A Systems Approach Towards Energy, Food and Environmental Security: the Biochar Story

The quality of life for present and future generations depends on the development and adoption of new research paradigms that integrate the physical, biological and social sciences. Such integrative research is required to provide the new insights and fundamental knowledge needed to address the wide range of issues associated with ecosystems and their relationship to human health and well-being. The recent rapid rise in oil prices, economic uncertainty, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and the evidence of increasing global temperatures are a stark reminder of the physical and biological limits on global society. These signs demonstrate an urgent need for the development of a new science as a basis for understanding the fundamental character of interactions between nature and society.
We present an example of the application of a "systems approach" towards addressing energy, food, and environmental (including biodiversity) security. We will demonstrate how we can take advantage of invasive alien species as biomass for the production of energy using the process referred to as pyrolysis (incomplete combustion) as well as for enhancing agricultural productivity by using the biochar by-product as a soil amendment. Such practice will also serve to sequester carbon over several hundreds of years as well as help to improve the quality of the groundwater system of the region. Such an integrated, systems approach towards addressing conservation issues at the local level can be applied at the global scale with far-reaching impact on issues such as climate change and other environmental problems within the global commons.

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