Era of transition

May 12, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

There was a time when the planet’s ecology was in a state of balance but a major change has taken place.

One element of nature, evolution of human beings, started to predominate.

The needs of mankind and particularly the development of an ever-increasing sense of greed has evolved.  The world’s resources became a source of human ownership for the ‘betterment’ of over 7 billion people, each expecting nature to provide for his/her quality of life. 

For some, this meant more than just a comfortable existence with adequate supply of the necessary elements of survival but for others this translated into an increasing share of what the world has to offer.

The evolution of waterpower indicated a major shift from dependence on manpower for agriculture as a basis of life.

Direct use of rivers and water falls to provide energy for manufacturing was a starting point but the more significant change was conversion to operating turbines for production of electricity. 

Canada has been fortunate with the occurrence of many waterfalls on rivers from the height of land and western mountain ranges but particularly the flow from the Great Lakes. 

Most notable development of energy is the Sir Adam Beck facility at Niagara Falls, the major source of electricity for Golden Horseshoe companies and homes.

The industrial revolution based on the burning of fossil fuels was the last major energy change the world has experienced and probably the current basis for global power. 

For industry this energy source was instrumental in development of cities, a shift from land based living, providing labour for a capitalistic urban, profit-oriented society rather than resource based.

The use of coal, oil and natural gas have provided prosperous growth for humanity worldwide.  Canada is fortunate in having a high proportion of the world’s inland water, a predominant factor in industrial development but now being second fiddle to energy provided by fossil fuels.

Dependence on the latter as primary energy is now in question as carbon emissions in the atmosphere are cause for rising temperature globally having dangerous ecological repercussions. 

Resultant changes in climate such as severe drought and flooding are forcing society to find alternative technology in order to reduce environmental threats of global heating. 

It is human nature to turn to some other form of energy as ‘the’ answer to all our problems. 

Current effort concentrates on depending on renewable sources to replace those causing carbon emissions in the atmosphere creating ‘greenhouse’ conditions for mankind.

Many country leaders have pledged to plant millions of trees as a cure for global warming ignoring the fact that climate change is an immediate problem. The generally overlooked fact is that mature trees are more significant in utilizing and storing carbon. While seedlings are basic to photosynthesis they require 20 to 30 years to produce adequate foliage to accomplish the desired goal. 

They also fail to shade the ground, a prime factor in emitting heat to be trapped in the atmosphere. 

Protection of existing trees is a much more valuable tool in absorbing and storing carbon.

Productivity of the land base and especially increasing vegetative cover is an effective means for achieving mankind’s goal. 

In the nineteenth century the Ontario government initiated a multiyear inventory project to evaluate the province’s timber as a resource base for industry. 

The need now is not so much ensuring wood supply as a commercial product as much as a similar project to assess ecosystem productivity. 

The ultimate goal, elimination of carbon emissions in the atmosphere depends on development of alternate energy sources.  Nature has provided many potential means, tapping potential wind, solar energy along with utilization of geothermal and tidal power and enhanced utilization of running water.

Nature has balanced the effect of the world’s ecology over many centuries without any help from the human race. 

The harvest of trees for profit and the clearing of the land base for alternate purposes such as cities and highways has reduced nature’s ability to perform this task. 

It is now up to mankind to work with Mother Nature to rehabilitate the land base which has been so badly abused particularly over the last couple of centuries. 

Sound management of resource lands in cooperation with nature would contribute to reversing the situation.

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