Friday, 18 September 2009

UN Climate Change Conference, Climate Week and 'The Age of Stupid'.

The Age of Stupid Global Premiere Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

During the week of September 20th, 2009, hundreds of government and business leaders from around the world will converge upon New York City for a series of high-level meetings and events focused on the most urgent issue of our time: climate change. This takes place just seventy days before the UN Climate Change Conference.

This "Climate Week" starts off 7 days of events in New York. The summit's purpose is to get world leaders together in advance of the crucial UN Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

Climate Week will be a high-power event because UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for this emergency meeting, and both Barack Obama and Hu Jintao will be giving landmark speeches.

The film trailer above (it may take a few moments to load... please be patient) is for an unprecedented global film event, the eco-premiere of the critically hailed documentary THE AGE OF STUPID. This will be broadcast live from New York City's World Financial Center on Monday September 21 to more than 700 locations in over 50 countries simultaneously, uniting nearly one million people for climate change reform during Climate Week NYC, setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest single screen shared audience experience ever.

This film has already had vocal condemnation from some quarters, much as Al Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth' did. I am always heartened when certain parts of the media attack something like this as I am then certain that my thoughts, opinions and ideas are correct.

The truth is just as inconvenient now as it was 2000 years ago, but it cannot be silenced.

Monday, 14 September 2009


When plants grow they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Under the normal carbon cycle when plants die they either rot or are burnt and the carbon they absorbed is returned to the atmosphere but although this is better than using fossil fuels for compost or heating/light, the process does not remove carbon from the atmosphere. The same applies to Bio fuel. The crops from which bio fuels are made take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while they are growing, but as soon as that bio fuel is used, the carbon is returned to the atmosphere through emissions. If, instead, waste biomass is turned into Biochar, it can be buried in the ground, locking in the carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years and have a positive impact on crop outputs.

I recently went to see a pilot system of making Biochar. The Biochar in this case was small branches that would normally be burnt or used for wood chippings. The project I looked at uses a sealed system so the gasses from the wood actually burn the wood, and 90% of the carbon is still locked in the Biochar.

But what then do we do with this material?

Scientists have known for years that adding Biochar could improve soil fertility. The early Amazonian Indians introduced Biochar to their soil over 3,000 years ago, forming the Terra Preta, black soil which remains fertile to this day. It is only recently that the reasons why this happened have been understood. Biochar is extremely porous; the surface is like a sponge. This encourages the growth of micro-organisms which produce enzymes that release the mineral ions trapped by the heat stabilized plant resins in the charcoal and make it available to the root hairs of the plant as nutrients. Furthermore, the resins within the charcoal act like an ion exchange resin, absorbing traces of mineral ions onto the charcoal particle surfaces from the rain water, and trapping it within the charcoal’s molecular structure. The trace minerals always present in rainwater actually act as a fertilizer - providing the nutrients needed by the crops, year after year.

Or as Johannes Lehmann - Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A said, “Important lessons can be learned from Terra Preta about development of civilization in the Amazon, basic functioning of soils, carbon sequestration, and sustainable land use”. I especially liked that last point, ‘sustainable land use’.

So we have a win-win situation, we create Biochar, locking the C02 away, and also create a proven fertiliser.

The systems to enable this are totally unsophisticated, as you can see. The materials are cheap and easy to obtain, a few building blocks, a sheet of metal and some oil drums. In the retort you can see in my photo’s the gas tight seal was obtained by a liberal application of Sussex clay, obtained from underfoot, while the trees that provided the wood grew around us. If you would like to know more about the Carbon-Gold project, please see HERE.

Genesis 1:12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

And not just good for beauty and food either it seems.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Let's dump the 'Disposable Economy'.

I was on holiday in France recently when I heard a couple discussing the price of disposable nappies/diapers. When our son was a baby we only used cotton items with a disposable (paper) liner and when they were no longer needed we sold most of them as they were still in perfect condition. We certainly never had any problems with rashes etc. In the UK it is estimated that, based on sales, there are 690,000 tonnes of nappy waste each year; most of which are land filled.

In the UK, Throwaway products arrived in the 50’s and sold as convenience items that would also boost the economy, in fact one products proud boast was “You use it once, then you throw it away!”

The trickle of items turned into a flood, and now it is hard to find the original items as paper has taken over from cloth for handkerchiefs, dish cloths, table cloths and napkins, plastic has taken over from glass for liquid containers, paper for wrapping and cloth for bags. It all has to go somewhere, as this place, ‘away,’ does not actually exist. In the UK it is estimated that the last landfill site will shut in 2020 and that those around London will be full by 2010. In addition to running out of landfill in the UK, the world is running out of the cheap oil needed to produce, through manufacture and raw materials, these throwaway items.
This problem is worldwide; China,India, and the other emerging economies also have problems because they now want the living standards of the West.

So now for the surprising figures!

If China and India had two cars for every family, the UK average, then China and India would have more cars than the rest of the world combined. By 2030 China is estimated to need, at the present rate of use, 98 million barrels of oil a day, so say goodbye to the Western lifestyle for your children and grandchildren.

The facts are obvious, the Western throwaway economy will not work for China nor for India, which by 2030 may have a larger population than China, and what of the rest of the world that wants the Western way of life, where will they get their oil, food and water from?

We all must work for a replacement economic way of life with renewable energy, and a reduced consumption of recyclable or multi-use products. What constantly amazes me is that we have the technology to do this now.