By Ranil Senanayake –
The Global Commons sustain the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. It is under threat today, because the Governments and financial institutions of every nation has accepted internalization of the use of the resources of our commons by industry, leading to the collapse of the Global Commons we witness today.
The increase of Carbon Dioxide into the commons, the mining of Oxygen from the commons and the pollution of the potable groundwater of the commons has resulted in the degradation of all these elements of the Global Commons.
The current economic order based on the combustion of fossil fuels have enjoyed a ‘free rider’ that allows the internalizing of costs involved in the use of the Global Commons. The consequences of such subsidies are: Climate Change driven by Carbon Dioxide, reduction of atmospheric concentration of Oxygen, the loss of access to safe drinking water and the loss of both biomass and biodiversity.
While the answer to this global crisis rests on the ability of the economic system to tax or charge for the erosion of these aspects of the Global Commons, the political climate today demonstrates an inability or disinterest in addressing these issues and humanity is forced to watch or participate in its destruction masquerading as ‘development’ activity.
The threat to climate stability brought about by the burning of fossil fuels have already begun to impact vulnerable communities. Droughts, floods, heatwaves and cyclonic activity is being experienced with increased frequency. The Carbon in Carbon Dioxide released by burning ‘fossil fuels’ is over 100 million years old and cannot be ‘neutralized’ unless it is placed in a deposit that holds it for 100 million years. Planting a tree to neutralize the effect of burning fossil is a cheat, as the tree will die in a few hundred years and release the Carbon back into the atmosphere.
The other issue in using fossil fuels is that it burns the finite Oxygen content of the atmosphere. The need to address the problem becomes more urgent when the massive burning of Oxygen by the defense industry and the aerospace industry is considered. None of these industries demonstrate any responsibility for burning up the global stocks, in fact developers like Elon Musk has openly stated that his operations are profitable because ‘Oxygen is free’. It is this ‘free rider’ that allows the internalizing of costs involved in the use of the Global Commons. A ‘free rider’ that has led to an acceleration of the destruction of the stock of Oxygen in the Global Commons. Paying for its replacement is logical, practical and responsible.
As water is a universal solvent, it easily picks up contaminants, especially those produced by human activity, leading to the loss of access to safe drinking water. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, this number increases daily. The clean freshwater stocks of the Global Commons have become dangerously compromised, as the quantum of industrial chemicals begin to concentrate in groundwater.
The basic problem is the ease with which operators can internalize the stock held in the Global Commons and not be held responsible for such action. In fact, much of the current value realized by the existing economic system, is achieved by internalizing (ie. not paying for) the elements of the Global Commons that they use. Even the new forms of wealth expressed as digital currency still need the internalization of value from the Global Commons to operate.
The suggestion extended by these considerations is that ‘the operation of the current economic system leads to the degradation of the Global Commons’ and consequently to the degradation of human wellbeing. Much of the current ‘environmental’ activity being merely an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’. As pointed out by the UN in 2021, the situation today has become a ‘Code Red’ for humanity, but to expect a solution from the very economy that created the problem, does not provide much hope for the world. Is there anything different that we can do?
One suggestion to emerge is to place value on things that externalize their input into the Global Commons, to place value on giving into the global commons to compensate for what we are taking out of it. This is a process of ‘giving back’ or externalizing the output of capable industries which are in turn, valued and recorded. Each unit of Biocurrency value is based on the production of contracted Primary Ecosystem Services (PES) which are the products created by photosynthesis, Oxygen, Carbohydrate and clean water. Recorded over time, these products protect the health and sustainability of a myriad of natural ecosystems on terrestrial landscapes. The transaction history maintained as a blockchain, will create a platform for the institution of Biocurrency as an exchange system, seeking to create wealth by externalizing transaction values to the Global Commons.
The creation of wealth, reflected as Biocurrency, has the capacity to reverse the destructive path we are on. It can redirect the current economic dialogue based on the profit of internalization which is leading us to death and destruction, to an economic dialogue based on the profit of externalization, leading to life and restoration. One company has already picked up the baton (www.restore.earth), hopefully many more will follow this new path and create a livable future for humanity.
old codger / December 4, 2021
“The Carbon Dioxide released by burning ‘’fossil fuels’ is over 100 million years old and cannot be ‘neutralized’ unless it is placed in a deposit that holds it for 100 million years.
Rather sloppy writing for one with a Doctorate. Carbon dioxide released when burning fossil Carbon is not “100 million years old”. It is created by the combination with oxygen.
“Planting a tree to neutralize the effect of burning fossil is a cheat, as the tree will die in a few hundred years and release the Carbon back into the atmosphere.”
Yes, but in a few hundred years, the tree would have produced a whole forest of offspring, wouldn’t it? Let’s not be overly pessimistic. Does anyone nowadays talk about the “ozone hole” which, in the 80’s, was supposed to fry us all with Ultra-Violet by the millennium?
ramona therese fernando / December 5, 2021
Intelligent spotting OC! So obvious, but when a PhD writes, it’s like the begotten truth.
RS must have consulted with the regime and got his thinking skewed. He is now pandering to block-chain Crypto for a noble cause like Primary Ecosystem Services (PES). We like what he says about PES, but PES requires good honorable people of the earth to direct it. Regulated banking system in consultation with science and religion is needed for this.
Gosh, just imagine if all the crooks of the earth place their bit-coins on PES? Trees will be removed from the earth because they are producers of carbon. Humans will be removed also, for we too become petroleum someday. Is this a ploy to convert ancient Lankan forests to Ganja? Let’s face it : Regime’s thought-bubbles lack sophistication.
Sinhala_Man / December 5, 2021
I always knew that you were knowledgeable, old codger, but didn’t expect to see you functioning at this level.
I hope that Ranil responds right here. Then it’ll get really interesting!..
old codger / December 5, 2021
Perhaps Ranil is slipping these in to see if anyone actually reads his article. Let’s be charitable!
Champa / December 5, 2021
Dr. Ranil Senanayake
Thank you for your thought-provoking article.
I agree with your opinion that planting a tree to neutralize the effect of burning soil is deceiving. In my opinion, conserving ecosystems is the most practical way to capture and store carbon dioxide.
According to a research published by the Frontiers in Forests and Global Change in April this year, only 3% of earth’s ecosystems remain intact, a dramatic reduction from 20-40% to 3%.
Sri Lanka should be proud to be one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
I hope your article will be an eye-opener for the authorities to prioritize conserving ecologically intact communities in Sri Lanka rather than focusing on projects that cater only 3% of the population.
Muthurajawela, an irreplaceable RAMSAR wetland, is again threatened by politically-motivated reckless development. Mr. Sajeewa Chamikara has posted an excellent article on Muthurajawela at CT’s Sinhala Section. If the proposed project is allowed, Muthurajawela will no longer be protected from floods/storms/erosion and could even be prone to drought due to reduction in water storage.
ramona therese fernando / December 5, 2021
Yes, ecosystems are the most balancing of the earth’s life-matter cycle. Amazing that this is continually being destroyed for corporate profits. But this has been known for decades and still goes on at frenzied rate in our Motherland. Alas.
The article is an excellent one except for the block-chain part. But maybe RS wrote with the hope that block chain will be well regulated by the Global Commons.
As matter cannot be created nor destroyed, I can’t see how a tree will be adding to the carbon on earth as it will be recycling the existing, natural carbon. Ok, asteroids continually bring in more matter from space on a daily basis, and some of earth’s matter is lost by the atmosphere (except CO2 with global warming these days). But this daily dose of asteroids have been going on for millions of years and are part of the earth-matter cycle. So any CO2 released by decaying trees are what they have been doing in the earth-cycle for millions of years. And it is only a percentage of a decaying tree’s mass that releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Most is stored as carbon in its decayed components and also contributes its carbon to the soil.