eCOOLnomics combines the Ecovillage and Transition Towns movements (seeking changes in patterns of land use and creating local resilience with community food systems, green incubators and carbon-negative micro-enterprise) with Permaculture, Carbon Farming and Popular Culture to seed culture change multipliers.
eCOOLnomics draws upon Cool Hunting, Viral Memes and Creative Volunteerism to accomplish what so far has eluded the more than 180 nations participating in UN climate, population, food security and sustainable development negotiations.
eCOOLnomics will drive the launch of carbon-minus eCOOLvillages and transitional eCOOLtowns, to infect the world with a viral idea -- living in a sustainable way is way COOL. It is also more fun than any of the alternatives.
The scientific consensus of climate change is unequivocal. We must cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 to 90 percent within the next decade in order to avoid catastrophic warming.
The drivers of climate change are embedded in our global culture -- population expansion, which depends on carbon-producing buildings, transportation and workplaces; broadscale industrial agriculture that generates greenhouse gases (both by transforming fossil energy into food, and by emissions from land use change, irrigation and the plow); deforestation and desertification (that removes the light-and-carbon-absorbing capacity of forests and vegetation); and addiction to energy-intensive production and consumption patterns (particularly in the North). No amount of haggling will address these real problems without deep and dramatic cultural change. That change can be positive, however, and eCOOLnomics explores the potential transition paths and modalities.
The Global Ecovillage Network has been pointing the way in this direction for the past 20 years. Launched formally at the UN Habitat-II conference in Istanbul in 1995, GEN existed as an informal network for some years earlier, with at least one of its member ecovillages having been around for 75 years, and others for 40 years or more.
The idea of an ecovillage is that people who share a vision of living lightly on the Earth come together to found settlements that embody a whole-systems approach. Renewable energy, natural building, organic no-till and biodynamic agriculture, holistic medicine, egalitarian governance, gender, ethnic and race neutrality, consensus and conflict-transformation, and progressive education all come together in the ecovillage living matrix. The challenge then becomes, how can we make all this also carbon-negative? How can we sequester more -- by our lifestyles and cultural choices -- than we emit? How can we better preserve biodiversity in the oceans, reseed great rainforests, and protect the fragile Arctic while meeting our human needs?
Fortunately there are recent examples that are trailblazers. Take the satoyama restoration movement in Japan. Forty percent of the land area of Japan is called satoyama, the area between human habitat, fields and wilderness. It is a mosaic of minimal intervention, where farmers, foragers, hunters, and others foray, take a little out, then leave it alone to regrow. Literally, satoyama translates as 'Secondary Nature.' It is a management practice that has been around since the beginning of the 17th century.
The satoyama model is promoted by the UN Satoyama Initiative as a model of sustainable living that is increasingly under threat from urbanization, industrialization, and aging of rural populations. Their disappearance leads to increasing poverty of linguistic and cultural diversity as well as biodiversity.
But in 2009, the Hozu Farmers Co-op came up with a new idea.
In the 1990s, global agri-business and forestry conglomerates undercut local markets. In rural Japan, farming families dropped from 9.7 million in 1970 to 2.85 million in 2000 (a 69% decrease). The chances that a given rural mountain community will vanish in the next ten years are 83.2%.
Working with Kameoka City Groceries, Hozu Farmers Co-op started growing cabbages in biochar made from satoyama bamboo and branding "cool vegetables."
No Chemicals + Biochar = Cool Food
The Kameoka Carbon Minus Project said that if biochar was applied at 2.5t/ha over the entire area of Kameoka's agricultural land (2,100 ha), the carbon equivalent of 154,000 tons of CO2 emissions could be sequestered - that offsets a third of the yearly CO2 emissions from Kameoka. In the process, 570 million yen ($6.2 million) could be gained through the sale of carbon credits (roughly 3,700 yen or $40 per ton CO2).
COOL Vegetables were a great success! People liked the idea of buying healthy food that cooled the planet!
The origin of the cool foods revolution was not in the bamboo forests of Japan, but rather from the practices of soil management discovered more than 8000 years earlier. In pre-Columbian times, American peoples took the refuse from their kitchens -- fish and animal bones, broken pottery, nut husks, turtle and oyster shells, and cinders from their fires -- and built dark earths. Millennia later, those soils provide triple soil productivity over 'parent' soils only meters away. So powerful is the soil fertility effect that when the populations of the Americas were decimated by Spanish contact in the late 15th century, their fields and fine cities returned to forest and vine, pulling so much carbon from the atmosphere that Europe literally froze!
For nearly 300 years, soil scientists -- following the work of Bettendorff, Hartt, Katzer, Sombroek, Glazer, Neves, Steiner, Lehmann and many others -- have known that the Amazonian dark earths were man-made. With the discovery of biochar, it finally became possible to duplicate the process. In addition to soil fertility, biochar's benefits include waste recycling, reduced fertilizer use, nutrient capture, water retention, capture of nitrates, lead, and radionuclides, reduced N2O and methane emissions, job creation, and rural economic development. The secret is in the micropores that are formed in cellular plant structures when they are burned in the absence of oxygen. Those pores become habitat for soil microbes much the same way a coral reef provides beneficial coastal habitat.
Burning without oxygen can also mean burning without smoke, which leads to the idea of replacing home heating and cooking stoves with pyrolizing kilns that provide the same functions but are clean-burning, inexpensive and easy to use, and instead of generating smoke and ash, make biochar for farming, gardening, and reforestation.
Replacing "three stone" stoves with pyrolytic stoves provides a health dividend equal the eradication of malaria & AIDs combined.
That is precisely what is being done by WorldStove.com, whose small biochar stove manufacturing enterprises are now springing up all over Africa, and by the Toledo Cacao Growers Coop in Punta Gorda, Belize, thanks to a grant from Craig Sams, founder of Green & Black's, and Kraft industries. Watch for cool charcolate bars in your neighborhood store in the future! They will have been grown in biochar-enhanced cacao groves, sustainably grown and harvested by Fair Trade cooperatives. While you eat your chocolate, you are locking carbon into the soil for a thousand years. That's cool!
eCOOLnomics is about building a carbon-negative economy. It requires integration of cultural and scientific goals through a holistic, 'cool' branding approach; rebalancing global eco-stasis by eco-agroforestry, permaculture design, pyrolytic energy, ecovillages and cool living. As ecovillages around the world are already demonstrating, it is possible to derive your energy, grow your food, build your buildings, and provide for all your other needs -- communication, transportation, governance, etc. -- while steadily removing carbon from the atmosphere and oceans and building it in the soil. eCOOLnomics is how we can get to 350 parts per million carbon concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere by mid-century, while at the same time living better, not worse, than we are right now.
Building sustainability into human economic systems requires us to construct overlapping and complementary spheres of action -- construction, agriculture, manufacture, inhabitation, commerce -- that together change the operating instructions for human civilization.
The tipping point -- why this will be more successful than negotiating international regulatory frameworks (although that would help too) -- is the stickiness of the idea and allure of the meme: cool living. It is all carrot, no stick.
Fail, and we continue on a path to ecological catastrophe combining climate change, drought, floods, famine, epidemics, financial collapse, mass migration of the desperate, and resource wars for food and water in a world armed with weapons of mass destruction. Succeed, and we have the opportunity to enter a new golden age, rebalancing Gaia's cycles. Ecoolnomics describes the elements of that transition path.
A practical approach to launch this idea virally would be a dual demonstration project. Half of whatever funding is available would go to a project in the North, and half to a project in the South. The two would develop in tandem along parallel but distinctive lines.
In the North, our project is planned for The Farm ecovillage in Tennessee, founded in 1971. The Farm is already a pioneer in many of the spheres of action we've mentioned, and has twice received the Right Livelihood Award (once in 1981 for its work preserving indigenous cultures, and again in 2011 for its work in protecting and promulgating the practice of midwifery). Today the Farm is not carbon negative, however. With changes in heating and cooking devices, a renewable supply of biomass fuels, sustainably managed, and a program of rebuilding and drought-proofing its soils and native forests, The Farm could become a model eCOOLvillage in the North, net sequestering more carbon than it emits.
Ecoaldea Gratitud, in rural Quintana Roo, Mexico, provides a model for the South. Founded in 2004, the ecovillage offers opportunities to agents of change to serve as a bridge between cultures, and to move both industrial civilization and the aspiring poor towards mutually beneficial conservation of ecological communities. By providing educational opportunities (conveyed in Spanish and Mayan), Gratitud builds bridges between natural ecology and human social ecology, finding a balance between community development needs, integration into the surroundings, and individual aspirations. Like its sister community in the North, with changes in heating and cooking devices, a sustainably managed mix of biomass fuels, and a program of preparing for climate change and economic turmoil, Ecoaldea Gratitud can become a model eCOOLvillage in the South.
A proposed budget for this work, with timelines, profiles of key personnel. and other resources, can be supplied on request.
This idea came from Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology. Welcome to the Future! It was initially presented at the 4th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in 2011. Co-authors include Albert K. Bates,1,4,8 Jonathan Dawson,2 Erich Knight,3 Ronal W. Larson,4 Steven R. McGreevy,5 Frank Michael,1 D. Nathaniel Mulcahy,6 Akira Shibata,7 Jeffery Wallin,4,5 and Rob Wheeler.8
1. Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology (Summertown TN USA), biochar at thefarm.org, mushroom at thefarm.org
Bates, Albert K., The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change (Gabriola Is., BC: New Society Publishers, 2010).
Get the FREE DOWNLOAD of our brainstorming white board (PDF 3.7 Mb)
Bring your own best ideas to the BRAC Competition Wall by scrolling down to eCOOLnomics and entering your comment.
|Get the FREE DOWNLOAD of our brainstorming white board (PDF 3.7 Mb)
Bring your own best ideas to the BRAC Competition Wall by scrolling down to eCOOLnomics and entering your comment.