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Carbon cycle workshop, St Johnsbury, VT

Carbon cycle workshop with Peter Donovan at Fuller Hall at St. Johnsbury Academy, St Johnsbury, VT, 9-3.

The ongoing discovery of the circle of life, and what it means for leadership, community, and decision making, from your backyard to the world's grasslands

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.

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.

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 deep relationship between carbon and water, in the soil pore and in the atmosphere

the surprising implications of these changing understandings for policy, decision making, leadership, and long-term investment.

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. He wants to help people move from a problem-solving orientation around carbon cycling, soils, water, and climate, to a creative one.