Ted (BS ’65, MS ’66) and Ginger Jenkins—longtime Caltech supporters and early employees in the semiconductor industry—have established a leadership chair for the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS). The new leadership chair is one of a set of discretionary endowments being established for Caltech’s president, provost, and the leaders of each academic division.
“This new endowment will support some of the most exploratory work in the division and help secure our future,” says John Grotzinger, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology and inaugural holder of the Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair. “The completely flexible funding it provides—a rarity in geological and planetary sciences—will give me and future division chairs greater freedom to support highly creative and timely projects. By its nature our science involves complex interdisciplinary work for which flexible funding is ideal.”
Ted Jenkins feels confident that this type of agility will give Caltech a competitive edge. “Possibilities come up that are not sufficiently well known or forecastable to pass the hurdles for a grant,” he explains. “On the other hand, they could be worth a little bit of exploratory money. By applying extra resources to things that look exciting but uncertain, Caltech has come up with more than its fair share of interesting discoveries.
“These kinds of endowments for division chairs allow the whole Institute to go out and do this aggressive science. This, together with the other resources we have, puts us way, way ahead.”
The story of the Jenkins gift can be traced back half a century to a moment of curiosity—and, admittedly, some jealousy—during Ted Jenkins’s days as an engineering student at Caltech.
“The geology students were always going camping and taking field trips,” he says. “They had great stories.” So he jumped at the chance to take Ge 1, a class taught by the late Robert Sharp, whom he describes as an iconic geologist and leader.
Ted Jenkins’s memory of that course inspired him and Ginger to sign up for a geology-focused Caltech Alumni Association (CAA) program in Alaska in 1997. Soon after, the couple’s retirement freed them to travel often with the CAA and the Caltech Associates.
The more they learned about what was happening at Caltech, the more Ted and Ginger Jenkins got involved. Ted served as president of both the CAA and the Associates, and he became a Caltech trustee in 2006. He was also a founding member and chairman of the GPS chair’s council, a volunteer leadership board.
“Ted and Ginger Jenkins have seen and supported Caltech from many angles,” says Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, holder of the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics. “The Institute has benefited enormously from their decades of thoughtful counsel and generosity. Their extraordinary new commitment goes even farther to position us as the destination of choice for the most imaginative scholars.”
With past gifts to Caltech, the couple has endowed a professorship in information science and technology, and supported diverse initiatives across campus: two astrophysical observatories, the Community Seismic Network project, schizophrenia research, a graduate fellowship and travel funds for GPS students, an annual staff prize, improvements to the Athenaeum, and the Carver Mead New Adventures Fund, which provides early support for novel projects in information science and technology.
Ted and Ginger Jenkins see giving as a way to do their part—both for the world, through the discoveries and educational experiences they enable, and for Caltech itself.
Ted Jenkins’s career, and even his marriage, hinged on a single conversation that took place in a Caltech conference room. In 1966, Gordon Moore (PhD ’54) paid a visit to Jenkins’s adviser Carver Mead, now Caltech’s Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus. Mead introduced Moore to his students, and Moore recruited Jenkins to Fairchild Semiconductor International during that same visit. During his time at Fairchild, Ted Jenkins met the woman who would become his wife. Two years later, Moore hired him again, this time as employee number 22 at the start-up that would become Intel¾where Ted Jenkins built a three-decade career and rose to the rank of vice president.
“My Caltech experience and connections have been a huge part of the means that I was able to assemble,” Ted Jenkins says. “Giving back so that the activity continues is really what I like to do.”
In addition to the Jenkins chair, Caltech has received funding for the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair, the Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair, the William K. Bowes Jr. Leadership Chair in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, the Otis Booth Leadership Chair in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair in the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.
Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere—one that is far too thin to prevent large amounts of water on the surface of the planet from subliming or evaporating. But many researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in an atmosphere many times thicker than Earth’s. For decades that left the question, “Where did all the carbon go?”
Now a team of scientists from Caltech and JPL thinks they have a possible answer. The researchers suggest that 3.8 billion years ago, Mars might have had only a moderately dense atmosphere. They have identified a photochemical process that could have helped such an early atmosphere evolve into the current thin one without creating the problem of “missing” carbon and in a way that is consistent with existing carbon isotopic measurements.
The scientists describe their findings in a paper that appears in the November 24 issue of the journal Nature Communications.
“With this new mechanism, everything that we know about the martian atmosphere can now be pieced together into a consistent picture of its evolution,” says Renyu Hu, a postdoctoral scholar at JPL, a visitor in planetary science at Caltech, and lead author on the paper.
When considering how the early martian atmosphere might have transitioned to its current state, there are two possible mechanisms for the removal of excess carbon dioxide (CO2). Either the CO2 was incorporated into minerals in rocks called carbonates or it was lost to space.
A separate recent study coauthored by Bethany Ehlmann, assistant professor of planetary science and a research scientist at JPL, used data from several Mars-orbiting satellites to inventory carbonate rocks, showing that there are not enough carbonates in the upper kilometer of crust to contain the missing carbon from a very thick early atmosphere that might have existed about 3.8 billion years ago.
To study the escape-to-space scenario, scientists examine the ratio of carbon-12 and carbon-13, two stable isotopes of the element carbon that have the same number of protons in their nuclei but different numbers of neutrons, and thus different masses. Because various processes can change the relative amounts of those two isotopes in the atmosphere, “we can use these measurements of the ratio at different points in time as a fingerprint to infer exactly what happened to the martian atmosphere in the past,” says Hu.
To establish a starting point, the researchers used measurements of the carbon isotope ratio in martian meteorites that contain gases that originated deep in the planet’s mantle. Because atmospheres are produced by outgassing of the mantle through volcanic activity, these measurements provide insight into the isotopic ratio of the original martian atmosphere.
The scientists then compared those values to isotopic measurements of the current martian atmosphere recently collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Those measurements show the atmosphere to be unusually enriched in carbon-13.
Previously, researchers thought the main way that martian carbon would be ejected into space was through a process called sputtering, which involves interactions between the solar wind and the upper atmosphere. Sputtering causes some particles—slightly more of the lighter carbon-12 than the heavier carbon-13—to escape entirely from Mars, but this effect is small. So there had to be some other process at work.
That is where the new mechanism comes in. In the study, the researchers describe a process that begins with a particle of ultraviolet light from the sun striking a molecule of CO2 in the upper atmosphere. That molecule absorbs the photon’s energy and divides into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen. Then another ultraviolet particle hits the CO, causing it to dissociate into atomic carbon (C) and oxygen. Some carbon atoms produced in this way have enough energy to escape the atmosphere, and the new study shows that carbon-12 is far more likely to escape than carbon-13.
Modeling the long-term effects of this ultraviolet photodissociation mechanism coupled with volcanic gas release, loss via sputtering, and loss to carbonate rock formation, the researchers found that it was very efficient in terms of enriching carbon-13 in the atmosphere. Using the isotopic constraints, they were then able to calculate that the atmosphere 3.8 billion years ago might have had the pressure of Earth’s or less under most scenarios.
“The efficiency of this new mechanism shows that there is in fact no discrepancy between Curiosity’s measurements of the modern enriched value for carbon in the atmosphere and the amount of carbonate rock found on the surface of Mars,” says Ehlmann, also a coauthor on the new study. “With this mechanism, we can describe an evolutionary scenario for Mars that makes sense of the apparent carbon budget, with no missing processes or reservoirs.”
The authors conclude their work by pointing out several tests and refinements for the model. For example, future data from the ongoing Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission could provide the isotope fractionation of presently ongoing atmospheric loss to space and improve the extrapolation to early Mars.
Hu emphasizes that the work is an excellent example of multidisciplinary effort. On the one hand, he says, the team looked at the atmospheric chemistry—the isotopic signature, the escape processes, and the enrichment mechanism. On the other, they used geological evidence and remote sensing of the martian surface. “By putting these together, we were able to come up with a summary of evolutionary scenarios,” says Hu. “I feel that Caltech/JPL is a unique place where we have the multidisciplinary capability and experience to make this happen.”
Additional authors on the paper, “Tracing the Fate of Carbon and the Atmospheric Evolution of Mars,” are Yuk Yung, the Smits Family Professor of Planetary Science at Caltech and a senior research scientist at JPL, and David Kass, a research scientist at JPL. The work was supported by funding from NASA.
Exxon Mobil knew about climate change as early as the 1970s from its own scientists. To protect their profits the company gave millions of dollars to climate denial groups that have successfully delayed fossil fuel emission reductions for decades. Please join with U.S. groups in an online affinity protest sending emails (and optionally tweets) that demand the Department of Justice investigate these practices and levy punishments as appropriate.Read More
In the event of a major earthquake in Los Angeles, first responders ideally would immediately have a map of the most intense shaking around the city—allowing them to send help to the hardest-hit areas first.
A new collaboration between Caltech researchers and schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) provides a crucial step in the creation of such damage maps by vastly broadening the scope of a dense network of seismic sensors in the Los Angeles Basin.
To create an accurate shaking-intensity map, seismologists need to measure ground motion—which can vary from kilometer to kilometer because of differences in soil and earth structure—at many locations across the region. In 2011, Professor of Geophysics Rob Clayton and his colleagues, Professor of Engineering Seismology Tom Heaton and Simon Ramo Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus, K. Mani Chandy, began creating a web of such sensors via the Community Seismic Network (CSN), a program funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The CSN consists of hundreds of small, inexpensive accelerometers—instruments that detect ground movements before, during, and after a seismic event—installed initially in the homes of volunteers in the greater Pasadena area. Since 2011, each device has been actively collecting and feeding seismic information to the CSN via its host house’s Internet connection, allowing Clayton and his colleagues to create high-resolution maps of seismic activity in the western San Gabriel Valley. But the Caltech team wanted to find a way to expand the reach of the network throughout the earthquake-prone broader Los Angeles Basin. Their inventive solution? Integrate accelerometers into the infrastructure of L.A.’s public schools.
Through the efforts of Richard Guy, CSN project manager, sensors already have been installed in 100 LAUSD schools, covering an area ranging from northeast Los Angeles to downtown. CSN is now working to expand the project to include all of the district’s more than 1,000 schools.
The new collaboration has the potential to help millions of people in Southern California when a big quake strikes. For example, data from the new network could be incorporated into the ShakeAlert early-warning system that is currently under development. Although no sensor can predict an earthquake, the accelerometers can detect an earthquake in one area of the L.A. Basin so quickly that an alert or warning could be sent to people in adjacent areas of the LA Basin before strong shaking arrives—potentially giving them enough time to find a safe spot.
The new dense network of sensors will also provide an improved map of shaking intensity for the whole region. The U.S. Geological Survey already provides a similar service called ShakeMap, which relies on sensors that are located several miles from one another and hence cannot provide a block-by-block resolution of shaking and possible damage. The new dense network of sensors has the potential to provide ShakeMap with a more accurate assessment of damage for response and recovery efforts.
“You can imagine a fire chief stepping out and saying, ‘Wow. That was a big one. Now where do I go to help the community?’ Obviously they want their focus to be where the maximum damage and danger is. They have other things to worry about too, but the best proxy for damage that we have is the level of shaking—and our dense network of sensors can provide that information,” Clayton says.
But the new sensors do more than feed information into the network—they also provide valuable information to individual schools. “Principals have a particularly difficult problem in the event of an earthquake,” Clayton says. “The first thing during a quake, of course, is to tell everyone to get under their desk. When the shaking stops, all of the kids are evacuated out of the school and into the schoolyard. And then what do principals do? At that point, they have to decide if it’s safe enough to go back into the school, or if they should just send the kids home. But they do not know how badly the school is damaged.”
The new school sensors could help inform this judgment call, Clayton says. Although they work in much the same way as those that were previously placed in volunteers’ homes—recording ground accelerations and transmitting those data back to the researchers via an Internet connection—the sensors also contain an onboard computer that compares the event to a so-called fragility curve. Fragility curves provide predictions of the damage that a particular building would sustain under the shaking measured.
“Coupled with the fragility curve, the sensors could allow a school official to decide whether or not it is safe to reenter the school,” Clayton says.
The Community Seismic Network’s LAUSD collaboration was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The network is a collaboration between Caltech’s seismology, earthquake-engineering, and computer-science departments.
Be strong and reflect. Islamo-Fascism will not be defeated by Christo-Fascism or a state of perma-war. In the 21st century it is time to reject endless military escalation of the Middle East crisis and understand and respond to the root causes of conflict. Even as we commit to bringing all perpetrators of mass murder to justice, we must be brave and not give up our liberties or commit further war crimes. The West must respond to the rage of societies we have senselessly bombed for decades, yet not committed to truly liberating from Islamo-Fascism. Ecological restoration, sustainable agriculture, birth control, greater equity, and justice – along with international policing, rejecting religious extremism of all types, and a Paris climate treaty – are the only means to heal the Middle East’s and West’s wounds.
“War is murder. Together we must resist all religious, military, and nationalist indoctrination that teaches killing others is just… Oil is a drug and it is utterly destroying both the sellers and users. The current state of oil inflamed perma-war must draw to an end.” – Dr. Glen Barry
Personal essay by Dr. Glen Barry of EcoInternet
November 14, 2015
My sorrow goes out to those murdered and traumatized in Paris, and to the people and societies that feel such sorrow that they carry out these atrocities. First and foremost breathe and reflect: it is absolutely vital that we don’t panic and hastily and reflexively retaliate. Secondly, think of how we as a human family have gotten to the point where suicide bombers feel justified going on a murder spree through Central Paris, or the rich anonymously wage drone based terrorism on the poor causing such a worldview to fester. And lastly, seek to understand how abrupt climate change, ecological decline, and over-population have exacerbated ancient divides, escalating lethal militancy on all sides that threatens to tear down our one shared biosphere.
Liberal democracies must not let Western liberties be further sacrificed because of the madness of murderous thugs. While devastating, keep things in perspective, understanding far more children needlessly die from bad water a day – at least 3,000 – than were killed in the recent attack. ISIS desires further impulsive retaliation to give its twisted cause greater legitimacy – something which incautiously occurred after 9/11. Such goading must be resisted this time through better judgement, greater prudence, and a sound and proportional response.
The cycle of escalation in the Middle East must be broken by responding firmly and resolutely with love and compassion, as both the murderous Daesh apostasy and Western imperialist neo-colonialism are eliminated from the Earth. The direct perpetuators and supporters of all murderous acts must be resolutely brought to justice under international law, the West must commit to basic human rights and needs for all (while not committing further war crimes), and ISIS must be liquidated as peaceful political structures are fostered in the Middle East.
War is murder. Together we must resist all religious, military, and nationalist indoctrination that teaches killing others is just. War murders are in service only to evil.
Seek to understand how we got to this point. The Middle East has been wracked by religious conflict for millennia. This volatile situation has been greatly exacerbated by profound inequity and injustice enforced by a medieval theocracy, funded by the West’s addiction to oil, and maintained through decades of aerial bombardment. The end result is that globally the very ecosystems and climate that we all depend upon for sustenance are collapsing. For many there are no homes or habitable ecosystems to return to post conflict.
Has America gotten revenge for 9/11 yet? Fifteen years after 9/11 over a million people have been murdered, the majority of them innocents. At some point we must recognize terrorism as blowback for Western over-consumption and the presumption that we are entitled to a disproportionate share of the world’s resources, including oil, which we are free to pillage to the detriment of all others. Daesh is a creation of failed foreign policy that came to a head with the botched invasion of Iraq by President George W. Bush, and continues with President Barack Obama’s murderous and ineffective drone strikes and persistent bombings.
Oil is a drug and it is utterly destroying both the sellers and users. The current state of oil inflamed perma-war must draw to an end.
The once lush Middle East is collapsing ecologically as human numbers and prolonged war have devastated natural ecosystems. Ancient cultures based upon an outdated medieval worldview have grown corpulent and corrupt by selling drugs to the over-developed west, and spewing fossil fuel filth into the atmosphere; devastating their own land and water bases already under pressure from exponential population growth, as they foul the global atmosphere. The current war and refugee crises in Syria and Iraq are a direct result of climate change and ecosystem loss, and are a portend of coming biosphere collapse.
The West’s middle class will never again enjoy the artificial bounty of liquidating natural ecosystems and a fossil fuel binge as traditional societies are plundered with impunity. Nor will the one billion people that live on less than $ 1.50 a day have the potential to achieve the over-consumptive lifestyles seen in the media and TV. Most fossil fuels are going to have to remain in the ground, and natural ecosystems protected and aided to expand, if we are to maintain the life-giving environment.
In an ecologically collapsing world strewn with stray nukes and millions of conventional weapons of war, we meet somewhere in the middle, or we die at each other’s throats as we pull down the biosphere and being ends.
Perhaps if we act quickly there are enough ecosystems and resources for all to meet basic needs, with many having some but not all luxuries, as a livable and peaceful world is maintained. But it requires sharing and knowing the meaning of the word enough. No longer can a few hundred people control half the Earth’s wealth, while billions exist in debilitating and radicalizing abject poverty. This creation of a just and equitable economic order is in all our interests, except perhaps for a handful of billionaire tyrants that throttle the Earth and all her life for a bit more growth in opulent excess.
Instead of appealing to international law and extolling the rights of man (that is, the self-evident political and economic rights of all people), America’s knee-jerk response to Islamo-terrorism has been to incessantly wage bi-partisan war upon entire societies – profoundly terrorizing whole regions for the crimes of a few with a constant threat of remote control murder. Americans feel a deep sense of entitlement to consume more at the expense of others, and to kill those that resist. There is little exceptionalism to be found in the now twisted American dream of wealth based upon the wretched despair of others. Even our token non-military foreign aid is reviled and subject to elimination by the rich.
Be clear: Daesh is a murderous twisted ideology that must be wiped from the Earth. Yet so is neo-imperialistic perma-war waged by the Congressional-military-industrial complex and the oil oligarchies of the world to maintain a couple percentage points of economic growth at the expense of the poor and the Earth. Drones and continual aerial bombings are no way to defeat evil, as indiscriminate murder fosters and emboldens a rotten worldview that threatens a regional and global dark age. Even “boots on the ground” will prove inadequate in and of itself to defeat an ideology based upon an ancient religion metastasizing into a barbaric cult in a sea of despair and collapsing ecosystems.
The only path forward is for the West to re-embrace its pre-9/11 commitment to international law, justice, environmental sustainability, and human rights; and for moderate elements in the Middle East to commit to a program of political and social renewal. The initial conflict in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya came from such a yearning – enlightened Middle-Eastern people power shedding centuries of tyranny and demanding justice, peace, and equity – a very real hope that persists in the hearts of many, a hope which vile Islamo-fascist murders seek to kill as well.
This hope of a modern, liberal, free, just and equitable Middle East fades ever further from reality as each foreign power – Russia, Iran, Turkey, America, France and others – in turn joins the Syrian and Iraqi bombing campaign; without much focus upon human development and well-being, environmental sustainability, or protecting democratic political reform from murderous extremists.
A righteous response to murderous evil is a shared global commitment to personal freedom, economic advancement, and environmental sustainability. A worldview of green liberty trumps the apocalyptic tyranny of both Islamo and Christo fascists. Water systems, schools, sustainable agriculture, eliminating emissions, restoring ecosystems, population controls (primarily through primary education of girls and birth control), and community based enterprise must be the focus. Together we must stabilize and reconstruct just, equitable, and sustainable societies in the Middle East and at home.
Bombing the Middle East more is certainly not the answer, as indiscriminate murder has gotten us into our current situation.
If war it must be, then the focus must be upon policing to destroy the Islamo-fascists without further war crimes by the West. The Western response to Islamo-terrorism has been to wage a new brand of token remote control murder, terrorizing whole societies and radicalizing entire generations. Not only can this not succeed, it continually breeds justifiable resentment and the next waves of terrorism. Particularly when couched in Christo-fascist language of superiority and entitlement.
To be successful, any military campaign should be waged under the auspices of the United Nations and be under the purview of international law and jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. To be just, war must assiduously avoid civilian deaths, and understand the historical and ecological context of what is occurring, as a struggle seeks to bring peace, justice, and a full military demobilization by all sides.
Yet, be equally clear, a worldview as pernicious and vile as ISIS must be as thoroughly renounced and destroyed as Nazism or the KKK. A generous response based primarily upon love must seek to completely destroy a rotten ideology which threatens complete subjugation of all that is truthful and good. This will primarily be accomplished through mutual aid and a profound respect for human dignity. Yet entire societies may need to be occupied and reordered as this ideology is expunged. If you do invade, do so in force, and commit to fully eliminating evil ISIS and restoring a sense of normalcy through a complete program of reconstruction which may take decades.
Syria has been ravaged by abrupt climate change and terrestrial ecosystem collapse. Its overpopulated landscape is strewn with the detritus of war, and abject poverty which is the norm and from which there is no easy recovery. It is critical that we avoid allowing ecological collapse to escalate into such madness elsewhere.
We must understand that in an over-populated, abrupt climate change ravaged, ecosystem collapsing world, streams of refugees interlaced with a small set of murderous madmen will be the new norm. This will require international policing that intervenes as criminal thugs indiscriminately pillage and murder, and for refugees to be housed as close to home as possible, to return home swiftly post conflict, as war once again becomes illegal and standing militaries disband.
Let a Paris climate treaty be the symbol of international unity as impacts of a further spread of abrupt climate change and globally collapsing environments are minimized. The ultimate revenge against the oil oligarchy destroying the world through greed and ecocide – as the conditions for desperate terrorism are fostered – will be for the world to come together in Paris and immediately begin emissions reductions. Escalating global conflicts can only be resolved by averting abrupt climate change as humanity comes together to equitably and justly set a framework to achieve global ecological sustainability.
Paris must not become the symbol of yet another military escalation that does not understand and respond to Muslim rage wisely and rationally by getting at root causes of mind-numbing despair.
Have no doubt: war is murder and is illegal. In a resource constrained Earth full of weapons there can be no respite unless our response is one based on love, compassion, and a shared way of life based upon freedom and being green. All sides must be reflective, yet we cannot allow further Western militarism or Islamo-terrorism. We must defeat the former at the ballot, and the latter in the war of ideas. Failure to defeat both means the back and forth of terrorist attacks will continue as a state of perma-war is the precursor to global ecological collapse.
Europe’s borders are going to have to be closed. As I have written, there is no way the entire population of dispossessed persons can be accommodated in Europe and the United States. It will only worsen the situation of already industrially collapsing over-developed societies where fascist demagoguery is on the rise. The west must power down its engines of ecocide as the not-yet-overdeveloped world improves their living standards, until the world converges in a place of just and equitable sustainability.
The alternative to global convergence is the bad sort of anarchy prior to complete social, economic, and ecological collapse. While those that are smart and hard workers will still have more, all will have enough; and peace, fairness, and sustainable livelihoods will reign.
Further, again, it is absolutely essential to commit to permaculture and ecological restoration of denuded lands. It is vital to demonstrate that secular humanism can meet the needs of an over-populated region in place, not by allowing indiscriminate migration that overruns any sense of hope that we can all persist by living within the ecological constraints of our own bioregions. And leave Islamic and Christian holy lands alone, as we seek to nurture free thinking and a disbelief in mythical absent gods that want us to kill each other.
Be strong. Don’t lash out indiscriminately with violence. If policing is required, do it together as a human family under the banner of truth, compassion, and international law; addressing religious fanaticism, injustice, ecological collapse, endless desires and greed on a finite Earth, and inequity amongst scarcity, as the root causes of perma-war waged by both sides.
True peace requires rebuking religious fanaticism, ending ecocidal fossil fuels, and making love not war. I reckon Paris has a thing or two to teach us about making love. Let’s together make peace and sustainability the legacy of the Paris attacks, enshrined in a Paris climate treaty this coming month.Read More
An open letter/essay addressed to climate change luminaries Bill McKibben of 350.org and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club: After yesterday’s significant yet symbolic Keystone pipeline victory, not only must the climate movement demand an end to old-growth forest logging; it is time to speak of ending all natural forest logging to limit climate change and sustain the biosphere. Together with leaving fossil fuels in the ground, working for an end to industrial logging of natural forests will protect vital old-growth and allow dwindling natural ecosystems to age, recover, spread, reconnect, and sequester carbon in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change while avoiding global ecosystem collapse.
Again, loss and diminishment of terrestrial ecosystems are a critical component of abrupt climate change and are collapsing the biosphere. You both are well placed like few others to do something about it. – Dr. Glen Barry
Earth Meanders essays by Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet, Honolulu, Hawaii
Dear Bill and Michael,
Congratulations to the climate change movement, 350.org and the Sierra Club, and yourselves for stopping the Keystone tar sands pipeline for now. Our own tiny EcoInternet was pleased to play a bit part with affinity actions since the beginning. I am writing once again to raise the issue of old-growth forests – and natural forest ecosystems in general – with you in regard to climate change.
Post Keystone, as the movement gears up to make sufficient demands to limit abrupt climate change and avoid ecosystem collapse, now is the time to address large amounts of emissions from natural forest logging – particularly of old-growth. While producing tar sands results in more carbon than conventional fossil fuel extraction, tar sands still account for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, various estimates place loss and diminishment of terrestrial ecosystems at 20% of global emissions.
This does not mean that tar sands should get a pass, as their emissions may yet grow considerably. But it does mean that at some point the climate change movement – to be successful – will have to consistently and vocally address the loss and diminishment of terrestrial ecosystems. Given their rapid loss and diminishment, efforts to protect naturally evolved ecosystems must ramp up with all haste.
I am writing this letter to plead with you to get the Sierra Club and 350.org’s vast resources committed to working for an end globally to industrial scale old-growth forest logging while allowing managed natural forests to regenerate and age. There is no path to global ecological sustainability, which includes limiting climate change, that does not include such a course of action.
Your organizations’ relatively narrow focus upon technological reductions in carbon emissions from fossil fuels fails to note not only the absolute amount of greenhouse gases released by terrestrial ecosystem loss, but also the critical role that natural ecosystems play in buffering the global ecological system from anthropocentric emissions. There are few feasible means to return atmospheric carbon levels to 350ppm that are as natural and non-risky as allowing remnant managed natural forests to undergo natural succession free of industrial disturbance as they regain a carbon-rich old-growth status.
Old-growth forests, including their biomass and soils, are one of the largest sources of resiliency to global change. And of course, the importance of biodiversity – from the gene, to species, through ecosystem and landscape levels – results cumulatively in vital ecosystem services that make Earth habitable. In a very real sense, life begets life.
Please forgive the passion, yet as an ecological scientist I recently published a scientific journal article provided to both of you entitled “Terrestrial Ecosystem Loss and Biosphere Collapse“. The peer-reviewed science concluded that 66% of terrestrial ecosystems must remain in a natural or semi-natural condition to maintain the biosphere. However, loss of terrestrial ecosystems has already crossed this tenth planetary boundary with 50% loss. Yet again, humanity has placed itself in a condition of ecological overshoot.
It is simply barbaric that scraping the land of millions of year old naturally evolved ecosystems for consumer products continues unabated and without the high-profile, coordinated protest of the climate change movement. Few have the resources, staff, and talent to do so other than the groups you head.
John Muir assuredly shudders in his grave at the thought of the climate change movement’s glitterati failing to protect old-growth forests, relegating remaining natural forest ecosystems to a fate of carbon and biodiversity depauperate tree plantations or outright deforestation. We know where Muir, the vocal and sometimes cantankerous Sierra Club founder, stood on the protection versus conservation issue: choosing always to leave old-growth forests standing.
Virtually no major environmental groups’ work, including your own, focuses upon an outright end to old-growth forest logging as a keystone response to the climate, ecosystem, and biosphere crises. Most cling desperately to discredited “sustainable” logging of ancient naturally evolved ecosystems. In many cases old-growth forest products from such ecocide are marketed as “sustainable” by green NGOs in egregious and unforgivable acts of greenwash. No one needs old-growth lawn furniture or toilet paper.
Over the past decades, EcoInternet has consistently raised the issue of old-growth forest logging within the movement, despite obstruction and disinterest by you and others. Nonetheless, we and allies have enjoyed much success including recently achieving commitments from the Forest Stewardship Council to eliminate certification of what they term endangered forests.
After the tremendous Keystone victory, it is time for the climate movement to move beyond tokenism and develop and pursue a comprehensive strategy adequate to limit climate change and avoid biosphere collapse. This will mean a series of campaigns that must be pursued simultaneously and will certainly have to include as pillars both ending old-growth logging and the use of fossil fuels, as well as other initiatives that together are ecologically sufficient.
It is time for a united message from the climate change movement on protecting old-growth and natural forest ecosystems. Global ecological sustainability and averting worsening climate chaos depends critically upon going back to the land with a focus upon old growth forests, organic permaculture, and ecological restoration.
Given terrestrial ecosystem loss has almost certainly already surpassed an ecological planetary boundary, all industrial logging of natural forest ecosystems must end. Such a policy allows existing large forest ecosystems’ continued existence, and provides fragmented and diminished forest ecosystems a chance to rest and recover old-growth characteristics, required for a habitable Earth.
We can’t continue to mow natural life-giving ecosystems and expect an operable climate – much less to sustain water, soil, clean air, pollination, species persistence and so much more. The climate movement is dreadfully failing by focusing nearly exclusively on emissions cuts from combustion while excluding maintaining and recovering natural ecosystems. It is enough to lead one to question the ecological knowledge and credentials of the climate movement’s leadership.
As I have expressed often, I am profoundly disappointed that the climate movement in general, and particularly the Sierra Club and 350.org, are not doing more to protect old-growth forests. No one likes to sow discord in the environmental movement, but when the message being propagated by the 800 pound gorillas are wrong, they need to be confronted. There is no partial solution to climate change and ecosystem collapse, from this point forward together we simultaneously pursue numerous sufficient ecological policies, or humanity faces abrupt climate change and potentially the end of being.
The global biosphere which makes Earth habitable is collapsing and dying as natural ecosystems and the climate are overrun. Large and connected natural ecosystems surrounding human communities are a prerequisite for sustainable well-being for all. When natural forest ecosystems are heavily logged, yes some trees grow back, but the functions of forest ecosystems are repeatedly diminished with each harvest. This includes carbon stock, soil integrity, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the potential for sustained local well-being and advancement.
From this point forward, if you and your organizations are unwilling to stake out positions on all of the ecological issues that really matter for the climate, with solutions for each commensurate to the threat, we might as well give up now and go home and enjoy our last days. I encourage you both to refer to planetary boundary ecological science for a comprehensive vision if you choose to do so.
This open letter renews EcoInternet’s demand that the Sierra Club and 350.org, and both of you individually, take a rigorous position on ending industrial old-growth and natural forest logging. Failure to do so in a timely manner will result in a grassroots ecological advocacy campaign against your large bureaucratic organizations as we successfully did against Greenpeace and FSC, changing their old-growth forest policies.
Frankly, deforestation, biodiversity, extinction, and terrestrial ecosystem carbon emissions have gotten short thrift as your Keystone campaign sucked all the oxygen (and funding) out of the room. It appears you have been swindled by claims of certification which cover very little – about 10% – of the market’s ill-gotten old-growth timbers and legitimizes the rest. Even as trees are planted, natural forest ecosystems continue to be industrially mowed.
Again, loss and diminishment of terrestrial ecosystems are a critical component of abrupt climate change and are collapsing the biosphere. You both are well placed like few others to do something about it.
Global ecological sustainability depends critically on ending fossil fuels as societies protect and restore old-growth forests. Many fragmented natural forests could return to old-growth status, expanding and reconnecting to once again surround humanity and continue to make life possible, if given a reprieve from additional disturbance. Certainly community based eco-forestry in natural forests has a role, but industrial logging with bulldozers and roads must end if abrupt climate change and biosphere collapse are to be avoided. Period.
EcoInternet will be re-launching our long running campaign to ensure terrestrial ecosystem loss ends and is reversed, emphasizing ending old-growth and natural forest logging to protect and restore forest ecosystems. Where do Sierra Club and 350.org stand on such matters? What is your position on old-growth and natural forest logging? How can you take such rigorous positions on ending coal and tar sands, yet not call for ending old-growth forest logging? Are you a part of the the grassroots forest protection movement as a keystone response to climate change or not?
We demand a clear written response to these concerns by the end of November; so you can then begin to work on development of climate policy demands in the forest realm, including campaigns by your organizations to end industrial old-growth and natural forest logging. I am available to assist you in formulating a joint campaign to end old-growth forest logging.
From your perches high above the climate movement, I am sure demands expressed by an old-time forest activist that has to work a day job to make ends meet must appear easy to continue to ignore. Yet rest assured I am not alone in my concerns, and you do a disservice to the environment by suggesting so. Let’s hope we can overcome past animosity to such ideas and each other, and get this done, as ecological science truths are unforgiving, and standing and regenerating old-growth forests have a vital role to play in limiting climate chaos and maintaining the biosphere. It is time to act to protect forests as a climate solution.
Dr. Glen Barry
 Barry, G. (2014), “Terrestrial ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse”, Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 542-563.Read More