Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Industrial Managed Synthetic Forests justified because Nature is flawed & poorly designed

Somewhere a Biomimeticist  just fell off a chair & it wasn't Janine Benyus

I'm totally convinced that if the biotechnology industry has its way,  millions of acres of native forests around the world will be bulldozed or steam rolled down and replaced with plantations of genetically engineered (GE) trees. Here in Sweden, the main leader in this backroom mandate is SweTree with it's governmental blessing.  Here in Sweden in these tree plantations, there are essentially no other understory plants (can't blame Earthworms), insects, birds, or wildlife, just sterile rows upon rows of cloned synthetic trees growing at accelerated rates in dead, lifeless soil. The typical reasons for genetically altering these trees with unnatural characteristics is to have the ability to kill insects, tolerate colder temperatures, resist toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and grow the trees at a much faster rate to be harvested in 20 years as opposed to 100 years. But what is really the purpose behind reingineering forest trees ? Well, the Biotechnology Industry wants to market these designer trees with a variety of traits that will increase their income-generating capacity (otherwise known as Patents) at least over the short-term. For the Timber Industry they want trees which have immediate commercial value with specific tailored characteristics, as well as speeding up the harvest process. Here in Sweden a landowner does not want to wait 100+ years to harvest big old growth trees. They want harvest in 20 years or less. 

The Biotech company SweTree in collusion with the paper industry in Sweden, are engineering trees to have lower lignin. This natural polymer must be removed from wood pulp before the pulp can be made into paper, which is an expensive part of the process. Ever drive past a paper mill ? The stench is horrible and results from the plethora of chemicals they use. The problem is, lignin is what gives trees their structural integrity and allows trees to withstand strong in wind storms and any other harsh weather conditions. Previously I wrote about one notorious hurricane type storm which hit Southern Sweden that the Swedes called Gudrun Storm in 2005 which blew down these trees everywhere by the millions. So these Low-lignin trees are weaker and less able to withstand these powerful environmental stresses. They also do not optimally nourish important fungi once they are inserted into the soil. Also when the tree dies, these low-lignin trees decompose faster, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere more quickly, which will also contribute further to climate change.


Image by Nicklas Elmrin (2005)
About a year and a half before I moved to Sweden and got married, my future wife was visiting me in San Diego California from Sweden when the Gudrun hurricane storm hit on January 8 & 9 2005. Thousands of hectares of industrial plantation trees were flattened much like the scenes at Mount St Helens in 1980 in Washington State. In the photograph below here you can see a hurried attempt to salvage log as many fallen trees as possible. Remember, these are not normal trees, they degrade much faster.
Images - VisionDivision

The Storm Gudrun 2005, Salvage logging, 
Byholma, Sweden

There are many other incredible reasons why GMO plantation Timber is a dumb worthless idea. One major scary thing is the ease with which these engineered unnatural flaws (inserted transgenic gene trait) could get out into the wild and forever effect forested ecosystems. These longer lived trees are not like the conventional annual GMO crops which only live a few months. These forest trees live for years and despite the propaganda out there that nothing will go wrong or escape into the wild, you cannot control where these tree's manufactured pollen and seeds end up outdoors. It's impossible. But there is more to this subject and it has to do with money. When money is the underlying motivation, it will always colour the scientific research. Recently an article came out in the online journal, "The Register Guard" on the subject where Industrial Forestry claim to have the science behind their logging. No surprising, but then all corporate entities, biotechnology included, claim science is on their side. Actually they do have a science on their side. Anybody can purchase and pay for any type of scientist to back their claims. The tobacco industry has always done this in the past as well as other industries. Many pro-science types have a hard time differentiating between good and bad science. To many folks belonging to the "culture of science" gang, putting down any science makes you anti-science. Not true, but let's get back to this article. Here is the first paragraph and the link:
"Recent commentaries on public forest management in The Register-Guard by timber industry lobbyists say our forests should be managed with “science.” Their “science” comes from colleges of forestry influenced by timber corporations’ donations to see forests primarily as money, emphasizing clearcut logging and replanting, riparian logging, salvage logging, wildlife logging, fire prevention logging, forest health logging, restoration logging and — the latest forest science scam — logging for water."
Forest industry’s ‘science’ means more logging
I love the last science justification used for the need of increased logging, " . . and the latest forest science scam — logging for water." Somewhere, (UC Merced Hydrological Engineer, Roger C. Bales), just fell off a chair. What actually got me really rolling on this subject in the first place was a debate over at the California Chaparral Institute's Facebook page where this linked article on industrial timber influencing forest management policies was being discussed. Many of the Timber Industry's ideas go in direct conflict with how nature wants to be managed. The industrial side claims they have science behind them. Disagree and you are labeled anti-science. All sides [industrial & environmental] insist only they have the claimed science, but not all science is good and much of it is bad. Seriously, look at the sad state of our planet. We wouldn't be having these discussions if science actually worked the way the definitions we are force fed say it works. Science working responsibly and effectively is dependent on either the right or wrong people and what motivates them. It's called bias. 

image - eurweb.com
But take my example of a court trial once again and people's definition of 'evidence'. When a defendant in a court trial loses his/her case, many commenters will insist it was because the defendent's side had no evidence. Absolutely not true. When a court case begins, both prosecution and defense lawyers come in with their briefcases full of evidence. During the court trial process both sides present their evidence. But what caused the guy to lose his case is that the evidence presented by his legal team to the jury was not compelling. Same exact thing with Science. There is a lot of good science out there that does not have a bank vault behind it or the dirty backroom political deals to push it through. But there are many Scientists who truly do know and have a grasp on how a forest should be managed and that the potential for profit is still there if properly managed. The problem for concept of ecology management is that the wealth gets redistributed and put another way, the prevailing business orthodoxy which presently monopolizes the industry doesn't like it. What got me interested in finishing this post was a comment by a Forester who is a regular commenter over there on the Chaparral Institute's pages. He is almost always at odds with many of the environmental issues brought up and discussed. Logically & not surprisingly he takes sides with the industrial worldview which supports his bread and butter needs. I get that. But here is what he said, btw, his name is irrevelvant.
"Different people have different definitions of what a healthy forest and or eco system is....."
Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist at USDA Forest Service, Weiser, Idaho
Yeah, there sure is. Remember the infamous lawyered legal excuse, "It depends on what your definition of "Is" is" ? We live in a time where definition shell games are a strategy for debate. For some people forests are a raw canvas to re-engineer for pure short term profit and for others the same forests are a biodiverse ecosystem which is a long term complex part of what keeps life on the Earth functioning like a well oiled machine. I'll give just one industrial example of massive land restoration which fails big time. China for some time has spent a lot of time, money, and manpower effort to reforest many remote western areas, but under an industrial monoculture business model. It's the business motivation that dooms the projects from the start. Chinese culture is obsessed with business. Here in Göteborg Sweden the Chinese tourism is huge. Tour buses all summer long. What I found comical last week were a large group of Chinese tourists walking through central Göteborg and taking many many photographs before reaching the bus. But these were not normal tourist photos, they were photographing store front businesses and how the Swedish businesses arrange their merchandise display. Restoring nature should not be about making money, that will eventually come, but patience is required and that's where the problems lay. And that is where the big business Biotechs believe they can provide answers. For business short term yes, but for nature long term no. Without explaining much more, you can read about the challenges of monculture forestry below.
Forests from an Industrial Perspective -> China
(Photos by Fangyuan Hua, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs)

"China’s Grain-for-Green Program, the world’s largest reforestation effort, has converted 69.2 million acres of cropland and barren scrubland back to forest. Yet, the program overwhelmingly leads to the planting of monoculture forests, falling short of restoring the biodiversity of native forests — and can even harm existing wildlife. The graphic above shows the composition of (clockwise from upper left) a mixed forest, a native forest, a eucalyptus forest, cropland, a bamboo forest and a Japanese cedar forest."
Princeton University: Seeing the forest for the trees: World's largest reforestation program overlooks wildlife 
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Good Responsible Scientists have found out how the Natural World wants to be managed
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Keep in mind that these things you can click on and read below have been known for years and they've been rejected by industrial science. Biodiversity is the key.
Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species
Photo: P. Turander/Azote

A new study shows that mixed forests compared to monocultures provide higher levels of multiple ecosystem services, including timber production.  (August 2013)
Abstract: "Forests are of major importance to human society, contributing several crucial ecosystem services. Biodiversity is suggested to positively influence multiple services but evidence from natural systems at scales relevant to management is scarce. Here, across a scale of 400,000 km2, we report that tree species richness in production forests shows positive to positively hump-shaped relationships with multiple ecosystem services. These include production of tree biomass, soil carbon storage, berry production and game production potential. For example, biomass production was approximately 50% greater with five than with one tree species. In addition, we show positive relationships between tree species richness and proxies for other biodiversity components. Importantly, no single tree species was able to promote all services, and some services were negatively correlated to each other. Management of production forests will therefore benefit from considering multiple tree species to sustain the full range of benefits that the society obtains from forests."
http://www.nature.com - Forestry and nature conservation can benefit from higher tree species diversity 
It's incredible. Much of this information has been known for some years now, but Corporate Business utilizing industrial technological innovation has taken the science of discovery, manipulating it, abusing it and misusing it for profit. And Why ? Impatience. Take a look at what one of the co-authors says here: 
"Different tree species provide different services. For example, the amount of spruce trees was linked to high growth rates, the amount of pine to berry production, while higher carbon storage was found in areas with high abundance of birch" 
Fredrik Moberg, co-author (August 2013)
Astonishing. Of all the places in the world, this research was done in the country of Sweden in SweTree's backyard by Stockholm University along with the University, Forestry Research Institute and the Swedish Forestry. Corporate Business interests will always trump evidence for scientific sustainable ecology. But here's the real killer and what prevents industrial science and politician bedfellows from grasping onto this:
"Ecosystems provide a wealth of benefits to human society, and the provision of such ecosystem services depends fundamentally on functions performed by organisms. This has led scientists to enquire how the diversity and composition of communities may regulate ecosystem functions. A large body of evidence has established that species diversity promotes ecosystem functions under experimental conditions. There are, however, many exceptions to the positive diversity–function relationship. In addition, most experiments have been conducted at limited temporal or spatial scales."
And pay real particular attention now to this last sentence. It references those who actually make the forest managment policies and what a valuable tool this research could be. Unfortunately if scientists aren't talking short term $ or £ or €, they're most often going to be ignored by policy makers. But still the research here is invaluable for decision making when it comes to forest management policies.
 "It is thus uncertain if conclusions based on results from these studies can be extended to the scales relevant to policy makers"
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Are Mixed Tropical Tree Plantations More Resistant to Drought than Monocultures?

Schematic animation - MDPI, Basel, Switzerland  (2015)
"Schematic profile diagram of trees growing in (a) monoculture (Cedrela odorata) and (b) mixed species plots (from left to right, Luehea seemannii, Anacardium excelsum, Cedrela odorata and Tabebuia rosea). The trees are drawn accounting for their species specific natural canopy and root structure in scale of the height and rooting depth as measured in the plantation in Sardinilla, Panama. The better canopy stratification and root niche differentiation is visible in the mixed species stands (b) compared to the uniformity in monoculture (a)." 
(June 2015) (Source)
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 Remember when several Researchers revealed to us how Trees - Shrubs & other Plants Talk (communicate) ???
Illustration - sott.net - Science & Technology
The online journal, "The Scientist" headline read:
"Plant Talk: Plants communicate and interact with each other, both above ground and below, in surprisingly subtle and sophisticated ways."
"Researchers are unearthing evidence that, far from being unresponsive and uncommunicative organisms, plants engage in regular conversation. In addition to warning neighbors of herbivore attacks, they alert each other to threatening pathogens and impending droughts, and even recognize kin, continually adapting to the information they receive from plants growing around them. Moreover, plants can “talk” in several different ways: via airborne chemicals, soluble compounds exchanged by roots and networks of threadlike fungi, and perhaps even ultrasonic sounds. Plants, it seems, have a social life that scientists are just beginning to understand."  
So an ecosystem is an interdependent communal group of living cooperating organisms ??? I've always liked the network concept that Dr. Simard described, an “internet” of roots. Hence, the name "Earth's Internet" as I've titled this blog. Now notice below here that maple trees ability to communicate has been known for decades, but the teachings of the prevailing industrial scientific orthodoxy got in the way.
"In 1983, plant scientists Jack Schultz and Ian Baldwin reported that intact maple tree saplings ramped up their defense systems when exposed to herbivore-damaged maples. The injured trees, they suggested, were alerting neighbors to the presence of a predator by releasing chemical signals into the air. But the plant research community didn’t buy it. The results were difficult to replicate, critics pointed out, and many questioned how a trait that benefits neighboring plants but not the emitter could be evolutionarily stable. By the late 1980s, “most ecologists felt these ideas had been debunked and that it was time to move on,” says Karban."
 Wow, isn't this wonderful and aren't you grateful that these responsible Scientists didn't cave in to the critics ? Apparently the responsible research persisted despite the fact that, “researchers who doubt that plants would have evolved to be altruistic have ruminated on the old question of the evolutionary origins of the phenomenon” (translation =  Industrial ideologically driven Scientific Orthodoxy stood in the way and wasted valuable time in our understanding of how forests really work which in turn put on hold viable forest management strategies) and “the evolutionary explanation for volatile communication among plants remains open to debate” which basically means that if the Industrial Scientific Orthodoxy is not a happy camper on this, then responsible scientific research hits a road block. Frankly, there is no reason for either side of these origins debates to bicker over how it evolved or how it was created. The fact is, people should simply observe the phenomenon for what it is and jump head first into biomimetics in formulating a schematic blueprint on how you can more easily and efficiently manage a forested or any other plant community ecosystem. But wait there is more:
"Individual compounds are the words," says Jarmo Holopainen, an ecologist at the University of Eastern Finland, "and these words are combined to make specific sentences." Unfortunately, he adds, researchers know little about what these volatile signals mean to a plant and how they are perceived. "We’ve made very little progress in deciphering this chemical code." 
Source: The Scientist - "Plant Talk"
Wow, I love the references here to the informational content of the chemical compounds being likened to words, then individual chemicals working together being likened to sentences, etc. Like the concept of plants talking (which ticked off the ideologues), so too does the subject of Epigenetic Mechanisms. Epigenetics where geneticists often refer not only to whole sentences, but also paragraphs and epigenetic switches in genes which can be either turned 'on' or 'off' which themselves are being likened to punctuation within whole paragraphs. Whole paragraphs themselves being likened to a specific gene working within the context of other deliberately selected non-coding genes (formerly 'Junk DNA' which itself was a label to smokescreen scientific ignorance of their function and purpose within the genome). Punctuation (genetic switches in genes being turned 'on' or 'off') can dictate how the meaning of informational content in the sentences within the paragraph can be altered to have completely different meaning. Hence the term gene expression comes into play. This is nothing more than a living organisms DNA & sensory mechanisms responding to environmental cues.

Illustrative animation from chronotext.org
I love the illustration above. For me it represents how environmental cues can influence how the genetic make up of any living organism's genome will respond accordingly to changes in the environment. This has zero to do with random mutations being acted upon by Tinker Bell's magic wand, otherwise known as natural selection. This infection of most of DNA being junk has held back science for years when things could have gone forward. It becomes understandable why Geneticist David Suzuki's colleagues blasted him because of his cautious stand on genetic engineering. Here is what David Suzuki said regarding his colleagues mind set: 
In discussions I’ve had with my fellow geneticists, they often say “listen Suzuki we are only talking about DNA; DNA is DNA, what difference does it make what organism it comes from. We pull it out of this organism put it into another, it’s just DNA”.
 Then back in December 2014, we were all treated to those stupid silly Intelligence Squared Debates: Genetically Modified Foods - Winners & Losers Where UC Davis GMO defender Alison Van Eenennaam used the same primative worldview of DNA being basically nothing more than Legos or Tinker Toys. Tell me Biotech geneticists and engineers aren't influenced the DNA being mostly Junk Dogma ?:
"We're just talking about genes, genes are genes, you take one gene one thing and you put it with some other genes"
What a pity epigenetics isn't being taken more seriously. Pity that these Biotech scientists don't have the same worldview on the amazing complexity and sophistication of the genome as Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., assistant professor at Van Andel Research Institute:                       
           “Many of the key players orchestrating DNA methylation had previously been characterized, but what we didn’t fully realize before this study is that they all work together in an elegant way,”
For those who are disturbed by this idea of an irresponsible worldview of nature being flawed and badly design in need of intellectual human intervention, Carl Sagan had a great description about the practice of astrology when compared to astronomy. I'll change the words a bit, but you can see what he said from the link in his name above from YouTube:
"There are two ways to view the natural world. The way it really is or the way we might wish it to be."
The statement applies equally well for both sides of the worldview debate who incessantly fight & bicker about each side's religious and political ideology which results in nothing getting absolutely being accomplished but wasted time. Such bickering does nothing but throw up road blocks to real sustainable technologies and policies innovated by means of Biomimetics or Biomimicry. Nature is not flawed, it's not badly designed. But it is off track and humans derailed it. This epigenetic change can be either a positive or a negative. Fortunately humans have the ability to control the positive. Sadly, thus far Humans have refused to do so. Below is a nice interview with Forest Ecologist Suzanne Simard who has shown how trees use a network of soil fungi to communicate their needs and in coming to the aid of neighboring plants. Now she’s warning that threats like clear-cutting and climate change could disrupt these critical networks. No kidding!
Yale Environment 360: Exploring How and Why Trees ‘Talk’ to Each Other
But now finally, what about the later part of my post's title ? What about Nature being flawed & poorly designed ???
I may have placed those words in the title, but it's certainly not my belief. For decades now, Academia has had those well known celebrity types who have claimed to represent and speak for Science utilizing an irresponsible evolutionary argument against rightwing Fundies called, (click link: "Argument from Poor Design") which has done more to harm nature than it has in hammering fundies. The flaw itself with this irresponsible argument has been to instill in many a college student over the decades a worldview of designs found in nature as inept, inefficient and terribly designed. Hence whatever field they later entered especially in science or engineering provided them with an unconscious belief that what they need to do is improve upon nature's flaws. Journalist everywhere have also fallen for this scam often publishing numerous articles exploiting this worldview. But unwittingly, many who have promoted this idea have also been many of the ecology types. They've actually demonized the very things they claim to champion to save as an activist. Is it any wonder that company scientists from a Monsanto or SweTree believe they are improving upon Nature's flaw in design ? What about Climate Change or Global Warming ? Who took the lead in bringing this about ? Of course all humans bear a measure of guilt, but the Scientists themselves took the lead in ignoring designs found in nature and believed they were taking superior shortcuts in innovation and advancing humanity. Look where we are today. These same scientists have invented a word called Smithsonian Magazine: Anthropocene. As the article states, not all scientists are in agreement. But science itself, under the influence of ieology helped accelerate this anthropocene. Now suddenly, in a turn around to make a correction, some scientists are claiming to be champions of something else called Biomimicry or Biomimetics. This would be the turn around science discipline of copying designs found out in nature. It's certainly a refreshing start, but is it too late. Unfortunately researchers like, Janine Benyus, make an attempt to highlight that science has been on board with this all along and that is flat out untrue. To be effective, she needs to first backtrack and apologize to her TedTalk audiences for scientists putting nature down and creating this climate change anthropocene mess that 100+ years of enlightenment have dumped on mankind and Nature. She has never done this in any talk I've ever seen.
(TedTalk; Biomimicry in Action)
Final Conclusion
Ultimately there is no easy answer for repairing the damage done to our Earth by Industrial Corporate entities who misuse and abuse science for the production of a product and the average human being who buys into the propaganda of equating what defines a 'happy life' with consummerism (or the acquiring of many material things). People should know and understand the huge differences in the neutral real science of discovering how things in the natural world work and the science practiced by corporate industrial entities who hire engineers to manipulate scientific research for pure profit at environmental cost. Mankind as they stand will never self-correct. Not when the present Human leadership (Political, Religious & Business) stands in the way of a more ecological direction. Therefore it would appear that a forcible removal would be needed. Incredibly this appears to be happening very soon and when it happens, it won't be so much the "End of an Era" as it'll be the "End of an Error."

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