In 1979, with the birth of my second child, my mother followed me to Tennessee and bought 88 acres near our budding ecovillage. Since our intentional community used to sharecrop that land, the fields had been contour terraced and swaled in the late 1970s with The Farm’s bulldozer and road grader, using guidance from the local soil conservation service (another Roosevelt relic), so it was already in pretty good condition from a keyline management point of view. I took the local USDA extension agent’s suggestion and planted loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), which, it turns out, was good advice. The loblolly is hardy, fast growing, drought-tolerant, and its range is expanding as the Southeast warms. I also planted hybrid American chestnut, mulberry, hardy citrus and bamboo.
Walnut Hill Farm
|Interior of the Prancing Poet, under construction in 2012|
Calculating Carbon Sequestration
The estimate of potential average annual sequestration by my forest at maturity, even without bamboo or algae, is 89–114 tC/yr at a stocking density of 400 trees/acre, in perpetuity. That will erase my footprints with the soils of time.
1. Harvest all the trees and start a whole new planting cycle;
2. Insert a farming/gardening rotation in the open areas, adding mulch, compost teas, biochar and compost as soil amendments; or
3. Allow remaining trees to mature and re-enclose the canopy, while allowing or adding useful understory plants.
The first option yields greater than 6.2 times the biomass per unit of time and area than a conventional commercial forestry plantation.
“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.” — Gustave Flaubert, November
What I am saying is that the carbon footprint of millions of people who live at the standard of living I do, racking up air-, sea- and ground-miles and using server farms powered by fossil energy slaves to book our next business trip, will not just go away by itself. Earth’s carbon cycle is profoundly out of balance (as are the nitrogen, potassium and other cycles) — so much so that those conditions now threaten our extinction.
This is the second of a two-part piece. The series was first published to The Great Change in January 2013.