- 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.
- Economic growth with physical growth won't fit on our one earth.
- 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.
- In organisms growth often precedes or leads to maturity.
- Economic maturity remains conceptually underexplored.
- What guidelines would well manage economic maturity?
Friday, April 18, 2014
After Growth, Economic Maturity?
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Professor O'Ness pawed through yet another sockeye salmon juvenile on the dissecting tray. He cut a sample from the spleen, and transferred it to a waiting microtube in ice. This last sample finished off getting enough for statistical significance in the experimental struggles. Did fish spleens in ocean-bound sockeye juveniles suddenly increase in iron content some years before? Tadhg O'Ness spent hours testing iron content of all the spleen samples, then washed his hands and returned to his office. Maybe this work will finally lead, though publication, to tenure, which has eluded Tadhg, unlike middle age.
Cold. Sudden in earth's history, in human lives it was year by decade chilling, in general, unrelenting overall, except for small variance by year. O'Ness bundled tighter in his tweed jacket and reached for that warming mug, quietly burping as he pondered in a University of British Columbia research building in Vancouver , under-equipped for the Pacific Northwest snow, brought by the surprisingly cooling climate. How had Earth become less like Venus and more like Mars? Where had so much of air's carbon gone? Somehow the proverbial journey 'Out of the frying pan into the fire' didn't happen for earth, despite humanity's vast fossil fuel consumption, and Tadhg was chasing down why. Some things were obvious, including the now-accepted central role of air's carbon in the earlier climate crisis's sudden warming. Plants were curiously darker now and grew faster, almost all of them. O'Ness put down the cup and rubbed his temples. Salmon harvests had inexplicably rebounded vastly, even while harvesting decimated returning spawners. Much of what had been infertile ocean areas turned greener as plankton grew where little had grown before.
The routine salmon fry surveys started by the boffins before him allowed comparison with his current work, which showed that sockeye salmon juvenile's spleen became darker about the same time that the seas seemed to become greener. But how could these be correlated, and what caused these? Was sockeye spleen iron the key to greener waters and lowered atmospheric carbon? Tadhg calculated, but the carbon estimation totals couldn't explain all the carbon fixation on earth now. There must be more puzzle pieces still missing. O'Ness pushed the computer mouse away and sighed, got up from his squeaky chair, closed doors and walked through snowy streets, home to wife, kids and dinner.
***Sidebar A: Oceanic iron, The Aleutian Eruption and the Following Salmon Onslaught.
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 HNLC oceanic areas - 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.
In 2008 an Aleutian island volcano eruption fed plankton downwind of the Aleuts, changing 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 about 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 sea life, too.
----------- End Sidebar***
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 creaking 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 geoengineering before, 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 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 forcing the cooling?
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 shuffled 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 who shared 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.”
To Tadhg, the DNA story was like a balm; 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.
“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 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, an ichthyologist-turned-businesswoman, was 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 thus gambled in her own field, where she had inside knowledge, and now, inside power.
A year later 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 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.
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; algebra”
“Algebra? I use that all the time.”
“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 about 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.
After a few rings, Tadhg heard a mechanical voice announcing “Central Satellite Imaging Service.” Tadhg pressed the extension mentioned in the letter in his hand.
“Hi, Betty, This is Tadhg O'Ness from U.B.C. following up a letter you responded to recently.”
“Oh, Hi Tadhg, How can I help?”
“I just wanted to check on your production schedule for the ocean chlorophyll data.”
“Tadhg, It looks like it will be two weeks before we can get to your order.”
“Thanks, Betty, If there are any issues, please do contact me.”
“Will do, Tadhg. Is that it?
“Yes, Betty, and it was good to talk with you in person.”
“Thanks, Tadhg, and likewise. Have a good day.”
Tadhg turned to the mail of the day, in which was a letter from his wife's lawyer. Ugh.
Plants use chloroplasts to catch light and make sugar and stuff. Chloroplasts are captured 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 fifth of the sunlight energy reaching earth's surface.
Outside of plants, algae and microbes have evolved to use green light. 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 proteorhodopsin and was absorbed, which knocked a proton across the thylakoid membrane into thylakoid space. This complemented the chlorophyll and carotenoids liberation of protons within the thylakoid space by splitting water. Both sources of protons powered the formation of ATP as it returned to the stroma through ATP synthase, mounted in the thylakoid membrane.
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, characterized 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.
Let's talk with an ATP named 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.”
“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.”
“You both look pretty 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 fray comes the familiar Succinyl-CoA, of TCA cycle 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, that's 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/methylmalyl/citramalyl 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.”
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.
In nanoinjection, DNA is electrostatically stuck to a positively charged microscopic lance, which, jammed into the chloroplast, released that DNA to transform the chloroplast once the electrostatic charge is reversed.
-------- End Sidebar***
Decades earlier, William Jackson desperately scoured the microbial photosynthesis literature for ways to improve photosynthesis and plant growth, in earlier times, to bind air's troublesome carbon increase. He was obsessed with trying to ameliorate the climate crisis, and why not? He had time, ambition, good intentions and maybe a little psychosis, so it seemed possible to overcome his lack of high academic status or significant capital. As a 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 fifth 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. Furthermore, fossil fuel price hikes had boosted nitrogen fertilizer prices worldwide, at a time when over a quarter of the world's population ate at all thanks to the crop yields dependent on that artificial nitrogen fertility. William sought to change all that by engineering a viroid to bring three microbial pathways to plants; first, a rhodopsin that powered cell growth with green light; second, the improved oxygen- and heat-tolerant 'Dark' pathway called '3-HOP'; third, an oxygen-tolerant nitrogenase.
William hastened to finally nanoinject chloroplasts with the darkening viroid, then introduced the aphids into the growth chamber. Will the darkening spread within the plant? Will the viroid also infect the aphids? Will the aphids spread any viroid to the experimental plants?
There was a knock on the basement laboratory door, then a crash of splitting wood as the whitecoats kick the door in. They stumbled rapidly through the breach and grabbed William as he turned from the growth chamber. William had his hands torn from the isolation glovebox. In the confusion they knocked the crudely built growth chamber right off the counter. It's light wooden frame broke and the plastic film panels tore. Soil mix and plants tumbled into a heap, and infected aphids flew through the eddies of air out into the world. As the whitecoats drag William out the cellar door, leaving it open, William realized with shock that the aphids are free and the viroid with them. The process might have begun.
Months go by slowly in the asylum for the now-drugged William, but through the window one day he noticed plants outside becoming darker, he thinks. Maybe it's just the light that day. Drugged and bemused, William wondered groggily whether earth's plants are darkening with proteorhodopsins, whether the engineered nitrogenase and 3-HOP pathways work.
After many years, in which the darkening takes hold outside of Williams' window, William was transferred to a less restrictive facility, where he learned through his old college buddy of Tadhg's interest into plant darkening. William is allowed to write to O'Ness, and now awaits a reply.
At Prof. O'Ness's office, Tadhg's phone rings.
“This is Sally and Ben's principal. Your daughter's gotten into fights again, which this time also involved your son. Unfortunately we've had to suspend both of them for three days.”
“Oh. I guess I should come by and pick them up.”
“There's no need – your wife is coming. I just wanted to let you know.”
“Well, thank you, and sorry for the trouble.”
Tadhg turned back to calculating estimations of the additional carbon fixed through the darkening of the plants.
The vision: Much coastal desert area might be converted by dikes, not to keep seawater out, but to keep it in. This damming might flood extensive desert areas, which could bloom with aquaculture, incidently fixing carbon as sealife and as seashell carbonates. the shallow ocean waters could host much greater productivity and amounts of life than the deserts beforehand. Vast windmill farms might ring coastal deserts, pumping seawater up and over dike after dike, into the deserts. Above each dike would lie a pond; within each pond the seawater would grow saltier via evaporation, - the farthest ponds would be saltpans churning out salt by the railcar-load. Before the final ponds an additional band of windmills might split water into hydrogen and the hydroxide which precipitates magnesium in these penultimate ponds. The magnesium produced becomes cement of a type that uses MgOH2 instead of CaOH2. Using this cement avoids the carbon released during conventional cement preparation, an energy-intensive high-temperature process.
Coastal deserts are often beside upwelling ocean waters, which are arctic-cold and relatively fertile. With the addition of even more fertility within the dams, this dammed seawater could support vigorous plankton and algae growth. The algae could itself be food types, and the nourishing plankton might feed edible fish. While the deep ocean is often very unproductive due to lack of nutrients, shallow waters are hundreds of times more productive. People could insure such productivity happened in seawater-flooded coastal desert aquaculture.
Another carbon removal effect could occur as a side effect of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion installations in the hot tropical oceans.
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 plant outflow at the sunlit surface of the fertile deep water brought into the sun by the OTEC plants. The Mist-Lift OTEC design is not well-known, 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 the 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, which is about a hundred meters tall. At the bottom of the chamber 22 degree Celcius tropical surface waters are drawn in, where they burst through mist nozzles into 'steam', forced into 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 smaller 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 deployed in the hot tropical oceans worldwide. As valuable as their power output was in isolated tropical areas, the mariculture nourished by the deep fertile water outflow from these plants would be worth 60 times that. Some of the increase in sunlight transformed by the mariculture's photosynthesis might be lost back to the deep ocean as bound carbon, and to seashell formation as carbonates, all removed from the air dissolved in the ocean's surface.
The orangeite deposits in which diamonds are found are 'ultrapotassic' and so alkaline that the mining wastes could 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 might supply potassium to soil, and thus built soil and plant life, so this can fix carbon in two ways. But orangeite deposits are rare, while ultramafic mantle rock, high in magnesium or iron oxides, while somewhat rarely protruding to the land's surface, underlie the continent's crustal rock, lie below the bottom of the oceans, and form the mantle of rock that continental crust rides on. Ultramafic rock is therefore quite common, and like orangeite, can form carbonates, looking away air's carbon dioxide. If just a little of this were ground and spread, huge amounts of carbon could be removed from air.
-------- End Sidebar***
The telephone rings again.
“Doctor O'Ness, Central Satellite Imagery Service here. Would you care for, in addition to the chlorophyll change data covering the sea, data covering the recently diked coastal desert areas?”
“Oh, yes indeed. That'd be wonderful. Thank you. When will this all be available?”
“It'll take a bit longer to include the diked desert data. Probably a week from now.”
“That long. Well, I'm eager for the data, and will be waiting. Thanks.”
A week later, Prof. O'Ness stood before the college tenure committee, sweating and quaking a bit.
“Tadhg, you haven't published for years now. The college ratings give us little choice...”
“Samuel, I'm gathering final data for a significant article that ought to be accepted within months.”
“That's all well and good, but if the department's tenured faculty publications per year drops below the number of faculty, the entire department is at risk of being axed. We can't afford to risk that, so we're not granting your tenure request now, but we will put it on hold, and will reactivate it if publications are accepted.”
Tadhg's stomach twisted.
Back at the office, Tadhg dialed the young journal's editor, who answers in person after quite a few rings.
“Betty Travois speaking.”
“Ms. Travois, This is Professor O'Ness again of the University of British Columbia.”
“I'm calling you about a draft article which I emailed to your firm earlier.”
“Prof. O'Ness, we've received the piece, but without further data, I'm unwilling to take reviewer's time with it.”
“I understand, and hope to have the data in and analyzed by next week.”
“Good. Let's talk then.” Click.
“Central Satellite Imagery Service. If you know your party's extension...”.
Tadhg gets through to his contact there, Samir.
“Samir, Is there any chance the data on chlorophyll within HNLC areas and diked deserts is ready yet?”
“Tadhg, I'm sorry, It will probably be a week more. There's quite a few projects in the pipeline.”
After hanging up, Tadhg started to wonder about other greenhouse gases that he might be able to get data on more rapidly, and thinks specifically of methane. Tadhg found Joseph Fosjocki's old article on transforming cattle salivary glands to produce alpha-galatosidase.
About 1995, livestock produced about seventy eight million tons of methane per year, produced within their guts and manure by organisms capable of digesting galactose oligosaccharides by using alpha-galactosidase. These galactose oligosaccharide sugars are built by legumes. The ancestors of mammals somehow lost the ability to digest these oligosaccharides eons ago, with climate-scale effects. While methane over a century has about 35 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide, over twenty years it has about 85 times carbon dioxide's effect, according to the 2013 IPCC reports. A mumps-like viroid might be engineered to implant a transgene into salivary gland cells, to secrete alpha-galactosidase in saliva, so oligosaccharide sugars like raffinose, stachyose and etc. are digested and utilized by cattle, etc. for additional growth before hindgut microbes can make methane from them.
----------- End Sidebar***
Two decades earlier, Joseph Fosjocki completed the assembly of a mutated mumps virus designed by Joey to induce salivary gland secretion of alpha-galactosidase in cattle, so cattle could start digesting oligosaccharides from legumes directly. Then his lip itched, so he scratched it with the gloved hand he'd been working with. 'I really should get lip balm' he thought, 'on my way home', licking his lip. He ate a late lunch, and finished off other work the rest of the week, then on Friday sneezed all the way home on the subway. By a week from the Monday exposure date his cheeks ached, and the next week was painful, but soon afterwards he could eat rice and beans without gas. The same fate befell those near him on the subway, and soon the world's people could eat beans without gas, and cattle of the world grew more rapidly and passed much, much less gas. Joey's company couldn't sell what the world got for free, whether the world wanted it or not, so the company folded, closing it's doors for good. Joey was out of work.
Tadhg scribbles on the back of yet another envelope, his fingers chilled. The Vancouver cold exceeded the building's heating capacity, which had been designed for a milder climate. Still not enough cooling accounted for, even with gasless cattle and people. What else had changed air's carbon?
Some grain sorghum varieties might replace much rice in tropical paddy fields since they cook like rice and yield more per hectare. But there's prejudice for rice over these grain sorghum varieties known as 'poor man's rice'. And grain sorghum might be developed to use Gluconacetobacter to fix nitrogen inside the plants, as was discovered occurring in Brazil in sorghum's close relative, sugarcane.
A reduction in methane release to air might follow from the switch, in many flooded pond fields, or 'paddies', from growing rice to growing grain sorghum. When grown in flooded soils Sorghum's close relative sugarcane induces a more than ten-fold reduction in 'paddy' soil methane release, by altering the redox state in the pond field's rhizosphere, according to Dr. Snehi Dwivedi. This might reduce 'paddy' methane emission worldwide by 50 billion tons of methane per year, while the grain sorghum's greater yields would increase food carbohydrates from flooded fields as well. We hungry seven plus billion humans might appreciate that, especially considering that many of us eat today thanks to artificial nitrogen fertilizing, which is unsustainably threatening climate-dependent agriculture.
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The short half-life of atmospheric methane and it's enormous impact on global climate within a twenty year period, Tadhg realized, made it particularly likely as a cause of the recent cooling. Tadhg thought slowly as he ate an Indian meal at a nearby restaurant. Then he stopped, looking at the meal. The grain was the newly prominent, yet quite ancient grain sorghum that cooked like rice. Perhaps here was another clue to climatic change. Back at the office, O'Ness scoured Pubmed, then the entire internet for works on altered paddy methane emissions, and found Dwivedi's 1980s article on sorghum's close relative, sugarcane, in paddy fields and it's effects on methane emissions as compared with rice. Luckily the data on the effect on methane emissions of the rice-to-grain-sorghum crop conversion were quicker to get than the satellite data.
Checking his email, Tadhg came across the satellite data, finally in from the satellite service. O'Ness began a flurry of analysis, plugging satellite data into spreadsheets and programs he'd prepared. The transfer of data went as planned, so soon Tadhg hd tallied the cumulative greenhouse gas changes from sockeye's iron shuttling, plant darkening, increased aquaculture via OTEC and diked deserts, magnesium-based cement substitution, gasless cattle (and people) and sorghum adoptation in ex-rice paddies. The combined effects could explain the cooling of earth. He sent the results to the journal editor.
Betty liked what she saw and sent the piece out to peer reviewers. Meanwhile Tadhg called his wife, who reported on their children. Ben's been arrested again for drug possession, while Sally was charged with shop-lifting. O'Ness and his wife set a date to meet with the divorce lawyers.
For a change of pace, Tadhg glances at the backed-up campus mail. He notices William's letter from the asylum.
“Dear Professor O'Ness,
It has come to my attention that you are estimating the climatic effects of the darkening of the plants. You might be curious to know how this occurred...
Tadhg replied, asking William to go on the record with the aphid viroid work.
Later, Tadhg opened the paper as he eats lunch and finds reports of Phoebe Inoue sued for price-fixing, despite no evidence that she conspired to alter prices in her now-revealed near-monopoly. Overburg had came forward with suspicions of Phoebe cornering the fish feed market, stimulating an investigation that showed the conglomerate Phoebe hid for so long. Now Tadhg had the agent of the sockeye spleen darkening documented too. Also in the newspaper was the tale of the mumps epidemic of some years ago. Joey Fosjocki's work was revealed, and his professional life was over, but for Tadhg, the article just added background depth for his article submission.
Tadhg's phone rang. It was Samuel from the tenure committee. Tadhg has tenure as soon as he can publish the current article. No sooner did Tadhg hang up, than his wife called, with news that she'll enter marriage councelling if the tenure issue is successfully out of Tadhg's life. His wife went on to say that she'd heard from Ben and Sally. If the family stays together, Tadhg's son Ben says he'll quit drugs and his daughter Sally will commit to putting off suicide.
From: Samir Osiris, Syndicated Science Publications
To: Prof. Tadhg O'Ness
Subject: Congrats, the last reviewer approved!
Body: Tadhg, your article's been accepted for publication, and will in fact lead a special issue on earth's surprising recent cooling....