the climate. Dr Parker and his colleagues have carried out a detailed census of the trees on a regular basis since 1987, measuring every tree and sapling that has a diameter of more than 2cm (0.78in). They calculated that the forest is producing an additional two tonnes of wood per acre each year, which is equivalent to a tree with a diameter of two feet sprouting up in the space of a year. . . . Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and extended growing seasons could be favourable for agriculture in some parts of the world, mainly in the northern hemisphere. The study in Maryland suggests that the extra growth in trees could help to act as a more efficient carbon “sink”, which could offset the carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.

The ecological feedback mechanisms of Gaia are kicking in? I’m having visions of taking a winding drive through cool mountains, the carbon emissions of my car in symbiotic harmony with the trees, my exhaust pipe fertilizing the lushness of their leaves. But I don’t think that guilt-free driving is what we should take away from this study. The Earth’s current temperature balance can be overwhelmed by rapid carbon buildup even as it shows signs of its greenery compensating against a percentage of it. Nevertheless, what the Maryland researchers discovered is a temptation to climate change complacency, isn’t it?

The image below is detail from a page out of an early 1970s elementary school science textbook. My response: Define nature. And what about human nature—what happens when you try to control that? Oh, and one more question: What are the consequeces to nature when “man” cannot be bothered to manage his nature—and his interactions with nature’s systems—or even to conserve and manage nature at all?

We’re now responsible for everything that happens on Earth, aren’t we?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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