Re: Global crop waste burning - micro-biochar; how a small community development organization learned experientially to address a huge problem one tiny field at a time

Dear Geoff,

I know nothing whatsoever about metal detectors for anything, but the story about the Romans is fantastic. It starts with my own version of the "law of large numbers" which (with apologies to statisticians, like this: "Anything times a billion is a large number."

All the food policy sorts winge about rising food insecurity - a huge issue - since no one is putting any effort into the very poor rural farmers, and the very poor farmers are doing exactly as you would expect, they are giving up farming to move to the city. Here they become interesting to the EU policy wonks, who now condition ag aid on its likely capacity to retard migration, but that's no longer the point. The point, as you show, is that all of that crappy land collectively, did produce, collectively, an important, if ignored, surplus of food. Without it, these ex-farmers' countries are forced onto the global market to buy. Increasingly, however, the question is, from whom? And here the question is really, can they compete? We live in a bizarre world where Saudis have huge plantations in Kenya - for themselves - and big Britain lives on the veggie production of the tiny Netherlands. Is the global food net the Roman Empire? I don't see any likely Visigoths, but I am quite sure that all the postwar hoopla about human rights will go out the door and the gloves will come off the minute it is not a handful of Syrians but billions the hungry little people banging on the walls of the the US and EU.

On Sun, Apr 25, 2021 at 4:00 PM Geoff Thomas <wind@...> wrote:
Hi again Michael, and I should have mentioned, ignoring the poorest people can be very risky, the Romans increased the tax on poor farmers on second quality land, to such a degree that it was higher than any permutation of crops could ever pay, so all the small farmers either left their land or went to jail (slavery), so they and their family migrated to the big cities, - becoming a problem, - but more importantly, their land was no longer farmed, and all the second class land added up in production, - despite each individual contributing very little, - so regarded as of little account, - to a big slice of the empire’s income.
So of course the emperors of that time taxed the richer farmers on the better land, to make up the shortfall, so the richer farmers started losing their land also, and so the emperor stopped paying the Army, as they had a schedule of sumptuous parties they wanted to attend, so when the Visigoths came to Rome they walked in virtually un-opposed, pissed on the senators and slaughtered them.

Every human being seeks their place in the sun, and usually by contributing something, - however small, so I understand the village farmers' attitudes, based on a very rock hard reality, and also the relatively well off Govt employees, that probably could see no benefit in subsidising the poorest, nor caring about them.

We used to say in Australia, ”many a Mickle makes a muckle”, it simply means many small things add up to a big thing.

Ever since I came across the stovists list discussion, I had the feeling that the poor may be the only ones able to save the earth.
I also thought that a variant of Metal Detectors could measure the carbon content in the garden a farmer may have claimed he buried his Biochar in, - actually I believe that that technology has developed spectacularly,  since then, - whilst focussing on gold etc, they also can detect potential gold bearing sands etc, - it may just be a question of how to set the detector to measure Carbon.


On 25 Apr 2021, at 3:01 pm, Geoff Thomas <wind@...> wrote:

Great work Michael, and an interesting read.
Cheers, Geoff Thomas.
On 25 Apr 2021, at 2:23 pm, d.michael.shafer@... wrote:


You are too generous.

I think that the main takeaway regarding carbon removal is that the rest of the world holds vast, untapped potential if we are willing to start by thinking about the real world constraints facing those who can help.

Connected to this is our current project: how to create a verification and certification system for small farmers to be able to qualify for incentive $ for making and burying biochar.

As far using heat from trenches, if anyone has ideas, please let me know. The trench is an accommodation to the demands of living on a small farm on bad terrain. It is meant to be something a farmer can do anywhere with no more than a hoe. If there are uses for heat that fit within that picture or provide the farmer superior benefits that justify moving feedstock to a central location, please suggest them. I have chewed on this unsuccessfully for years.


On Sat, Apr 24, 2021, 12:35 AM Tom Miles <tmiles@...> wrote:

From Michael Shafer, Warm Heart Foundation


This is a must read!


“I am pleased to announce the publication, this past March, of an article in the Springer, online, scientific journal Sustainable Earth of my article describing how very low-cost, low-tech biochar made by the poorest farmers in the world can stop much global crop waste burning, reduce carbon and PM2.5 emissions, sequester large amounts of carbon, improve public health and reduce rural poverty. Entitled "Global crop waste burning – micro-biochar; how a small community development organization learned experientially to address a huge problem one tiny field at a time," the downloadable PDF can be found at or



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