Monday, May 26, 2014

Carbon Realism and the Groasis Waterboxx

A great deal of ink has been spilled discussing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  Some scientists and politicians state that this increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases poses a short term threat to climate, but this doesn't seem to be born out by recent evidence (a pause in warming over the past 15 years).  However, it is clear that as we burn much of the carbon sequestered over the past several hundred million years in coal, oil, and natural gas that carbon in the atmosphere will increase greatly.  Carbon concentrations could perhaps double or triple from below 300 parts per million (ppm) at the beginning of the industrial revolution.   We have have already increased from around 300 ppm in the middle part of the last century to 400 ppm now.

Carbon Dioxide Concentration in that atmosphere over the past 50 years. Note the saw toothed shaped (variation up to 5 ppm) annually, caused by sequestration in vegetation like trees - From NASA

Even if unsure about man-made global warming, we do not increasing carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification.  So, assuming that increasing atmospheric carbon is a problem, we should consider solutions.   Most solutions that have been put forward are clearly worse than the current disease.  Politicians give us false choices that are, perhaps not incidentally, destined to concentrate much more power and wealth in national capitals with, surprise, politicians!  On the disincentive side, we are given the choice between huge new taxes on carbon or a similar cap and trade tax scheme.  These policies have proven so restrictive in Europe that they have largely reversed course due to the clearly more pressing economic problems and Australia just repealed its carbon tax.

 When trying to be positive when speaking about climate change, politicians speak about "green" energy production.  Solar and wind power are the two most broadly deployed "green" power production technologies.  Wind power has been around for several hundred years, has severe limitations imposed by the laws of physics (at most turbines can only capture 59.3% of the energy of the wind, a property know as Betz' Law), and has profound detrimental effects on the environment itself.  These environmental effects include deaths of huge numbers of migratory birds (including many different eagle species) to noise pollution to ruination of the natural beauty of land and sky.  Solar is far more promising, and has not yet reached anywhere near maximal theoretical efficiency with photovoltaic cells.  However, both of these options remain far too expensive to be used on a large scale, especially in developing countries where the cheapest option for electricity generation is almost always coal (which produces the most carbon emissions).

An option that politicians don't mention, likely because they wouldn't see their influence increase were it implemented, is something termed the "Treesolution" by the inventor of the Groasis Waterboxx, Pieter Hoff.  The Treesolution is this - use the ingenious power of the Groasis Waterboxx to plant trees on nearly worthless land that currently lies fallow.  These trees can be chosen to be suitable to the environment chosen and commercially valuable.  This will upgrade near worthless land, but will also sequester huge amounts of carbon.  One average mature tree can sequester one metric ton (2200 lbs) of carbon dioxide.  This means that 25 trees planted each year could fully counterbalance the carbon emissions of the average American.  This number of 25 trees per person per year seems large, and would be were it to cost money.  But trees are profitable, they produce fruits, nuts, and of course timber (for construction or heat) when planted on a large scale.  When planted on a small scale (on a housing lot), they increase property value significantly and decrease heating and cooling costs.  Planting trees to mitigate carbon pollution is the only win-win option in the whole climate change debate.  

How does the Groasis Waterboxx figure in to this?  The Waterboxx was designed to plant trees in areas where there is sufficient rainfall, but where this precipitation happens in too short a span (usually one week of monsoon like rain, common in most of the American Southwest).  The Waterboxx encourages trees to grow deep tap roots down to underground water.  It provides a steady supply of water to a growing tree during the tree's critical period, preventing death from drought.  It prevents evaporation of soil moisture from evaporation.  It allows the natural capillary channels and mycorrhizae of the soil to remain intact, speeding growth and increasing water absorption.  The Groasis Waterboxx also collects dew and rainwater, freeing the tree planter from having to tend to the tree until it has outgrown the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx was so impressive that it was named Popular Science's 2010 Innovation of the Year.  After reading about the Waterboxx, we were so impressed we decided to start a company to promote the Waterboxx in the United States.  Dew Harvest is that company.  At Dew Harvest we believe that man made problems like increased atmospheric carbon can have man made answers - in this case the "Treesolution" in Mr. Hoff's inimitable word.  We can repair the damage we have done to the Earth both from pollution and deforestation, and the Groasis Waterboxx can be part of that solution.

Rather than fretting over increasing carbon and possible global warming, rather than waiting for politicians to act, be part of the solution.  Start planting trees on a large scale with the Groasis Waterboxx, either on your land or with a local city beautification (tree planting) group.   We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments". 


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