This 21st century brings rapid cultural and biological change to our doorsteps. Carbon is on our plates and, like it or not, is emerging into the global capital marketplace as a priced resource to be traded, managed and therefore properly understood. We will make the case that all humans are carbon farmers and always have been. We enjoy carbon compounds thoroughly (Maple syrups being one!) and fully intend to keep using them! Questions come up about the quality of our work. We will make the case that soil health and enhanced biocultural diversity are vital contemporary measures of effective carbon farming.
An essay linked to this page (Carbon Farming Essay) builds both a personal case, and an applied science case for carbon farming which considers four territories of action and closes with a critical investigation of biochar (a charcoal product defined by its intended uses to enhance soil productivity and sequester carbon).
II: Energy Generation
III: Food Production and Consumption
IV: Carbon Sequestration in Soils and Biocultural diversity
Biochar: Incomplete Science and a Crisis of Scale
A thematic progression developed in this essay and outlined below informs the above activities:
Many life forms, including humans and maple trees, are constructed with about 50% carbon atoms (dry proportions).
iodiversity (lots of life forms) is functionally equivalent longitudinally to biomass (tonnage and volume) in the environment. Therefore, as global biodiversity increases over time, then so does biomass. Inversely, as global biodiversity decreases--as is occurring these days--biomass decreases.
Humans evolved as part of this biotic complexity. Our historically varied cultures are inextricably linked to the biological riches of our planet. The term and field of "biocultural diversity" best captures this perspective.
There is a inverse relationship between excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global biocultural diversity. As biocultural diversity declines, carbon decay from lost biomass further raises both atmospheric and ocean carbon levels which changes background chemistry for life.
Over eons, such
fluctuating proportions are effects of interplay between biodiversity and geological processes. The planet's biochemistry, including high oxygen levels and acidity balances, are both caused by life and have, until recently, maximized current conditions for life. Rapidly expanding human consumption is a double load profoundly undercutting these conditions for both biological and cultural diversity in part by saturating historically dynamic neutral carbon cycles with additional carbon that had been usefully geologically isolated in fossil fuels.
As biodiversity builds, environmental conditions enhancing life build. On the opposite slope, as biodiversity
declines necessary conditions supporting current diversity decline. Much of this has to do with elements like carbon and nitrogen, among others, being relocated in disadvantageous places and in undesireable proportions.
These preceeding points indicate that robust biodiversity functions as an active carbon pool which has groomed climate over eons. In addition, they suggest that as carbon levels rise in oceans and atmosphere, biocultural diversity will likely decline.
Biotic complexity offers a rich exchange of services with human society. Losses reduce those
services which negatively pressure both cultures and species.
Carbon farming directs us to "see" carbon. We are challenged to reflectively engage its breadth and profound effects and, where possible, seek either carbon's removal from, or useful redistribution within, the global biome. Biochar has been forwarded as one solution to the problem of excess carbon in the atmosphere; however, to date, the field of biochar production has yet to resolve scientific dilemmas about its efficacies and feedstocks while becoming dangerously embroiled in economies-of-scale and carbon credit schemes which further threaten biocultural diversity.