Let’s Grasp The Nettle

Occasionally we get email from a friend or customer that’s just too relevant to not comment on. Our friend and former customer Hanneke from NC forwarded an article about climate change and biochar earlier this week.

It’s titled Burn; Using Fire to cool the Earth and can be found here. A short excerpt from the blog is: 

Biochar also has a wide range of other industrial uses that can allow us to radically reduce carbon in our atmosphere. Many believe climate change is a fabrication concocted by political scientists with a vested interest.

But the reality is, we have changed our world with pollution and destructive agricultural practices that are devastating the ecosystem and influencing our global weather patterns. The good news is, adding biochar to soil and building materials of all kinds is a simple and inexpensive strategy that can remediate much of this damage.

As you likely know, the topic of climate change is hotter (pun intended) than ever since the UN staged a Climate Change Summit in September. Remember, this was the United Nations dedicating a meeting/discussion to the deterioration of earth’s eco-system and its influence to the atmosphere surrounding earth. In essence, the brightest and best of world leaders finally acknowledging it as a potential problem worthy of their recognition.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the subject of climate change, and understandably so, given some of the dire predictions accompanying it. However, my opinion is that—like most other dire situations—solutions exist, but real workable solutions likely are not the ones coming out of political circles. World-scale problems like this one, I feel, always need to be reduced to a local—or at least regional –scale. Backyard problems, if you will. The reason being, 1) when we humans attempt to solve problems on a world scale, we burn out due to the fact that on a world scale, change comes at such a miniscule level it’s unrecognizable. 2) it’s extremely empowering to reduce the problem to points we can understand and address—things I can do to take responsibility. We need to start with me and my backyard. I support world leaders in their discussion of the problem, that’s necessary—at least it finally garnered their attention. But to me, bringing about change solely from a political angle is futile, and will likely never solve the problem. Politicians are just too influenced by the corporate world and have too much federal money at their disposal (to throw at problems—ineffectively) to realistically address problems of this proportion that require the effort of the people to reverse.

The biochar argument is a good one, and one I could believe in. Biochar is an excellent natural soil amendment and thus far, is unregulated. It’s biodegradable, uses resources that normally are wasted—and end up in landfills on the liability of side of the ledger, and have enormous opportunity for microenterprise. However, to effectively reverse climate change we must do more. The problem didn’t happen overnight and will not be fixed overnight. There is no silver bullet, biochar or otherwise.

Truth is, we really don’t know how bad climate change is. Most Americans are simply going by what they see and hear on the news. But we do have 50 years of satellite imaging that shows significant shrinkage of ice masses in the world’s arctic regions. I am lunatic enough to think it’s impossible to separate the world into parts and portions, to think of the eco-system as a whole, indeterminately connected. In short, everything relates to everything. If the ice masses shrink, it affects the rest of the world’s climate.

In my not-so-humble opinion (this is the view from the country, after all), climate change is the result of a uninhibited dominion. Hubris gone wild. Gross disrespect for the earth we trod on and the air we breath. We are now in perhaps the 4th generation of a society who latched onto the Von Leibig theory that the complexity of our soils is a mere three elements (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). A society who ignorantly accepted genetically modified food—failing to recognize it for the giant experiment it is and trusts the propaganda that it will “feed the world”. A generation who now believes we can gene-edit any life form we want with no ill consequences whatsoever. And if I say so, we’re a society increasingly distracted and disconnected from reality—including the ecological umbilical we depend on for life itself. As a result of this excessive arrogance and disrespect for mother nature, the carbon in our soils is a mere fraction of what it was 200 years ago. Where did that carbon go? Into the atmosphere, undoubtedly. I’m not a scientist, and when someone starts spouting off about the thickness of the ozone layer and how it affects the temperature of earth, they lose me. But in my simple mind, the atmospheric carbon case is plausible, because of what I know to be true in terms of soil carbon loss.

This blurb is too long already, and I need to go out and farm (actively fight climate change), so I’ll end my rant with this: Like many other present day issues, climate change is something we can blame someone else for—previous generations, if no one else. We can play the victim and look to bureaucrats for answers and solutions. We can demand they “put the screws” on the culprits who cause it. Then we can sit back and continue our merry way. Or, we can accept the fact that none of us can absolve ourselves of responsibility in caring for our universe (we all live here). We can empower ourselves by finding local resources instead of faraway ones. We can grow our own food in an earth-friendly manner, or find someone who we trust to do so. We can live on less, in order to leave more than we take. We can take responsibility for our own waste stream. We can fight the good fight, and encourage others to join us. Maybe we can even start a micro biochar business. My point is, this is our problem. Yours and mine. Let’s “grasp the nettle” and be the ones making a difference (see The Parable below). And that’s the View from the Country.

The Parable

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”