Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chu: 2100 = No more water in California

Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, our new U.S. energy secretary warns "I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," he said. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California." And, he added, "I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going, either."

Thinking ahead to generations in the future, possibly of my own making, if its unlikely to get people to stop using their cars and burning fossil fuels for electricity and making products then it makes wise sense to reduce potential consequences and start moving now to greener pastures. Or we can try our luck and wait and see. I'm sure many will be able to stick around, living off rainfall and producing wheat, dairy, fruit and nuts and whatever lucky imported things the government can ration. Doesn't sound like much fun to me.

The only thing that could slow down the use of cars is high gas prices caused by gov taxes or created by supply and demand factors via Peak Oil. But then we'd have the pesky problems of unemployment and civil unrest... Which could cause the demand of coal to liquids, which is a climate change doomsday scenario. There's also the problems of using tractors, processing and distributing of our food and the related fossil fuel use.

The good news is that it is possible to use biochar to stop climate change. Biochar aka Terra preta is turning organic material such as trees to charcoal and burying it which sequesters co2 while increasing crop yields by building and improving the soils capacity to hold water and nutrients!

Biochar could be the only realistic solution, combined with a massive reforestation project in all climates and soil types, to also remove carbon from the air. Furthermore, the soil food web and all the life that lives with the tree's roots will capture even up to 5 times more carbon than the tree itself! Furthermore, forests would subsequently increase rainfall as well, along with providing material to make biochar, food, fuelwood and habitat for more variety of lifeforms.

But maybe those permaculture solutions are "too primitive" and people would rather hope for the prophetic technofix. Such as an invention to make ocean water desal cheap and abundant and build piping from the coast to the valleys. Or as one crazy friend of mine suggested, to build large pipes from the great lakes all the way to California... sure, that's going to happen! Why do we keep hoping for more technology when we already have the solutions built into nature? Why are we so afraid of natural methods?

On the bright side, it's refreshing to see some truth coming from high ranking officials in the federal government. Hooray for Obama and Change(tm). I'm glad we're starting to talk about it, but the next step is to actually start doing something about it. If I wasn't so busy doing what I can in my own life such as trying to find a place to live to be able to easily grow my own food, I'd help make a plan. However even if I had the plan, who would listen? It is going to take a lot of money or government intervention. So, I hope that someone finds out there are solutions and starts making it happen or gets the plan to someone with ties and influence to Chu and Obama or people in their local government. Spread the word!


Video on Biochar and Soils:

1 comment:

Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw, "Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes "Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !". Free Carbon Condominiums, build it and they will come.
As one microbologist said on the TP list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat". By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

Senator / Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has done the most to nurse this biofuels system in his Biochar provisions in the 07 & 08 farm bill,

Charles Mann ("1491") in the Sept. National Geographic has a wonderful soils article which places Terra Preta / Biochar soils center stage.

Biochar data base;

NASA's Dr. James Hansen Global warming solutions paper and letter to the G-8 conference, placing Biochar / Land management the central technology for carbon negative energy systems.

The many new university programs & field studies, in temperate soils; Cornell, ISU, U of H, U of GA, Virginia Tech, JMU, New Zealand and Australia.

Glomalin's role in soil tilth, fertility & basis for the soil food web in Terra Preta soils.
POZNAN, Poland, December 10, 2008 - The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) announces that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has submitted a proposal to include biochar as a mitigation and adaptation technology to be considered in the post-2012-Copenhagen agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A copy of the proposal is posted on the IBI website at
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI).

Given the current "Crisis" atmosphere concerning energy, soil sustainability, food vs. Biofuels, and Climate Change what other subject addresses them all?

This is a Nano technology for the soil that represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.

Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it.


Erich J. Knight

Shenandoah Gardens
540 289 9750