The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change
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The path we are following began with long-ago discoveries in agriculture, but it divided into two branches, about 8,000 years ago. The branch we have been following for the most part is conventional farming -- irrigation, tilling the soil, and removing weeds and pests. That branch has degraded soil carbon levels by as much as 80 percent in most of the world's breadbaskets, sending all that carbon skyward with each pass of the plow.
The other branch disappeared from our view some 500 years ago, although archaeologists are starting to pick up its trail now. At one time it achieved success as great as the agriculture that we know, producing exponential population surges and great cities, but all that was lost in a fluke historical event borne of a single genetic quirk.
It vanished when European and Asian diseases arrived in the Americas.
From excavations on the banks of the Amazon river, clearings of the savanna/gallery forests in the Upper Xingu, and ethnographic studies of Mesoamerican milpas, science has now re-traced the path of the second great agriculture, and, to its astonishment, found it more sustainable and productive that what we are currently pursuing.
While conventional agriculture leads to deserts, blowing parched dirt across the globe and melting ice caps, this other, older style, brings fertile soils, plant and animal diversity and birdsong. While the agriculture we use has been shifting Earth's carbon balance from soil and living vegetation to atmosphere and ocean, the agriculture that was nearly lost moves carbon from sky to soil and crops. The needed shift, once embarked upon, can be profound and immediate. We could once more become a garden planet, with deep black earths and forests of fruit and nuts where deserts now stand. We can heal our atmosphere and oceans.
Come along on this journey of rediscovery with The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change.
glossed over some important lessons we should have learned by now. The process by which early farming civilizations systematized food production, employing work animals, slaves, irrigation, and the plow, made them more vulnerable to the normal changes in climate that occur periodically — changes due largely to factors beyond human control. History is littered with the bones of civilizations that turned rich soils into deserts, cut down tall forests, and dried up or fouled their precious sources
climate system.” Three years later, the second IPCC report described how “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system was already occurring. Meanwhile, virtually no progress was made on any of the goals that had been set for emissions reductions. Business-as-usual had taken control, and the denial machine had gone into overdrive. In 1999, human population reached six billion. In 2001, the IPCC Third Assessment Report issued even stronger warnings, based on new evidence of
just nuke everything in sight on your way down. In contrast, if your species loses its climate underpinnings, it’s “Game over, man.” You not only take down the higher vertebrates, homo included, but everything alive on this third rock from the Sun, potentially even the microbes in deep caves and ocean depths. Earth, meet Venus. On May 19,2009, Woods Hole Research Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a study involving more than 400 supercomputer runs of the best
lifetime roughly 284 gallons of oil, and seven times that if fed on grain from birth to market. Western civilization, and increasingly the rest of the world, has become hooked on a meat-centered diet. While it might have sustained a population of one, or even two, billion people, it cannot hope to feed seven billion and counting. Using just the grains now fed to cattle, on the other hand, would sustain a human population of 11 billion, or more. The South American and Southeast Asian rainforests
any monocrop plantation could ever be. BOOK V AT THE TURNING POINT We are now at the stage when the Easter Islanders could still have halted the senseless cutting and carving, could have gathered the last trees’ seeds to plant out of reach of the rats. We have the tools and the means to share resources, clean up pollution, dispense basic health care and birth control, and set economic limits in line with natural ones. If we don’t do these things now, while we prosper, we will never