Wired – The Plan to Grab the World’s Carbon With Supercharged Plants by Emily Dreyfus #leavingscars #climatechange
In humanity’s battle against man-made climate change, the Earth itself provides one of the most important weapons, a natural system that breathes in Earth-warming CO2 and exhales oxygen.
Yes, I’m talking about plants, engineered by nature itself over the course of millennia to harness the Earth’s natural conditions to turn sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and organic matter. Plants are the key to many climate-change-fighting tactics. Want to cut down on the methane gas that’s contributing to global warming? Eat more plants (and fewer farting cows). Want to offset some of the carbon emissions from your airline or consumer retail company? Buy a forest of oxygen-emitting trees. Want to create a natural fuel that won’t puff black clouds full of CO2 into the air? Consider vegetable oil (or photosynthesizing algae, which isn’t a plant but has a lot in common with them).
Plant biologist Joanne Chory thinks plants can do more. She has studied the genetics of plants at the Salk Institute in San Diego for more than 30 years, and she and the rest of the five-person Harnessing Plants Initiative team are convinced that photosynthesis itself can be exploited to create a biological solution to carbon capture.
Engineers have tried to do this with massive machines, to limited effect. “As plant biologists, we just looked at the problem a little differently. We didn’t think of an engineering solution. We didn’t think about building a big machine that could suck in air and then capture the CO2 on a sponge, or whatever. We said, ‘That’s what plants were evolved to do,’” Chory says.
Unlike engineered solutions, biology harnesses evolutionary time, because plants have already evolved for 500 million years to be great at sucking up CO2. In fact, according to the Salk Institute, every year plants and other photosynthetic life capture 746 gigatons of CO2 and then release 727 gigatons of CO2 back. If it weren’t for the 37 gigatons of CO2 humans also release into the atmosphere annually, the global carbon cycle would be healthy. But, as it stands, each year the Earth is left with 18 gigatons of CO2 it cannot naturally handle.
Chory believes the key to fixing that imbalance is to train plants to suck up just a little more CO2 and keep it longer. She is working on engineering the world’s crop plants to have bigger, deeper roots made of a natural waxy substance called suberin—found in cork and cantaloupe rinds—which is an incredible carbon-capturer and is resistant to decomposition. By encouraging plants to have bigger, deeper, more suberin-rich roots, Chory can trick them into fighting climate change as they grow. The roots will store CO2, and when farmers harvest their crops in the fall, those deep-buried roots will stay in the soil and keep their carbon sequestered in the dirt, potentially for hundreds of years.
“Every year plants and other photosynthetic organisms take up an incredible amount of CO2—like twentyfold more than we ever put up when we burn fossil fuels—but then at the end of the growing season most plants just die, and they decompose, and it goes back up as CO2. That’s been a real problem,” she told WIRED last week in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the TED 2019 conference, where she received an Audacious Project prize of more than $35 million to scale this project. It was the second-largest donation in the Salk Institute’s history. “We’re going to make them amazing.”
If she and her team can breed these plants and get them into the global agricultural food chain, Chory believes they can contribute a 20 to 46 percent reduction in excess CO2 emissions annually.
The benefits don’t stop there, according to Chory. Those roots will very slowly break down and deposit their carbon little by little in the soil. This could reverse some of the human-caused depletion that has removed carbon and other nutrients from the soil due to agricultural practices that “treat soil like dirt,” to quote UC Merced soil scientist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, who also spoke at TED 2019. Berhe explained that nutrient soil depletion from agriculture has left it less fertile, with fewer nutrients for the plants to absorb from the soil.
“I think we can get the plants to help us,” Chory said in conversation with Berhe. She’s banking on the hope that the team’s plants will deposit carbon back into the soil in a way that makes it more fertile. That’s how Chory and the team plan to scale up their solution: by convincing farmers that suberin-rich crops will not only help with climate change but also help feed the growing populations of the world.
And they’ll have to, because farmers are not going to sign on to grow weirdly root-huge plants if doing so hurts their yields.
“These plants will be stronger and more sustainable,” Chory says. “The old adage is, feed the soil not the plant,” she explains, and that’s what the team believes these roots will do.
Right now, the Salk team is at the beginning phases of this project. They’ve identified genetic pathways that control for the three traits they want to bring out in plants: increasing suberin, enlarging root systems, and making the roots grow down deeper into the ground. Now they will begin to test combining those three traits in a model plant called arabidopsis in the lab, before moving on to crop plants like corn, soybean, and rice. They hope to have prototypes of souped up versions of major crops within five years and are already in talks with agricultural companies to partner on testing them.
They plan to combine these traits using traditional plant-breeding techniques first, and possibly down the line use gene editing techniques like CRISPR to accelerate trait adoption. The team is trying to move fast in every way.
And time is off the essence. Not just because the next 11 years may be our last best chance to reverse course away from catastrophic climate change, but because Chory herself is facing a looming deadline.
She has Parkinson’s disease and is growing increasingly symptomatic. “My days are going to be numbered in a way that I can see. So that gives me a sense of urgency,” she says. She plans to spend the rest of her scientific career on this single project to use plants to mitigate global climate change.
For Chory, that’s a big departure from her previous work, which, though instrumental to enabling this current project, was never focused on solving a specific urgent problem. Until now, she’d been doing basic research, contributing to overall human knowledge without any sort of mandate that her discoveries cure a specific ill. All of that work allowed her and the team to reach the insight that plants could be harnessed to help with climate change. But applying that science to solve a specific problem feels very, very different and requires her to step far outside her comfort zone.
Applying for the Audacious Project meant going through months of work with TED and consultants hired to help the project finalists refine their pitch to philanthropists. It meant coming to Vancouver and speaking directly about how her work translates to the real world. The day before her talk, Chory was incredibly nervous. A consultant who worked to prepare her, Chris Addy of Bridgespan Group, said that Chory was probably the most nervous of all eight Audacious Project leads. But she got up there and pitched her vision, because of how much it matters to her.
“She gets notes like, ‘Thank you for saving the world!” says her husband, scientist Stephen Worland, who is CEO of therapeutics company Effector and with whom Chory has two grown children.
“That’s why I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Five people can’t save it,” she says. “But we can be a part of it. I feel really strongly that I want to do that now, because I’m getting to the end of my career, really.”
Her newfound mission means that, as she faces Parkinson’s and the looming end of her career, Chory is working probably more hours than ever before. “My daughter said to me, ‘I never remember you working this hard,’” she says. Then she quickly adds, “That felt like a victory, actually, because I was working pretty hard the whole time they were growing up, but she didn’t really miss me.”
Now, without kids in the house, Chory is free to work all the time. Trying to save the world, one deep, fat, waxy plant root at a time.
What does it take to build a team?
A goal, and a leader.
Simple right? While it is a simple concept, the implementation is far from easy. When you build a team, prioritizing personalities vs work can be a challenging task. I’m a firm believer in people who want to work, will work. Whether they are taxed on resources or struggling mentally a worker bee will always chase the honey. The teams you build should focus on this concept. Managing personalities will always be a chore, but you shouldn’t need to chase a bee to collect the honey. If they are not willing to put in the work, or are more content with telling you how busy they are, you might consider finding another volunteer. A bee has no time to buzz if they’re harvesting.
Now that I’ve hit my analogy quota, Let me explain to you how I successfully build teams so you can judge my methods and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. I am fortunate enough to have started very young. I also had a wealth of mentors who invested in me early, while I was still a young teen. There isn’t a secret to how I was able to get people much older than me to buy in to my agenda. I have always been a talker with crazy ideas, and engaging people is somewhat a passion of mine when I feel they are worthy of the little time I have to share. Studying how people interact and learning how personalities clash has taught me a lot about the psyche. This is the core of building a team. Knowing what you need and the type of person (or people) to carry out your tasks.
It would be a fair assumption to say 90% of people who have interacted with me past hello have taken a personality test. Studying a personality takes time, and while we eventually get to the point where I have a mental map of the psyche, there’s nothing wrong with jumping from A to Z straight out the gate. The risk you take is that honesty is hard to come by, and assuming someone is being honest with you is setting yourself up for failure. Time will always show someones true colors and no one escapes time. Sometimes, letting them lead the dance helps you decide whether you need a new dance partner at the start of the next song. You should analyze all of your leaders based on their personalities and ability to interact with people. A leader needs to know when to engage and when to step away. They are responsible for pushing the agenda and keeping everyone in line so that you can focus on the end goal. If it takes you more time to manage your leaders than it does to lead the people under them on your own, chances are you’ve chosen the wrong set of leaders. Every person you choose should have value toward achieving your overall goal from the top down. Your leaders should be able to identify this among the ranks below them. People get touchy over being considered above or below someone else, but we aren’t putting a value on someones worth, we are trying to succeed towards our end goal. Hierarchy is important to achieve this. If anyone attempts to question your ability to lead by turning it into an argument over their worth, their value to your team is probably minuscule IF you are treating them right. If you are being fair to your team and this is a consistent issue, chop chop.
So, now you’ve chosen your team and you’re ready to run into battle. You’ve forgot one thing! You forgot to map out your battlefield. In the modern times, we call this Risk Management. The ability to map out your risk is integral to your success at achieving anything, whether it’s solo or on a team. When building your team, you should consider bringing in someone with excellent analytics skills. You want the person helping manage risk to be capable of making decisions based strictly on probability and not off of emotion. So what does this emotionless soul do? They determine the amount of risk each decision involves, and whether you will fail your end goal based on the probability of those decisions. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for this role to be reactive strictly on logic and probability because their choices can take your entire ship into the shoreline if they react emotionally.
We won’t go into budget management or project management because I could write a few articles on each one. The bottom line is that you will need an individual that can keep a time line running your projects. They aren’t necessarily the decision maker, but they are the person responsible for delivering on the projects that contribute to your end goal. You will also need someone managing budget with a very logical mindset because they will run the budget against your goals and timelines in order to keep you out of the red. Preferably, you want this role split into 2 positions, while the project manager will keep the time line and budget resources, ultimately, it is the budget manager that decides on whether there is a budget for what needs to be spent or if it’s beneficial to even spend the money.
Your team’s coming together, you have a group that can determine the risk, budget and time it takes to achieve your final goal. One thing is missing, The talker *enters room* That was for my own humor. Whenever you’re trying to achieve anything you need buy in, and you need someone to sell it to the people you want buy in from. This could mean financially, or recruiting people to contribute/invest in your direction. The best person for this role is someone that has proven business acumen, so they can communicate effectively, intelligently, and oversell your teams philosophy. Having someone that understands the concept of business as a whole will give you a higher success rate at creating loyalty around your agenda, whether it is a product, a movement, or all of the above. If you do not have someone capable of engaging people and understanding your business in and out, they will fail at bringing you investors and ultimately they will hurt your reputation. You can’t succeed off of a failed reputation.
Now we can end where we began. The most important thing of all **drum roll** You need a GOAL. If you do not have a goal, you cannot unite your team. If you do not have direction to get to your goal, you will fail. The person responsible for this? The leader. They are responsible for keeping everyone consistently moving forward and making sure that the leads are keeping their team occupied with deliveries. An unoccupied team is an unproductive team, and leaving people room to do nothing gives people room to question your leadership. The leader is responsible for making the tough decisions and holding everyone from the top down accountable for their role in the company. If there is no accountability, there is no success.
One thing that isn’t necessarily a role but evenly impactful as any is negativity. If you allow negativity through your doors, it will taint your view of success.
I may have missed a few pieces that I’d normally include, but I am publishing this as is with no proof reading, and no revisions because I’m confident in what I know, and.. I’m all out of time.
Mental health is a dynamic topic. People often assume that when speaking on mental health, people are referring to disorders or people with disorders. While this falls under the umbrella, it is actually more directly related to self preservation and the ability to preserve your mind state and balance the positivity around your psyche.
Why is this topic such a hard topic for millions of people to acknowledge, discuss, and support each other with?
For starters, we normally don’t think anything is wrong with us. Some of us struggle with coming to grips with the reality of a situation and how we feel about it. Others are overly confident, charming and have a proven reputation for engaging people to get to where we want to be at that moment in time. Discussing our state of mind is challenging because fear of judgement is engraved into us on a social level. We’re taught that we need to bite our tongue and tread lightly with what we share and that it cannot be done without trust.
What if I told you that you don’t need to have any emotional attachment to fix your mental state and get your goals aligned with the path it belongs on?
Most people would laugh, and chalk it up to naivety. Would they be willing to wager that my experience in life, and ability to communicate with people to create relationships could prove them wrong? I suppose this is the point in the article where you make a choice to discredit me..
Where you decide that maybe I am on to something.
There are very few things that can completely kill a psyche. Short of death, most of these things can be avoided or fixed. So what are these things?
- Self worth
Knowing what you are worth to yourself
Knowing what you are worth to others
Knowing where you are going
If you take away any one of these, your alignment goes out. The wheels keep on spinning but you can’t seem to get your car out of the mud. If you lose two of these, you feel like you’re trying to get your head above water but you’re constantly floating in water at eye level. If you lose all three of them, the current has already took you out to sea.
When someone degrades you, or doesn’t acknowledge your existence, your self value goes down. You don’t feel that you are worth anything to yourself. You refuse to believe that you can do anything worthwhile because you are not worth the thought.
When you are betrayed, your worth to others disappear. You don’t question what you are worth, you question if you are worth anything to others. This is what eats at people when they lose trust in people.
When an idea of yours gets shut down, or when you are constantly overlooked at work for an opportunity that you solely deserve, Your direction disappears. Your motivation to move everything forward stops and you decide that maybe, moving forward is moving backwards. There always needs to be a goal you are trying to work towards.
These are all examples, but very real situations that happen daily for a lot of people, and most I can vouch for from experience, even in the present time. The trick to keep these permanently aligned? Detaching your emotions from your mental state and never allowing a person to define what these mean for you. Emotions make up who we are as people, but they do not contribute to our mental capacity directly. They chip away because we allow emotions to control our perception. When we allow others to affect or control our emotions, we engage into a battle we’ve already lost. Everyone knows how to swim until their arms and legs fatigue.
The next time you’re feeling mentally burnt out, or like you’re spiraling out of control.. Pull out a notebook (yes, a physical notebook, put the phone down) and write down those 3 states of mind and where you currently are with it. List the factors affecting them, why, and how you can alleviate or remove the negativity so that you can move forward positively. You will be mesmerized by how quickly the pieces to your puzzles become flat on every side and align with the surrounding pieces harmoniously.
A full disclaimer.. I started this article with one train of thought, decided my approach was negative, took a shower and the article went in a completely different direction. Sometimes, taking a step back, helps you regain your focus.
#leavingscars #twisty808 #2019 #leaving scars