The roots of the desiccationist movement proper are found in the colonial administration of various islands taken over by the English during the 17th and 18th centuries - a topic upon which Grove dumps a vat of ink. The English carried their conflicting opinions about forests with them as they expanded their empire. Some believed the clearing of a forest was an improvement, while others saw an Eden despoiled. Some believed jungles were a source of disease, while others thought they were natural filters purifying air for human consumption.
John Woodward, the personal physician of Charles II, is perhaps the earliest proponent of the belief that forests transpire mists that form into large rain-clouds - a theory for which he had no empirical basis. According to Woodward, to clear the forests on an island would be to be to run the risk of turning it into a rainless desert. He communicated this belief through letters to many influential persons within island colonial administrations, some of whom began to make "scientific" calculations about exactly how many hog-heads of potential rainwater were lodged in each tree.
By the early 1700s the colonial administrator of St. Helena, an island under the jurisdiction of East India Company, began passing laws demanding islanders plant trees so as to maintain sufficient amounts of rain. Not long after, the colonial administrators succumbed to various petition-writing campaigns from pro-forest groups and agreed to phase out sheep and goat grazing on the island, as it was widely believed these animals were eating saplings and thus were subtracting from the island's rainfall.
Grove traces the lineage of the pro-forest "scientific" lobby in the 18th century through various professors and botanists and later to physicians in the employ of the East India Company who viewed the planting of forests as a public health emergency. The baton was passed from men like John Hope, the curator of the botanical gardens of Edinburgh, to William Roxborough, later the superintendent of the botanical gardens of Calcutta. Throughout this period botanical gardens gained enormous popularity among European elites for both ornamental and economic reasons, and the curators of the gardens used them as nurseries for forest-planting projects around the world. The French physiocrats in general, and Pierre Poivre in particular, also factor large in the formation of the desiccationist mindset.
In the middle of the century these gentlemen founded the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, which in spite of its name, became principally preoccupied with the promotion of forests. By the 1760s the Society was offering to plant forests on any colonial island for which the governor was willing to supply the land. Their philosophy was evident in the 1763 colonial plan for Tobago which set aside large amounts land as forest reserves and required even the zones set aside for development to contain specific amounts of forest. The official rationale for doing this was to preserve regional weather patterns. As well, in 1766 Poivre became Commissaire-Intendant of the French colony of Mauritius, and government-financed tree-planting programs and forest preserves soon followed.
From the 1790s to the early 1800s the desiccationists steadily gained influence in the East India Company Court of Directors. Large scale tree-planting operations on the Indian continent date to this period. The desiccasionist argument was never the sole argument for preserving forests and planting trees. Other arguments such as timber for the Navy, species extinction, and sea level change were also deployed. Nevertheless, by the mid-19th century articles in favour of the desiccationist theory were found in many scientific journals. Substantial areas of the Indian sub-continent, much of it fertile land long used for agriculture, were forested over. This was not popular with the locals. A vicious cycle set in whereby famines were blamed on drought which in turn was blamed on lack of forests resulting in more land being taken out of production.
The peak of the desiccationist movement was probably the 1850s, and the core group promoting it were physicians within the EIC and men like a J.D Hooker, a second-generation "scientific botanist" and avid tree-hugger. As the physicians were prescribing the worst of medicines for mass hunger, the famines of latter 19th century became truly horrendous with around 15 million starving to death between 1875 and 1900. (Grove does not, at least to the satisfaction of this reviewer, connect colonial land policy with agricultural output, nor does he expound upon the popularity of Malthusianism within the British elite and the role this may have had in motivating these policies.)
It should come as no surprise that the folks at ground zero of the global warming hoax, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, see the solution to their invented problem partly in the expansion and protection of the world's forests. To quote from the IPCC's most recent "Information Kit":
"Forests contain vast quantities of carbon. Some forests acts as 'sinks' by absorbing carbon from the air, while forests whose carbon flows are in balance act as 'reservoirs'. .Forests will need better protection and management if their carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced. While legally protected preserves have a role, deforestation should also be tackled through policies that lessen the economic pressures on forest lands. A great deal of forest destruction and degradation is caused by the expansion of farming and grazing. Other forces are the market demand for wood as a commodity and the local demand for fuel wood and other forest resources for subsistence living. These pressures may be eased by.slowing the rate of population growth.and addressing the underlying socio-economic and political forces that spur migration into forest areas..Establishing forests on degraded or on non-forested lands adds to the amount of carbon stored in trees and soils."In other words, massive reforestation and the suppression of the impulse to expand agriculture are once again held out as good weather-stabilizing policy. Much of the debate up here in Canada regarding Kyoto has been over the amount of a "credit" we should receive for expanding and protecting our forests. Surely the masterminds of the global warming fraud, Sir Crispin Tickell and Sir John Houghton, are of the same ilk as the men mentioned above. They have never seen a dank, bug-infested swamp they have not loved.
The leading lights among the climate change sceptics are fond of stating how complex a system Earth's climate is. By this they are stressing that no one understands fully the processes going into the weather. Hence, the sceptics assert, it is preposterously presumptuous for the pro-Kyoto crowd to speak with any certainty about possible human impact on global average temperatures. Society is also a complex system and it would be a treat if the sceptics could for a moment turn their ample investigative powers toward really understanding the forces at work behind the international environmental movement.
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