Using Fire to Cool the Earth
How We Can Harness Carbon to Help Solve the Climate Crisis
In order to rescue ourselves from climate catastrophe, we need to radically alter how humans live on Earth. We have to go from spending carbon to banking it. We have to put back the trees, wetlands, and corals. We have to regrow the soil and turn back the desert. We have to save whales, wombats, and wolves. We have to reverse the flow of greenhouse gases and send them in exactly the opposite direction: down, not up. We have to flip the carbon cycle and run it backwards. For such a revolutionary transformation we’ll need civilization 2.0.
A secret unlocked by the ancients of the Amazon for its ability to transform impoverished tropical soils into terra preta—fertile black earths—points the way. The indigenous custom of converting organic materials into long lasting carbon has enjoyed a reawakening in recent decades as the quest for more sustainable farming methods has grown. Yet the benefits of this carbonized material, now called biochar, extend far beyond the soil. Pyrolyzing carbon has the power to restore a natural balance by unmining the coal and undrilling the oil and gas. Employed to its full potential, it can run the carbon cycle in reverse and remake Earth as a garden planet.
Burn looks beyond renewable biomass or carbon capture energy systems to offer a bigger and bolder vision for the next phase of human progress, moving carbon from wasted sources:
- into soils and agricultural systems to rebalance the carbon, nitrogen, and related cycles; enhance nutrient density in food; rebuild topsoil; and condition urban and agricultural lands to withstand flooding and drought
- to cleanse water by carbon filtration and trophic cascades within the world’s rivers, oceans, and wetlands
- to shift urban infrastructures such as buildings, roads, bridges, and ports, incorporating drawdown materials and components, replacing steel, concrete, polymers, and composites with biological carbon
- to drive economic reorganization by incentivizing carbon drawdown
Fully developed, this approach costs nothing—to the contrary, it can save companies money or provide new revenue streams. It contains the seeds of a new, circular economy in which energy, natural resources, and human ingenuity enter a virtuous cycle of improvement. Burn offers bold new solutions to climate change that can begin right now.
Reviews and Praise
“We’re in a climate emergency, and we need to be using an awful lot of different approaches—here’s one that definitely deserves to be explored in full.”—Bill McKibben, author of Falter
More Reviews and Praise
“Burn advances the discussion from fantasies of biochar-based agriculture to normative proposals for many ways the material could theoretically be used as an environmentally attractive, economically competitive resource in many sectors of society. The book opens new avenues of thought, and it will be a valuable reference in the coming decade in helping us to assess the inevitable cascade of ever bigger, riskier, costlier, and zanier proposals for carbon withdrawal.”—Dennis Meadows, 2018 laureate, The Earth Hall of Fame Kyoto
“For anyone interested in solutions to climate change, this book is absolutely essential reading. It represents the latest, most innovative thinking and experimentation on removing carbon from the atmosphere. What’s delightfully startling is the authors’ detailed, example-laden argument that we can use carbon to regenerate landscapes while also producing an astounding array of products—from concrete to plastics to batteries to paper—that function better by incorporating the universe’s most versatile element. Written in a clear, entertaining style, Burn is an incendiary contribution.”—Richard Heinberg, senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute
“I cannot recommend this book highly enough for going deep into the science of a potentially revolutionary technology that could be capable of stopping dangerous climate change in its tracks. For anyone who wants to know how societies can transform the very fabric of how we run our industries so that we protect and enhance our environment, not destroy it—while contributing to thriving economies—this is literally the manual. It is, in short, a window into the future we could build together. So read it, and start building.”—Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, system shift columnist, Motherboard; editor-in-chief, INSURGE Intelligence; research fellow, The Schumacher Institute
“What if we could make carbon our ally, instead of our enemy, in preserving this planet? This deeply detailed book is about far more than the ancient, carbon-fixing Amazonian soil technology called terra preta. Practically everything humans do, Burn shows, could reimburse the Earth for the carbon we’ve exhumed, leaving civilization far cleaner and healthier—and with a chance for a future.”—Alan Weisman, author of Countdown, The World Without Us, and Gaviotas
“Carbon, the most promiscuous of elements, can be our ruination or by better management, our salvation. Burn is a clear, accessible, and luminescent blueprint for the latter. It really is a must-read.”—David Orr, author of Dangerous Years
“Carbon is the element that likes to hold hands and collaborate. We can learn a lot from carbon if we stop demonizing it. Burn does an exceptional job telling the vital story of how carbon can address the interconnected crises in waste, energy, food, soil, water, and, most pressingly, climate. This book plays a critical role in educating us to reorient with carbon math, reimagine the role of carbon cascades, and redesign the carbon cycle.”—Amanda Joy Ravenhill, executive director, Buckminster Fuller Institute; cofounder, Project Drawdown
“Reading Albert Bates is always a delight. He challenges us in his humorous, outside-the-box style with deep, practical, and original carbon insights based on years of experience as one of the world’s leading permaculture experts. His solutions are low-cost, scalable, and doable—right on.”—Ross Jackson, chair of Gaia Trust, Denmark; author of Occupy World Street
“This book is a big deal. It argues persuasively that carbon has been vilified for far too long. Biochar, a hard, crystal-like form of carbon, can reanimate tired soils and help to mop up vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. The authors speak as seasoned scientists as well as practitioners, and their arsenal of arguments offers more than a glimpse of hope in a world threatened with climate doom. If there is a way out, here is a bunch of keys to the door at the end of the tunnel.”—Herbert Girardet, cofounder, World Future Council; executive council member, Club of Rome
“Brilliant in its range and depth, Burn offers an integrated approach to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and provides potential solutions for tackling the full range of activities that negatively impact our climate. It is a groundbreaking sequel to The Paris Agreement and gives hope to a world currently facing a multiplicity of interlinked crises.”—Feargal Duff, environmental activist
About The Author
|Book Art:||Black-and-white photographs and illustrations throughout|
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||February 26, 2019|
Available In/Retail PriceHardcover, 288 pages, $24.95USD, £19.99GBP
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