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

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.

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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:

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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!

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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 I wanted to make a video that would illustrate how gasification actually burns “smoke” in order to produce heat, we ignited the fuel through a port at the bottom of the stove to generate
lots of smoke and then lots of heat.  If we had lit the fuel from the top, it would have been smokeless. 

This same stove works in two different ways: as a TLUD and as a BLUD.

Pronounced “T-LUD”.  The fuel is ignited from the top and is essentially smokeless.

BLUD: Bottom Lit Up Draft.  Pronounced “B-LUD”. The fuel is ignited from the bottom and up until a certain point generates a lot of smoke.

The TLUD has the advantage of producting biochar while used as a cooking stove.

Here is a diagram to help with some of the terminology of the TLUD.

A diagram by Paul Anderson of the TLUD gasifier stove.


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