Monday, August 30, 2010

Bill McKibben and Geoengineering

In his warmly received new book Eaarth, Bill McKibben (environmental activist and founder of argues that we have already entered the era of significant climate change and must adapt our ways to restore some semblance of balance. For most of us these claims are uncontroversial and indisputable. But McKibben offers a spectacularly inadequate analysis of geoengineering, consisting solely of the following three sentences:

"If you're in the developed world, [maintaining economic growth] might mean embracing "geoengineering" schemes: filling the atmosphere with sulfur to block sunlight (on purpose smog), or filling the seas with iron filings to stimulate the growth of plankton that would soak up carbon. But the early tests have found only "negligible" results, and the costs are huge, measured in the tens of trillions of dollars. Not only that, but we'd be experimenting on the same scale that we've experimented with carbon, and look how well that turned out." (p. 100)

This is shocking in its inaccuracies, distortions, and outright laziness. For such a prominent environmentalist to dismiss geoengineering on this basis borders on the irresponsible. The mainstream green movement deserves much better than this.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Vision of the Future

Geoengineering necessarily involves rethinking how we relate to nature and what it means to be human. These transmission tower "caryatids" in Iceland represent such a shift in perspective, as they literally redefine the boundary between nature and society. For more on this project visit

Monday, August 9, 2010

Biochar Update

There are a couple of noteworthy developments to report on the biochar front. On July 1, the Gates Foundation held a meeting on scientific, commercial, and policy aspects of biochar. On July 13, Cornell University hosted briefings on biochar for US House and Senate staff. Needless to say, in the current political environment work by the Gates Foundation, IBI, Carbon Consulting, and Blue Source merits considerably more attention than any initiatives within the US government.