Burn: Using Fire To Cool The Earth

An 800-CEO-READ “Editor’s Choice” March 2019 


How We Can Harness Carbon to Help Solve the Climate Crisis 


In order to rescue ourselves from climate catastrophe, we need to radically alter how humans live on Earth. We have to go from spending carbon to banking it. We have to put back the trees, wetlands, and corals. We have to regrow the soil and turn back the desert. We have to save whales, wombats, and wolves. We have to reverse the flow of greenhouse gases and send them in exactly the opposite direction: down, not up.We have to flip the carbon cycle and run it backwards. For such a revolutionary transformation we’ll need civilization 2.0. 


A secret unlocked by the ancients of the Amazon for its ability to transform impoverished tropical soils into terra preta—fertile black earths—points the way. The indigenous custom of converting organic materials into long lasting carbon has enjoyed a reawakening in recent decades as the quest for more sustainable farming methods has grown. Yet the benefits of this carbonized material, now called biochar, extend far beyond the soil. Pyrolyzing carbon has the power to restore a natural balance by unmining the coal and undrilling the oil and gas. Employed to its full potential, it can run the carbon cycle in reverse and remake Earth as a garden planet.


Burn looks beyond renewable biomass or carbon capture energy systems to offer a bigger and bolder vision for the next phase of human progress, moving carbon from wasted sources: 

into soils and agricultural systems to rebalance the carbon, nitrogen, and related cycles; 

enhance nutrient density in food; rebuild topsoil;  

and condition urban and agricultural lands to withstand flooding and drought to cleanse water by carbon filtration and trophic cascades within the world’s rivers, oceans, and wetlands to shift urban infrastructures such as buildings, roads, bridges, and ports, incorporating drawdown materials and components, replacing steel, concrete, polymers, and composites with biological carbon to drive economic reorganization by incentivizing carbon drawdown 

Fully developed, this approach costs nothing—to the contrary, it can save companies money or provide new revenue streams. It contains the seeds of a new, circular economy in which energy, natural resources, and human ingenuity enter a virtuous cycle of improvement. Burn offers bold new solutions to climate change that can begin right now.

The global elite is destroying our planet. So why are Extinction Rebellion activists the ones in the dock?

Rich elites and corporations have corrupted democracy, and pushed a blind faith in markets and money so far that over the last 30 years they have caused us to breach critical planetary limits. Climate breakdown is their doing.

It has been hard to ignore the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters who have taken over bridges, blocked major roads, planted trees, danced and even temporarily brought a halt to the DLR tube line. Leading on from their naked protest in parliament, they have certainly grabbed the headlines, generating countless column inches (including this one), garnering radio and TV interviews, and, to the chagrin of many of the big green NGOs, sparked more discussion about climate change than years of their campaigning had done.

There are rightly many criticisms and discussions about the XR protests, from the whiteness of its mobilisation, the long term viability of building a movement solely around the tactic of “non-violent civil disobedience and disruption”, to the lack of concrete political demands to build broader public support.

As well as to the very real concern that it effectively sidelines the very people who are already facing the devastating impacts of climate change – those who are dying today and not sometime in the future, the people of the global south, who are also the ones least responsible for the climate crisis. But whatever one thinks about Extinction Rebellion, the truth is that for good or worse the School Strike for Climate and the Extinction Rebellion protests have propelled the issue of climate change up the news agenda. Read More

Coping with Katsaridaphobia

There are more important issues to be  discussing than President Cobblepot’s latest tweet, but I feel the need  to examine his wall fetish in a little more depth because lately, we are seeing Democrats, including all the 2020 candidates, buying into at  least part of the Republican scare narrative.  That bothers me. As a voter, even if my elections are rigged, I like to at least think there  might be a difference between my choices. But in the last couple of  presidential elections, I voted for Jill Stein to become the first female-identified POTUS. If she or whatever Green candidate were now to  talk about our “immigration crisis,” I would blow a fuse.

According to the World Bank, by 2050 some 140 million people may be displaced by sea-level rise and extreme weather, driving escalations in crime, political unrest, and resource  conflict. Even if the most conservative predictions about our climate  future prove overstated, a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature during  the next century will almost certainly provoke chaos, in what experts  call climate change’s “threat multiplier”: Displacement begets  desperation begets disorder. — The New York Times, April 10, 2019


First, let’s be clear. Immigration is a problem. So  is emigration. Climate change will make both catastrophically worse.  Most reliable estimates of the carrying capacity of the planet by  mid-century fall in the range of 1 to 2 billion. By “reliable,” I mean  science-based and factoring in the effects of rapid climate change on agriculture, water supplies, sea level rise, vector-borne disease, and biodiversity destruction. Some, like the Limits to Growth sequelae, even take microplastics into account through a morbid pollution equation. 

Contrast that 1 billion with today’s 7.7 billion (April 2019) people, topping 8 billion by 2024, and projected, but by no means certain, to hit 9 billion in 2042. Like any exponential curve,  this hockey stick began tilting upward after the Second World War and  continues to incline more steeply by the year, abbreviating its doubling  time with each generation. And yet, on the human evolutionary time  scale, Homo colossus is a relatively recent phenomenon.

As we have seen from many competent studies of the  rise and fall of great civilizations, human population adheres to a  strict functional relationship with its food supply. It is in one-to-one equilibrium. As supply rises, so does fecundity. Conversely, when  supply falls, for whatever reason, deaths outnumber births until a new  equilibrium is established. One need only look to the droughts of Northeastern Africa in recent years for a current example of how that plays out. As the droughts worsened, hunger grew, civil society  disintegrated, insurrections and civil wars erupted, and neighboring states were suddenly coping with massive refugee flows, conflict  spillovers, and disease outbreaks. Fertility plummeted. Read More


Both sides now: new solar panels a clean energy revolution

Both Sides Now: New Solar Panels Promise a Clean Energy Revolution 


 When the U.K.’s largest subsidy-free solar farm opens later this year, there will be something a bit different about its panels: Unlike traditional panels that absorb energy on only one side, these panels will be absorbing sunlight from both sides.

The new solar farm in York, developed by Gridserve, uses “bifacial” modules, a technology that has become one of the fastest-growing trends in solar because it helps solar panels generate more electricity.

The 35-megawatt plant will generate enough power for 10,000 homes. “Bifacial panels are a no-brainer,” says Toddington Harper, chief executive of Gridserve. “In our opinion, they will be the panel of choice for the utility-scale market.” He estimates the solar farm will generate 20 percent more energy due to its combination of bifacial solar panels and trackers that enable each panel to follow the sun, compared with traditional static photovoltaic panels. http://bit.ly/2UaONg2