Community-Based Effort to Lower Toxic Levels of CO2

By Dr. Lynn Peterson and Zachariah Ralph

John Endicott measures a tree to determine the carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree.

John Endicott measures a tree to determine the carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree.

Last Saturday about 20 people attended the first of a series of eight monthly presentations and conversations on how we, in our region, can reduce atmospheric CO2. This session was based on George Perkins Marsh whose version of environmentalism was based on the science of his day. Marsh urges us to use science to control catastrophes like erosion of hillsides, loss of wildlife, and overgrazing. His view was pragmatic. Very different from the poetic view of contemporaries like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau.

An interesting highlight of the presentation and discussion was that there are two divergent thoughts around the way we view our forests. There are the “Romantics” who believe in leaving our forests alone as wilderness areas. Then there are the “Industrialists” who see our forests as a resource to exploit. The works-study presenter, Vikke Jas, made the point that George Perkins Marsh does not fit into either of these groups. His writings bridged these two ideologies by encouraging healthy and pragmatic stewardship of our forests recognizing that we depend on forests but they also depend on us to manage them well.

Environmental scientists (including one from the University of Vermont) authored an article in the October, 2017 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science promoting the use of “Natural Climate Solutions” to control rising levels of carbon dioxide. Their proposal is truly in the Marsh tradition. They argue that: “The most mature carbon dioxide removal method is improved land stewardship” and “Regreening the planet through conservation, restoration, and improved land management is a necessary step for our transition to a carbon neutral global economy and a stable climate.” In Vermont we can potentially reduce CO2 levels through “natural climate solutions” by managing our forests to store and sequester carbon.

So, what can we do in our area? Can we find a balance between managing our forests while also encouraging health forest ecosystems? Can we identify forest areas suitable for natural climate solutions? These are just some of the questions that we are exploring at our Carbon Work-Study Discussion group. The work-study group’s aim is to build communal support and education around the need to not only manage our forests, but to manage them for carbon sequestration and storage. There are so many factors that go into managing for carbon, and the series looks at many of them including the impacts of fungi on forest health and voluntary and involuntary markets for carbon that allow for landowners to make money from management practices. We hope to eventually use the knowledge gained from these workshops to manage a large parcel of forested land for carbon storage and sequestration, and to create educational documents for the VT legislature about how we can improve the current use policies by including carbon management.

Our next discussion will be on Saturday Feb 24th from 1:30-3:00pm at the Forest Center at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. We will be looking at the different perspectives of the forests by hearing presentations from Lynn Peterson, a landowner, John Adler, a logger, and AJ Follensbee, the Windsor County Forester. Join us as we work to understand their perspectives so that we are having an all-inclusive approach to forest management. Everyone is welcome and the workshop is free. RSVP with, 802-457-2911 to receive the suggested reading materials or to learn about the other upcoming discussion topics on carbon in 2018.

Just do one thing: Attend a Carbon Work-Study event!

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