Thursday, July 4, 2019

How We Keep Destroying the Things that Make us Live: The Biotic Pump and the Raw Power of Science

Dr. Anastassia Makarieva describes the concept of the "Biotic Pump" at the Smart Biotic Pump Summit Prague 2018

This is not an easy video to follow, but I thought to propose it to you nevertheless. Perhaps its most impressive feature is how it is not refined, it is not slick, it uses no tricks. It is just a plain talk of the kind you normally hear at scientific conferences. And yet it gave me an impression of something I would call the "raw power of science." 

It is the power science has to create new ideas, new concepts, new views of seeing the natural world. The biotic pump is not just a refinement of what we know about the Earth's climate. It is a revolutionary way to look at the way the ecosystem works. Dr. Makarieva, here, shows that science produces not only new ideas but relevant ideas. Relevant for our life and for the life of the whole biosphere.  

I know that the concept of biotic pump is controversial and it is in itself a complex concept, not easy to grasp. Not being an expert in atmospheric physics, it is not easy for me to evaluate it in depth. But, if it is true, that is, it is so massive and on such a large scale as Makarieva and Gorshkov propose, then it is mind-boggling. It means that the ecosystem controls the Earth's climate in a much deeper and stronger way than commonly believed. 

According to this view, forests are immense machines that pump water away from the oceans to the land. Forests, not just trees, not grass, not pastures, not cultivated fields. You need a fully grown forest to keep the machine running and to provide the biosphere with the water it needs. And, just for a change, humans are destroying the world's forests. As usual, we keep destroying the things that make us live.

So, if you have 26 minutes, you could do much worse than using them to listen to Dr. Makarieva speaking. But if you limit yourself to the first few minutes, just listen to what she says about professor Gorshkov, who couldn't come to the meeting. She says, "I am just a pale shadow of him." It is a very kind way to honor a man who spent his life honoring the biosphere with his scientific work. 

Victor Gorshkov died last May. Anastassia Makarieva wrote to me that "the biosphere is now orphaned." 

Above, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva

For more data on the biotic pump,  see

A recent paper by a different research group


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)