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Why We Won't Win

By Adrian from MySpace

Every now and then, and regularly on Thursdays, it's brought into sharp relief that we at the Null know much less about most things than everyone else - except ducks.  Here, Adrian - one of our MySpace buddies - explains why we won't be picking up a big fat cheque from Richard Branson after all.

There are actually three problems, but they are related, and best presented in this order:

1. Much, if not most, of our metabolic system runs off burning hydrogen and turning it into water, rather than carbon into carbon dioxide. The ratio between hydrogen and carbon oxidation in our bodies is not constant. That leads to the next problem ...

2. Fats are a poor way to store carbon. When we burn fat, it shows up on machines used to judge metabolic rate because it doesn't put out as much carbon as burning carbohydrates. That means that it's more efficient to store the carbon in carbohydrates than fat. That, in turn, means many foods store more carbon than our bodies, but, even if they do not, we still eat more than our own weight in food by far ... and that leads to the last problem ...

3. Our bodies are not "carbon reducers" and ALL of the carbon we store comes from carbon already, and literally, "reduced" from the atmosphere by PLANTS. Plants reduce and store it. We (or another organism) consume it as food, returning it to the atmosphere. Since we eat more than our own mass in food, easily, it would be more effective to preserve all the food we would have eaten than to eat it and get fat.

Solution for making a REAL impact on carbon output:

Simple - grow a garden in your backyard large enough to absorb ALL of the carbon you put out at any given moment. If you grow enough plants, plants which would not have otherwise been grown, to make up for the amount of carbon dioxide you emit, the problem is completely solved but for one caveat: you have to make sure your plants don't, inadvertently, produce food for other organisms which would not have otherwise had any. (bacteria; fungi; your friendly, parasitic, mammalian, friend, Sparky the dog; etc)

Be your own biosphere and don't sweat it: sitting still forces your body to use motionless means of keeping you warm instead of just using the waste-heat of your muscles. That, at best, can only make your carbon output no MORE than if you were moving about a little ... it cannot reverse it. However, if you keep yourself warm by using energy to grow plants, that same output will be doing something useful which will help reduce carbon dioxide levels. If you move around too much, enough to force your body to sweat, you're over-doing it and wasting a lot of energy as heat. But, if you spend just enough energy to keep warm by growing plants, you've just made a huge personal impact on helping reduce CO2 output.

In fact, using your energy doing anything that contributes to lowering CO2 levels is more efficient than just sitting there, which makes your solution more of an "anti-solution". Granted, it's better than moving around and NOT doing anything about rising CO2 levels ... but not by much.

Ahhh well, people would rather get fat than grow plants and I doubt anyone will bother reading this anyway.

Thanks, Adrian

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28 Oct 2008
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