Area of Research: Forests, Farms and Materials
Quantifying forest change in the European Union
Iddo Wernick, our long-time collaborator Pekka Kauppi, and other forestry experts published Quantifying forest change in the European Union in Nature vol 592 pages E13–E14 (2021). The authors argue that net carbon stored in the EU continues to increase as forest volume accumulates faster than additions to (and fluctuations in) the annual harvest.
For some of our earlier forest work, see PNAS publishes Forests paper and Quandaries of forest area, volume, biomass, and carbon explored with the forest identity.
Carbon benefits from Forest Transitions promoting biomass expansions and thickening
Precision agriculture in Wall Street Journal
Robert Paarlberg’s article “The Environmental Upside of Modern Farming” cites our work about land-sparing. Rob has just published a new book Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow and Eat.
We continue to follow the achievements of farmers. Corn yields have gone insane. Average USA yields have continued the gradual climb to about 170 bushels/acre or 12 tons/ha. Peak yields have soared. The National Corn Yield contest in the conventional category was 476 bpa or 32 tph in 2020. In 2019 however, David Hula and Randy Dowdy, doing some unconventional things, got to ~600 bpa or more than 40 tph.
At yields this high, the question is what to do with the product – vast surpluses and low prices are not good for farmers. The amounts are so immense that they must become hamburgers and ethanol, but if we wanted polenta, we could release enormous amounts of land for Nature. The incentive to lift yields further is probably going to be weak the next few decades. It would not surprise us to find corn farmers stay on a plateau now for a couple of decades until humans figure out what to do with all the product. This may not be true of some other crops.
The Dutch greenhouses are another important story, another big step toward what in the 1980s we started calling Landless Agriculture. This National Geographic story 2017 shows the importance of greenhouses. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming/ .
The potential for land-sparing, for E O Wilson’s Half Earth strategy remains very real.
COVID & The World Interview with Jesse Ausubel
The website Human Progress launches a new video series called The Covid Tonic. The series features conversations between renowned scholars and editor, Marian L. Tupy. The interviews focus on the global impact of COVID-19 and the continued importance of rational optimism. Episode 1 features the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel, a Human Progress Board Member and Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York City.
Watch the full video here.
Popular versions of our work
During the past couple of years several authors have made good use of our work in their books. These include:
The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It – December 31, 2019 – by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister
Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance
by Laurence B. Siegel | Dec 5, 2019
More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources?and What Happens Next – October 8, 2019
by Andrew McAfee
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress – January 15, 2019 by Steven Pinker
It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear – March 5, 2019 by Gregg Easterbrook