Maxing Earth's Buffers to the Breaking Point
The Earth is extremely resilient, but there are limits to how much she
can take, and when her buffering capacity is saturated, catastrophic ecosystem
breakdown results. We are beginning to see some more rapid changes now,
indicating that we are on the edge of the buffer.
|Author's Preface Note:
I don't presume to be the first to articulate this concept. The
reason I wrote it is because in all the research I have done I do not
recall coming across it before: namely applying the principle of
titration curves associated with buffers, and large-scale patterns of
planetary ecosystems. The Earth is a living being as much as a
tree or insect, and that implies buffer systems that can be maxed under
bad circumstances, bringing death. (Dec. 18, 2005)
D. Allan and Mary-Sue
Pure Energy Systems News Exclusive
Copyright © 2005
The Earth can handle the input of a great
deal of abuse with little change of its ecosystem, but when its limits are
reached, drastic change results.
The Day After Tomorrow Hollywood hit
is based on an actual possible scenario.
The movie Day After Tomorrow paints a dramatic
dooms-day picture of what would happen by way of sudden change in climate due to
the Atlantic thermohaline ocean current grinding to a halt. In the
movie, this was caused by global warming introducing a large amount of fresh
water into the ocean system from the melting of ice, changing the circulation
dynamics. What is unnerving is that this Hollywood scenario is based on
actual scientific models and data (but not without debate); and this is one of a
number of possible scenarios given the current global warming trends.
A scientific expedition placing data-collection buoys in various locations on
the ocean have detected a thirty percent decline in the volume of the warm
waters moving north across the Atlantic. Given the location of the change in
flow, earliest effects will be not on New York but on Europe, which has come to
count on the Gulf Streams warm waters. Scientists will continue to monitor
changes transmitted by these data buoys, and to track any further decline. (Ref.)
In pondering these changes we face, considering the present course we are on, it
is important to remember that at the extreme ends, the change doesn't progress
on a gradual, linear decay. Rather, after a certain point, it goes
exponentially -- suddenly.
As the permafrost melts, for example, it releases methane, which then speeds up
the cycle in a positive feedback loop.
This phenomenon is best demonstrated by a simple chemistry titration
curve. Let's take, for example, a solution of water with a pH buffer in
it. As drops of acid are added to the solution, over a given range
(depending on the buffer), such as from 8 down to 6, the pH of the solution
changes very little with each drop of acid added. But once the limits of
the buffer are reached, e.g. below 6 in the case of adding acid, suddenly with
each drop of acid added, the pH goes down by very large increments. The
buffer's capacity has been saturated.
Near the point of buffer saturation, there is a very tiny range in which the
changes go from small to large for each drop of acid added.
Now think of the earth. One person tossing a battery into the dirt is not
going to throw the earth as a whole out of balance. Even millions or
billions of people discarding poisons into landfills and into the oceans and
rivers is something the Earth can take -- to a point. It has a buffering
capacity -- many buffering systems. Each organism has internal buffering
systems. Each ecosystem has buffering systems.
The earth is very robust. But it has its limits.
Each buffer system has its point of saturation. When one system becomes
overloaded, it puts strain on the adjoining system, increasing that ones load
and shortening the time before it too passes its overload point.
In nature, these systems typically work harmoniously together to keep the whole
within a safe range.
Introducing technologically-advanced humans to the mix introduces driving
factors that are not natural, which can therefore place strain on the buffers.
Therefore, the trend we now see on the planet toward increased rate of change of
the various systems, is not good. It means we are nearing the edge of the
buffering capacity. In just the past two decades, for example, damages
done from weather extremes have increased 50-fold, according to Paul R. Epstein,
Associate Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard
Medical School. (Ref)
Our time to wake up and turn things around is very short. We must act with
all diligence if we are to avert a cataclysmic maxing out of the Earth's
The new steady state is not likely to be conducive to life on Earth as we have
What can we do?
We must pursue clean energy technologies -- and there are a large number of
feasible technologies worth pursuing. (Ref.)
While yet burning fossil fuels, we need to think of ways to conserve, such as
reducing peak load by distributing usage to off-peak times, or converting
non-peak energy production to hydrogen, to be used in the emerging hydrogen
economy, rather than venting that energy into the environment, wasting it.
We need to increase our recycling, and support new technologies that can turn
waste into energy.
Slowing down the trend is not enough. The momentum will carry us over the
We can pursue feasible methods for buying time, such as CO2 sequestration.
In addition to these avenues for slowing the stress we have been placing on the
planet through our indulgence in fossil fuels, there are things we can do to
turn around and move back in a direction that can bring healing to the planet.
We can re-vegetate the wastelands, clean up the landfills, un-dam the rivers,
restore the nutrients to the farmlands, employ green roofing, stop building
population centers on arable land, and use the land for ecologically-sound
Purifying the Profit Motive
This will require a shift away from the profit motive as sole driver of human
behavior. As the profit motive is currently defined and taught in business
schools, environmental degradation and human health are dismissed as
"externalities" that are irrelevant to business. Some economists even
argue that corporate managers may sometimes have an obligation to bend or break
anti-fraud laws if doing so increases profits to shareholders. It is extreme
ideological beliefs such as these that are pushing all of us into danger.
A more humanitarian system of thought must regain precedence, restoring Adam
Smith's original dictum that a business loses its right to exist if it ceases to
benefit humanity. Higher motives must intervene to restore the legitimacy
of planetary healing measures into the business mindset alongside profit
incentives. They must come from a higher realm in our collective conscience -- a
desire to do good.
All of this assumes we do not destroy ourselves through some other means
(mankind has contrived some hundred or so methods of annihilation), or that a
comet doesn't come smashing into us, or that some super volcano doesn't blow its
I happen to believe that our planet's destiny is not slated to mere chance, but
that the collective choices we make will drive the outcome, for better or for
worse. The comet scenario would not be undeserved, nor would the super
Individual Actions for Good
Whatever the collective destiny ends up being, it will not hurt any individual
to seek to make a difference for good in the mean time.
And let's be kinder to each other, either way. We might as well enjoy what
we do. The human soul is wired to find fulfillment in seeking a higher
cause and pursuing the highest that is within.
We've got a problem. Let's do something about it, and invoke some mercy, which
in this case means an earth brought back into balance. Justice calls for us to
experience the consequences of our greed in the maxing of the buffers and the
destruction of most all life on earth.
We don't want that. Do we?
# # #
What Happens to Acid Rain? - Web presentation on the formation of acid
rain, and the buffering limits. (source of titration image used in the
creation of the above graphic)
Warming - index of data, ramifications, solutions
"Tipping Points" Accelerate Global Warming? (Reuters;
Nov. 25, 2005)
- See especially: The
Ocean to change the Earth's climate
- One of the most powerful ocean currents in the world is
weakening. Since a recent study came out with this new finding, we talked
to the UK's National Oceanography Centre to find out just how much danger
we're in... (Discovery.ca; Dec. 2, 2005) [doesn't account for
sudden freezing of Mammoths, etc.]
Page composed by Sterling
D. Allan Dec. 4, 2005
Last updated December 18, 2005