Just in time for our big Earth Day issue this week, I received an email from an organization calling itself "CO2 Science."
You can guess where I'm going with this.
The kicker is the tagline on the email:
"Exploring and reporting the positive side of rising CO2 and climate change."
No, the email didn't arrive on April Fool's Day. (I double-checked.)
Yes, you read that right: The positive side of rising CO2 and climate change.
In a nutshell, the email purports to show that tree ring growth (dendrochronology) of Mediterranean fir trees proves that some living things are adapting — and according to the email, adapting quite nicely — to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
There's a whole phenomenon of so-called "astroturf" groups, i.e., the opposite of grassroots, in which corporate dollars fund front organizations which purport to do research in the public good but which actually serve a narrow, specific corporate agenda — almost always involving an industry which pollutes or otherwise degrades the environment.
(The tipoff in this email is the egregiously unscientific remark, "Not bad for a growth-promoting and life-sustaining molecule that some have incorrectly labeled a 'pollutant.'")
I'm not a dendrochronologist or any other -ologist, but even if the email's "research" were accurate, it's cold comfort.
I subscribe to James Lovelock's theory of Earth as a self-sustaining organism, aka the "Gaia" hypothesis. In that scenario, it makes perfect sense that trees might adapt to climate change as a response to a human-induced rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
But here's the thing: It's still bad news for people.
The planet needs trees. The planet doesn't need people.
Earth Day celebrations like the one coming up this weekend in Forsyth Park have, wisely, begun focusing on hands-on lifestyle decisions like bicycling, composting, and recycling, rather than big-picture (and often quite depressing) environmental movements and issues.
But remember that at its core, Earth Day is still all about reducing your carbon footprint in some way or another, in ways either grandiose or mundane.
And in any case, hopefully finding as much fun in it as possible.
The planet may not need people, but people do need each other.
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