Biochar – Expanding Our Economic Choices

Biochar is an example of flipping our traditional way of thinking on its head. There are so many crazy things that humans do in mindless ways that result in damages to the environment. All we have to do is think differently.

We have a choice before us now, individually and collectively. Civilizations undergo transformations. We can leave behind the old one that is poorly adapted, and design and build a better society… The destructive civilization of the past few centuries was founded on plundering and profiting from prehistoric carbon. The new economy will be carbon-centric, too, but the focus will be on continuous cycling—and a virtuous spiral of improvement. Bates, Albert. Burn . Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Biochar is created from waste. 

Contrary to what some claim, there is no shortage of biomass. Fields of food do not need to be replaced with biomass energy crops. Our linear economy and lifestyle is positively drowning in wasted organics—sewage sludge, livestock manure, invasive species, green waste (yard clippings), food waste—the list goes on. Many are either landfilled or burned in an effort to ship them away, although as we are learning, there really is no “away” anymore. This type of handling comes at a cost, not just to waste producers who have to arrange disposal, but to those on the receiving end—those who live near landfills or close to areas being burned and despoiled. Bates, Albert. Burn . Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Biochar can be used in a lot of ways that are normally provided by petroleum-based products. So instead of digging up the fossil fuels that are happily sequestering carbon under the ground, we use human waste that otherwise pollutes the environment and emits more carbon into the air.

We can have our energy and our food at the same time. We can get rid of landfills and incinerators, waste lagoons, and ocean dumps all at once. To do this, we need to transform our old linear model into a carbon cascade economy, in which a growing portion of underutilized labile carbon cycle will be converted into recalcitrant carbon. Bates, Albert. Burn . Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Much has been written about biochar as a soil amendment, and it’s certainly a crucial component of efforts to drawdown carbon (

We can begin to sequester carbon in concrete highways and high-rises. We can grow kelp and, after pressing it for leaf protein, char that and build coral-restoring coastal filter barriers. Carbon abuse and waste becomes carbon abundance and recycling. The change we make starts to stay changed. Circular carbon economies begin to cascade. Carbon rebalancing can begin in earnest. Bates, Albert. Burn . Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Albert Bates came to Carbondale in June 2019, you can watch that presentation here:

Biochar – Practical Guide by Olivia Thierley