I: Peat

The cause of, and solution to, carbon dioxide.

I: Peat
A peat bog. Photo by Sigmund / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is primidi, the 1st of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI. It's the snowy month, and the calendar is shunning living things (for the most part) until next month, so get ready to celebrate a lot of stuff that's dug out of the ground, beginning with la tourbe, a sticky organic dirt.

Peat is basically baby fossil fuel. As organic matter accumulates in the ground under wet enough conditions, it decomposes into rough sludge. Given a few million years, this sludge would liquify to crude oil or harden into shale oil, but with just a few thousand years under its belt, you instead get a spongy substance that can still be burned as fuel, once it's properly dry. Peat is the most efficient sink of carbon dioxide on the planet, making it a vital part of our ecosystem when attempting to mitigate climate change. However, instead of expanding the amount of peatland on the globe, well, you'll see...

Every year at about this time, the most densely populated land on planet Earth gets trapped under a noxious haze. Why is air pollution so bad in southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia? Is it auto traffic? Factory chimneys? Coal-burning ships?

Nope, it's the ground catching on fire and burning for months and months until the monsoons come. And it burns because human beings light it.

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