Last year, the salmon catch in southeast Alaska was the largest ever recorded. It may have been because controversial scientist-businessman Russ George, under contract with the Haida tribe in British Columbia, dumped 120 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean. The idea was to create a phytoplankton bloom that would in turn create feeding grounds for zooplankton, which in turn provide food for salmon and, in turn, the critters that eat them. Supporters believe George's experiment was a win-win-win all the way up the food chain, for grizzly bears and lox-and-bagel aficionados alike. Skeptics want more data, arguing -- fairly -- that the experiment needs more study.
Geoengineering proponents hope that such techniques might one day be used to sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere (though studies are mixed on this score), thus diminishing the need for wealth-crushing fossil fuel prohibitions while making food cheaper for humanity. In principle, this is no more outrageous than draining swampland to eradicate malaria and create farmland.
As Robert Zubrin recently wrote on National Review Online, George's efforts have been condemned by U.N. bureaucrats, environmentalists and many scientists. The scientists are understandably cautious; the bureaucrats claim George may have violated some treaties.
But some of the ideological responses Zubrin cited are ridiculous. Naomi Klein, writing in 2012, was excited to see so many killer whales when she was in British Columbia on vacation. But when it dawned on her that the orcas might be there to partake of George's "all you can eat seafood buffet," she was horrified. In a world of geoengineering, she lamented, "all natural events can begin to take on an unnatural tinge. ... A presence that felt like a miraculous gift suddenly feels sinister, as if all of nature were being manipulated behind the scenes."
That ship sailed at least 10,000 years ago.