Create Carbon Sinks

To say “create carbon sinks” is another way to say “reforest the planet.” Ever since EcoWorld posted its first page back in May 1995, our original and enduring mission is to promote reforesting. Our goal is to record a doubling of the timber mass of planet earth during the 50 year period from 1995 to 2045. But only trees? Why don’t environmentalists reforest their dogma? Why are environmentalists usually perceived to be a leftist? More specifically, why are environmentalists usually perceived to be anti-development, anti-capitalism, anti-nuclear, anti-genetic-modification, pro-recycling no matter what, and pro-carbon-reduction by any means?

Of course we need to quickly reforest the earth. Until we know for certain that forests cannot absorb anthropogenic CO2, we must put at least as much efforts into reforestation as we put into further regulating and cutting human industrial carbon emissions. If only 5% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere each year is caused by human industrial activity, then certainly if we double the timber mass of the planet we will be able to take up this amount of carbon.

If increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 could be the “tipping point,” catalysing the warming of a world already warming from more water vapor because the sun is hottor this millenium compared to the last – the sun does flicker – then why isn’t the “urban heat island effect” a tipping point too? Human civilization is now nearly 50% urban with the percentage rising every year. Densely-packed habitat and urban infrastructure for three billion people creates heat sinks on a planetary scale. Why don’t we plant millions and billions of big canopy trees in every city on earth? Why isn’t every urban heat island on the planet already carpeted with cooling canopies of big shade trees? It wouldn’t cost even one-millionth as much as converting to hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Nobody can say for certain if the glacier on Kilimanjaro is melting away because of more heat, or for lack of precipitation. Certainly with a little more rainfall, that peak would be white year-around through another epoch. So where did the forests go that once marched for thousands of square kilometers up her slopes, bringing rainclouds with them, and why don’t we put them back? If you want a bigger global carbon sink, you could sure make a good start with billions of new trees right there on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and on all the other denuded slopes in the world, and across the tropics, and everywhere else.

If you are willing to regulate carbon, going to the point of classifying it as a pollutant, why don’t you reforest the Congo basin instead, to absorb more carbon? Why not dig a water tunnel north from the Ubangi River into the Lake Chad watershed? The water might even be gravity-fed, or lifted with pumps powered by thermal collectors. Let’s refill Lake Chad with water from the Ubangi river, and re-green the vast expanses of the Sahel with carbon-absorbing plants.

There seems to be no doubt that the earth is warming. But if the looming catastrophe is so huge we must avoid it at all costs, why don’t we build non-carbon emitting nuclear power plants in Siberia to move 25+ cubic kilometers of fresh water per year from arctic-bound rivers to refill the Aral Sea, and replant the Aral basin? This would help counteract the fresh water being introduced by icecap melt, and would bring the moderating effects of life back to one of the most desicated places on earth. The disappearance of the Aral Sea has been called by Al Gore the biggest environmental disaster in human history.

For the money we would spend on bureaucrats and lawyers every year trying to regulate carbon emissions, we could easily build 50 gigawatts per year of photovoltaic panels that require minimal maintenance. For even less, today, we could do the same with windmills, and we should. Why don’t we stop spending billions on experiments with hydrogen, and instead increase our photovoltaic and windmill capacity so that within twenty years they generate up to 200 quadrillion BTU’s per year?

If the precautionary principle must be invoked – and carbon emissions must be banned – because the potential catastrophe is so huge, then why is a discussion of the risks and benefits of genetically modified crops so unspeakable? If algae was successfully genetically modified to efficiently produce ethanol feedstock, we might have a carbon-neutral biofuel source capable of worldwide production of 50+ million barrels per day.

It is difficult to have a vision of nature and technology in harmony that wouldn’t permit one to believe nuclear power of any kind will ever be feasible. Fusion energy uses limitless fuel and consumes its own waste. Should we forget about that? Genetic modification is bringing us cures to deadly ailments, and preventing countless others. Should we stop learning about that, too? Who can dogmatically say on what grounds an environmentalist might excommunicate an environmentalist?

Reforest the planet, the far flung open forests and the urban forests, everywhere. Maybe that is something we can all agree upon.

4 Responses to “Create Carbon Sinks”
  1. Erich J. Knight says:

    After seeing your EcoWorld site , I thought this would be of interest:

    There are processes that you can have your Bio-fuel and fertility too, it seems a perfect synergy to get this sort of virtuous cycle happening .

    This entire thread on ‘Terra Preta’ soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy.

    I thought, I first read about these soils in ” Botany of Desire ” or “Guns,Germs,&Steel” but I could not find reference to them. I finely found the reference in “1491″, but I did not realize their potential .

    The Georgia Inst. of Technology page:

    There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist.

    As you will see the Japanese work with these soils is impressive, Especially with trees.

    Another finding that supports the need to develop Terra Preta soils on a large scale:
    New Scientist News – Fertilisers give the lungs of the planet bad breath

    Also, Terra Preta is on the Agenda at this years world Soil Science Conference !

    I’ve sent this thread to the researchers at M-Roots, who make Mycorisal fungus inoculations for acceleration of the reestablishment of the symbiotic fungal / root relationship. Here’s the M-Roots site:

    I also sent it to Dr. Jared Diamond, if he replies, I will probably have an orgasm!

    Here is a great article that high lights this pyrolysis process , ( ) which could use existing infrastructure to provide Charcoal sustainable Agriculture , Syn-Fuels, and a variation of this process would also work as well for H2 , Charcoal-Fertilizer, while sequestering CO2 from Coal fired plants to build soils at large scales , be sure to read the “See an initial analysis NEW”. of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants.

    Soil erosion, energy scarcity, excess greenhouse gas all answered through regenerative carbon management

    Hopefully this reply from the Foundation on Economic Trends, to one of my postings will get some traction. My thought was this new agricultural technology called marker-assisted selection, or MAS offers a sophisticated method to greatly accelerate classical breeding could be the key to the local large scale development of Terra Preta agriculture.

    Dear Erich,

    Mr. Rifkin is out of the office today. I have sent some of your materials to our research team and will look into them further. I will be sure that Mr. Rifkin sees your message and the supporting attachments. Thank you for your message.

    Kind regards,


    Andrew H. Johnston

    Chief of Staff

    Foundation on Economic Trends


    From: Shengar at
    Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2006 4:20 PM
    To: jrifkin At;
    Subject: Terra Preta Soils: A solution to Numerous Problems

    ” Dear Mr. Rifkin: After seeing article on MAS in The Washington Post :

    I felt you may be interested in this MUCH larger systemic and holistic approach to sustainable agricultural development.

    MAS could be the key to the local large scale development of Terra Preta agriculture.”

    Re: Terra Preta – 08-15-2006, 12:18 AM


    Hi All:

    Here is a reply from Danny Day of
    Also, be sure to read the ” See an initial analysis. NEW ” LINK of the variation of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants that utilizes exsiting infrastructure.

    “Dear Erich:

    We are in the early stages of marketing equipment to produce fuel and char for 1-8ton/hr dry biomass conversion systems. The initial beta units are being designed/deployed at 1tph. Our field trials with the university look promising. Thanks for your support. If you are in the Athens area, give us a call for a tour.


    On 8/14/06, wrote:

    Dear Dr. Day:
    Could you please update me on any progress on the hydrogen production/ ECOSSTM Fertilizer Project?

    Erich J. Knight

  2. Tom Catino says:

    GS CleanTech’s Carbon Dioxide Bioreactor

    GS CleanTech’s patented C02 Bioreactor reduces greenhouse gas emissions while creating an additional feedstock for renewable fuel production. If applied at ethanol facilities, it would boost fuel production by more than 15%, and if applied to coal fired power generation, it could produce more than 200 million gallons of renewable fuel annually for every 1,000 MW of electricity produced. Even more significant, however, is the relatively small footprint of the bioreactor. While traditional corn derived ethanol produces up to 450 gallons of fuel per acre, GS CleanTech’s C02 Bioreactor can produce more than 200,000 gallons of fuel per acre. With GS CleanTech’s C02 Bioreactor, our clients can reduce their carbon footprint while turning their exhaust carbon dioxide into a valuable source of clean, homegrown fuels.

    GS CleanTech’s C02 Bioreactor is an enclosed structure with the ability to convert a concentrated supply of C02 into oxygen and biomass. The biomass can then be converted into fuel through traditional means.

    All plants, including algae, need the following to live and grow: a supply of C02, light, a growth media and water with nutrients. The GS CleanTech C02 Bioreactor provides these resources in a compact, cost-efficient way.

    First, concentrated C02 is captured at power plants or other source and piped to the bioreactor. The sunlight is then collected using efficient parabolic mirrors that transfer and filter the light to a series of light pipes. The light pipes channel the light into the bioreactor structure where it is distributed and radiated throughout the structure using light panels. The algae requires as little as 1.5% direct light which means that our collected light can be distributed over a substantial surface area.

    Next, a growth media, such as polyester, is inserted between each lighting surface. Water, containing nutrients, continuously cascades down the growth media to facilitate the final required step for optimal growth.

    Finally, to harvest the algae, the flow rate of the water over the growth media is increased slightly to gently remove a portion of the algae, allowing a portion of algae to remain and to begin the next growth cycle. The removed algae is then collected and routed for conversion into renewable fuels.

    This technology is also very flexible and can accommodate a variety of algae types. High starch, high oil, or high cellulose algae can be grown in our bioreactor depending on output fuel requirements.

  3. Erich J. Knight says:

    The upcoming International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) conference to be held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. (

  4. Erich J. Knight says:

    RE: Nature Article — the link given will not allow access without being a subscriber to Nature.

    I posted it Before Nature started requiring a subscribing membership, here is a link to the original pdf version. The pdf version is still accessible without a membership.


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