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Creating the Next Dark Age

December 30th, 2009 by Myrhaf · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

I’ve read that 6th century a.d. Italy was devastated by General Belisarius’s war to conquer the country for Byzantium. He didn’t bomb Italy back to the stone age, he did it with sword, fire and horse. One result was that land that had been cultivated for centuries returned to the wild. This has always struck me as an eloquent symbol of the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Now the US government is pursuing the same results as Belisarius — not by waging war against its own citizens (or is it?) — but by paying farmers to plant trees instead of crops.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has ordered his staff to revise a computerized forecasting model that showed that climate legislation supported by President Obama would make planting trees more lucrative than producing food.

The latest Agriculture Department economic-impact study of the climate bill, which passed the House this summer, found that the legislation would profit farmers in the long term. But those profits would come mostly from higher crop prices as a result of the legislation’s incentives to plant more forests and thus reduce the amount of land devoted to food-producing agriculture.

According to the economic model used by the department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation would give landowners incentives to convert up to 59 million acres of farmland into forests over the next 40 years.

Secretary Vilsack has ordered the model to be tweaked because he doesn’t want crop destruction to go that far. By what scientific standard will the adjustment be made? Political feasibility is the only standard; science has nothing to do with it. The environmentalists want to stop progress, but Secretary Vilsack is covering his ass by slowing down the destruction.

I’m no scientist, but I have to wonder how much more oxygen trees create than, say, a field of lettuce. We’re trading one type of plant for another — but the one we’re destroying (food) is of tremendous value to humans.

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