Regeneration – Understanding Carbon

Phil and Wietse

This is my brilliant young friend from the Netherlands Wietse Slob. When he and his girlfriend flew over to join my family for Thanksgiving weekend in Queensland, he arrived with a book titled Regeneration – Ending the climate crisis in one generation by Paul Hawken.

My first task was to quantify the duration of a generation. Although I didn’t find a definitive answer, it appears that twenty-five years is the most agreed-on duration of a generation.

The book was published in 2021 so the title proposes we can end the current climate crisis in 2046. To me, that seems like a pretty tall order but I am open to a better understanding of how that is possible. Although I’ve just gotten started, the arguments for actions man can take to accomplish such a herculean task sound pretty reasonable.

I should start this thread of blog posts by sharing with you that Wietse is dedicated to sustainability and I truly believe he is one of the heroes who will go on to save the world. Since I met him in 2018, he has taught me much about what individuals can do to make a positive difference that will contribute to a sustainable future. Surprisingly I thought I had a reasonable understanding of climate change but I wasn’t even close.

I think the principles in this book are so basic and powerful that as I read and improve my knowledge I’d like to share my discoveries with others. That is my goal with this as the first of other ramblings to come. I hope it catches your attention and proves beneficial to making lifestyle changes to assure we pass a healing planet to our children. It will not be healthy at the end of a generation but we can get this blue dot we call planet Earth headed in the right direction if we try.

I need to start this with some information about carbon. Not to worry, there is no quiz coming.

It is a chemical element and number 6 on the periodic table. That’s more than you really need to know scientifically but what is important is that:

Carbon is the chemical backbone for all life on Earth.

It is required to form complex molecules like proteins and DNA. All you need to know from this last statement is that we need them. Want to know more than that, go look it up.

All of the carbon we currently have on Earth is the same amount we have always had. We do not create new carbon or destroy what is already here.

Carbon is mostly stored in rocks, and soil sediments. The rest is in the ocean, atmosphere, and living organisms. In the atmosphere, Carbon takes on the form of Carbon Dioxide which is frequently written as CO2.

As the chemical backbone for all life on Earth, some life forms take in carbon to help manufacture food, and some release carbon as part of respiration. The intake and output of carbon is a natural and essential process of all plant and animal life.

Carbon is in a constant state of movement and is stored in what is known as reservoirs. It moves between these reservoirs through numerous processes, including photosynthesis, burning fossil fuels, and simply releasing breath from the lungs. As a simple example, plants grow stems and leaves through photosynthesis of carbon dioxide, animals eat these plants, man eats plants, all living organisms die and decompose returning carbon to the soil.

The movement of carbon from one reservoir to another reservoir is known as the carbon cycle.

The carbon cycle describes the process in which carbon atoms continually travel from the atmosphere to the earth and then back into the atmosphere. Where the carbon is located — in the atmosphere or in the earth — is constantly in flux. Nature tends to keep carbon levels in balance such that the amount released from the earth is equal to the amount absorbed from the atmosphere. Maintaining that balance allows the planet to remain hospitable for life.

The dilemma we face is that human activity has upset the balance which has added more carbon to the atmosphere than usual and that activity resulted in climate change and global warming.

The goal of regeneration is to return the carbon cycle to a state of balance.

This is the end of my first rambling about regeneration. As I understand it better I will share more.

Peace, Love, and Laughter
Phil (he/him)

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