Friday, April 18, 2014

After Growth, Economic Maturity?
  1. More exponential physical growth of industrial humanity can't fit on our finite planet – we already use more than earth can sustainably provide by about half.
  2. Economic growth with physical growth won't fit on our one earth.
  3. Economic growth without physical growth is a mirage. It is just inflation, a zero-sum game that may alter the score but can't make the system better overall.
  4. In organisms growth often precedes or leads to maturity. 
  5. Economic maturity remains conceptually underexplored. 
  6. What guidelines would well manage economic maturity?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

From Frying Pan to Freezer

Cold. Sudden in earth's history, but in human lives it was slow, unrelenting chilling, year by decade. Prof. O'Ness bundled tighter in his tweed jacket, reached for that warming cup, quietly burping as he pondered in a University of British Columbia campus office in Vancouver, under-equipped for the Pacific Northwest snow. How had the earth become less like Venus and more like Mars, after the early 21st century climate crisis, when a large part of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet slid all at once into the Ross Sea?
Now that was sudden in even human eyes, as was the tsunami-like seven meter sea-level rise that accompanied it, deluging the low countries and ending the climate crisis debate. Sudden, too, was the later 'Flu-demic' that decimated the tsunami's human survivors in the interior cities that were left after the Tsunami. Tadhg O'Ness shuddered. Airlines then (there were airlines then) carried the new flu strain from it's Southeast Asian origin in tightly integrated pig-, duck- and human-inhabited little rice farms, where swine flu, bird flu and human flu intermingled, yielding a potent new strain. This new flu virus entered a world-turned-topsy by the Tsunami, hence short of scientific and industrial infrastructure, with which humanity had vaccinated against earlier flu outbreaks. So many died then, not just by the low-lying shore as with the Tsunami, that O'Ness knew in Vancouver and tried to help; so much bloody diarrhea, so many washcloths.
O'Ness quickly shook his head, returning as he had so many times before from memories of the horror to the comfort of the work. Why the cooling? Where had so much of air's carbon gone? There were few scientists left working on this; there were few scientists left. 
Some things were obvious, including the now-accepted role of air's carbon in the climate crisis that flooded earth's coasts. Plants were curiously darker now and grew faster, almost all of them. O'Ness put the cup down and rubbed his temples. Most hatchery-born, 'wild' salmon had inexplicably rebounded vastly, starting before the Tsunami, when human harvesting was still decimating returning spawners. Enough technology survived to address these riddles, but it took so long, tracing through the manuals to understand how machinery worked. Science supplies were scarce as well, and both delayed data - in it's absence, theories flourished unchecked. 
But O'Ness now had data: The routine fry surveys started by the boffins before him revealed what no one then noticed. Ocean-bound sockeye salmon fry started having darker, iron-enriched spleens before the Tsunami, just before salmon harvests started increasing. But how could spleen iron in one species rebound salmon numbers overall? 
It turns out that oceans are remarkably diffuse in iron, with concentrations so low that even rare vanadium is more prevalent. Iron averages as low as 75 nanomoles per cubic meter in much of the North Pacific, or about 4 kilograms per cubic kilometer of seawater there. The wind has blown 98% of oceanic iron to the ocean as dust from deserts such as the Gobi, upwind of the North Pacific. The reason iron is so scarce in surface waters is that it easily forms insoluble precipitates that fall like snow to the ocean floor. 
Why does this matter? Because phytoplankton use iron as a co-factor in enzymatically transforming nitrogen, including cyanobacteria's nitrogen fixation (from dissolved air's nitrogen gas) – and because nitrogen constrains ocean photosynthesis by phytoplankton in much of the world's oceans. This limiting iron flow historically limits the North Pacific's overall productivity severely, along with other vast oceanic areas that cover a fifth of the world's oceans. Tadhg's curiosity about the salmon fry's spleen iron content stemmed from realizing that even a change in the amount of iron transported from land to sea by migrating fish could expand ocean life, by supplying significant increases in the one nutrient phytoplankton were short of. This might even increase the amount of carbon dioxide fixed within the seas. 
In 2008 an Aleutian island volcano eruption fed plankton downwind of the Aleuts, changing the blue seas green in the months following the eruption by depositing ash containing iron across the Northeast Pacific Ocean. This plankton bloom preceded a sudden population explosion in the pink salmon population that returned to land during 2009. And the 2010 sockeye salmon return was also unexpectedly large. Pink salmon return two years after they enter the ocean as young fry, while sockeyes return three years after they enter the sea. The trace iron that the volcano added to the salmon feeding waters caused the plankton blooms that nourished these massive returns of salmon. 
Another way to get iron to those ocean pastures might be within the sockeye salmon already heading that way to feed, by loading their spleens with iron stores before they leave shore, within the hatcheries, by feeding iron-enriched feed. Why in sockeye salmon? Pink salmon fry head to sea right after hatching, feeding negligibly in fresh water streams, but sockeye salmon fry spend a year feeding in fresh water before venturing to sea. Hatchery sockeye can be fed iron during this year. Since iron is so critically rare in the ocean, it makes sense to expect that sockeye salmon fry have adapted to sequester iron in their spleens for adult use. Natural dispersion of these stores, over the three years of sockeye salmon presence in these oceanic pastures, would supply the critical iron, inducing phytoplankton blooms that in turn nourish the same sockeyes and the rest of the sealife, too. 
But the amounts Tadhg calculated weren't enough; the total could not explain all the fixation of atmospheric carbon now occurring around the globe. There must be more – There were other pieces to the puzzle. O'Ness pushed the computer mouse away and sighed, got up from his chair and put on his down-filled overcoat. He closed doors and walked through snowy streets, home to wife and kids, and dinner.
 As he opened home's door, aromas of salmon and potato wafted out, and two children ran up cheering. Later, the meal done, O'Ness pushed back his squeaking chair. As he and the kids washed up after the meal, he told them tales of life before, when humanity accelerated right at certain death without blinking, by burning so much fuel that the ice melted. They didn't really follow the carbon-in-air link in that chain yet, but give them time. In their beds, the children fell asleep, and O'Ness returned to pondering. 
There had been discussion of geo-engineering before the Tsunami, he'd read. This concept usually involved shading the warming earth to lessen the temperature change, but as we eat the sun's energy as our food, less sunlight reaching earth might have starved some of the 7 billion people then alive by shading crops, reducing yields. Hence the earth shading concepts were thought shelved. Yet now the earth was cooling. Were sulfate aerosols secretly spread in the stratosphere via a contrail conspiracy, shading earth? There was one way to tell; measure current levels of sunlight getting through the atmosphere to the planetary surface. This revealed that sunlight reaching sea level was still at the same watts per square meter as before the cooling. Tadhg wondered, since there was no measurable shading of earth's sunlight, and since the salmon moving more iron to sea wasn't enough to force the cooling, what was? His wife came up to him.
I want a divorce.”
Reeling, Tadhg sat down. “Why?”
You don't really love me, nor do you care about our children.”
That's not true. Why do you say that?”
You walk in a daze through this house, never really seeing anyone else, never really looking at us.”
I've just been preoccupied with work.”
I've had enough, I want you out.”
Honey, I work so hard because I love you, Ben and Sally, and I've just had a breakthrough in the work. That's why I've been so preoccupied. Now the hard part of the work starts; nailing down the details and getting the word out. If this works like it should, we'll earn more, and Ben and Sally will live in a world that isn't so cold. I need your support now more than ever. Please, Don't end this now, for our family and for the world.”
Cut the crap. Pack your stuff and get out by next week. Until then, sleep on the couch. ” 
Tadhg was far too upset to sleep, couch or no couch. He went angrily back to campus and stayed awake all night working. He was in top form teaching his first class. He didn't even take it out on the students, much. Then he went to the gym and pulled his back out exercising. Tadhg hobbled through the showering and back to the office. 
Leaving the office for the day, Prof. O'Ness hobbled slowly, his back jolting him with pain occasionally when his feet slipped suddenly on ice. Where to? He ate on campus in a cafeteria and inquired after rooms to stay in. Finding none, Tadhg returned home, collected a change of clothes and trundled off to a hotel for the night. He felt attacked on many quarters, but was tired enough so that locking the hotel room door sheltered him enough that he could finally sleep. 
Tadhg returned to the office in the morning and searched listings for a room near campus. Graduate students sharing apartments had rooms available; Tadhg picked one that seemed quiet and not too far from home and campus. 
Tadhg gingerly shuffled home again, avoiding back twinges. He met a friend and colleague, Ned, who had agreed to help move suitcases to the new room. Once at the old house, his children Ben and Sally looked at him. He sat down with them, briefly explaining the situation that they'd surely heard before, as Ned moved bedding and suitcases to a car. 
At a restaurant, later, Tadhg didn't dare drink alcohol; he would teach class in the morning, and also feared numbing what he was still trying to understand, despite the temptation. Ned shared news from the Biochemistry Department.
“They've found that while the darkening of the plants coincided with no apparent nuclear DNA change, it did correlate with a DNA change in the chloroplast.” 

The remnant of an independent cyanobacteria engulfed by the first plant eons ago, the chloroplast still maintains a bit of it's own DNA separate from the nucleus of the plant cell, although most of the original DNA it's independent ancestor had, has moved to the plant nucleus. The remnant DNA that still persisting within the chloroplast had been changed as plants darkened, suggesting an instrumental role. 
To Tadhg, the DNA story was like a balm; like the science work after the Tsunami and the Flu-demic, the tale of the DNA change calmed him. While recent events didn't make much sense, at least here was an area where sense still seemed useful. Ned dropped Tadhg at the apartment, brought the suitcases and bedding in, then, before driving off, gripped Tadhg's shoulder once, which only twinged Tadhg's sore back a bit. 
The next morning Tadhg hobbled through class, then calculated the influence that the darkening of the plants might have on atmospheric carbon levels and flows. Combining the carbon fixation from salmon fry carrying more iron to sea with the plant darkening's increase in growth, and in air's carbon fixed, O'Ness still couldn't explain the steadily dropping air carbon levels. Where had the rest of the air's carbon gone? 
He headed back to the new flat, picking up a simple to go meal on the way. Tadhg called home and reached his son Ben.
“How was school, Ben?”
“OK. We studied the same old stuff; multiplying numbers”
“Multiplication? I use that all the time.”
“You do?”
“Yeah, today I used it to look into why it keeps getting colder. It might have to do with plants being darker now.”
“Oh. What was it like before?”
“Plants were mostly greenish, instead of being nearly black. In the country, apart from in winter, everything was green.”
“Why is it different now?”
“We're still finding out, Ben.”
Tadhg talked with Sally too, then slept. In the morning at school he explored publishing a letter jointly with the plant scientists in Biochemistry, and with a climatology boffin as well, on this two-pronged proposal to account for missing atmospheric carbon. He also wrote email messages to colleagues, arguing for further fish spleen studies. Comments came back via email from colleagues on how difficult this change in salmon fry iron transport would be. Tadhg invited alternate explanations and pleaded that others look into fish iron flux budgets, especially salmon's. Tadhg had data backing up increased iron transport by sockeye salmon, and was asking others to gather more. Besides, he wasn't arguing that these transformations were easy, or likely, he was arguing that they were done.

“Consolidated Fish Feed is purchased, Dr. Inouye.” Phoebe Inouye's agent Sheneilla Overburg had just signed the purchase agreement on a controlling interest in the last major Pacific Northwest salmon fry feed maker that Phoebe didn't already own.
“Thank you, Ms. Overburg.” 
Phoebe thus assembled, in one year, a veiled colossus. By using different agents, like Overburg, and off-shore shell corporations to buy each fish feed company, no one but her knew of her stake in the salmon market, or of the junk-bond-like financing she incurred to make it all real. So started the stage in which the typical quasi-monopolist would start to squeeze both suppliers and buyers, using the clout of 'market-share' to financially bludgeon in both directions. Inouye, a pre-Tsunami ichthyologist-turned-businesswoman, was also fishing for a different catch. After she acquired control of the fry feed plants, she altered the sockeye feed composition to include more trace iron. But how could this pay off the massive debt Dr. Inouye incurred? 
Amidst the entire industrial spending spree, Phoebe had sold long puts on wild salmon delivery futures, promising to sell salmon in the future at prices set today. She gambled in her own field, where she had inside knowledge, and now, inside power. In a year pink salmon returned from ocean pastures rendered fertile by the supply of the one nutrient missing; iron, brought via sockeye spleen. Salmon returned in record numbers to a fish-starved market. 
But Dr. Inouye's counterparts in the salmon futures market, by agreeing to buy at earlier, then-prevailing high prices, had bet with their purchases of Phoebe's long puts, that the salmon supply would continue as tight as before Phoebe's veiled iron supplementation started. Beforehand, too many trawlers chased too few fish, so thinking that this would continue seemed sensible. The long put buyers that Phoebe contracted with had made a bet with what seemed like an optimistic fool; they lost, she gained by filling those earlier contracts to deliver, at high earlier prices, what now flooded the market; plentiful and cheap wild salmon. 
There had been oddly productive years of salmon returns before, but as peaks in a downward-sloping yield line. So those who bet once with Phoebe and lost in the futures market, bet again the next year, never knowing that they were dealing with the same person, or that Phoebe held the cards. She lived high on the hog, but low on the coastline, and died in her mansion in the Tsunami. Yet the fry feed formulations remained iron-enriched, as most fish feed plants were inland, and no one knew any better than to continue on adding iron, except the few who thought it was a scam to slip a little cheap iron ore into top-priced fish feed to make contract weight without the expense of some grain. Hence the North Pacific plankton continued blooming and fattening up more salmon.

William Jackson desperately scoured the microbial photosynthesis literature for ways to improve photosynthesis and plant growth, in the pre-Tsunami times, to bind air's carbon. He was obsessed with trying to ameliorate the climate crisis, and why not? He had time, ambition, good intentions and a little psychosis, so it seemed possible to overcome his lack of high academic status or significant capital. Being the son of a biology department faculty member, he had some access to tools and a tiny bit of lab materials, and that might be all he needed. He recognized the opportunity; nearly a quarter of sunlight reaching earth went unused by plants - mostly green light. Sure, some green light was utilized, especially lower in the canopy, but much was lost. In plants of that era the 'Light' reactions missed out on much of green light's considerable power, and the 'Dark' reactions were inefficient when leaves were hot. 
Y'see, plants use chloroplasts to catch light and make sugar and stuff. Chloroplasts are captured organelles; remnants of independent bacteria engulfed by early eucaryotes and then integrated within the eucaryotic cells, that thus became the first plants. Chloroplasts retain just a bit of their ancestor's DNA molecules, although most of their free-living ancestor's DNA had shifted over to the plant nucleus. The chloroplasts use their DNA in conjunction with the plants' nuclear DNA to form the enzymes with which light is caught and sugar, etc. made. But the light caught is not all the light encountered – much green light bounces off chloroplasts, which basically ceased evolving independently after their engulfment by the first plants. Green light contains about a third of the sunlight energy reaching earth's surface. Outside of plants, algae and microbes have evolved to use green light, too. But these microbes were not the ones that the first plants engulfed, so plants still basically use only red and blue light. They use this light to pump electrons and protons across the insulating cell membrane in the 'Light' reactions, then, in the 'Dark' reactions, use the returning of those protons to power making sugar, etc. from air's carbon dioxide. 
A photon flew from the sun. Eight minutes later, half of it's fellow companion photons were absorbed or reflected within earth's atmosphere, but this one made it through. It wobbled with a frequency of 560 terahertz, travelling with a wavelength of 535 nanometers; it was green. It hit a molecule of siphonaxanthin and was absorbed, inducing a transitional state that resolved by transmitting the photonic energy to a chlorophyll molecule, which sent an electron from a water molecule through that chlorophyll across to the photosystem II primary acceptor, which transferred the electron to plastiquinone, which transferred it along with two protons from the stroma named Josephine and Joe, to the cytochrome complex. The stroma is the space external to the thylacoid, yet within the chloroplast's double cell membrane.

Wait a second – Did someone say 'siphonaxanthin'? Ahh, yes, and you, dear reader, are wondering why. Well, siphonaxanthin is a carotenoid, derived from carotene, which captures green light in some algae and conveys the light's energy to chlorophyll, allowing these algae to live on the green light that no plant had fully used, until William Jackson changed all that. 

Through the happenstance of accidental evolution's stumbling along in the dark, plants hit on sugar-making 'Dark' reactions with notable inefficiencies. Glyoxylate accumulates when oxygen, instead of carbon dioxide, reacts with RuBisCO, an enormous photosynthesis enzyme central to the dark reactions. Mopping that glyoxylate up takes considerable cellular energy. A few microbes, notably of the Chloroflexus genus, have evolved an alternate enzymatic pathway using oxygen-insensitive enzymes, characterised by it's 3-hydroxypropionate intermediate, and hence called the 3-HOP pathway, which avoided glyoxylate buildup. While they incidentally produce glyoxylate, they quickly metabolize it.

Atop a German charcoal-making pile grew a Streptomyces like no other known – in this warm, carbon-rich aerobic environs it alone fixed nitrogen at near-ambient temperatures and thrived, by virtue of an oxygen-tolerant nitrogenase, who's encoding DNA was almost lost with the loss of the organism in a lab mishap.

William Jackson put genes encoding these three pathways into a hijacked cyanobacterial virus, then, via direct nano-injection with a tiny reversably-charged electrostatic lance, installed some in a host chloroplast. DNA stuck to the positively charged lance, which, jammed into the chloroplast, released that DNA to transform the chloroplast once the electrostatic charge was reversed . William found an alternate virus host and vector in a cosmopolitan aphid. It was tricky to design the virus to reproduce in both plant chloroplast and aphid, but Jackson achieved this. 

Then these ubiquitous aphids spread the plant-darkening virus around the world. Infected plants grew darker, and grew faster, by fixing their own nitrogen, by using more of the sunlight reaching them, and by wasting less of the sunlight energy they caught. Growing faster, they fixed more carbon dioxide. That gave William great hope for the warming world's weird weather, but it didn't stop the Tsunami from drowning Jackson in his seaside lab, and destroying all records of the unpublished work. No Nobel for him, no fame, only watery obscurity came. So let's return to Josephine and Joe, the protons transferring within the cytochrome complex. 
The cytochrome complex released Joe and Josephine within the inner thylacoid space, across the thylacoid membrane from the stroma, while passing the photon's energy to photosystem I, where absorbance of another sun-sourced photon boosted an electron across the thylacoid membrane and to ferredoxin, then to NADH reductase, creating reduced Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate (NADPH), another energy carrier molecule – (the 'H' represents the hydrogen atom with it's two electrons from the photosystems, attached to the reduced NADP). 
Protons Josephine and Joe then wandered through thylacoid space until they got to an adenosine triphosphate synthase stuck through the thylacoid membrane. There they passed through the 'ATPase', returning to the stroma. Their passage through 'ATPase' helped regenerate ATP from adenosine diphosphate by attaching a third phosphate. 
Now, the cellular energy source called ATP powers, among other deeds, the formation of sugar, in the 'Dark' reactions. Let's name this particular ATP 'Adam', and follow Adam through the novel
3-HOP pathway that William Jackson installed in this modified chloroplast. Adam, his three phosphates trailing behind, joins four of his fellow ATPs and a few NADPHs. While this motley crew is enough to power RuBisCO and it's fellow enzymes through one turn of the Calvin cycle, it is also enough to turn the crank of the 3-HOP bicyclic pathway as well. Both yield one three-carbon sugar component.
But how is 3-HOP bicyclic? There are two connected loops in the 3-HOP pathway; connected by production and transformation of 3-hydroxypropionate, a key intermediate in the 3-HOP formation of three-carbon pyruvate.
Let's talk with Adam ringside as he prepares to enter the 3-HOP pathway.
“Hi Adam, how do you feel about this one?”
“Well, Howard, I feel pretty good. It's not like the dangerous Calvin cycle, where an oxygen can mess you up, and you end up just making a two-carbon phosphoglycolate that merely becomes glyoxylate, Howard. You see, the 3-HOP bicycle's enzymes are oxygen tolerant, so I'll just shoot right through and help form pyruvate, with the able help of my four ATP teammates, of course.
Well, good luck Adam, not that you'll need it for this one. We'll look for you after the event.”
“Thanks Howard,”
“Now back to you, Fred.”
“OK, Thanks Howard, and now the event begins, as Adam sidles into the ring(s), forming the five-member ATP team. And their off, moving with that deceptive Brownian motion toward the 3-HOP enzymes, while two carbon dioxides dissolve, forming two bicarbonate ions. These are joined by two acetyl-CoA molecules and two of Adams' ATP teammates on the approach to the first enzyme, acetyl CoA carboxylase. And they're though, those CoAs are malonylated, but what a cost! Adam's first two team-mates look pretty roughed up. Over to you, Howard.”
“Thanks, Fred. How do you guys feel?”
“(inaudible) tired, Howard.”
“I'd almost say you're dephosphorylated, guys. Back to you, Fred.”
“OK, Howard, Now the two malonyl-CoAs are approaching the second enzyme, along with 4, count'em FOUR, NADPHs. Wow, that's an impressive energetic line-up.”
“Wham, Fred, they're through the malonyl-CoA reductase enzymatic reaction, and jettisoned are two CoA molecules, as two hydroxypropionates step forward...”
“Those two are 3-hydroxypropionates, Howard. Now the two CoAs are rejoining the action, along with two NADPH, and, yes, there are two of Adam's ATP team-mates stepping up to the propionyl-CoA synthase. And when the dust settles, two propionyl-CoA are headed in two different directions, Howard, but those ATPs are doubly dephosphorylated all the way down to being adenine monophosphates. Whew. But let's follow this propionyl-CoA, as he's joined by a bicarbonate ion and..., Why, it's Adam himself, as they all approach propionyl CoA carboxylase. OK, they're done, and a methylmalonyl CoA steps forth. Let's go down to Howard, ringside, to chat with Adam.”
“Well, Adam, How'd it go today?”
“Like clockwork, Howard, not that it's easy. I feel...I feel...dephosphorylated, to be honest. I'm headed for the showers.”
“Adam, we understand, and thanks for taking the time to talk with use. Back to you, Fred.”
“Thanks, Howard. Now methylmalonyl CoA heads toward methylmalonyl CoA epimerase, then to L-methylmalonyl CoA mutase, and out of that frey comes the familiar Succinyl-CoA, of TCA cyle fame. Now this could go two ways, right, Howard?”
“That's right, Fred. Succinyl-CoA can go left into that TCA cycle in which...”
“Wait, Howard, he's going right, toward the enzyme called succinyl CoA - malyl CoA transferase, liberating CoA. Now the succinate's going into succinate dehydrogenase, Then to fumarate hydratase, yielding malate, which combines with CoA within ... Howard, thats our old friend succinyl CoA: malyl CoA transferase again.”
“Whew, a bifunctional enzyme, Fred. Amazing. Now malyl CoA hits the lyase.”
That's right, Howard. That's malyl/methylmelyl/citrimalyl lyase, Howard, a real metabolic powerhouse.”
“OK, now out from lyase comes a glyoxylate careening into the air and... Well, it's the familiar acetyl-CoA again, Fred.”
Howard, we'll return to that glyoxylate in a minute. Let's get back to the action.”
Thanks, Fred. Now the acetyl CoA joins with another acetyl CoA and enters... Why it's right where we started!”
“That's right, Howard. Now let's cut back to that flying glyoxylate.”
“ OK, Fred, the glyoxylate's fallen beside that other propionyl CoA from earlier in the cycle, and... Hey, they've re-entered the lyase, and out comes methylmalyl CoA, heading toward methylmalyl CoA dehydratase, from which comes mesaconyl-C1 CoA, which transferase makes into mesaconyl-C4 CoA, which in turn mesaconyl-C4 CoA hydratase forms into citramalyl CoA. Now that amazing tri-functional lyase steps in, forming the other original acetyl CoA and the whole goal of this process, a three-carbon pyruvate.”
“That's the big prize, Howard. And thus end our enzymatic ringside coverage, folks.”

Tadhg encountered an objection when Tadhg revealed Jackson's work within his tenure committee:
“But the quantum yield of plants, in green light, before the viral darkening, is not much lower than in blue or red light. Doesn't this mean that they use green light efficently?”
“Well, yes, when they absorb it, which is only true part of the time. That's the nub.” Tadhg said. “That dip in the absorbance curve restricts what gets through to then be measured in quantum yield.” 
While the tenure committee wanted more documentation, Tadhg's arguments for climate cooling by migrating salmon spleen's iron transport, and by plant darkening, were gradually fueling increasing controversy amongst the bickering rudimentary scientific world left post-Tsunami and post flu-demic, as evidence continued to flow in to the debate that supported his claims. 
Yet there was little move to undo these individually profitable actions that enhanced the cooling. Salmon lobbies learned that they relied on this iron boost to ocean pasture fertility and thus to their harvests and profits. These lobbies blocked reducing iron supplementation to fry feed, while Big Ag, dependent on yield increases brought by the darkening and faster growth of crop plants, fought off measures to return light use efficiencies to their earlier inefficient levels. Furthermore, something else was going on, reducing air's carbon, as the combination of faster plant growth and iron-nourished HNLC ocean zones were still not enough to explain the rapidity of air's carbon depletion. 
Huh? Oh, HNLC stands for 'high nitrogen – low chlorophyll'. This fifth of the oceans has enough fixed dissolved nitrogen to nourish more plankton, yet these areas remain low in planktonic chlorophyll, showing that plankton lack something besides nitrogen. This puzzled early oceanographers, until iron was found to be the limiting nutrient in most of these areas. 
Professor O'Ness's tenure committee pointed out that, even together, the plant darkening and the salmon's iron transport couldn't account for enough carbon fixation, and the carbon removal was not as changed as the climate. They questioned his work's worth and the likelihood of O'Ness publishing in the future. Finding solace and refuge in the work, Tadhg sought more large carbon sinks. 
Could it be the use of diamond mining wastes for potassium fertiliser? The orangeite deposits in which diamonds are found are 'ultrapotassic' and so alkaline that the mining wastes can absorb air's CO2 once finely ground and moistened, by forming carbonates of the original rock minerals. Use of finely ground orangeite as fertilizer also supplied potassium to soil, and thus built soil and plant life, so this fixed carbon in two ways. But orangeite deposits are rare, while ultramafic rock, high in magnesium or iron oxides, while somewhat rare on land, underlie the continent's crustal rock, and form the bottom of the oceans. Ultramafic rock is therefore quite common, and like orangeite, forms carbonates, looking away air's carbon dioxide, potentially. But where were the interactions between mantle rock and air's carbon dioxide? 
Another de-carbonation effect occurred as a side effect of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion installations in the hot tropics. These OTEC machines use the difference in temperature between hot tropical surface waters and frigid deep ocean water to drive generation of power, fresh water and ice, but their biggest financial boon comes from the fertility of the cold deep water, which fertilizes mariculture worth sixty times the energy yield of these OTEC plants in the outflow at the sunlit surface of the fertile deep water brought into the sun by the OTEC plants. The OTEC design commonly used was not well-known before 2015, yet it was devised in the 1970s. It worked with smaller heat differences between hot surface and cold deep water than other OTEC designs, so this extended OTEC plant use to the limits of the hot tropics' warm ocean water's range.
In this 'Mist-Lift' design a partial vacuum is drawn in an enormous hollow chamber. At the bottom of the chamber 22 degree Celcius tropical surface waters are drawn in, where they burst through mist nozzles into 'steam', forced to water vapor by the vacuum. The vapor roars upward in the vacuum chamber, drawing with it droplets as a mist, all at about 18 Celcius, cooled and driven upward by the vapor expansion. Then ocean deep water, naturally near 4 Celcius, is drawn into the chamber's midpoint through mist nozzles as well, where its cold temperature condenses the warm vapor of the mist, but it doesn't eliminate the upward movement of this water, resulting in an upward stream of water at about 11 Celcius. The expansion of the warm tropical surface water vaporization powers the lifting of all that ocean water, warm and cold, to the top of the chamber, where it percolates up and over a rim into the last chamber. There huge vacuum pumps, by continually removing uncondensable gases that were dissolved in the seawater drawn into the OTEC plant, establish both of the chambers' vacuum levels. While these pumps, and the pumps lifting the cold deep water, require vast amounts of energy, the OTEC plant makes that energy and more, in that the 11 Celcius outflow from the last chamber's top has been lifted a considerable height in its initial expansion, flight, and later condensation. By falling back through a turbine, the outflow supplies more than enough power for drawing the vacuum and raising the cold deep water. These OTEC plants were built on ships just before the Tsunami; these ships were deployed in the hot tropical oceans worldwide. 
As these OTEC endeavours became profitable, they also became politically irreversible in the fiercely decentralized post-Tsunami and post-Flu-demic society. Some of the increase in sunlight transformed by the mariculture's photosynthesis was lost back to the deep ocean as bound carbon, removed from the air that had dissolved into the ocean. 
Ben and Sally kept getting in trouble at school, Tadhg received a certified letter from his wife's lawyer, and the carbon budget still wasn't quite adding up. His wife discounted the work as supposition, with hand-waving. 'What else took carbon from air?' thought Tadhg. There was yet another carbon sink, consisting of the use of coastal deserts for mariculture. Cheap-to-pump seawater, held behind huge dams in the bright desert sunlight, grew sea vegetation, plankton and fish, raising food where nearly nothing grew before. Granted, the fish and sea vegetables harvested and eaten didn't permanently remove carbon from the air, but there was some carbon fixed, yet left unharvested, year by year in the formation of carbonates as in seashell. The removal of some seawater from the oceans reduced the sea level rise a little bit, too. The seawater passed over dam after dam, pumped by wind turbines, evaporating in each embayment, getting saltier and saltier, until it reached salt pans furtherest from the sea. 
As it entered the next-to-last pond, added hydroxide precipitated magnesium from the brine. The hydroxide was made by wind-generated electricity electrolyzing water. This magnesium hydroxide produced a cement which absorbed air's carbon dioxide as it cured, and didn't release carbon into air as it was made. Before the Tsunami, this negative-carbon cement became cheaper than Portland cement, as it took less fossil fuel to make it. 
On the day Tadhg had to take Ben from the Principal's office, Tadhg guess-timated the effects of these four on the carbon cycle on the back of yet another envelope. Still not enough to explain the cooling, and the tenure committee would reconvene about his delayed tenure application in a month.

When Tadhg was picking up both Ben and Sally at the principle's office a few weeks later, he wondered about methane release reduction. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas, but with a shorter halflife in air, as compared to carbon dioxide. A search of old pre-Tsunami science literature revealed that domestic cattle had been genetically engineered via a mumps viroid to produce alpha-galactosidase in their saliva. Alpha-galactosidase is an enzyme that mammals lack which digests oligosaccharides, which otherwise fuel gut microbe's methane production via enteric fermentation. As human livestock released, pre-Tsunami, about 50 billion tons of methane per year, of what had been 375 billion tons of methane per year from human activities, the modified mumps viroid's effect are moderate, but this genetic engineering also reduces what once was about 25 billion tons of methane per year from livestock manure methane production, by the enzyme's inducing oligosaccharide digestion within cattle. This also caused cattle to better use dietary oligosaccharides in digestion, causing more and faster cattle growth, which rendered extensive genetic conversion financially inevitable. 
Another reduction in methane release to air followed from a switch, in many flooded pond fields, or 'paddys', from growing rice to growing a sugarcane/sorghum hybrid with a rice-like grain. When grown in flooded soils, the hybrids induce a ten-fold reduction in 'paddy' soil methane, by altering redox state in the pond field's rhizosphere. This reduced 'paddy' methane emission worldwide by 50 billion tons of methane per year, while increasing food carbohydrate yields from flooded fields as well. 
Post-'Flu-demic' reductions in human burning of biomass dropped methane releases some 40 billion tons of methane per year further, while better human utilization of landfill methane emissions, coupled with reduction in solid waste brought to landfills, and reductions in soil carbon release following reductions in plowing, by now-sparse humanity, subtracted another 40 billion tons of methane per year.
Tallied all together, these methane and carbon dioxide emission reductions could explain air's carbon depletion. Since methane is about 25 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over a century, these methane emission reductions in particular explained especially well the cooling of earth that had confounded so many. The 48% reduction in human methane emissions yielded a third lower total methane emission reduction per year, and since a gram of methane emissions causes global warming equivalent to emission of 25 grams of carbon dioxide over the next century, 180 billion tons less methane per year is equivalent, at a CH4:CO2 mass ratio of 16:44, to about 180% the effect of yearly pre-Flu-demic human carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel use and human land use changes upon the greenhouse effect. The global cooling was explained. 
Tadhg finally published these results, but the world had gone feral since Tsunami and Flu-demic. Since society was now decentralized to the extreme, there was neither carrot nor stick immediate and big enough to change these various climate actor's deeds. As the years passed by, Tadhg, vindicated, finally won tenure, but lost his wife, and his children entered lives of crime. Ben robbed Vancouver quick-marts at gunpoint, when Sally wasn't shop-lifting. 

What was left of humanity was bitterly forced to attempt to burn their way to restore that earlier climatic glory. Automobiles were resurrected, grew tailfins again and massive hood ornaments, and open fireplaces blazed at the slightest chill worldwide. Chainsaws wailed through tropical forests, struggling to keep up with the resurgent woods worldwide. But with so few humans left, Nature, Augmented, had the icy upper hand. Snowball earth continued to cool, and increasingly looked like a milano cookie, in that big white polar ice caps grew from the polar regions toward an equatorial band of plankton-darkened seas and plant-darkened lands that was like the Milano cookie's chocolate filling.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Energy vs. Jobs: Quoting Hazel Hendeson

"...The basic nature of the painful transition involves a necessary shift from economies based on maximizing labor productivity (and thereby continually increasing the capital and energy intensity of their industrial production), which heretofore has been based on non-renewable energy, to economies that must now conserve capital, energy and materials and more fully employ their human resources. This shift will require the development of a newly designed, more efficient production system based on renewable resources and managed for sustained-yield productivity.
      This is a tall order for today's economists acculturated during a brief period of fossil-fuel-based abundence, which provided the slack that allowed massive Keynesian pump priming and demand-stimulation without instant inflation."

Hazel Henderson, 1981, _Politics of the Solar Age_, Anchor Press, NY, :31

Monday, September 30, 2013

Peanut plant in Boston

Boston Peanut plant, 'Black' variety, Sept 30th 2013, with index card and forming pod on peg.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hope and Sanity?

Those before us brilliantly eliminated use of then-scarce labor with use of then-plentiful resources. Think Industrial Revolution and Fossil Fuels.
Now we live in a world emptying of resources and brimming with laborers. Think Peak Oil, Peak Water and 7 billion of us.
Shifting technologies to reduce resource use by using more labor could create needed jobs, while sparing now-rare resources, all while yielding less industrial pollution. Win-win-win.
And taxing 'bads', like resource use and pollution, instead of 'goods', like paying payroll, can lead us toward a workably sane world. Think Carbon Tax instead of payroll tax.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Proposed Green-Rainbow Party Regions

Greater Boston - South

 Central - South
 Greater Boston - North
 North - MetroWest
 South - MetroWest
 Central - West