Rice terraces in Yunnan

Lovely. Mostly because it looks like a painting, but is actually a picture. My source is wiki commons via Did the Anthropocene Begin in 1950 or 50,000 Years Ago? by David Biello in SA; the original is Jialiang Gao, www.peace-on-earth.org.

While I'm here there's VV's Irrigation and paint as reasons for a cooling bias.

I read Safeguarding research integrity in China by Jane Qiu, which wonders why research misconduct is particularly acute in China. Because of lack of rule of law and tolerance of corruption, I'd say.

And that Victor chap is back in Nature. I didn't bother read it this time; it didn't seem promising.


* TPP's take on the same picture.
* Ecology and the environment - ATTP

More like this

So your thoughts on whether we can tie the little ice age to afforestation caused by deaths in the new world and slave trade?

[I can't say I've thought about it much but it doesn't seem terribly plausible -W]

Because of lack of rule of law

Also in the West science is too complicated for the courts and they do not interfere much. Science is mainly self-policing.

[Yes, it is, but via a whole complex structure that's largely invisible. You can put in place a whole system to do the science, whilst missing that bit -W]

By Victor Venema … (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

"So your thoughts on whether we can tie the little ice age to afforestation caused by deaths in the new world and slave trade?

[I can’t say I’ve thought about it much but it doesn’t seem terribly plausible -W]"

It's *quite* plausible that theunique-within-last-2-millenia 75-year steep drop in CO2 into 1600AD contributed to the LIA. Of course, volcanoes about that time were relevant, as were solar minimal, although the latter were a little later.

See Rudiman's Tyndall Lecture at AGU 2013, on this topic starting ~37:40.

Then look at his 2013 book http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Transformed-William-F-Ruddiman/dp/1464107769">Earth Transformeda multidisciplinary gem IMHO. Note the cover image, he got there first.
See Part 6, chapters 18-21.

The numbers didn't use to work, but archaeologists have drastically raised estimates of the pre-Columbian population, and in particular better aerial instrumentation has located a lot of places in high-biomass areas where people once lived. Then there are the charcoal records, etc, etc. Most of this is old news, THE HOLOCENE(2011)

By John Mashey (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

And if someone subscribes to Defining the epoch we live in appeared yesterday by:
William F. Ruddiman1,
Erle C. Ellis2,
Jed O. Kaplan3,
Dorian Q. Fuller4

Not exactly the LIA topic, but related.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

Great picture.

Incentives matter in China, as elsewhere.

My vote for Who's Got Anthro is closer to 50,000 than 500 BP.

By Tom Fuller (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'm very skeptical about much of this early-anthropogenic-influence stuff, other than local effects.

Even if we attribute all of the decrease in CO2 around 1600 to anthropogenic influence it's hard to imagine that a 5 or 6 ppm decline in CO2 would have such a large effect. We're now putting that much CO2 in the air every three years.

That's not to say there wasn't any effect at all, of course. Just that it was most likely a (very) small perturbation on top of natural variability.

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 04 Apr 2015 #permalink

I was in northern Vietnam several years ago, looks a lot like that photo, and in winter a lot of those paddies are empty of water. It occurred to me that a highly mobilized society could use them for flood control - sluice the water into the paddies when the weather people say a big storm's on its way, then let it out afterwards.

You could do the same thing with residential rainwater retention tanks attached to a smart grid in drier parts of rich countries.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

Tom Fuller:

My vote for Who’s Got Anthro is closer to 50,000 than 500 BP.

When Tom's right, he's right. Faunal overturns, including mass extinctions, usually mark the boundaries of named intervals of geologic time. The Australian megafaunal extinctions are clear paleontological markers for the start of an Anthropocene epoch. The advent of Homo sapiens into the previously isolated continent may not have been the only cause of the extinctions, but both direct predation and landscape-scale burning must have contributed. I "vote" with Tom.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

> flood control ... with residential rainwater retention tanks
> attached to a smart grid in drier parts of rich countries.

I wish you'd talk to Jerry Brown about that. I know he understands -- as he is budgeting for flood control right now -- that California's droughts usually end with flooding.

How hard would it be to figure this out, by water-and-sewer footprints? Would you go after big commercial roofs, or homeowners, or intercept runoff somewhere in big cisterns?

There are multiple needs, obviously, that could be met -- getting a large amount of storage installed, with multiple benefits -- but rainwater storage, while available from urban garden stores, is expensive to set up and takes foresight during the drought.

(I live in city B, but by a couple hundred feet connect to adjacent city A's sewer system, as the stuff flows downhill -- which complicates things a bit I suppose. And there's vector control, making sure you're not setting up mosquito habitat).

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

The population growth feedback of rise of rice led to to" prehistoric" terracing on an astonishingly large scale , spanning the Indopacific from the margins of the Arabian sea to the far side of Melanesia.

Flying over the region at low altiude makes one reflect on whether for some millenia,, anthropogenic albedo change may have competed with or at times exceeded forcing from fire use.

By russell Seitz (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

Hank - I'd love to talk to Jerry Brown about it, although I figure it's a 40 year plan, installed as homes are renovated.

Australia may be able to jump start on this because they do a lot more rainwater retention than we do here in in California (ideally you want underground tanks as opposed to cisterns, and I'm not sure how common that is there). Tanks with two-way pumps attached to storm sewers could actually pull water out of the storm sewers before they hit creeks and exacerbate flooding.

Closed tanks and cisterns shouldn't be too much of a problem for mosquitoes. Rodents might be an issue....

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 05 Apr 2015 #permalink

The sight is absolutely breathtaking, but I can't help wondering that if these terraces cover a big portion of land already how is the environment affected. How much CO2 is contributed to the atmosphere and how is slope stability as well as erosion rates affected? Furthermore wouldn't the usage of these paddies for flood control compromise their ability to grow agriculture?


By Liza Roos (not verified) on 06 Apr 2015 #permalink

Collection of runoff... what a novel idea.

The average family of four in a California drought restriction is limited to 50gpd or 73Kgals per year per household. It's a great idea to construct about 8-million 50,000-gallon tanks in every yard. This would require a chlorinator and daily residual testing and quarterly and annual monitoring for selected pollutants for each of these 8-million individual water systems in California.

Perhaps instead, society could pool it's resources and build community and regional storage systems using the economy of scale. The excess runoff from wet years could be stored on land behind obstructions placed in narrow canyons. Perhaps the water could be recharged into groundwater. Then, the water could be treated and distributed through existing infrastructure by licensed professionals.

The home water company solution would require an excavation of nearly 300-cubic yards per household. In Cali, that's about 2Billion yards of soil weighing almost 3Billion tons. That would require nearly 130Million 17-yard end-dumps bustling through every neighborhood.

At a cost of $60per ton to excavate, load, haul and dispose the soil, the cost is a mere $180Billion just to dig the holes. Budget $20K in construction per unit adds another $150Billion. Assuming annual O&M costs of $1,500 adds about $11Billion per year over a 30-year life, after which the tank would need to be replaced.

It's a wonder no one had thought of this great idea until now.

Mal: I am aware and agree with the necessary caution that regulatory professionals take in restricting morons from operating hill-billy water systems. People forget that 90% of the 20th-Century western civilization longevity gains were due to controlling water-borne pathogens. I was sarcastically attacking the ideological unscientific environmentalist hatred of diversions, surface impoundments and the {phantom} growth inducement of expanding water storage.

About 20-years ago, my idiot brother got lead poisoning and Montezuma's revenge harvesting rainwater from his lead soldered, rat infested tin roof in Hawaii.

Also, I had to tear out an illegal graywater system on a house I purchased 6-years ago. The effluent just ran into the planters. My state and county have since made them legal. We do the bucket brigade for the few flowers we maintain, the rest are native holistic xeroscape ecofarm (e.g. weeds).


People forget that 90% of the 20th-Century western civilization longevity gains were due to controlling water-borne pathogens.

That does appear to be the motivation for some state rainwater-harvesting laws, but Colorado treats all water falling on the state as appropriated by a prior water-rights holder before it hits the ground. Harvesting rainwater is thus unlawful appropriation. Seems like a weird way to look at it, but we're talking about water law after all. See:


By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 07 Apr 2015 #permalink

Howard, the water would be for non-potable use (although I could see it as an emergency backup source of potable water that would have to be filtered).

Installation when remodelling would reduce a lot of the cost, or it could be done in crawlspaces.

As for large systems, the real unused storage capacity is underground, at least here in California.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 07 Apr 2015 #permalink

Very stunning picture! Is this similar to the irrigation technique used by the Incans in the Andes? They also utilised the terraces to aid their agricultural affairs. Could it also be similar to the ancient Aztec's method of agriculture using the floating gardens, the chinampas. - (15000894)

By I'd rather not say (not verified) on 12 Apr 2015 #permalink

The name of the painting "peace-on-earth" plays a big role in the understanding of the painting , the atmosphere of the painting is quite peacefull but which also leads one to think of the time that it was painted and how the current condition is due to the ecological and enviromental hazards we face in the current decade.This painting is truely remarkable for it lets one consider the future and the choices that ensure the best possible one.

By u15135919 (not verified) on 13 Apr 2015 #permalink