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Community gardens boosted with good carbon
The Good Carbon Farm is turning forestry waste into soil superhero biochar.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
Biochar delivered to the Mahinga Kai Community Garden in Upper Hutt. Image credit: The Good Carbon Farm.
Joany Grima has always been interested in growing better food and happier plants. So when she and her husband Allan Rockell learnt about biochar, they began to dabble in making carbonised organic matter, and experimenting with broad bean seeds.
Biochar is carbon-rich residue made by heating organic matter in the absence of oxygen. It can boost the nutrients and good microbes in soil, as well as storing carbon for hundreds of years. “The more we learnt, the more we realised that it wasn’t just good for our vegetable growing efforts at home. It could store carbon, which seemed like a massive bonus,” Grima says.
The pair have founded The Good Carbon Farm to promote biochar’s carbon-storing and soil superpowers, create more of it with rescued green waste and return the carbon to the ground to enrich soils – “the opposite of mining,” says Grima.
They are currently making biochar at two sites – former pine and eucalyptus forestry – and delivering it to community gardens. The first batch has gone to the Mahinga Kai Community Garden in Upper Hutt. Allison Kingsford, manager at Mahinga Kai, says the team is excited to trial using biochar. They’ve used it to supercharge their compost bins, providing “community housing for good soil bugs.” Another batch went to the Birchville Community Garden, where 45 newly planted fruit trees have received a biochar-boost.
Grima and Rockell produce the biochar themselves using “old tech” – in a big pit in the ground.
But they’re keen to scale up this initial project. Grima has a vision for a nationwide community of carbon farmers cooking up green waste in their own patch, with resulting biochar matched to community conservation or horticulture projects. The Good Carbon Farm is also looking to invest in more sophisticated kit – such as portable tech that could be transported between forestry sites, where there’s plenty of green waste lying unused.
“We really like the circularity of our model: taking something that would otherwise just decompose and release carbon into the atmosphere, converting it to something useful, putting it back in the ground,” says Grima. “It's not like a one-off good thing. It continues to work really hard to make soil healthier and better.”
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More climate cases hit the courts, from young and old
A group of more than 2,000 older women has taken the Swiss government to the European Court of Human Rights over its climate-change policy, which the women say violates their rights to life and health, since heatwaves disproportionately affect older people. It’s one of three being heard by the European court, Nature reports.
In Hawai’i, a group of 14 (mostly Indigenous) youth are suing the state’s transportation department for its prioritisation of projects like highway construction that, according to the suit, “lock in and escalate the use of fossil fuels, rather than projects that mitigate and reduce emissions.” The New York Times discusses this lawsuit and other ways the Gen Z movement is taking on climate change, and reports on a recent UN ruling that children have a right to sue nations over climate change.
Battle of the roads
Earlier this month National unveiled its policy to build more roads, despite experts saying more roads will just mean more congestion – and more emissions. Likewise, the current government has big plans for more roads, too – an extra 75km of state highway. “The extra driving demand created by those shiny new motorways would be expected to release an additional 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year,” Marc Daalder reports for Newsroom. As Philip Laird writes on The Conversation, “encouraging road transport while needing to reduce carbon emissions simply does not add up.” Laird advocates for more focus on rail, especially light rail, which is seeing a “remarkable renaissance” around the world. Perhaps politicians could look to Wales for inspiration: the country of 3 million is scrapping major road building projects because they would increase emissions, and wouldn’t help ease congestion.
Stark numbers in Australia’s intergenerational report
The latest intergenerational report from Australia’s treasury predicts that climate change will have deep impacts on the country’s productivity, to the tune of between $135 billion and $423 billion over the next 40 years. “Climate dwarfs everything else in this report. If we don’t fix it, nothing else matters,” says professor Tim Flannery from the Climate Council.
Why is Aotearoa's solar panel industry lagging so far behind the rest of the world?
SolarZero CEO Matt Ward joins Bernard Hickey on the latest episode of When the Facts Change to talk about how using batteries to complement rooftop solar is changing the game and how he believes that the number of solar panels in Aotearoa are about to go through the roof.
It’s back to the wind-powered future for ships: a cargo ship fitted with giant, rigid sails has set out on its maiden voyage. The sails aim to reduce fuel consumption and therefore carbon emissions.
Speaking of sea travel: Shanti Mathias and Tommy de Silva check out Auckland’s new electric ferries.
No one knows what New Zealand’s recycling rate is, a BusinessDesk investigation finds (paywall).
Sea ice break-up around Antarctica led to a catastrophic breeding season for Emperor penguins last year.
“As we rise from the ashes, our rebuilding efforts must champion hoʻomana Lāhui—the spirit of collective empowerment,” writes Kaniela Ing in a powerful essay on the Maui wildfires and recovery to come.
Global fossil fuel subsidies continued apace in 2022, at $13 million every minute for a total of $7 trillion – double what is spent on education.
The Netherlands is the number-two exporter of food in the world (by value). How do the Dutch do sustainable agriculture? (paywall)
Government funding for wilding pine control has dried up, but the invasive pines are continuing to spread.
Image credit: Department of Conservation.
To finish this issue, I very much enjoyed this image of a takahē seemingly sprinting into its new home on Greenstone Station in Ōtākou. Nine breeding pairs of the chonky birds were released onto the high country station last week. Ōtākou Rūnaka member Tūmai Cassidy told the NZ Herald that the takahē instantly enjoyed their new home.
“They just took straight off and headed up into the hills. We could hear them calling to each other, so we knew that they were close by. Hopefully, they’ll be settling in over the next few weeks, months and years.”
A big taka-yeah for the takahē,
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