I love honey-sweet, tangy rhubarb. I enjoy it on my cereal in the morning. And I enjoy it with plain yogurt drizzled with maple syrup.
I have three separate plants in my garden, some I’ve picked weekly and shared with family and friends, some I’ve cooked as a simple compote for myself. A third plant on the east side of the garden I’ve only started to pick. Yesterday, as I was picking some stalks from that plant I noticed several gigantic leaves. Rhubarb leaves bigger than I’ve seen before. Sure we’ve had good rains recently and lots of prairie sun. But there was something unusual in the size of the leaves that caught my attention.
A recent Financial Post article by Lawrence Solomon: “Hooray! There’s reason to celebrate that CO2 levels are rising,” that my brother-in-law sent me, jostled my mind. Plants love CO2. Could it be the over 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere has given the rhubarb leaves an extra growth spurt? Nature loves abundance. Should I celebrate? Should I shout out “Hooray” with my 400 ppm CO2 filled lungs? Not likely!
CO2 levels are rising at a rate of 0.04 % annually. Existing coal fired plants and over a billion cars spewing out CO2 may well raise that to 550 ppm. Concentrations that high were last seen 23 million years ago. That may be way more than humans, plants and animals can handle. Welcome to the Anthropocene!*
What the planet needs is a green thumb species, working with nature, building healthy soils in backyard gardens, in community gardens and adopting Miquel Altieri proposal for an agroecosystem of agriculture which “could sequester more carbon than is currently emitted.”
Let’s start digging and planting!
* "Record Levels of CO2 Herald the Future of Climate Change", by David Biello in the November 10, 2015 issue of Scientific American.