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BioChar Solution (978-0865716773)

Biochar Solution (2010) by Albert K. Bates
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How the dirt below our feet can save us from extinction.

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.

Review

Review BioScience Magazine, October 2011

For those who are not scientists directly involved with biochar, this is a book worth reading. It presents the science that got biochar rolling, the technologies already available, and how to use it to enhance food security and restore degraded agroecosystems. It is well designed for international agricultural aid staff, nongovernmental organization activists, and agricultural extensionists. Anyone interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation will gain something from this book, because Bates is careful to point out that mitigation and adaptation will only succeed if global society decides to change the ways it thinks about population and consumption.

BioScience, Vol. 61, No. 10 (October 2011), pp. 831-833
University of California Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences

May 2011 CHOICE
The basic premise of this book is that the carbon cycle must be balanced for a healthy planet. To prove this idea, Bates, an instructor and writer (
Climate in Crisis, 1990; The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, 2006), claims that when ancient Amazonian civilizations collapsed, rain forests engulfed the cities and roads. Archaeologists and historians are still puzzled about the reasons for the demise of these Amazonian empires. Bates asserts that starting around the ninth century, Europe began growing colder due to massive sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere by these new immense Amazonian forests. He examines several techniques for combating global warming, such as using biochar and less destructive tilling techniques, and restraining global corporations that manufacture synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seed stocks. The author also recommends massive tree planting and a change in cultural attitudes about how humans manage Earth's resources. One unique solution to global warming is to provide poor, rural third world people with biochar stoves that generate needed heat and produce biochar. Agricultural use of biochar would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slow down global warming.

Summing Up: Recommended. All undergraduate students and general readers interested in biochar. -- K. Bennett, emeritus, Kalamazoo Valley Community College


Review BioScience Magazine, October 2011

For those who are not scientists directly involved with biochar, this is a book worth reading. It presents the science that got biochar rolling, the technologies already available, and how to use it to enhance food security and restore degraded agroecosystems. It is well designed for international agricultural aid staff, nongovernmental organization activists, and agricultural extensionists. Anyone interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation will gain something from this book, because Bates is careful to point out that mitigation and adaptation will only succeed if global society decides to change the ways it thinks about population and consumption.

BioScience, Vol. 61, No. 10 (October 2011), pp. 831-833
University of California Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences

May 2011 CHOICE
The basic premise of this book is that the carbon cycle must be balanced for a healthy planet. To prove this idea, Bates, an instructor and writer (
Climate in Crisis, 1990; The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, 2006), claims that when ancient Amazonian civilizations collapsed, rain forests engulfed the cities and roads. Archaeologists and historians are still puzzled about the reasons for the demise of these Amazonian empires. Bates asserts that starting around the ninth century, Europe began growing colder due to massive sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere by these new immense Amazonian forests. He examines several techniques for combating global warming, such as using biochar and less destructive tilling techniques, and restraining global corporations that manufacture synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seed stocks. The author also recommends massive tree planting and a change in cultural attitudes about how humans manage Earth's resources. One unique solution to global warming is to provide poor, rural third world people with biochar stoves that generate needed heat and produce biochar. Agricultural use of biochar would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slow down global warming.

Summing Up: Recommended. All undergraduate students and general readers interested in biochar. -- K. Bennett, emeritus, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Review

"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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