Occupy the carbon cycle workshop, Portland, Oregon

What can we do to manage the whole, not just the parts?

The mother of all ecosystem services, that we influence by our decisions, is the fast biological carbon cycle. This process does 10 times the work (force times distance) of all industrial energy used by humans---and is deeply influenced by our decision making.

A majority of college-educated Americans believe that the mass of plants comes primarily from the soil, rather than from the air. Our understandings of carbon cycling are multiple and fragmentary, often confused, and typically oriented around solving problems such as energy supply, waste disposal and recycling, and climate.

Jeff Goebel and Peter Donovan of the Soil Carbon Coalition offer a workshop for scientists and nonscientists, farmers and nonfarmers, climate activists and climate skeptics. Peter tells the fascinating story of why and how carbon cycling was discovered, why the problem-solving orientation of most individuals, organizations, and institutions camouflages the opportunity to manage wholes such as carbon or water cycling, and what to do about it. Jeff facilitates the sharing of participants' knowledge and insights, with special focus on what are the limiting beliefs, challenges, and opportunities for managing the carbon cycle as a whole---even at small, local scales.

The workshop will cover

  • the major discoveries of the carbon cycle by western science from 1600s to the present; major shifts in understanding are ongoing
  • the separation of scientific disciplines that has contributed to today's fragmentary and confused views of the circle of life
  • human influences on carbon cycling from Paleolithic times to the present
  • why soils are the center of gravity of the circle of life, even though oceans and rocks contain much more carbon
  • how and why carbon cycling is an emergent phenomenon or process, resulting from the choices and metabolisms of trillions of autonomous, self-motivated organisms, from humans to microbes
  • the surprising implications of these changing understandings for policy, decision making, and leadership.

Expected outcomes include a deeper understanding of the carbon cycle, of human opportunities to make a difference, and the formation of a strategy that participants can take to foster positive change.

Said a workshop participant, "Peter's work is not what I expected -- and it was phenomenally interesting, thought-provoking, challenging and deeply inspiring."

PETER DONOVAN has been establishing baseline measurements for soil carbon change on innovative land managers from Mexico to Canada, Vermont to California as part of the Soil Carbon Challenge.

JEFF GOEBEL is a board member of the Soil Carbon Coalition, and works principally on goal accomplishment through conflict resolution and issues of power and change and holistic decision-making at the landscape scale. He has worked all over the U.S., including American Indian tribes, in Africa, and most recently in Palestinian communities on the West Bank (http://aboutlistening.com).

See meetup notice here: http://www.meetup.com/Portland-Permaculture-Meetup/events/68381662/

This workshop, suggested donation $15, will be at the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church, 5441 SE Belmont St., Portland, Oregon, USA

3 pm June 29, 2012, about four hours