Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Attack on Biochar
Last month an intriguing study was published in Nature Communications arguing that sustainable use of biochar on a global scale could offset up to 12% of annual GHG emissions. Now opponents of biochar have struck back. In an August 30 press release, a coalition of 21 groups(including ETC Group) hostile to biochar technology accused its supporters of promoting "large-scale land grabbing in the global South." This is a curious fight to pick. In addition to carbon sequestration, biochar produces clean bioenergy, enhances agricultural productivity, and improves the condition of soils. These benefits are widely regarded as particularly advantageous to the rural poor in the developing world. Biochar is viewed by many as a good way to reduce poverty and empower poor farmers. Furthermore, biochar derives from the terra preta soils manufactured by indigenous peoples of the Amazon. In condemning this study and biochar in general, these organizations have opened themselves to charges of working against the interests of poor agriculturalists, rural communities, indigenous peoples, and the global South more broadly, which are precisely those constituencies these groups claim to represent. This is a puzzling political strategy.