Welcome! The Voyage Starts…

Welcome! The Voyage Starts…

A documentary video website of how people can bring some big ideas down to action in their personal lives. The first “Big Idea” is Terra Preta.  This is not as exotic as it looks and in fact it links practical and available solutions to 3 global problems: Climate change and global warming Hunger and starvation One of the 4 main causes of death for children under 5 years old — and often their mothers — through poisons from indoor-cooking smoke….

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The Story of Terra Preta

The Story of Terra Preta

Before we start on our adventure, let’s watch one, a movie made by the BBC about El Dorado,  the Lost City of Gold in the Amazon.  Sit back and watch the show in full-screen by clicking the small box on the extreme right side at the bottom of the player. To give some perspective on the scale and location of terra preta sites, here is a link to a map of sites.

Terra Preta Today

Terra Preta Today

As of now, terra preta has come out of the closet of history and scientists and has been recognized as a mitigant for climate change and for enhancing agricuture.  A growing list of links and resources is on this website. Significant current research on Terra Preta is conducted at Cornell University by a team headed by Dr. Johannes Lehmann. An example of biochar on the farm:  

It Wasn’t All Preta…

It Wasn’t All Preta…

At a recent workshop on biochar at the Pony Farm in Temple, NH, one of the presenters, Hugh McLaughlin, gave some history and ideas about the actual formation of the Black Earth.  First, most of it was not black.  There was Terra Mulata, a brown earth. Hugh refers to the book, 1491 – New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. It is worth the read!

Burning Smoke: Gasification

Burning Smoke: Gasification

Gasification may be an unfamiliar term for many of us but it is central to understanding the efforts to produce smokeless and safe stoves for cooking with biomass fuels as well as making biochar.   This gasifier was built by Dirk-Jan Rosse to evaluate the grass pellets he produces and to assess how much slag and ash they produce.  It was kludged together with some scrap parts he had lying around his shop and is certainly not a production model. As…

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The Biochar Workshop at Pony Farm

The Biochar Workshop at Pony Farm

This is an introduction to the Biochar Roundtable at the Lodge at Pony Farm in Temple, New Hampshire, on May 9, 2009. Before we move on. let’s watch Hugh McLaughlin demonstrate some TLUD stoves he makes with scrap tin cans… If you want a more graphic illustration of how the TLUD does not burn the fuel but rather the gases that have been driven off the fuel, here is a video I made showing lots of smoke being burned off.The…

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Hugh McLaughlin’s Stoves

Hugh McLaughlin’s Stoves

The next demonstration produced charcoal with a retort made from a recycled Cornelius keg.  I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that most people looking at this site would not be familiar with the Cornelius keg unless, of course you are part of the home brew beer fraternity. In the following video, Hugh explains what it is and how to convert one as an excellent and affordable retort. Now let’s see it in action! There will be more video about the…

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The Stovers

The Stovers

“More than half of the world’s population—three billion people—cook their food and heat their homes by burning coal and biomass, including wood, dung, and crop residues, in open fires or rudimentary stoves. Indoor burning of solid fuels releases dangerous particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other toxic pollutants, and releases greenhouse gases into the air. The resulting indoor air pollution levels are 20 to 100 times greater than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines allow. Unfortunately, the health risks…

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Charcoal Kilns in New York State

Charcoal Kilns in New York State

All through the Tri-State area, where New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut border each other, the forests were stripped of trees for charcoal needed to production of iron.  This area was the home of many of the military ironworks for the Revolution, the Civil War, etc.  Quite a few iron furnaces have been reconstructed, but of the charcoal kilns these are the only ones I know of, reconstructed and left in nature in the hopes that they will be respected.  In…

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Low-Hanging Fruit

Low-Hanging Fruit

Low-Hanging Fruit: easy steps, things we can do that will produce some results easily and quickly. For example, spreading an inch or two of biochar on all the arable land on Earth in order to reverse and reduce global warming is not low-hanging fruit.  We might have to do it  to save ourselves one day, but it is not easy and quick! But producing efficient, smokeless stoves to remove soot from the air is. Painting roofs white to reflect solar…

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Farm Scale

Farm Scale

Making Biochar for Farmers If we are going to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to to stop the greenhouse gas effect, we must do more than conserve energy and use sustainable fuel sources.  We have to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Nature already does this.  It pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and stores carbon in plant matter.  But when we burn it or let it compost or rot,…

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The New Coal? Grass Pellets

The New Coal? Grass Pellets

Heat with grass not gas! Let’s visit a plant nursery in Pawling, New York, that has been using grass — made into pellets — to heat their large greenhouses. The pellets are burned in an unmodified rice-coal stove.  For the sake of a video demo we  fired up the stove for the first time since it was used last winter. Dr. Tom Reed and Dirk-Jan Rosse chat about making grass pellets for  heating.  Could this really be the new coal?…

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Harvesting Golden Rod

Harvesting Golden Rod

The golden rod is harvested with the same equipment as hay — a cutter, a rake, and then a baler.  For those who are unfamiliar with this equipment, here is a bit of Farming 101. First, the plants must be cut. Click to Play Video The cut golden rod still has some flowers and leaves which are not needed for pellets. The plants are allowed to stay in the field for a couple of weeks so most of everything other…

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About

About

Stan started his professional career as a documentary film maker at WGBH-TV in Boston in 1962.  Among his credits was being floor manager on Julia Child’s first shows of The French Chef.  He covered the civil rights movement in the South for National Educational Television in 1963 and made film portraits of James Baldwin, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Stan joined the Maysles Brothers as Associate and was involved in the films such as The Beatles in…

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