Starting at the bottom

I started this blog with he simple objective of promoting the use of forest building to sequester carbon. I felt that this was a valid objective for the developed world to accomplish. The fixes were a combination of institutional will and emerging technology permitting the forestration of the dry lands by atmospheric water harvesting. Doable but only with the most modern concepts of economic governance.

Then we stumbled into terra preta and discovered that primitive agriculturists had done the job hundreds of years ago. We established a working protocol that matched the evidence and also gave us a way forward. It worked for subsistence farmers who only had their own backs as capital.

We are still a long way from industrializing this protocol for the benefit of the modern world. Most cannot grip the reality that it will never be economically feasible to haul biomass in sufficient volume to a large industrial scale converter. The primitives solved it by mastering the art of it in the middle of their own fields without a significant increase in human work.

We have to do the same thing today with whatever technical assistance we can invent. We are not there yet.

Throughout the tropics, we have huge tracts of well watered tropical soils that are almost unexploitable as agricultural lands. These same lands have huge populations of land starved subsistence farmers that just need to be shown how. If all we did was to convert the slash and burn crowd over to terra preta corn culture, we will likely sequester a ton of carbon per individual per year while eliminating one of our biggest sources of outright atmospheric pollution. The improved land productivity will release much of the lands back into tropical forests, sequestering their share of natural carbon. And once the agricultural land has been treated several times, the need for additional terra preta production will decline.

We can start to solve the global problem of surplus CO2 by helping the worst off farmers establish a better living for themselves and really needing no more than a little instruction an perhaps some seed. Everyone else will catch up as their technical needs are addressed. But it is clear that we must start with the unluckiest.

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