Jim Blackburn Speaks On: Houston and Ecology

January 23, 2019

I am spiritually, ethically and scientifically connected to nature, and Houston has some of the best “nature” surrounding it of any city in the world – perhaps our best kept secret. Over the years, as I have tried to talk to Houstonians about ecology – about the way that our natural system functions, about our local diversity and its uniqueness  – I have learned a valuable lesson. In Houston – if I can bring money into the conversation about ecology, I can be heard by many people who otherwise were deaf to my words. And believe it or not, in the future, there will be money in ecology, and that future is here. Today, there is a non-profit in Houston called the Texas Coastal Exchange, https://www.texascoastalexchange.org/, that is setting up a system for buying and selling ecological services – the work that nature does for us. There are many potential sales items in our “nature store” but none is more important or exciting than the ability of the natural system to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in our prairies, our coastal marshes and our forests. Why carbon dioxide? Well, it’s because our climate is changing and human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are the primary cause of these changes that are implicated in huge storms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria as well as record droughts and the wildfires in the West. Market pressures are causing some companies to begin to act now, and ethical or stewardship concerns are causing others to act. But what can a person do? Well, we all can evaluate and understand our footprint and then pay a landowner to remove our carbon emissions from the atmosphere and store them. Imagine – there is a solution to this problem right in front of our eyes and yet we remain blinded by fear. Yes, fear. Fear for the future of the oil and gas industry that so many of us rely upon – fear of the unknown. Yet, our natural bounty – the coastal marshes, East Texas forests, the great central prairie of Texas, and the midwestern United States – is there to help us move forward. And in the long term, the future of Houston and the oil and gas industry may well depend upon all of us “loving” nature by buying carbon storage rights. How ironic! But it does keep an audience’s attention.