Now, at this point we have all seen An Inconvenient Truth and we are inundated with a flurry of marking propaganda for green good, but the question remains in many of our minds "what can be done to stop global climate change?" One thing is for sure: buying supposed green goods will not. Sure, it may help reduce the impact of our purchasing habits, but it will not stop global climate change, it will not reverse the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The primary contradiction of the current green movement is that being green is NOT about buying a new hightech solar powered, geothermal, sustainably sourced home. The greenest building is one that is NEVER built. This is true of all products as well no mater what green tune the manufacturers are singing. It is a deeply rooted part of our cultural identity to be surrounded in material wealth and we will have to face up to this in the near future if we are to address climate change with any honesty and intelligence. But unfortunately if we stop, if we decide that the best measure of economic success for our country is not endless, boundless growth, but optimization of existing infrastructure, goods and services, we are still left with the question: "what do we do about the damage that has already been done". Most who have pondered this subject will agree that we have already reached the point of unsustainability with regards to atmospheric carbon levels and destruction of biologically active/wild lands. So what can be done? Here is my vision:
Carbon sequestration is the trapping of gaseous carbon (CO2 and CO) out of the air/atmosphere and fixing it into biomass or an other solid state. Carbon sequestration is a natural process that is regulated on a global level by biogeochemical cycles: the collective contribution of plants, algae, bacteria, animals, and fungi as well as geologic activities create the balance of gaseous and solid state carbon which has made what are now accustomed to as a hospitable, breathable atmosphere.
Some basic background information of the carbon cycle are necessary to know: There are a number of sources of carbon including, animal respiration, geologic activity (volcanoes), forest fires, and human caused emissions (cars, homes, factories, farms). Fixing carbon on the other hand (transferring it from air to earth, gas to solid) can only be achieved by photosynthetic plants, algae and bacteria.
Petroleum/crude oil is from the settling of millions of photosynthetic microorganisms to the bottom of the Earth's ancient oceans where they were burred in the sediments, compressed and converted to the hydrocarbons which we know and loath. These materials constitute a wide scale effort of the Earth's self regulatory mechanisms to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it deep below it surface. These activities have resulted in the hospitable environment we enjoy today. By pulling these carbon deposits up to the surface and volatilizing them into the atmosphere we are reversing the result of many millennia of active carbon sequestration on a global scale.
Our economy is a dead-carbon economy. This inherently negative foundation is having it's effects in many ways, climate change being just one. We extract energetic liquids and gasses from the Earth to power drive our economy, releasing them into the atmosphere. We will need to transition to a living carbon economy. One that is powered by carbon that is already at or above the surface of the Earth and cycling through living systems. Biofuels are an example of this. They constitute energetic materials that are composed of living carbon. Carbon that was fixed out of the atmosphere by photosynthesis and sequestered into the structure of living organisms. We need to abandon dead carbon and adopt living carbon as our source of energy.