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The Pristine Planet Newsletter
1 November 2009 — Issue #61
Editor: Michael J. Ross
Environmental News
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Terraforming Earth's Deserts

Astronomers, astrobiologists, and science fiction writers have long dreamt of terraforming planets and their moons — converting barren and alien wastelands into lush habitats for humans and other creatures. These scientific and creative thinkers point to the numerous advantages of distributing life to other planets, solar systems, and eventually other galaxies, if possible. Furthermore, they argue that such a bold agenda is actually necessary for humans to pursue, if only to ensure the survival of our species and any others that we wish to save from the unavoidable death of our sun. (Our star, like any other, will go through known stages of its existence, eventually converting from hydrogen to helium as its primary fuel source, causing it to expand and destroy at least the first three planets.)

Yet if greater biodiversity on other worlds holds so much promise, why are we not pursuing it more on planet Earth, for which the feasibility is so much greater, and the costs so much lower — at least, compared to such operations in space? Why are we not transforming our deserts into lush grasslands, forests, and jungles? Surely this would increase the amount of life on our planet, as well as the odds of survival of all species, including those at the brink of extinction. In addition, it would significantly cool a planet that is supposedly suffering from global warming, and it would absorb a huge amount of carbon, which is the fundamental building block of all life on Earth. On the other hand, critics question where we could possibly obtain the fresh water and minerals needed for growing vast tracts of greenery.

Scientists are now taking those ideas from daydreams to drawing boards, as they begin to seriously consider whether it would be wise, or even viable, to try to transform Earth's largest deserts into vast forests of heat-resistant plants, such as eucalyptus. Details can be found in an article titled "Forest a Desert, Cool the World" and published on 14 September 2009 by ScienceNOW (the online daily news service of the journal Science). A group of three scientists believe that it is possible to terraform the deserts of Australia and the Sahara, by desalinating nearby ocean water, distributing that water via aqueducts and pumps, and watering the forests using drip irrigation to minimize water loss from evaporation and from seepage into sandy soil.

Like any massive disruption of Earth's ecosystem — planned or otherwise — any such project would have tremendous consequences — not all of them positive, intended, or even foreseeable. Benefits include increased rainfall (roughly 700 to 1200 millimeters per year, in the Sahara), cooling of the Earth's atmosphere (up to 4 to 8 degrees Celsius) because of the increased cloud cover, and natural and ongoing sequestration of carbon (8 billion tons per year, assuming both Australia and the Sahara are fully forested). One advantage not mentioned in the article is the potential moderation of any increases in sea level as a result of the current melting of icebergs and the ice caps at the poles. Known downsides include the cost of developing and maintaining these forests: $2 trillion per year, which is equivalent to $400 per ton of carbon — approximately double the cost of underground sequestration. Unknown pitfalls include potential plagues of locusts in Africa, and moist soil no longer being blown as dust into the ocean, where its iron is essential for sea life. Other possible natural disasters include huge forest fires, to which eucalyptus is quite prone. Imagine the terrible bush fires of 2009 in the Australian state of Victoria, multiplied hundreds fold. In that case, all of the carbon would be right back in the atmosphere.

The science fiction authors may have been correct from the start: We should perhaps first try these experiments on another planet, before risking our only home.

Member Profiles
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Maternitique

One of the most magical times in a woman's life, is when she is with child. However, cultural attitudes about the beauty of pregnant women, have not always been as wonderful, to put it mildly. It is thus fortunate that there is a growing trend for women to embrace the changes in their bodies during pregnancy, and to accentuate their natural beauty. At the same time, there is a movement toward more natural and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, with a focus on protecting both mother and child from the dangerous chemicals found in conventional beauty and body care products. Tara Bloom shared these concerns almost 12 years ago, when she was pregnant with her daughter, and sought out healthier alternatives. Back then, most natural beauty supplies for women were quite limited in choice, oftentimes smelled bad, looked worse, and certainly did not help an expectant mother to look and feel her best. So it is no surprise that when Tara founded her own Portland-based business in 2007, she intended to make it the leading destination for upscale natural and organic maternity products. The website of Maternitique makes available beauty supplies (such as creams and sunscreens), clothing and jewelry, healthy foods (including tantalizing shakes and teas), natural remedies to relieve discomfort, baby creams and clothing, nursery items, cards, and gifts. Many of Maternitique’s products are organic; most are all-natural; and all are non-toxic. In addition, customers receive a 30-day complete satisfaction guarantee. This level of customer service has garnered rave reviews from many moms, including Brooke Mueller Sheen, wife of actor Charlie Sheen. But you don't have to be a celebrity to receive Maternitique's celebrated customer service, and to enjoy the products that Tara has carefully selected for outstanding performance, style, and safety to you, your baby, and the environment in which both of you will thrive.

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Paloma Pottery

Anyone who has an abiding love for Mother Nature, can feel heartsick when seeing broken glass and other discarded trash littering our public spaces. Every one of us has looked upon this tragedy of the commons and wondered, "What can be done about this? Don't these litterbugs care about our environment and our future? Why don't they make an effort to recycle?" Nicole Whitney, a resident of upstate New York, is an individual who has asked these questions... and then gone on to do something about them. She saw the beauty in broken glass, and realized its potential to be collected, broken up into smaller pieces, and fused into pottery. Each piece of pottery is thus unique, and possesses a depth and sparkle that has won acclaim from many customers. Her artistic and entrepreneurial direction was set years ago, when she began working with a professional potter, Liz Vigoda (of Cold Mountain Pottery), who encouraged her to begin utilizing recycled glass in pottery. To the amazement of everyone, including herself, Nicole produced stunning results, which can be explored on her website, Paloma Pottery. She founded the company in January of 2000, and chose a Spanish name, inspired by the language teaching she was doing at the time, and the influence of her students, many of whom were pregnant women considering various baby names. As Nicole's own commercial "baby", Paloma Pottery offers a truly unique range of ceramic products — including jewelry and accessories, dinnerware, decor items for the kitchen and bathroom, and an assortment of smaller items that would make terrific gifts. Reflecting her passion for ecology and the future, Nicole operates her business in a sustainable and Earth-friendly manner, and also works with children as much as possible, encouraging them to learn compassion for the planet and for one another. Visit her site today, and see how one woman has transformed "trash into class"!

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All material copyright © 2009 PristinePlanet.com™, except for Environmental News articles copyright © 2009 Michael J. Ross.