We like EcoGeek and their mission to publish stories about innovations in technology to help save the planet.
Heck, they even featured our buddy, Jonathon Colman of The Nature Conservancy's Digital Marketing Group as an EcoGeek of the Week back in July. So what's not to like?
This week's EcoGeek is Karl Schroeder the author of Ventus (2000) and Permanence (2002), which received a New York Times notable selection and the Aurora Award for Best Novel, respectively. He is also the author of Lady of Mazes, Sun of Suns (Book One of the Virga Cycle), and most recently, Queen of Candesce (Book Two of the Virga Cycle).
"Karl writes hard science fiction with a humanist twist, focusing not just on technology and discovery but on the human costs of technological development. His website is www.kschroeder.com. He is also a contributing blogger for World Changing Canada and maintains the philosophical blog Age of Embodiment."
Here is a snippet of their interview. The rest can be found at EcoGeek
EcoGeek: What new technologies do you think have the potential for the greatest positive impact on the environment?
Karl Schroeder: I like to play a little game called 'if I had a billion dollars' (with a nod to the Barenaked Ladies' song). If I did, I'd drop $200 million on Bussard (I'm sure he'd enjoy that); $200 million on kickstarting a vertical farming industry, the same on ocean iron-fertilization studies, another chunk on developing an agrichar infrastructure, and the rest on various projects that can't get funding because they have a low probability of success, but massive payoff if they do work. --Which is precisely where our investment should be flowing right now, because we don't have time for incremental development to solve the climate crisis. We need miracles, and those don't come from slow, safe R&D projects--such as ITER.
EcoGeek: What are some of the advantages that vertical farming would provide? Do you think that vertical farming can realistically replace current farming practice, or do you think that it would serve more as a supplement to existing farming? Does concentrating food production raise the risk of those structures being future terrorism targets? What does vertical farming provide that justifies the massive allocation of resources it would require?
Karl Schroeder: There's no new innovations required to begin vertical farming. The issues are financial and in engineering the system for maximum efficiency. One recent study found that a 47-story tall, one city-block square vertical farm could feed 50,000 people at competitive prices, while recycling most of its resources internally and producing most of its own power. From that study you can calculate that a set of vertical farms 25 blocks square could feed the entire population of Canada. What does it provide? Nothing less than the ability to "rewild" as much of the countryside as we want, by taking the burden of agricultural production out of the continental ecosystem.
(Ed. Note: You can see more about this idea in Karl's article about "Rewilding Canada" from WorldChanging.)
EcoGeek: You mention 'agrichar' in your Billion Dollars wishlist. That's not something I was very familiar with (though I think I got the gist of it after a little quick Google search). Can you tell us a little more about it (and why it's important or useful), or suggest a good website or link for more information for readers who would like to learn more about this?
Karl Schroeder: Agrichar is a modern version of "Terra Preta" which was used centuries ago in the Amazon basin to allow the nutrient-poor soils there to produce lavish crops. It's basically a burn-and-bury process that sequesters carbon, replaces commercial fertilizers, revives dying soils, and all in all is a perfect technique for long-term sustainable soil health. Simple enough that the Mayans could perfect it, with the potential to be used all over the world. It's a pretty new process so there's not too many sources of information out there about it, unfortunately. But it's precisely the sort of transformative technology we need.
(And, by the way, I've reached a milestone with this post: 300 posts since I started The Green Skeptic in November 2004. 300 posts over 3 years, is that a good measure? Thank you for reading, tagging, digging...)