A short 3-page proposal for a fully featured Atlas of biological work, an expansion of the Map of Soil Carbon Change.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
We live in what are perhaps still the early stages of a shift of Copernican proportions with regard to our human civilizations on earth. We need major changes, both locally and globally, in the huge flows of water and carbon through soils and atmosphere. These changes will require an enormous amount of work (force times distance). Faced with the inability of our technology--currently powered at about 16 terawatts worldwide--to accomplish this work and to build the needed soil aggregates, some innovative graziers and farmers have glimpsed and even explored the opportunity to better manage, enlist, and enhance the 130 terawatts or so of sunlight energy captured by photosynthesis, which in turn is multiplied dozens of times by life's diversity and abundance which creates topsoil, soil cover, and the carbon-rich soil aggregates that accept, retain, and filter water.
Learning to imagine that the smaller earth revolves around the larger sun has taken centuries or millennia, and the learning process is not over. It is easier to assume or imagine that the sun rises and sets over a fixed, larger earth. We have a similar challenge with regard to biological work--the sunlight energy captured and used by living organisms, which is the most powerful and creative planetary force. How do we grasp it, how do we learn to work with it to create what we want and need?
Our best-trod paths of acquiring knowledge and skill could hardly be more ill-suited to this task, which is one of social and participatory learning in specific but variable situations involving considerable complexity, and considerable tension around the magnitude or types of change needed. We have an almost complete absence of open and accessible data about localized, farm-scale changes over time in soil carbon or water cycle function to show us what might be possible. This data gap is filled to overflowing with a cacophony of advocacies and matching skepticisms about biochar, permaculture, organic farming, biodynamics, no-till, compost application, planned grazing, you name it. Institutional research remains largely focused on practices, species and genetics, technologies, narrowly defined problem solving, and managing against what we don't want--which tends to worsen fragmentation and conflict. Simulations and computer modeling, typically based on limiting and simplified assumptions, help disguise the lack of actual data. Many of us remain disoriented, unable to recognize leadership, unable to imagine or consider the possibilities, unable to participate in the social learning that could let us harness (or be harnessed by) the work of self-motivated living organisms.