I was pleased when I was invited to attend the 2012 U.S. Biochar Conference in Sonoma County, California as a journalist. There I would have an opportunity to meet many biochar activists and learn more about this promising argotechnology and its huge potential to aid in the fight against global warming. That’s how I felt earlier this year, before the team of biochar enthusiasts at the Sonoma Biochar Initiative had fleshed out the details of the conference.
Now that I see the program they have put together, I’m no longer merely pleased — I’m excited and can hardly wait for what promises to be a stellar, memorable event to begin. I say this as the veteran of many conferences, most of which were enjoyable and informative but were quickly forgotten in the hubbub of daily life and work that follows two or three days of busily and dizzily shuttling from one conference lecture to another.
This conference promises to be different, and much better. For one thing, the name 2012 U.S. Biochar Conference is somewhat misleading. This is not just a U.S. event, but features a truly international lineup of outstanding speakers. Experts and enthusiasts from countries as distant from the conference headquarters at Sonoma State University as India, South Korea, China and Europe, and as close as Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada will share their knowledge and experience. Many international NGOs and research organizations will be represented, and many of the European and U.S. speakers have participated in biochar programs around the globe.
Biochar Star Power
The level of expertise and star power at the conference is equally impressive. Richard Heinberg, the nationally-known author of several books on peak oil, community resilience and the post-carbon, post-growth economy, will deliver the keynote address. Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University, whose name is practically synonymous with the discovery and development of biochar and is the co-author of the principle textbook in the field, will also share his evolving thoughts and latest research.
But even beyond the “big names,” the speakers list is singularly impressive both for the outstanding qualifications of the presenters and the broad and deep practical experience they bring to the forum. Academicians and researchers, authors, farmers, administrators, legal experts, biochar manufacturers and financiers are all represented to give the widest possible perspective on this quickly growing field.
Many of the presentations are given in a panel format, so you will have an opportunity to hear the essence of several speakers “messages” during their short presentations. While this format has the disadvantage (or, depending on your perspective, the advantage) that each speaker will only have a few minutes for his or her presentation, there will be plenty of breakfasts, lunches and social hours during which you can catch up with your favorite speakers and exchange ideas.
Biochar Practicum and Fun
The conference is organized around practical themes including the underlying soil science of biochar, agricultural applications, manufacturing processes, legal and policy issues, entrepreneurial opportunities and real-time meetings between biochar entrepreneurs and venture capital sources.
To punctuate the practical, “get-biochar-in-the-ground” emphasis of the conference, four “farm-out” sessions — field trips to local farms where biochar is being used — are planned as an integral part of the conference proceedings (see the conference schedule).
But the field trips are not all work, work, work, as the conference kicks off with wine and cheese tours of Sonoma County — an area just north of San Francisco that I have visited many times and can assure you is both beautiful and charming.
For the past decade, biochar’s potential has surfaced with increasing frequency in the environmental community’s discussions of sustainable agriculture and climate solutions. This conference promises to be the moment when the biochar movement comes of age.
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The Biochar Solution, Albert Bates
Biochar for Environmental Management, Lehmann and Joseph
The Biochar Debate, James Bruges
The Biochar Revolution, Transforming Agriculture and the Environment, Paul Taylor
Related Links On Ecotecture:
Biochar: A Global Warming Solution from the Ancient Amazonian Earth
Ecotecture Participates in 2012 Biochar Conference
Global Warming Solution? The Framework for a Plan
Global Warming Solution? Energy Conservation and Carbon Biostorage
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