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The Biochar Solution (PDF)
Carbon Farming and Climate Change
Conventional agriculture destroys our soils, pollutes our water and is a major contributor to climate change. What if our agricultural practices could stabilize, or even reverse these trends?
The Biochar Solution explores the dual function of biochar as a carbon-negative energy source and a potent soil-builder. Created by burning biomass in the absence of oxygen, this material has the unique ability to hold carbon back from the atmosphere while simultaneously enhancing soil fertility. Author Albert Bates traces the evolution of this extraordinary substance from the ancient black soils of the Amazon to its reappearance as a modern carbon sequestration strategy.
Combining practical techniques for the production and use of biochar with an overview of the development and future of carbon farming, The Biochar Solution describes how a new agricultural revolution can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to below zero while increasing world food reserves and creating energy from biomass wastes. Biochar and carbon farming can:
- Reduce fossil fuels inputs into our food system
- Bring new life to desert landscapes
- Filter and purify drinking water
- Help build carbon-negative homes, communities and nations.
Biochar is not without dangers if unregulated, and it is not a panacea, but if it fulfills its promise of taking us back from the brink of irreversible climate change, it may well be the most important discovery in human history.
Albert Bates has been Director of the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology since 1984 and the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Tennessee since 1994, where he has taught sustainable design, natural building, permaculture and restoration ecology to students from more than 50 nations.
"Reading like a detective story and marked by impressive scholarship, Albert Bates' latest book has placed the biochar solution and the vision of a truly regenerative agriculture and settlement squarely in the center of the global crisis. New historical evidence that climate is remarkably responsive to human impacts had me gripping the edge of my seat. The comprehensive and well-informed review of current initiatives and technologies is a tour-de-force, and the grasp of the global policy debate equally sobering. It is hard to imagine a technical subject — compounded of organic chemistry, archeology, rural economics, climate science, and microbiology — presented with greater drama or clarity."
Peter Bane, Permaculture Activist
"In The Biochar Solution, Albert Bates demonstrates the flaws of the story on which industrial civilization is based and offers the living of a new story that will be created by changing our relationship with the planet, and specifically its carbon element. As a result of decades of experience, Bates is better equipped than anyone I know to guide us in slowing climate change by creating carbon-neutral cities and solidly sustainable agriculture."
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., author of Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse
"This book should be required reading for every policymaker, as well as everyone who eats food, breathes air, enjoys life and wishes to continue doing so. Bates has woven together a highly engaging interdisciplinary answer to climate change that draws on archaeology, history, ecology, chemistry, philosophy, and his vast and eclectic personal experience, a lively page-turner that blends clear-headed analysis with nuts-and-bolts advice. The Chinese symbol for crisis, he reminds us, is comprised of two words: danger and opportunity. He gives us both sides of that coin — enough danger to wake us up, but ample opportunity to emerge feeling hopeful."
Tracy Barnett, multimedia travel journalist, author and founder and editor of The Esperanza Project, www.TheEsperanzaProject.org.
"For things to remain the same, everything must change. Before I traveled to Copenhagen for the climate conference, a Benedictine monk asked me if I thought the survival of the human race was politically feasible. I have reflected on that question many times since then. As The Biochar Solution illustrates, climate change cannot be dealt with solely through scientific and economic means. Social and motivational transformation are essential components of the equation."
Feargal Duff, Senior Advisor to the Foundation for Economic Sustainability, Ireland
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