Chelsea Green Publishing

The Biochar Debate

eBook: 9781603582742
Pub. Date January 21, 2010

The Biochar Debate

Charcoal's Potential to Reverse Climate Change and Build Soil Fertility

By James Bruges
Illustrated by David Friese-Greene

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
January 21, 2010

$14.95 $11.96

The Biochar Debate is the first book to introduce both the promise and concerns surrounding biochar (fine-grained charcoal used as a soil supplement) to nonspecialists. Charcoal making is an ancient technology. Recent discoveries suggest it may have a surprising role to play in combating global warming. This is because creating and burying biochar removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Furthermore, adding biochar to soil can increase the yield of food crops and the ability of soil to retain moisture, reducing need for synthetic fertilizers and demands on scarce fresh-water supplies.

While explaining the excitement of biochar proponents, Bruges also gives voice to critics who argue that opening biochar production and use to global carbon-credit trading schemes could have disastrous outcomes, especially for the world's poorest people. The solution, Bruges explains, is to promote biochar through an alternative approach called the Carbon Maintenance Fee that avoids the dangers. This would establish positive incentives for businesses, farmers, and individuals to responsibly adopt biochar without threatening poor communities with displacement by foreign investors seeking to profit through seizure of cheap land.

The Biochar Debate covers the essential issues from experimental and scientific aspects of biochar in the context of global warming to fairness and efficiency in the global economy to negotiations for the future of the Kyoto Protocol.


"A brilliant synthesis for everyone concerned with solutions to climate change, enhancement of our soils and the future of energy policy. An enjoyably readable introduction to the vital field of biochar. Highly recommended."--Hunter Lovins, founder and President, Natural Capitalism Solutions; cofounder, Rocky Mountain Institute; and co-author of Natural Capitalism

"Our planet is in an existential crisis. While scientists fret and economists debate, politicians dither and business leaders derail. There is a disconnect between physical reality and political reality. And yet, the physical one always trumps; did we imagine it otherwise? James Bruges has got this right. Biochar offers us a last chance to cheat death, but we'll only be given one try. Fail and our epitaph will be a hard black layer writ in the strata: Here Lies the Human Experiment, R.I.P."--Albert Bates, author of The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook and founder of Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology

"A brilliant, readable review on the critical need to restore our degraded lands back to fertility-be it to sequester greenhouse gases naturally, support forests, improve soil moisture or increase crop yields. Bruges outlines how supporting natural terrestrial sequestration is the cost-effective, proven practice to extract carbon from the atmosphere, and that this can be augmented via the use of soil amendments such as biochar. He concludes with examples that elucidate why tying biochar-based land-management solutions to one-size-fits-all market incentives risks time, money and public health. Our students say, 'It's a 101 must read'-a strong recommendation, indeed."--Alison Burchell, Geologist, Natural Terrestrial Solutions Group

"The Biochar Debate is an intelligent and even-handed look at the potential for both improving soil and addressing global warming offered by the decentralized production and use of biochar. The potential pitfalls and unknowns are clearly acknowledged--this is not another faddish silver bullet approach, but offers some real world examples and practical ideas that anyone can use."--Grace Gershuny, author of The Soul of Soil

"The buzz of interest and activity around biochar in recent years is accelerating. In this concise but engaging book, James Bruges gets us up to speed with the ecology, economics and politics of biochar. Over three decades of speaking about and teaching permaculture, I have come across very few sustainable 'technologies' that appear to change the rules about how to work with nature. Biochar is one of those few. Could biochar be the simple solution by which we can save civilization from the twin crises of resource depletion and climate catastrophe? This sounds like an absurd claim, but not one that can be easily dismissed. James Bruges steers a course between the hope and the hype."--David Holmgren, co-originator of the Permaculture concept and author of Future Scenarios

"Biochar is a relatively new word in the green lexicon, but one you'll hear more about going forward. It isn't a silver bullet, but it may be a useful help in the climate challenge--this slim book will let you think knowledgeably about it, and start to act in your own backyard."--Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"It's not enough to stop burning fossil fuels. We also have to remove much of the carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the atmosphere for over a century. Biochar is one of the few tools available for that purpose. If you don't know what biochar is, this book tells you what you need to know."--Peter Barnes, author of Climate Solutions and Capitalism 3.0


James Bruges

James Bruges worked as an architect in London, Sudan, and India until 1995 when he retired in order to write about economic and environmental issues. He is the author of Sustainability and the Bristol Urban Village Initiative, The Little Earth Book, and The Big Earth Book, and was a contributor to What About China? His work has also appeared in Resurgence, The Friend, and The Ecologist. He was raised in Kashmir until the age of twelve and now lives with his wife, Marion, in Bristol, England.


Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD)

Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD)

By Eric Toensmeier

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

In this DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

In Toensmeier's book, Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2007), the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less-common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food. In his book, readers will find perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible-landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than a hundred species, with dozens of color photographs and illustrations, and filled with valuable growing tips, recipes, and resources, Perennial Vegetables is a groundbreaking and ground-healing book that will open the eyes of gardeners everywhere to the exciting world of edible perennials.

Available in: DVD

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Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD)

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The New Livestock Farmer

The New Livestock Farmer

By Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop

Including information on cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep, and goats, and exotics like bison, rabbits, elk, and deer

How can anyone from a backyard hobbyist to a large-scale rancher go about raising and selling ethically produced meats directly to consumers, restaurants, and butcher shops? With the rising consumer interest in grass-fed, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free meats, how can farmers most effectively tap into those markets and become more profitable? The regulations and logistics can be daunting enough to turn away most would-be livestock farmers, and finding and keeping their customers challenges the rest.

Farmer, consultant, and author Rebecca Thistlethwaite (Farms with a Future) and her husband and coauthor, Jim Dunlop, both have extensive experience raising a variety of pastured livestock in California and now on their homestead farm in Oregon. The New Livestock Farmer provides pasture-based production essentials for a wide range of animals, from common farm animals (cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep, and goats) to more exotic species (bison, rabbits, elk, and deer).

Each species chapter discusses the unique requirements of that animal, then delves into the steps it takes to prepare and get them to market. Profiles of more than fifteen meat producers highlight some of the creative ways these innovative farmers are raising animals and direct-marketing superior-quality meats.

In addition, the book contains information on a variety of vital topics:

•    Governmental regulations and how they differ from state to state;

•    Slaughtering and butchering logistics, including on-farm and mobile processing options and sample cutting sheets;

•    Packaging, labeling, and cold-storage considerations;

•    Principled marketing practices; and

•    Financial management, pricing, and other business essentials.

This book is must reading for anyone who is serious about raising meat animals ethically, outside of the current consolidated, unsustainable CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) system.  It offers a clear, thorough, well-organized guide to a subject that will become increasingly important as the market demand for pasture-raised meat grows stronger.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The New Livestock Farmer

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The Backyard Orchardist

The Backyard Orchardist

By Stella Otto

For every gardener desiring to add apples, pears, cherries, and other tree fruit to their landscape here are hints and solid information from a professional horticulturist and experienced fruit grower. The Backyard Orchardist includes help on selecting the best fruit trees and information about each stage of growth and development, along with tips on harvest and storage of the fruit. Those with limited space will learn about growing dwarf fruit trees in containers.

Appendices include a fruit-growers monthly calendar, a trouble-shooting guide for reviving ailing trees, and a resource list of nurseries selling fruit trees.

Available in: Paperback

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Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad (DVD)

Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad (DVD)

By Ross Conrad

The various chemicals used in beekeeping have, for the past decades, held Varroa Destructor, a mite, and other major pests at bay, but chemical resistance is building and evolution threatens to overtake the best that laboratory chemists have to offer. In fact, there is evidence that chemical treatments are making the problem worse. Ross Conrad flips the script on traditional approaches by proposing a program of selective breeding and natural hive management.This filmed workshop follows Ross Conrad through the dos and don'ts of natural beekeeping, and offers practical information—including details on apitherapy, the use of bee products in medicinal healing—every aspiring beekeeper needs to know. Including in-the-field footage of the author and his hives, and extensive information on:

  • Beekeeping Equipment
  • Tools and Clothing
  • Bee Space
  • The Basics of Honey Bee Biology
  • Varroa Mites - Biology, Identification and Monitoring
  • Varroa Mite Control
  • Other Pests and Predators of the Honey Bee
  • Common Hive Diseases
  • Feeding Bees
  • Honey Harvesting

Ross Conrad is the author of Natural Beekeeping (Chelsea Green, 2007), where he brought together the best organic and natural approaches to keeping honeybees healthy and productive. In the book, Conrad offers crucial nontoxic methods of controlling mites, eliminating American foulbrood disease (without the use of antibiotics), breeding strategies, and many other tips and techniques for maintaining healthy hives, as well as specific concepts and detailed management techniques covered in a matter-of-fact, easy-to-implement way. The book describes opportunities for the seasoned professional to modify existing operations, increase profits, and eliminate the use of chemical treatments.

Available in: DVD

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