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The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716773
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Reads like a detective story but marked by impressive scholarship. New historical evidence that climate is remarkably responsive to human impacts had me gripping the edge of my seat. --The Permaculture Activist

Review BioScience Magazine, October 2011

For those who are not scientists directly involved with biochar, this is a book worth reading. It presents the science that got biochar rolling, the technologies already available, and how to use it to enhance food security and restore degraded agroecosystems. It is well designed for international agricultural aid staff, nongovernmental organization activists, and agricultural extensionists. Anyone interested in climate change mitigation and adaptation will gain something from this book, because Bates is careful to point out that mitigation and adaptation will only succeed if global society decides to change the ways it thinks about population and consumption.

BioScience, Vol. 61, No. 10 (October 2011), pp. 831-833
University of California Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences

May 2011 CHOICE
The basic premise of this book is that the carbon cycle must be balanced for a healthy planet. To prove this idea, Bates, an instructor and writer (
Climate in Crisis, 1990; The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, 2006), claims that when ancient Amazonian civilizations collapsed, rain forests engulfed the cities and roads. Archaeologists and historians are still puzzled about the reasons for the demise of these Amazonian empires. Bates asserts that starting around the ninth century, Europe began growing colder due to massive sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere by these new immense Amazonian forests. He examines several techniques for combating global warming, such as using biochar and less destructive tilling techniques, and restraining global corporations that manufacture synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seed stocks. The author also recommends massive tree planting and a change in cultural attitudes about how humans manage Earth's resources. One unique solution to global warming is to provide poor, rural third world people with biochar stoves that generate needed heat and produce biochar. Agricultural use of biochar would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slow down global warming.

Summing Up: Recommended. All undergraduate students and general readers interested in biochar.
-- K. Bennett, emeritus, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

From the Back Cover

Conventional agriculture destroys our soils, pollutes our water and is a major contributor to climate change. What if our agricultural practices could stabilize, or even reverse these trends?
The Biochar Solution explores the dual function of biochar as a carbon-negative energy
source and a potent soil-builder. Created by burning biomass in the absence of oxygen, this material has the unique ability to hold carbon back from the atmosphere while simultaneously enhancing soil fertility. Author Albert Bates traces the evolution of this extraordinary substance from the ancient black soils of the Amazon to its reappearance as a modern carbon sequestration strategy.

Combining practical techniques for the production and use of biochar with an overview of the development and future of carbon farming, The Biochar Solution describes how a new agricultural revolution can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to below zero while increasing world food reserves and creating energy  from biomass wastes.

Biochar and carbon farming can:
* Reduce fossil fuels inputs into our food system
* Bring new life to desert landscapes
* Save cooking and heating fuel with super-efficient stoves
* Help build carbon-negative homes, communities and nations.
Biochar is not without dangers if unregulated, and it is not a panacea, but if it fulfills its promise of taking us back from the brink of irreversible climate change, it may well be the most important discovery in human history.

Albert Bates was a civil sector representative at the Copenhagen climate conference, trying to point the world back towards a stable atmosphere using soils and trees. His books include Climate in Crisis and The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook. Working with the Global Ecovillage Network he has taught appropriate technology, natural building and permaculture to students from more than 60 nations.

More About the Author

Albert Bates is author of Pour Evian on Your Radishes, The Biochar Solution, The Financial Collapse Survival Guide and Cookbook and numerous books, films and new media on food, energy, environment and history. A former environmental rights lawyer, paramedic, brick mason, flour miller, and horse trainer, he received the Right Livelihood Award in 1980 as part of the steering committee of Plenty, working to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples, and board of directors of The Farm, a pioneering intentional community in Tennessee for the past 35 years. His book Climate in Crisis (January 1990, with a foreword by Al Gore), only missed stealing Bill McKibben's record of "the first book on climate change written for a general audience" by a few weeks. A co-founder and past president of the Global Ecovillage Network, he is presently GEN's representative to the UN climate talks. When not tinkering with pedal wringers for honey, hemp cheeses, or pyrolizing cookstoves, he teaches permaculture, ecovillage design and natural building and is a frequent guest on podcasts. He tweets at @peaksurfer and blogs at

Customer Reviews

I wish everyone read this book.
John Harding
If we all do biochar we can sequester carbon dioxide in the soil by the gigaton.
Lindianne Sarno
This is an informative book and very interesting overall.
Michael Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Uncle Ret on December 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book to listen to on my kindle. As of this writing I am at chapter 11 or around 25% into the book and I can honestly say, I learned more about biochar in reading the first paragraph under its header on Wikipedia than I have listening to the book thus far.

The author does a fine job of story telling, taking the reader through a long journey down the Amazon to build sympathy for his argument and then cements that sympathetic view by then rapidly hammering failed agricultural societies. As he does this he salts his conversation with unsupported gems like that the 'Little Ice Age' in medieval Europe was caused by sudden overgrowth by vegetation of Amazonian cities due to their depopulation caused by European diseases and conquest.

If your looking to learn something about biochar, read Wikipedia or try another book. This guy is preaching to the choir in this one. If your already a believer and are looking for warm fuzzies, this is your book.

I intend to finish the book, so perhaps I will be back later to revise this review with 'he's a slow starter but worth the read'.

Edit: At around the midway point, the author starts going into more detail. However, precious little of his discussion relates to biochar. Rather he has moved from the first quarter of the book where he seeks to build emotional support from the reader to the current arguments outlining soil management and environmental responsibility. His style makes this an easy read or listen in my case, however, there is nothing groundbreaking thus far. I think my original rating of 3 is fair.

Edit2: Finished. Though the book was an enjoyable read / listen I'm glad to be done with it.
Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rob Wheeler on May 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the most important books that I have ever read. I am a UN NGO Representative for the Global Ecovillage Network and others. I have participated actively in the UN Commission on Sustainable Development for the past 15 years and read hundreds of books and thousands of articles on such subjects. And it really is one of the most important books - I have already read it 2 times through and underlining important information throughout.

Humanity is facing multiple inter-related crises ranging from global warming, food shortages, water scarcity, soil depletion, desertification and on and on. This book provides an overview of an incredibly helpful approach and solutions for dealing with all of the above. It introduces us to an excellent means for sequestrating carbon in the soil, while regenerating soil nutrients, and developing an integrated approach for regreening the deserts, desalinizing water through green house evaporation, and providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for those that are greatly in need of them. Introducing the BioChar Solutions found in the book to those living in the Saharan region of Africa could turn the lives around for hundreds of millions of people, who otherwise are likely to face drought and starvation once again.

The author and my friend, Albert Bates, is a great storyteller. He has founded and runs the Ecovillage Training Center on The Farm in Tennessee, where he lives. Albert is truly a renaissance man and demonstrates in his personal life how the things he writes about can and are being introduced effectively into the world. Read the book -- if you care about the future of humanity and our planet and what can be done to protect them both, you won't regret it.

Rob Wheeler
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joan on January 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book reads like a novel, delving back into the history of humankind's influence on this planet's systems. It is rich in documentation and up-to-date research, without sacrificing readability. Add to that a great index and bibliography; it was money well-spent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brown on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is an informative book and very interesting overall. I do not give it five stars, due to the somewhat rambling and weakly connected sequence of the chapters (with the 'requisite' social commentary! Euh!). The book would have been more successful if the history prepared for the science. For me personally, while I love the accessibility of the text, it is strange that no real time is spent discussing how individuals can successfully create biochar in any meaningful fashion. I hope there will be larger scale mechanical biochar ovens for farms and elsewhere, but I am not going to be building one in my back yard. Insight into a 50 gallon low-tech version might have been helpful for the engaged reader. For the developing world and NGOs, the biochar stoves for cooking are interesting, however this is generally irrelevant to the average North American.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By michael egan on July 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I remember the author in the early 1980s. He spearheaded the Tennessee Farm's (called "the hippie farm" by the locals)anti nuclear power fight with an impressive book titled "Honicker vs. Hendrie" which helped a group of us in southern Illinois figure out how to organize in our area. This book has the same depth and breadth of research and is so loaded with stories, science, history, recipes and ideas I read it twice and think I might read it again-- I rarely read books twice. The main focus of the book is on the context of how we got to where we are now and what we need to do; the book is not heavy on how to make biochar but if you're interested in making it or if you are making it you will love this book. I put it up with Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring".
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