Motivation for trying to re-orientate the world’s thinking on Carbon
As an agricultural student I was concerned about how sustainable the industry was. Agribusiness always seemed to be prepared to cut corners and exploit circumstances without thought to the bigger picture. Back in the 1970s I raised objections with my lecturers over feeding animal based protein to ruminants. I said this was a bad idea as their digestion system had not evolved to cope with this sort of input. I was told I was just an ignorant student and that I should shut up.
I wish I had realised just how important my observation was. Although I was not in a strong position to do much about it. A few years down the line the UK suffered an outbreak of ‘mad cow disease’ (BSE), caused by feeding cows on ground up sheep’s brains from diseased sheep suffering from Scrapie. People who consumed the beef from infected cows went on to develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD) disease. This disease destroys brain tissues in humans, cows and sheep. It is passed on by prions which are a transmissible protein that can cross both the gut wall and the membrane that surrounds the brain. Unlike viruses or bacteria, prions are not destroyed by normal sterilisation techniques used on surgical instruments. Which is why so many surgical instruments are now single use.
After almost a lifetime of seeing people making mistakes, that with a little thought, could have been avoided, I’ve been looking for ways to counter mankind’s biggest mistake of all. The industrial revolution started the human race down a path that has brought massive benefits to the lives of many . However, it is based on a false understanding of the way the world’s ecosystem works. The use of fossil fuels effectively breaks the ‘Carbon Cycle’ and gives mankind the power to destroy large parts of the ecosystem without paying an immediate price but storing up trouble in the long term for future generations.
Plant life utilises CO2 from the atmosphere to build living structures made of carbon. When the plant dies, the carbon is slowly released again as the plant decomposes back to the air that it was made from. In the geological past vast forests were engulfed by seismic events and by a natural form of pyrolysis (heat in the absence of oxygen), they were converted to coal. Similarly, oil was formed from water born plankton and krill that fed upon it. Over millions of years the amount of carbon pulled out of the atmosphere and sequestered in rock sediments brought the levels of atmospheric CO2 down and freed up more oxygen allowing oxygen breathing animals to evolve and thrive.
The trapping of carbon and the sun’s energy by plants allows animals access to the sun’s energy in the form of food. This is known as the ‘Carbon Cycle’, sustainable for as long as we have the sun’s energy and plants to convert CO2 into sugars and other more complex carbohydrates.
What mankind has ignored for the last two centuries or more is that using the sequestered carbon found in oil and coal as a fuel that is burned to ash releasing the trapped CO2 is not circular, it is an ever accelerating race towards a cliff edge. Either the fuel will run out or ecosystems will collapse under the weight of the changes to the atmosphere. Neither scenario will be of benefit to mankind.
A few years ago I was told that worrying about climate change was pointless. There was nothing I could do about it.
I beg to differ!
There is plenty each individual can do and even more that can be done at a local level. On a global scale industries can make some simple changes to what they do and where they source their materials. In doing so they can make their industry sequester carbon at the same time as producing the goods that everyone craves. This website aims to raise people’s awareness of how simple solutions can be enacted across the planet by ordinary people from all walks of life.
A good introduction to the breadth of carbon use and re-use can be found in Burn Using Fire to Cool the Earth by Albert Bates and Kathleen Draper.