[A Murmur in the Trees]In ‘Texas of England,’ Houston effort could help farmers profit by storing carbon in their land
A consulting company in Yorkshire that works with farmers signed a contract this week with an entity called BCarbon, which was developed by a working group led by Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. BCarbon creates a way for farmers to measure — and profit from — how much carbon they store in their land.
The aim is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to climate change. Plants naturally absorb it. Certain land management strategies can maximize how much carbon winds up in the ground.
The working group spent two years figuring out how to measure newly sequestered carbon and sell credits for it. Now its members were here, with glasses of wine passed on trays, celebrating what they hope will benefit both farmers and the Earth — an Earth which, when viewed through Hockney’s eyes, one couldn’t help but marvel over.
“He is our best, most famous living artist,” explained Hyde from his position near “Early July Tunnel,” which hangs in the first gallery of the museum’s temporary exhibit “Hockney — Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature.”
“And the fact that all of his life’s work is painted in these scenes that we’re now working in on this project. …”
Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and Rice professor who co-led the working group, chimed in: “It’s one of those things that gives me chills. It’s strange in that it’s kind of like a confluence of forces and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of them, and it’s wonderful.”
By Hyde’s explanation, Yorkshire is considered the Texas of England, a place where people are individualistic and proud of it. It’s also Hockney’s birthplace, where he has returned time and again to paint. There, the consulting group Future Food Solutions plans to pilot a BCarbon project. (A Texas-based group called Grassroots Carbon also signed on to use it.)
“We’ve got to kind of open our eyes and transform our thinking, and there is a wonderful opportunity of working with the Earth to do fabulous things with regard to carbon,” Blackburn went on. “And I don’t think we’ve even begun to understand the potential. But this is one of the first steps in doing it.”
Around the two men in the gallery were paintings hung on pale green walls, celebrating nature.
There were rolling yellow fields. Roads gently winding past farms. Green landscapes and hilly landscapes and hay-bale dotted landscapes, all in popping colors.
The murmur of conversation among the dressed-up attendees in the lobby was muffled. Blackburn and Hyde wore suits and ties.
“It needs to be: We have a moral responsibility to reduce our carbon to save the planet for our future generations,” Hyde was saying. “But if we can make some money doing it as well, it’s even better. And this project, this project is about paying farmers to farm better.”
They turned to consider the painting. It shows a dirt road, shadowed by leafy trees that hang over it. The blue sky pokes through in the distance. Fields dotted with green and yellow and blue stretch beyond the trees. It reminded Hyde of the landscapes he used to walk through on the way to school.
“This should be our inspiration: We should all want to live in a clean world,” Hyde said. “It’s not about politics. It’s not about environmentalism. It’s about aspiring to have clean air to breathe, good food to eat, where farmers can do that economically and viably.”
Blackburn saw in the painting the potential for an entirely new economic system.
“We will have an economic system that’s consistent with the Earth in the future,” he said to Hyde. “It is an economy beyond anything that we currently see when we look at that picture.”
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