Yes, plankton. The tiny little grubs that whales feed on. It seems environmental scientists have started to get desperate. Either that or the nation’s journalists are resorting to desperate measures to stave off ‘green fatigue‘.
In a nutshell, boffins from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton have just completed an experiment in which they dumped iron filings in the South Seas to boost plankton levels. The little buggers are quite useful in taking in CO2 from the environment, something we sorely need. Whilst this may have worked, it fell short of the projected amount of CO2 taken in by a factor of 15 to 50 times. (Not sure how that can call themselves scientists and be that imprecise, but nevermind…)
This latest attempt to solve the environmental mess we’ve got ourselves into may be way off the mark, but it does raise for me an interesting issue. Plankton fertilisation is a prime example of geo-engineering. In plain English, the scientists have resorted to messing with the natural balance of things to correct the damage we have already done. Frank Pope at The Times opposes this by arguing that we are meddling with complex eco-systems that we don’t fully understand, but if we can’t use out ingenuity to solve this problem, then how else can we find a way out? It seems logical to put faith in our ability for innovation to ensure the survival of the human race, but if we shy away from experimenting in this way, then surely we are just conceding defeat? Dumping iron filings on plankton is essentially polluting to save the environment, and I’d like to see a Government give funding to that!