Saturday, August 23, 2008

Our Good Earth - Can We Save It?

"The future rests on the soil beneath our feet", is the title of an excellent and disturbing article in the September 2008 issue of the National Geographic. The article should be required reading and pictorial viewing for everyone on this universe.

One of pictures is of northern China's Loess Plateau where collapsing terraced fields contribute to one of the world's highest erosion rates. In Wisconsin and other grain growing mid-country states, giant machines weighing up to 15 tons compressmash wet soil into nigh impenetrable slabs--a process called compaction which may eventually destroy their own livelihood's.

In Europe, soil compaction is thought to negatively affect 130,000 square miles of farmland and compaction is estimated to cost Midwestern farmers in the U.S, over $100million dollars in lost revenue every year.

The National Geographic article details dozens of the methods of conservation and water retention used worldwide including "no till", tree seeding, artificially created water control basins, terracing, an ancient soil system called terra preta, testing of new crop varieties, rotation, plowing in different patterns to prevent earth concrete like compaction, plus programs similar to CREP as practiced by many farmers in Peoria County.

"Even as humankind is ratcheting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before". While soil saving practices are commonplace in most parts of the world, other lands are and have been degraded by erosion, pesticides and fertilizers.

"Dirt Poor" - Haiti has lost its soil and the means to feed itself - is another article in this months National Geographic. This poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will be in constant conflict unless changes are made in managing it's most valuable resource - it's soil. Rice makes up 20% of the typical Haitian's diet, and that percentage is growing. In 1981 Haiti imported 18,000 tons of rice. Now the country imports more than 400,000 tons of rice annually. Haitians say the earth is tired. Less than 4% of their forests remain and in many places soil has eroded down to the bedrock. The article asks "what do you do with no food? The answer, you go hungry and so do your children". When people are hungry they die or they rebell.

With over 8.3 billion mouths to feed by 2030, a short 21 years from now, we may find more wars being fought over food than over any other resource. The two most basic primal needs are water and food. Shortages of either will result in more bloodshed than the world has ever seen. We can live without oil, gas, minerals, love and faith but we cannot live without adequate supplies of food and drinkable water.

I encourage you to read more about the coming shortage of the basic needs of mankind and less about Brittany Spears or even Barack Obama. Starving people will make most of our excesses and circuses irrelevant in civilizations survival.

Their are solutions and many dedicated and hardworking people are involved. Without our support, they may not succeed.


Merle Widmer said...

Contine reading "Lost Tribes of the Green Sahara" and page 144 "Grassroots Movement" for more information about drought and green living.

Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!

This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils 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.

Indeed, Dr. James Hansen, NASA's top Atmospheric authority, is now placing it in the center stage of pro-active solutions for the climate crisis.

I hope you will come to share my passion in getting the word out on the wonderful solutions provided by TP soils.
I'm sort of the TP list (and data base at REPP-CREST) cub reporter, most all my list postings, under, are news items, collaborative work, lobbying efforts with government, writers and journals.

The new Yahoo Biochar discussion group;

Thanks for your interest


the current news and links on Terra Preta (TP) soils and closed-loop pyrolysis of Biomass, this integrated virtuous cycle could sequester 100s of Billions of tons of carbon to the soils.

This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 10X Lower CH4 & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Indeed, Dr. James Hansen, NASA's top Atmospheric authorty, is now placing it in the center stage of pro-active solutions for the climate cris

Where Food Begins , National Geographic Magazine, Sept 08.
By Charles Mann (author of "1491")
(The Combined English and other language circulation of NGM is nearly nine million monthly with more than fifty million readers monthly! )

UN Climate Change Conference: Biochar present at the Bali Conference

SCIAM Article May 15 07;

After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales. It just needs to be seen by ethical globally minded companies.

Could you please consider looking for a champion for this orphaned Terra Preta Carbon Soil Technology.

The main hurtle now is to change the current perspective held by the IPCC that the soil carbon cycle is a wash, to one in which soil can be used as a massive and ubiquitous Carbon sink via Charcoal. Below are the first concrete steps in that direction;

S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

for the 2007 Farm Bill

Bolstering Biomass and Biochar development: In the 2007 Farm Bill, Senator Salazar was able to include $500 million for biomass research and development and for competitive grants to develop the technologies and processes necessary for the commercial production of biofuels and bio-based products. Biomass is an organic material, usually referring to plant matter or animal waste. Using biomass for energy can reduce waste and air pollution. Biochar is a byproduct of producing energy from biomass. As a soil treatment, it enhances the ability of soil to capture and retain carbon dioxide.

( Update; In conference the $500 M was cut to $3M....:( :( :( )

Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.
Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Biomass by 2030by Ralph P. Overend, Ph.D. and Anelia Milbrandt
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The organization 25x25 released it's (first-ever, 55-page )"Action Plan" ; see;
On page 29 , as one of four foci for recommended RD&D, the plan lists: "The development of biochar, animal agriculture residues and other non-fossil fuel based fertilizers, toward the end of integrating energy production with enhanced soil quality and carbon sequestration."
and on p 32, recommended as part of an expanded database aspect of infrastructure: "Information on the application of carbon as fertilizer and existing carbon credit trading systems."

I feel 25x25 is now the premier US advocacy organization for all forms of renewable energy, but way out in front on biomass topics.

There are 24 billion tons of carbon controlled by man in his agriculture and waste stream, all that farm & cellulose waste which is now dumped to rot or digested or combusted and ultimately returned to the atmosphere as GHG should be returned to the Soil.

Even with all the big corporations coming to the GHG negotiation table, like Exxon, Alcoa, .etc, we still need to keep watch as they try to influence how carbon management is legislated in the USA. Carbon must have a fair price, that fair price and the changes in the view of how the soil carbon cycle now can be used as a massive sink verses it now being viewed as a wash, will be of particular value to farmers and a global cool breath of fresh air for us all.