Life is liquid and all species are tributaries to one pool of bio mass. The mass of the pool is variable – even though life’s physical components remain as matter or energy. Life can diminish to nothing, or expand to an optimum mass. Once, there was no life on Earth and it shall be so again.
Life has energy. Increasing mass flows faster through its spaces, just as a river flows variably within its banks.
No-one knows how life began, or what it is. We live it to a close, but cannot step outside to look back in.
But we can study the nervous and metabolic systems of ourselves and other species and also observe symbioses and competitions between species. Within the last few decades the study of genetics has opened further and similarly endlessly-complex roads to travel. Study is a pleasure. The delight of science is that it always has been and always will be wrong – it records glimpses of illusive truth.
Technology is not “informed” by science, but by behaviour – by revealed mistakes. Tools can be highly effective without a scientific hypothesis to explain them. However it is possible for a hypothesis to demonstrate probable technological mistakes.
The reason I am speaking of the obvious is that peer-reviewed “scientists” who advise powerful people in governments and corporations have suggested that life follows laws of physics. Moreover, in climate calculations life has been measured as motionless mass (carbon) without either energy, or velocity. Neither is the liquidity (or not) of its flows between species properly considered.
Physicists and engineers dominate thinking about climate change and the “carbon cycle”. Peer reviewing courtiers confirm the magnificent clothing of the Naked Physicists’ court.
Below is the central principle of court, given to me by courtier, Peter Harper of The Centre for Alternative Technology.
If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain or loss of CO2, which is why biological fuels are considered to be “Carbon neutral”.
If we followed that hypothesis in practice, then slash and burn agriculture could be sustained, the Oklahoma dust bowl would remain a verdant plain and the chemistry of life could be considered as little more than derivatives of Sunlight, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide and water.
I’ve heard friends of mine expounding the court’s hypothesis, in the faltering tones of those who find difficulty in unravelling an esoteric idea. So we have druidic physicists of life to advise every institution.
The hypothesis is particularly convenient, because the coefficient for bio fuels can be entered into carbon calculations as one (effectively carbon zero).
Green organisations oppose bio fuels because they displace food crops from a hungry world. I know of none who oppose the burning of bio mass from first principles. The populist question is, Are these good or bad bio fuels?
Natural behaviour is often revealed in reactions to human behaviour: a farmer will observe the reaction of crop-yield to her husbandries.
If I grow a crop, remove the harvest, return no biomass to the field and sow a similar crop the following (also similar) season, will crop yields in the two seasons be the same?
To a practical farmer or gardener the question is ridiculous. Experience says that yields will always be smaller in season two. Bio mass of both soil & crop will be reduced and consequently, the area of leaf presented for photo synthesis will be similarly diminished.
If we imagine a planetary-scale field growing Willow or Miscanthus for a power station, then the speed of the planet’s symbioses, interactions and respirations will be annually slowed. Area of leaf presented for photosynthesis will diminish year on year, because the mass of soil life has been similarly diminished. Soil carbon will diminish, while atmospheric CO2 will increase.
A proportion of life will have reverted to lifeless matter and energy – gas, ashes and energy.
Let’s consider speed.
My picture (diffidently presented) has a liquid biomass flowing between species. Death is an essential part of that flow – between species and between generations. But the renewal inherent in death can be broken when life becomes lifeless. Lifelessness follows laws of physics. Life does not.
An optimum speed of symbiosis of all species within my field will present the greatest biomass and also the greatest respiratory power. However, imbalance and rebalance present a constantly fluctuating biomassive whole. For instance, it is possible for soil species to flow too fast and so achieve too great a mass of mineralisation for the symbiotic mass of plant species to absorb. In consequence, surplus nutrients will be leached to water courses and gases will be released to the air. For example, I could have returned too much farmyard manure to my soil. For that field, in season one, crop yield will be high, but over the whole farm, (in both time and space) yield will fall to below the optimum, because nutrients have been lost from my farming system. On a planetary scale, the total mass of life would be diminished, to re-appear as its physical components in matter and energy.
Regulating the speed of life is the whole art of husbandry. It is also the whole art of durable settlements. Crops flow into a biomass of people and must flow out again to the fields which produced those crops. Shorter & smaller cycles flow through gardens and allotments. The whole agricultural metabolism of towns, fields, gardens and the cultural techniques to connect them is complex, evolved and evolving. The trial and error of husbandry, cuisine, transport and emerging trades are what we call an agriculture.
Gazing across a patchwork of fields, I can see that speed presented in the deepening or paling green of rotations. The colours reveal the velocity of life as it travels between species – the deeper the green, the faster the flow and so the increase of biomass.
Our scientific druids have separated inseparable soil and plant for the convenience of druidic calculation. Having removed the complexity of life to replace it with “The Carbon Cycle”, a child druid could do the arithmetic.
So we have “sequestration” – that is: inactive carbon (inactive sequestered life). Soil is proposed as a carbon sump – one we can replicate by burying biomass in deep-sea sumps or by the approval of carbon embedded in structures for calculation.
The truth is – one which all practical people must know – that burying carbon beyond the effects of dung beetles, earthworms, fungi and bacteria simply reduces the mass of life – It shrinks and slows living cycles, reducing their mass, complexity and photosynthetic power. Buried, inactive carbon actually increases atmospheric C02.
Consider life as a river. Our druidic measurement ignores the velocity and so the energy of our representative water. Druids take a cross section through the river, falsely presenting the mass of water as being motionless as the rocks over which it actually passes. Of course the mass of water multiplies per second, per, minute, per hour, per day…. while the rock mass remains the same – well, minus small erosions by the power of the water. (Or in our variable life analogy we could consider acidic rain releasing rock minerals for biomass.)
We can remove life from a life cycle – partially by slowing its speed, or completely or near completely by turning death into lifelessness. Death and lifelessness are not the same things. However, my absolute (in space) is itself temporal – frozen peat bogs can be re-exposed to fermentation and returned to the moving stream of life – releasing CO2 & methane, while also contributing to the mass and energy of new soil fauna and so plant and animal life. With regards to climate calculation, that sudden release is a dangerous one, because the ferment initially far-exceeds the regenerated mass of photosynthetic life. Eventually however, melted permafrost will revert to a balance of grassland and/or woodland, animal species and the greatest mass of all – soil fauna.
With regards to climate calculations we fear the sudden releases of methane and CO2, because the eventually-restored ecological balance may not include a civilised Mankind.
Anyway our druids attribute to the mass of such sequestered or semi-sequestered life (in its stagnant pool, or sluggish ditch) the same mass as a fast-flowing river of life. I wonder, even for their conveniently untrue calculation, that the power extracted from the biomass boiler has no column for a balance sheet entry?
Obsession with carbon has created the druidic delusion.
Carbon cannot cycle. Life (complex protein) cycles and it does so towards an optimum speed, within an optimum complexity and towards an optimum mass, while viewing no distinction between fungal/bacterial life and that of plants and animals.
Life does not follow laws of physics in which matter or energy always remain. On the contrary, life can diminish to nothing – re-appearing as its original components in matter and energy.
Even as physicists, Climate Druids should have been aware of a missing coefficient of time.