The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Ghost – or, if you like, the Cauldron of Ceridwen.

From now on I shall refer to the immaculate conception by the holy ghost, which is the central pillar (no phallus intended) of climate and carbon sequestration models employed by IPCC, ZCB 2030 & etc, as ICHG.
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The Zero Carbon Britain model employed an increase in biofuels. It proposed to introduce bio-fuelled aviation at a third of the then current, total  capacity. It rated those biofuels as “zero carbon”. In response to my 2010 inquiry to CAT they kindly sent me this –
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If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO.2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain, or loss of CO.2 ,which is why biological fuels are considered to be carbon neutral.
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That the hypothesis is ridiculous and that it is not even framed as a life cycle, (rather as a carbon cycle) has been the reason I began to write in the first place. I’ve spoken of it copiously since 2005. I won’t bore you with more of the same. Rather, I’d like to consider it as a moral proposition.
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My right, or wrong actions on the farm are important to me. Moreover, the farm is a perfect environment to test the ICHG hypothesis. I’ll bore you a little more by mentioning that the ICHG hypothesis has never been tested in the peer-reviewed literature. Rather it is a blindly accepted assumption from the scripture. When did it begin and who first proposed it? – I’ve no idea. An eloquent and loved A level science teacher? Perhaps it was she, who first chalked the script on a blackboard, so that it became a contagious light bulb in the minds of her pupils. To have become universally accepted, I’d guess she flicked the switch, sometime in the 1960s, or 70’s.
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I think it originates in worship of human ingenuity and the substitution of an equivalent ingenuity in nature – nature as narcissistic mirror – clever photosynthesis – the copious linear gift of sunlight, which forever heals life’s broken cycles. Look! – leaves are like solar panels – clever as people, says a father to his child. It is a Cauldron of Ceridwen from which we can feast forever, because it remains, forever full. Perhaps it should also be known as the Ceridwen Hypothesis.
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It encapsulates Hubris to end all hubris.
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I think that a universal moral awakening – a religion – is our last hope for human cultures to shrink their needs to just what a terrain can supply. ICHG is not that religion.
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Nemesis knows that if we burn a field, or forest, we will be left with gas, energy and ashes. Nemesis knows that ashes (if we’re very lucky) are an insufficient return to our field, and that the whole life-cycle of soil, plant and photosynthetic power will shrink – simply for a lack of life. Next season’s biomass in soil and so plant will consequently shrink. Photosynthesis will be limited to just that shrunken unfurling of green leaves. Nemesis also says that this is not a straight line of decline: it is parabolic – it accelerates through tipping points to Oklahoma. The linear gift of sunlight is limited by the cyclic, living mass of green leaves, which receive it. The linear is limited by the cyclic. How much living mass (or humus) is sequestered in the wind-born soils of Oklahoma? Oklahomans followed the ICHG hypothesis. They were forced to starve, or migrate.
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Nemesis also knows that the most vivacious life-cycle is limited by soil volume, water and temperature. Once the cup of soil is full of life, it can increase no more. However much we think we add to our soils by importing compost and manures, once soils are in balance at optimum capacity, the cup will run over. Photosynthetic leaf area will not increase. It will import no more sunlight. Worse, that imported biomass will have been stolen from a consequently impoverished soil in another’s field. Fair distribution in agriculture is the primary model for personal ethics – for the laws of commons.
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Some consequences of belief in Ceridwen’s never-empty pot are –
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Life can return to degraded soils, by re-wilding, or by better husbandry. In IPCC terms, this is called sequestration. So far, so good. I agree.
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However, since IPCC also believe in the cauldron, they project that same sequestration into the future – even after a system has attained balance and soil capacity is full. I do not agree.
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Neither a rainforest, nor an imagined perfectly-balanced agricultural system will sequester any further carbon. That fictitious “draw-down” cannot be set against fossil fuel, or biofuel emissions. IPCC climate models are consequently wildly optimistic.
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Burning fossil and biofuels is simply wrong and no pardons, or indulgencies can mitigate that wrong.
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Burning fossil fuel is far better than burning biofuel, because, in consequence, we can leave living systems to live and breathe. I do not advocate burning fossil fuels.

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Claims by many permaculturalists, organic farmers, and grassland polemicists that they can “draw down carbon forever”, is wrong. They can do so only to an optimum point of balance and that balance will be a very high achievement. Frequently, adverse weathers and human misjudgements will leave them (and with the best intent), the wrong side of that balance. Those who import fertility in out-sourced composts and manures, impoverish that neighbouring cycle. The exporter’s overall biomass will deteriorate faster than the importer’s biomass can regenerate. The sum of biomass in both systems will be smaller than before the import/export “event”. We accelerate to Oklahoma by unpredictable tipping points in the web of life! Death is quick. Life, though powerful, is slower.
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It should be a moral calling – an honour, to guide a farming, growing, or forestry system towards balance. It is no shame to sometimes fall short of that balance. We are fallible – the thing is, to try. However, as many do, to claim negative emissions is deeply wrong. It is outrageous. Some carbon footprint calculators will tell you that virtuous acres of imported biomass (carbon) will provide dispensation for your family car, or a couple of holiday flights. I don’t like the word evil, but at last, in that case, the idea is evil. The people who adopt it are very dangerously deluded. I include IPCC, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 and many others in that category.
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2 Responses to The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Ghost – or, if you like, the Cauldron of Ceridwen.

  1. Michelle says:

    A lucid and challenging post as always. The goal is a habitable planet, in the long term and not just for us humans and our domesticates but by the rest of the assemblage, as many as possible, and whether we get there by a broader definition of religion or reason is fine by me. Actually both are probably necessary. Some people respond better to the powers of narrative and ethics and some to math and logic; both can be means to the same necessary goal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bryncocyn says:

    Thanks Michelle. I hope a whole person has narrative, ethics, maths and logic as parts of that whole! Anyway, I very much value your responses and also marvel at your forbearance. I probably spend too much time railing at the times and too little sitting at the feet of the Muse of How Things Could Be.

    Like

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