This journey begins with a crazy ecofeministanarchist?marxist called Carrie who I fell in love with at St Mark’s College in Adelaide while studying a M.B.B.S. at the University of Adelaide. Carrie was studying ecological and sociological subjects at a hippie college in Oregon, USA. She decided to spend a year at the University of Adelaide in an exchange. It turned out there some radical students and lecturers there who Carrie enjoyed learning from and spending time with. We started going out with each other when it was clear that we both enjoyed having fun and good conversation. She taught me a lot about ‘The Environment’ and got me excited about public health and alternative ways of looking at the world which were not really promoted in the conservative medical curriculum at that time. At the end of the first year of Uni, Carrie went back to the USA to continue her studies and I was stuck in a heart wrenching long distance relationship with her and an increasing studyload at Uni. By the end of the third year, I’d managed to fail almost every subject and managed to pass 13 supplementary exams which may still be the record in the Adelaide Uni med school. After this, I decided to go overseas on a world backpacking tour when I was 21. I caught up with Carrie in the US, broke up, continued to travel with her in South America but the damage was done. She mistakenly took Larium for malaria prevention which wasn’t really needed and she became psychotic, depressed and often tearful. She left me with a friend at Punta Arenas in the Tierra del Fuego (land of fires) and headed back home – she’d had enough and that was the last time I’d seen her. She had left her mark on me – I was now deeply concerned about social and ecological issues and swore never to take Larium.
A couple of years later I quit medical school, joined up again then quit it again. I now had a strong desire to word up on environmental issues and started a Masters at Flinders University in ‘Environmental Management’. In one of my tutorials in ‘Environmental Politics’ I met a student who was a self-declared permaculturist or ‘permie’. I started researching it and realised that there were other people out there who were disillusioned by politics and wanted to live sustainably while achieving social and environmental change. I quit after passing all but one of my subjects ‘Environmental Politics’ - I got caught up in the politics of the Murray-Darling Basin and refused to submit my essay in fear of being labelled too ‘radical’ and realised then that down the rabbit hole we needed systemic change to implement bioregions with bioregional management plans based around river catchments such as the MDB. That was in 2003. A lot of stuff happened after that. I was restless, moving around the country and overseas too. I worked in many different jobs, lived in many places, had different partners and learned a shit load about survival.
I made the call. Time to study a Diploma of Permaculture as nothing else was working out for me. I went to Byron Bay and studied a Diploma under the Permaforest Trust directed by Tim Winton. Tim and his crew were great mentors. I met other mentors along the way. I spent some time with the late Geoff Moxham from Terania Creek who had been obsessed with biochar for 4 years before he ironically got killed by biomass (in an elaborate swinging tree trunk manouvre that knocked him on the head after which he went into a Tibetan Buddhist dying position while haematoma presumably ruptured his brain and killed him). Biochar is basically biomass (the mass of anything biological) that’s produced in an oxygen starved fire in a process known as ‘pyrolysis’. I got my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and went on to design a ‘Top-Lit UpDraft’ stove out of Geoff’s reclaimed 304 stainless steel birko that I inherited for my main research project, inspired by Geoff and Dr TLUD that we could fight climate change, poverty and respiratory disease with the one simple technology that produces biochar. This is when I began to learn about phytoliths from Dr Jeff Parr’s research.
So, what is a phytolith? It’s basically a compound of Carbon and Silica that forms in plant cell walls, inside plant cells and between plant cells. It’s also known as ‘plant stones’, ‘plant opals’ and ‘PhytOCs’. What is it good for? We’ve all heard about climate change and probably other names for it as well to describe the end of days such as climate chaos, climate disruption, climate heating, and of course, climate hell. So many research papers and articles have been released around this topic, mainly in the last couple of decades but beginning as early as the 1950s. So what do phytoliths have to do with any of this? Carbon biogeochemical sequestration. Why do we need that? It is Carbon emissions causing the majority of climate heating. Who causes those? Mainly people and environmental runaway loops or cascades that feedback into themselves such as the Arctic melting (known as the ‘albedo flip effect’) and bushfires, such as those seen in California, the Amazon and Austalia in recent months and years.
I almost studied Archeology at Melbourne Uni and I had been interested in this topic for many years, inspired by different archeology celebrities and my own travel eg. I visited Egypt when I was 10 years old and was amazed by it’s culture. Phytoliths were one of the key tools in understanding archeological time. In fact, phytoliths of a bamboo genus, Pleioblastus have been recorded in parts of soils dated to the last interglacial period (130,000–74,000 BP ) from Japan...Bamboo biochar. According to PhytAID phytolith research group, fossil grass short cell phytoliths (GSSCP’s) have been found on every continent and the oldest GSSCP’s are at least 66 million years old....but this is just a snapshot of the potential of phytoliths, and long-term Carbon and Silica sequestration to heal the planet…
Many years went by via different projects which I hoped would kick start my business. It didn’t seem many people were listening – or maybe I wasn’t marketing my technology effectively? I instead made it a personal challenge to design many different kilns (devices used to make the biochar) for many different applications. I got sucked into ‘top fed open draft’ (TFOD) kilns in 2015 with the design of the Kon-Tiki biochar kiln by Dr Paul Taylor and Hans-Peter Schmidt which was a variation and adaptation of the Moki kilns from Japan. These were mainly cone based kilns with near zero Carbon emissions to make biochar if they were manufactured and operated appropriately. After various failures in work (though I did finish a few qualifications at TAFE), I became long-term unemployed. The longer I was out of work the more application rejections I received and the worse my mental health became. So, rather than give up hope I just kept developing appropriate tech as I predicted one day people, if not now, could benefit from it and make a positive environmental impact.
To help pass the time, I began learning programming on a super intuitive platform called ‘Datacamp’. A major growth area in coding is an area of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) called ‘Machine Learning’ (ML). Python seemed to be the the best language to learn for this exciting area of new applications. I then had a hunch that maybe people had used ML to recognise Phytoliths in a large volume of samples so I researched it and alas work had been done on this. In other research, people had made predictions about quantities of biochar produced based on kiln and biomass/plant properties. Adding 2 and 2 I realised you could probably make predictions of how much Carbon could be sequestered as Phytoliths/PhytOCs from a given type and amount of biomass for a given kiln design over time well into the future. Kiln designs could include the Kon-Tiki eg. the Kon-Tiki ‘Rolls’ (which is for sale on my website at permachar.net in a shameless plug). I contacted Dr Paul Taylor and it turns out that he was researching how to estimate tonnes of biochar produced over time as a basis for a Carbon Credit system for the United Nations (UN). This was interesting to me as I had been researching NORI, a blockchained Carbon removal/credit scheme (the potential competition) and I found that their weakness was the lack of the temporal dimension. Paul had worked it out with a physics proof of concept and I had done it with ML and Phytoliths (see previous '#Software for the hardware' blog and check out "http://phytaid-site.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/#")! Carbon credits are probably doomed by capitalism and corruption anyway however ecocapitalism seems to be increasingly more ethical than other forms of growth capitalism :(
So now what? Well, all these megafires in Australia are killing my hope. I keep asking myself, is it too late to even bother trying to spread biochar throughout the main planks of the economy when so much Carbon is being released into the atmosphere making the conditions worse for future bushfires (on a macro scale, just like on a micro scale the bushfires create their own weather to increase the fire magnitude)? Then it occurred to me today, while I was reading an article that there are a small number of researchers saying that Phytoliths are not affected by bushfire. In other words, maybe the bushfires are adding soil Carbon to the soil (aka ‘Terra preta Australis’) in addition to the soil Carbon that was already there before the bushfire, locked up in Phytoliths? Also, as fire (and water) is used by nature to germinate various dormant seeds such as the Acacia species would the magnitude of the fires destroy the seeds? Obviously, it’s tragic that all that bushland, homes, communities and people’s lives in Australia have been all but destroyed and many species will struggle to repopulate, including us humans. But, when the recovery happens, will the same development and planning mistakes be made as they have in the past and will we miss an enormous opportunity to think like a Permie and solve various problems using elegant solutions so that ecosocioeconomic systems are resilient to future catastrophic bushfire, doughts, other climate events, global financial crises and even climate-related economic downturns?
All the technology in the world won’t make it rain. Climate change is changing
rainfall patterns and causing droughts all over the planet and will only get worse before/if it ever gets better again. Cloud seeding shouldn’t be used – Indonesia tried it and it caused flash
flooding and besides - you need clouds in the first place to seed which we presumably don't have in large quantity over drought-stricken areas. So, we are left with a small number of safe
options such as biochar (which has a plethora of multiple uses) for long-term
planetary sustainability and healing. Unfortunately, once the forest is gone, there will be virtually no evapotranspiration and evaporation in these areas to produce rain clouds which provide
water for seed germination and long-term survival of the regenerating flora and fauna. Note that the charcoal remaining from the bushfires will be able to provide a buffering effect for water
release into the ground once rainfall returns. The charcoal/biochar is like a sponge - when it's wet micro-organisms mainly live in the soil and the biochar adsorbs water into it's 3D matrix.
When it's dry, micro-organisms enter the 3D matrix from the soil and use what moisture remains inside and the nanostructures as 'high rise accommodation' and continue to mine nutrients found
inside the matrix. When it's dry, water is released from the outer areas of the matrix back into the soil.
Even if we seedball (google) (eg. biochar, clay and acacia gum binder) the hell out of these burnt areas with drones with pneumatic cannons (eg.AirSeed Technologies) we still need water eg. rain for germination which has been demonstrated in the Kenyan seedballing enterprise...eg. It has taken up to 7 years for some acacia seedball areas to germinate in Kenya due to lack of rainfall. But, what will we tell our young people if we don’t even try and regrow our forests?
We could establish key wildlife/biodiversity corridors connecting a patchwork of
agroforestry ecosystems. For eg, if the drought hasn't broken soon, bores could be sunk and we could R&D fire-resistant/fire-safe irrigation to supplement the biochar water conservation
strategy. These agroforestry ecosystems could be grown with selected fire-resilient food, fuel and fibre crops that don’t require excessive soil and water resources but still support some
wildlife to link up with the wildlife/biodiversity corridors. For example, the hemp plant could be grown and used in combination with recovered biochar in biocomposite called ‘charcrete’ (refer to ‘Burn: Using fire to cool the earth’ ) to rebuild sustainable housing and
infrastructure in bushfire affected areas. WWF Australia wants to grow 2 billion trees by 2030. This could integrate well with agroforestry ecosystems. It would be a shame to just
regenerate bushland only to have it unsustainably burn down again in the future - we need to think outside the box and adapt to the new environment the megafires have produced and will keep
producing possibly to varying degrees every fire season from now on though it's hard to imagine a similar extent of damage could ever happen again...touch wood.
David Holmgren, co-founder of Permaculture with the late Bill Mollison, wrote an article called ‘The flywire house’ in 1993. I’ve got a book on earth covered houses and there are always ‘Earthships’ pioneered by Michael Reynolds and crews. I would like to see collaboration across the entire system and the thinking of the system needs to be updated to now and into the future. It’s not enough to just declare a ‘climate emergency’ and make a minimal effort to rethink policy. What is happening now in Australia with climate change is happening in other parts of the world and we still don’t have a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation strategy on the table. How much suffering is ‘needed’ before the system reboots onto a more positive footing for dealing with all this chaos? The key is time travel...could we use the humble phytolith to lead us down good cultural and survival pathways. So, I think a valid question to ask is then, which cultures were sustainable and in some case still are and what we can do to learn from them that also commits to building future policy, research and development goals for sustainable culture?
Here's a rough unmanicured software idea, to be coded in Python, for determining Carbon credits for biochar production over time
NOTE1: competing Carbon credit systems don't take into account 'time' decay of Carbon
NOTE2:For your biochar producing tech, look no further than the 'Rainbow Beeeater' biochar kiln, 'The Big Roo' biochar kiln, 'Kon-Tiki' biochar kiln eg. 'Rolls' and 'Permastove' biochar-producing TLUD stove eg. the 'Permastove' V5
NOTE3: No microtransactions will be used in this 'point-of-sale' (POS) software (just trust with Federal/Government reserves). Getting rich while saving the planet isn't always the way to go (though ecocapitalists might disagree...). Why not create POS software for Carbon biogeochemical sequestration that gathers intelligence and becomes more intelligent over time? As an aside, maybe dumb POS terminals will become a thing of the past aka they can be more than just a glorified calculator and collect business intelligence too (a little Orwellian)!
*'Machine learning prediction of biochar yield and carbon contents in biochar based on biomass characteristics and pyrolysis condions' by Zhu, Xinze et el (2019). This prediction could be bootstrapped onto the POS software to make a financial quote based on how many tonne.years of Carbon could be produced based on 'biomass characteristics and pyrolysis conditions'. They used the random-forest ML algorithm from Python's scikit-learn module
*'Machine learning algorithms improve the power of phytolith analysis: A case study of the tribe Oryzeae
(Poaceae)' by Zhe Cai and Song Ge (2017). This paper quotes some very high percentages of phytoliths recognised with the SVM ML algorithm
*'Phytoliths as proxies of the past', by Irfan Rashid (2019). Great overview of phytoliths using examples mostly from fields of archeology
*'Role of phytolith occluded carbon of crop plants for enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agro-ecosystems' by Rajendiran, S. et al (2012). A little dated but great background reading.
*'Phytolith Formation in Plants: From Soil to Cell' by Nawaz, M. et al (2019). Long article, haven't finished reading it yet but very interesting so far...
Will there be ever be a time again when we can live without the fear of climate change collapsing our Civilisation?
We live in a time and place of enormous change in both present and predicted in the future.
Is there a chance that we can collectively get off the tree and work together to build a climate resilient Civilisation that can drawdown Carbon emissions beyond zero emissions?
One word (that was two words). Leapfrogging. We need to free the emerging/developing economies from buying technologies that only enslave them in a future of climate uncertainty. The answer to this techno-Colonial problem is to leapfrog climate polluting technologies and assist people to purchase/build and use the best available appropriate technologies, or apptech, to solve the problems of today and prepare for climate resiliency in the future. It may all sound like grandiose hyperbole but seriously guys we are on the clock and we're running out of time faster than we can act. I have been researching apptech for a good decade or more. I have seen many promising designs over the years many which never get developed on any scale worthy of a just climate transition. I've become obsessed with the potential of biochar which has been researched, documented, and applied (in no particular order) by the likes of Professor Stephen Joseph, Dr Paul Taylor, Dr Johannes Lehmann, Dr Lukas Van Zwieten, Dr TLUD, Russell Burnett, Geoff Moxham, Kathleen Draper, Albert Bates, Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kelpie Wilson, Charmaster Dolph and many more. Could this be the silver bullet we are looking for? I've come to an early conclusion that biochar will be integrated through many industrial, agricultural and horticultural products and systems in the present and future. However, this is only part of the puzzle.
In the integrated Permachar systems I have designed there is technology that needs to be purchased. At the household scale, The Energy Kit (TEK) includes a Top-Lit Updraft (TLUD) stove eg. The Permastove V3, a battery bank, LED lights, a solar PV panel, USB cables, and a Capacitive Deionization (CDI) kit placed in series in a DIY water filtration system.
On the village scale, a solar PV panel, 12V AGM battery, Goal Zero Guardian and 12V Shurflo pump can be combined with a Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' biochar kiln, water tank, IBC container, irrigation line and fittings, drying shed and hammer mill. A village pelletiser to make fuel pellets from agricultural waste residue for TLUDs could also be purchased. I've made a growing inventory at: www.permachar.net/overview-of-permachar-systems. The ideal is that households do things on the small-scale with cheaper apptech and on the village/community level the more expensive components/apptech are used and biochar production and water filtration is conducted on a medium-scale for agriculture/horticulture.
Once you get to the large-scale of things, shipping container biochar kilns like that produced by 'Earth Systems' and used by companies such as 'Green Man Char' become applicable. Municipal green waste collected by councils and normally used for mulch could be used to produce biochar with these shipping container kilns. The councils could then use this biochar in their gardens and parks as well as selling it to their ratepayers at a reasonable price.
There are numerous propositions for long-term Carbon sequestration.
Biochar, produced via the pyrolysis of biomass in a low-oxygen environment, is probably the safest and most democratic way to do it. Plants with high Silica content such as grasses like bamboo (it grows on 6 continents) will probably have the longest-term Carbon sequestration. The Silica creates plantstones/phytoliths/PhytOCs/plant opals with the Carbon for sequestration over millenia timescales. I've read research that phytoliths were found from campfires 35,000 years ago and were still stable. Recently, I've read about the possibility of heavy metal sequestration in the phytolith complexes after using phytoremediation to remove heavy metals from contaminated soil (and potentially from spent biochar used in water filtration of polluted water with salt and heavy metals). Bamboo can be used for this purpose then biocharred in a biochar kiln such as the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' (which is yet to be built) and would lock in the heavy metals and salt if present which could then be safely used for growing food. There's also evidence to suggest that the presence of biochar in soil adds additional Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) to the soil over time.
So what are the competing methods for Carbon sequestration?
Planting more trees (apparently President Bolsanaro isn't listening. More than half a billion trees have been logged in Amazon over the last year). I would argue that rather than growing forests, use biochar in the planting holes and grow agroforestry systems that include fodder/biomass for future biochar production used to expand the agroforestry system even further. There are many examples of this in Nepal. Arguably this is a type of Carbon farming. A good reference here is 'The Carbon Farming Solution' by Eric Toensmeier that describes perennial crops and regenerative agriculture for Carbon Farming.
Magnesium Oxide cement that sequesters Carbon during it's lifecycle. Dependent on the availability of the Magnesium from mines that might not be located in the right places (the 'Tyranny of Distance'/logistics).
Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) at coal-fired power plants. Still only at demonstration stage and dependent on stable and empty aquifers located near the power plant. Some failures of this system have been recorded due to leaky aquifers eg. The first system built in the U.S. Also, a dead end for the Carbon ('dead Carbon' as opposed to 'Living Carbon' in the soil) that doesn't achieve any other economic purpose.
Machines that capture CO2, water and sunlight that produce Hydrogen Gas (H2) and 'green' ammonia (NH4) such as the project in South Australia. Looks very promising but various snags along the way for a Hydrogen economy.
Machines that just capture CO2 and produce bricks (or don't produce anything useful at all).
Wooden/bamboo buildings. This is really only medium-term C sequestration but if you go to some countries like Japan there are wooden buildings still standing from 500 years ago or longer).
The remaining options are more like improved efficiencies in various sectors of the economy that reduce C emissions but not necessarily eliminate them. This is probably where most of the action will be over the coming decades. Renewable energy is probably the big one (that includes biochar if produced from sustainably managed biomass feedstock). More interesting is the opportunity afforded by cogeneration of biomass power plants that Combine Heat and Power (CHP) while producing biochar as a by-product. The Rainbowbeeeater 'ECHO2' is a fine example of this. A case study is the Holla Fresh herbs production facility in South Australia (http://holla-fresh.com.au/) where the heat is used to heat the greenhouse and the biochar is (presumably) used to grow the herbs. Electricity is also produced to power the greenhouses. Another power plant is the Allpowers Lab generator that is shipped on a pallet from the U.S., pyrolyses biomass and produces biochar as a by-product of power production (without heat production).
Cogeneration and the Kon-Tiki biochar kiln.
The Kon-Tiki is a simple and effective way to turn waste biomass into biochar on the small to medium scale. My ultimate goal as a designer is to find a way to cogenerate heat and power from the Kon-Tiki kiln that produces biochar as it's primary product. No doubt Dr Paul Taylor is working on it too. Hot water production has potential using a copper coil inside the cone with attached water containers. With an adapter, essential oils can be produced as well which has been successfully implemented in Nepal. So far, I'm not aware of any wood vinegar being produced from a Kon-Tiki. There are possibilities to attach Thermoelectric Generators (TEGs) to the kilns but I'm not aware of any cheap TEGs that can be retrofitted - possibly at the base of the kiln. A BBQ grill and rotisserie can be added but maybe for the time being that's as good as it gets. Any ideas, please contact me!
So there we have it - a cook's tour of Carbon sequestration with many plotholes!
So how did we get to this point? Or more appropriately, what was the point of getting to where we are now? How difficult was it to spend years researching something that is in the future? Has the
future arrived? At what point did many of us say, eg, climate change is real for me? At what point will the majority ask for stronger action on climate change disruption and be heard by the
leaders who are meant to lead us? We just had a Federal election and the former leader, Bill Shorten, of the major opposition party, the Australian Labor Party, couldn't make up his mind about
whether or not to make a 'Just Transition' a central election promise in Australia (there were plans for a central Just Transition authority if they won the election). It should have been a no
brainer. The Greens had one, Beyond Zero Emissions have many plans, loads of the green NFPs in Australia had one and the Australian public, according to a Lowy poll, polled 66% of Australians
wanted stronger action on climate change just before the election. I doubt they would have rejected a Just Transition if they were asked whether or not they supported it. Naomi Klein
outlined her desire for one as well in her book 'This changes everything' which was published in 2014 and is a brilliant read.
I think it's great that the Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, was able to balance the budget but at what cost to health, education and 'The Environment'? A billion dollars has been set aside for 'The Environment'. A hundred billion dollars has been set aside for roads, ports and rail upgrades. Apparently transport is not part of the environment. Furthermore, the Federal Government has no energy transition plan and refused to sign a Just Transition declaration at the Poland climate conference in December 2018.
So, the question is how much would a Just Transition cost and how many jobs would it create? The Greens claimed 180,000 new jobs would be created with a Just Transition. Should that budget be limited to civilian costs or should it include Defence as well? I think we're lucky in South Australia because successive Governments have rallied to introduce funding for green technology...I read yesterday that we're building the world's largest Hydrogen gas and 'green ammonia' plant - powered by sunlight, CO2 and water. Bring it on!
Something that I have encountered over my research is how difficult it is to introduce fabricated green tech on the market since the costs of production are high (though we do have access to reasonably priced Corten steel). I'm specifically referring to the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' kiln as a case study for small-scale greentech/apptech in Oz. I've used social media as a way to get the word around. I've provided loads of information about biochar and biochar kiln technology on the website and ads elsewhere. I've sent away emails to a range of places and people who might be interested but despite this effort, not one email reply or phone call has reached me with interest about the tech. So I'm wondering is it marketing, the cost of the technology, the vision of potential users, my vision, or just time poor markets that can't concentrate on anything for too long. I mean, I have to reflect on this and ask who am I not reaching out to? I have faith in the kiln technology and at the current price of naked biochar on the market, if you have a sustainable feedstock supply to burn, you could make your money back in half a dozen burns. So what's missing in the equation? More marketing, more phone calls, or cheaper tech? Or everything and then some. The problem is I love the 'Rolls' kiln I'm selling (readyfundgo.com/project/kon-tiki) but it is a lot of money for buyers to spend on something they haven't tried out BUT people make that leap of faith in some cases every year on buying a laptop for their office. These kilns will last for years even when they are left out in the weather. The problem with the campaign is that it would really help if I had one of the 'Rolls' kilns built so I can do photo shoots and demonstrate the tech to the general public. But, I need to run the campaign in order to get a few of these beauties built so I can market it some more and get the whole small-scale biochar show 'rolling' in Oz.
What would make it a lot easier for my business and other start-ups would be to access to seed funding for greentech/apptech startups like my own. I've researched this on the internet and there doesn't seem to be any specific small grants or seed funds coming from State or Federal budget for greentech/apptech (though CEFC did link me to energylab.org.au which has a great range of resources including angel funding for 'cleantech'). I need around 10k to get it going and I don't want to get a bank loan and use my house as collateral. I've even thought about selling my house so I could get the beautiful thing built. I can't seem to find meaningful work anywhere or I'm underskilled and won't meet the criteria for many jobs. So, this is how I got to this point...all I can say is seed funding for greentech/apptech start-ups from Government should be a high priority within 'The Environment' (which includes us) budget, even if they don't promote the grants as part of a comprehensive Just Transition.
I call it the 'lean green bioregional machine'
-an integrated political and Earth Stewardship system (did u read Will Steffen's latest paper under 'Links and Resources?')
-?similar to the direct democracy model in Switzerland or simply a Federation restructure
-Elon Musk supports direct democracies in principle so they must be good
So, how can it be done?
-make a map of bioregions based around groundwater aquifers (Inflow=outflow +/- changes in storage)
-get a map of 'House of Representatives' electorates
-overlay the two in a GIS and shave off the 'House of Representatives' electorate borders along the groundwater aquifers and turn them into water bioregions
-allocate bioregional 'Senate' seats based on an equation integrating area, water and population within the bioregion (x/y/z/t plus a bunch of other numbers)
-?blockchain the PM and possibly the system using POS method on the Ethereum platform
-what about State Governments? These would be replaced by bioregions
-what about Local Government? Borders could also be redefined within bioregions
-transition some Government jobs from State Government to the new bioregional platform/structure
-use those funny video link-ups on wheels for meetings (C U Geoffrey Blainey's 'Tyranny of Distance')
-what about debates? These could take place online using video link-ups...less travel kms and possibly lower testosterone levels. People from the community and experts could join in!
-likely high initial cost to set up but undoubtedly long-term savings which could transfer to lower income taxes
-How to charge 'reasonable' rates for groundwater used by mining companies eg. Adani, BHP etc taking into account that groundwater is one of the most valuable and essential resources for Australians past, present and future?
-A Carbon tax with direct dividend to consumers
-Apptech/Green tech seed funding - distributed tech and grid restructure
-Increased apptech/greentech R&D military budget
-Increased environmental refugee intake
-Treaty and a stronger Native Title system
Do we have a working model in progress?
CSIRO bioregional assessment programme could be a start plus working models in Australia and ?overseas
Alternatively, a National Water Plan suggested by Professor Craig T Simmons FTSE at Flinders University at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training...groundwater.com.au
Why not give those poor ol' climate scientists their jobs back in CSIRO? Maybe a Gala dinner for some fundraising...or just find a Government who is serious about climate research?
In the not too distant future...
When the pressure mounted on humanity to turn the world economy on a dime to avoid catastrophic climate heating, many people, institutions, corporations and other business entities tried to scramble to the top of the energy mountain and use what fossil energy was left to secure their own nests.
A decentralisation movement took over the low energy ground. The people on top of the mountain became stranded and increasingly isolated. Pressure from below resulted in a grand compromise never seen before on Earth.
It was in everybody's interest to drawdown greenhouse gases and restore a safe climate. Financial and opaque barriers were broken by cryptocurrency using 'Proof Of Stake' algorithms on a low-Carbon blockchain. Global internet was deployed by 2025 by SpaceX. Information became accessible to almost everyone on the planet with a simple internet chip built into their smartphone. Coal stations were shut down due to intense pressure from climate activists both on infrastructure and on the corrupt political institutions that supported it.
Technology, including appropriate technology, developed rapidly following new information flows. Living standards were raised globally however during the 'great transition' many people became environmental refugees and most of these refugees had small Energy/Carbon/Water/Chemical footprints. Refugee camps sprouted up all over the planet and became semi-permanent to permanent. Disease quickly spread throughout the camps so it was essential that biochar was used to filter water (in addition to boiling) and purify soil used for production of culinary and medicinal plants (via it's many benefits to soil including increased soil fertility, Water Holding Capacity, soil porosity, Cation Exchange Capacity and Carbon sequestration).
The camps became apptech incubators - new tech was imagined and built on a daily basis by refugees with support from aid and development sources. 'thelevelmarket.com' became the Costco of cheap affordable apptech - TLUD stoves became a popular way to cook food (and boil water) since Carbon credits known as 'Carbon Removal Certificates' were able to generate NORI cryptocurrency tokens, which could be exchanged as currency between refugees however bartering became the most common resource transaction. 'The Energy Kit' became popular which included a TLUD stove with USB centrifugal fan, power bank/torch, semi-permanent LED lighting, and solar panel. Xiaomi became King of cheap, large, well specced and low power smartphones. Tablets, laptops and desktops became a thing of the past.
More organised efforts, some likened to the Marshall Plan such as 'drawdown.org', sprung up and spanned the global economy. Some countries, mostly Socialist ones, created their own green plans. China led the way in Asia but much of their effort was undoing the damage that fast and dirty industrialisation had caused in the 1990s and 2000s. Most green ideas revolved around retrofitting people's homes and workplaces with efficient tech, apptech, greentech et al Factories were retooled to produce renewable energy tech, workers transitioned from old, unsustainable and dirty industries. Coal, oil and gas became less available than before (read 'The race for what's left') and in many cases new apptech could be built without that resource anyway. Many of the waste resources from 'fossil fuelled' Civilisation were employed in apptech, such as Earthships and Permachar Wicking Barrels. Permaculture became the dominant design system for sustainability but meanwhile the planet was still in decay...
The 'lungs of the planet' and 'medicine cabinet', the Amazon rainforest, continued as a war zone as forest enforcers battled with illegal loggers. Reforestation projects ('Terrestrial Carbon') took place in a number of areas such as Southern Peru, but as the cloud forest dried up due to increasing atmospheric temperatures and illegal logging, it became harder and harder to build new forest due to reduction in rainfall and increasing numbers of wildfires. The tree planters kept planting regardless, driven by a vision of hope, prosperity and culture.
The oceans acidified due to the increased amount of 'Blue Carbon' absorbed into the sea water. Reversal of acidification would take millenia. Healthy coral reefs became a rarity, where most either disentegrated, got taken over by pests such as 'Crown of Thorns' or bleached from increased sea temperatures. The biggest problem became phytoplankton unable to effectively calcify it's miniscule exoskeletons due to acidification. With a gradual collapse of the bottom of the food chain, populations of most species began to collapse. Sea kelp farming became popular as did ocean aquaculture. As fishery stocks collapsed, black soldier larvae became a popular source of protein as a substitute for fish meal in terrestrial aquaponic systems.
Snow caps, glaciers, icebergs and permafrost continued to melt. The permafrost melting exposed biomass that would break down due to increased microbial activity and realease vast quantities of methane (which is arguably 23+ times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to CO2). Additionally, frozen methane clathrates in the sea beds also continued to melt releasing massive amounts of methane gas. Consequently, river flows reliant on glacial melts decreased affecting massive numbers of people dependent on irrigation for agriculture along the rivers. Sea level rises, mostly from icebergs melting, affected many mega-cities built along the coastline. In some countries such as Bangladesh, people became trapped as they tried to go to higher ground. The temperature increases from permafrost and clathrate melting added to the feedback into the climate system warming and only accelerated the melting.
Superstorms became the norm of extreme weather. Florida became deserted.
The key to the lock was limiting global temperature increases from pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If higher increases were reached eg. 2 degrees Celsius and emissions were not controlled to limit further temperature increases, the planet's climate system would uncontrollably tip into 5 degrees and stabilise there. In this scenario, only about a billion people would survive and most species would die. If humans continued to add climate emissions then the climate could tip over into 10 degrees of warming increase. GAME OVER.
Or was it GAME OVER? What if we could stabilise the climate at around 1.5-2 degrees. What if humanity 'got it's shit together' and collaborated on the mother of all 'complex wicked problems' - climate change? What if world peace could be cemented through this collaborative effort? What if apptech could be the driver of this change? Is this what people like Buckminster Fuller and E.F. Schumacher imagined for the future? A world where everyone could meet their basic needs while at the same time steward the climate and all of the other Earth Systems - biological, chemical and geophysical?
There are many aspects to how the human species is going to interface itself with computers, its software, and physical technologies and resources around the planet. What I see is a convergence
between artificial intelligence and physical intelligence.
What do I mean by AI? There are a range of interpretations of what this means in 'reality'. However, the 'reality' is that we are using more and more mathematical algorithms to solve 'real world (physical)' problems. These algorithms are enshrined in software code based on a physical system such as smartphones, laptops, desktops and cloud-based server farms. I was at a Summer solstice party a couple of years ago and I spoke to a bearded computer science student who described AI as basically using software, based on computers, to solve problems. That could be as simple as using a sensor such as a moisture meter to tell an Arduino microcontroller to turn on the water in a wicking bed to water the plants. It could be as complex as modelling the climate for change, mining a cryptocurrency and searching out new exoplanets in the universe for human habitation.
What do I mean by PI? An old film director, known as 'Smokin' Joe' who directed the movie 'Mystery Train' lived in a guesthouse at Nakano in Tokyo. I was staying there in 2006 while I was teaching English as a Foreign Language. We had a number of conversation about physical intelligence. What Joe was trying to get to was the interface/relationship between people and planet. He described how people were losing their ability to think about how they interacted with the physical environment losing their connections to physical resources in the face of globalisation. How is it that we could be so connected to everyone else yet many so dimly aware of our own impacts on the physical resources of the planet? At that time, Japan was importing 90% of its soya beans and starting the smartphone revolution. I was teaching many students at that time who were coding apps for smartphones. A few years later I went and studied a Diploma of Permaculture and realised then that scarcity of resources was manufactured and that design science embedded in human/physical systems was the main driver of future sustainable societies.
So, the question on my mind is interface. I've been playing with the hardware and software interface in my music studio for 20 years. I have seen a steady trend in integration between hardware and software over that time. It's at a point now where a company called 'Native Instruments' have achieved such tight software-hardware integration that one doesn't even need to look at a computer screen while producing electronic music. Access to all the sounds is at your fingertips. Smartphones are no different - apps are getting smarter than we are and information, or intelligence, is available in an instant. Big data is collected by most software companies and more and more sophisticated algorithms are being coded to create increasingly efficient ways to mine data and get the results the user might be looking for.
But, is efficiency a substitute for sustainable technology? I would argue that efficiency can be more sustainable in certain applications that might save energy usage, such as smart grids and variable controlled greenhouses/warehouses eg. 'Plenty' and shipping containers eg. 'Terrafarms'. However, if the designs of those systems are creating an increased demand in the physical resources based in those systems, are we creating an overall larger ecological (physical) footprint? As we see a growing middle class around the world with more sophisticated consumer demands, AI applications may float more boats and make life more convenient with less physical resources due to efficiency increases. More importantly resources need to be used more than once and have multiple functions. I have found that most aspects to biochar technology cannot be substituted with software algorithms telling me what to do or even doing it for me. A software program can't harvest the biomass, the raw product for biochar, could integrate with a laser cutting machine with additional hardware, can automate expensive and complicated kilns, can't operate simple kilns such as the 'Carbon' to produce the biochar and can't physically distribute the biochar to its various cascades such as animal feed and bedding, construction (eg.hempcharcrete), water filtration and soil fertility. But I can write a physical algorithm aka operating/usage instructions to use the resource within a designed ecosystem.
I imagine that there will be greater convergence with AI and biochar in the future but ultimately automation and efficiency algorithms can't solve many of the physical problems posed by managing physical resources such as biochar. Arguably, it is only a matter of time for AI and big data to catch up with PI, but will probably never completely take it over - just move closer to a converged state of mind eg. Mapping. There's plenty of ways people can collaborate with mapping on the internet and it seems to be the ultimate way to communicate between the mind(s) and machine(s). Mapstory.org is one example though it's still in beta and contains many incomplete datasets but houses some pretty stunning maps. Google 'MyMaps' (also shareable) seems to be an easy way to collaborate in mapping something basic like georeferenced points eg. Biochar kilns, as long as you've got a Google account. These can probably be embedded in a website too. Google Maps 'Mashups' can also be easily created with many tools freely available on the internet. Call me biased, but I love a good map though as a wise man once told me 'The map is not the territory'. Enough said.
Reports and their observations and predictions are generally getting gloomier all the time -from Arctic Summer sea ice extent shrinking to Greenland/Alaska/Antarctica/Himalayas etc melting of icebergs, glaciers, snow caps; ocean/sea level rise, deforestation, biodiversity loss (the world's '6th great extinction event'), superstorms, abrupt weather changes, extreme flood events, mudslides, clathrates already melting nearby the Arctic tundra etc etc
A 6-8 degree increase or more by the end of the century if business as usual doesn't change. Taking into account the heat latency effect in the climate system, even a 2 degree warming event compared to pre-industrial global atmospheric temperatures would be catastrophic for the South Pacific and many other places, not to mention an acceleration of all of the events mentioned above.
Apply to most countries (even the US might still get on board) and legally binding.
As mentioned before, 2 degrees average global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels is 'too high'.
Needs new Carbon-based sustainable industries to accelerate progress towards meeting Paris accords goals and obligations.
Worked for a while but involved ecological destruction such as destroying native forests, displacing entire villages, high water consumption, arsenic leaching into groundwater and rivers, often corrupt business relationships. Quality control was it's advantage - you could test the purity, weigh it, transport it, trade it but it needed to be secured which was probably problematic for many countries - Carbon doesn't face that problem.
Now relies on trust with Federal/Government reserves at a time when trust in quasi-Government and Government institutions are falling.
Becoming redundant - checks and balances for inflation no longer as effective as it used to be...can be abused by printing more money which has happened in many countries such as Bolivia (they used wheelbarrows to cart the money to do their groceries) during it's financial and political collapse and more recently in Venezuela, where more trust is now placed in cryptocurrency than in national fiat currency. There's been a huge uptake of individuals mining cryptocurrencies since their inflation rate is currently 1600% and rising and their national currency is good for starting fires.
Why is it banks print more money when growth slows down and inflates?? Is it to increase cash flow?
In this scenario the value of money depreciates and ultimately goods and services become even more expensive. Between controlling currency value and changing interest rates, the growth rate is at the mercy of global influences/globalisation. What if degrowth, which is the only sustainable option, could be accelerated without changing amounts of currency in circulation and manipulating interest rates?
In an ethical degrowth world, job growth and sustainability can occur simultaneously aka green collar jobs. I call this transition 'Contraction and Emergence' i.e. 'Contraction' of the fossil fuel based economies and an 'emergence' of Carbon-backed technologies and economies.
In a CBNDC, the amount of currency in 'circulation' would be fixed, in line with other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The main lever left then to control inflation would be interest rates - which might also become increasingly insignificant, though inter-related, as we move into a renter economy. As the value of Carbon-backed industry increases, so will the value of the CBNDC as happened with the Gold standard, though Gold was probably more prone to fluctuate with international prices (unless there became a global market for CBNDC's). Using the 'Precautionary Principle', I would suggest doing a trial of the CBNDC first, decoupled from the national fiat currency. Down the track, if a trial was successful and Carbon-backed industry 'emerged' (with digging up coal as an exclusion), the CBNDC could be traded with other CBNDC's and possibly other cryptocurrencies like fiat currency can be traded with other fiat currencies - though Australian citizens might want to hang on to their CBNDC for a while! Furthermore, non-Australian citizens would be likely to buy our CBNDC if we go first, which would add value to both the currency and the Australian economy including the transition to Carbon-backed technologies and industries.
'Proof of work' (POW) eg. Bitcoin
Increasingly massive computer energy usage solving maths problems for encrypting the decentralised ledger and therefore increasingly high Carbon footprint.
By 2030 blockchain mining will consume the equivalent of all the power consumed in Denmark (or so they say). High Carbon footprint, has initiated a technology arms race in cryptocurrency mining. This will result in the undermining of the democratic and decentralised peer to peer principles upon which it is based eg. first generation of quantum computers will take over using artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of neural processing units (NPUs) in large server farms then eventually personal quantum miners with AI and NPUs will begin to catch up on the game. This all assumes engineers will find a way for quantum computers to efficiently 'hash' the blockchain - which they probably will.
'Proof of Stake' (POS)
eg. IOTA and next gen of Ethereum - requires much less computing power and Carbon footprint. Security of the decentralised ledger will increase as more people get on the network. In other words, as more and more Australians use the CBDNC, the security of the currency would be increased. Though not ideal, moderators can be used (provided by the Federal Government), such as the IOTA example, until there are enough users/consumers to secure the network.
-Carbon-backed national digital currency
National digital currency would still have some centralised control by relying on IT security experts to partly secure it though becoming increasingly redundant but what if secured by a decentralised commodity that will create new industry and new jobs aka Carbon-sequestration that will meet or exceed Paris accords obligations? Throw in POS and we may have hit the best of all currency models - minimal Federal Government regulation, minimal Carbon footprint, empowerment of consumers/users, quantum-proofing of network attacks.
Problem will be standardising Carbon technology eg. biochar production units/kilns/ovens/stoves etc., reforestation, Carbon-negative construction etc etc and its resultant sequestration amounts but much work has already been done with Carbon accounting instruments (eg. http://americancarbonregistry.org/) when the Carbon tax was being considered and prior to that with Carbon accounting work done on Carbon credits, both in Australia and around the world. Taxes, especially new ones, are unpopular anywhere - not just Australia.
Carbon rationing would be unpalatable to the (Australian) public though can be scientifically modelled with increasing accuracy using supercomputers that are rapidly getting faster and more powerful and are now moving into the quantum domain i.e. Planetary modelling can make predictions about how much Carbon is 'safe' from one year to the next in the climate system - this would translate into rations for each country and allocated on a per capita basis but would struggle taking into account historical responsibility of Carbon pollution. 'Cap and trade' is gamed and hasn't drastically cut down Carbon pollution and probably never will. Carbon credits don't go far enough and can be traded on the stockmarket and also gamed. Could the CBNDC be gamed? Maybe make more acacia/bamboo/hemp biochar? Graphene storage for the renewable energy systems already in place and coming online in the future? Implement more holistic models such as 'Carbon farming' (well described by Eric Toensmeier)? Could all of this be the 'Tragedy of the Commons' in that if one nation doesn't go first to create a CBNDC no nation will? Carbon utilitarianism? When it comes to currency, isn't that utilitarian anyway?
If a CBNDC used the blockchain, then the Carbon-backing could offset the Carbon footprint of the blockchain encryption and then some but would face an ever-increasing Carbon footprint.
If a POS approach was taken for the CBNDC, it would be Carbon-negative permanently (assuming it never crashes but if it did at least the Carbon-backed economy would be kickstarted) - a 'positive' positive climate feedback loop for a change - much needed. There's always good ol' fashioned bartering if all else fails!
This could be a freemarket alternative model to a NDC with the stability of being tied to the Aussie dollar. Or, a Carbon-backed stablecoin could be built, which is more or less the NORI token