Saturday, November 17, 2007

Being "Carbon Negative"

In most discussions I have with folks who really want to engage on the environment, the topic of how we're modifying our lifestyles, routines, and habits to be carbon-neutral is brought up.

I've decided that despite being college educated, to fully grapple with this topic I need to continuously educate myself. Reading. Dialing in on specific channels, news reports and programs. Watching specific documentaries related to the subject matter. Focusing in on resources and bastions of information online. Being part of online environmental watchdog groups. Online discussion groups. Finding the time and any means necessary to get smarter about this critical subject.

In a recent conversation related to the carbon-neutral issue, I decided to take the concept a step further---how does one become "CARBON NEGATIVE?"

This essentially means that one not only ends the carbon emissions they put into the atmosphere, but they figure out how to put "good air" (in the form of oxygen I guess) into the atmosphere, or make meaningful decisions that put into motion the wheels of environmentalism to reverse a negative carbon effect.

For example, a close friend of mine, who works for the EPA, is in a unique position of being able to "declare" himself as carbon negative due to the nature of his background and the work he is doing; such as helping communities around the world to build wastewater treatment plants, or serving as a consulting environmental engineer to advise communities on renewable energy choices that are independent of oil.
He does not own a car, and walks to work. He's a guy who talks the talk AND walks the walk. That's great for him, and for us, and he makes the world a better place because of it... but even though he's making a great impact, that's the actions of only 1 person.

We need to find the tools for the everyday person, address larger matters domestically in America, and break down the cause and effect of our everyday lives to successfully find the pathway to being CARBON NEGATIVE.

I'll start by identifying what I DO know, and make a quick list of the areas in our lives that are oil dependent.
  1. transportation; such as auto, rail, watercraft, mass transit, air travel, space travel, and what related technological advancements bring to bear
  2. energy; powering the grid, heating, cooling, etc.
  3. infrastructure; such as streets, underground PVC pipe, etc.
  4. construction
  5. everyday tools and utensils; such as plastics, your toothbrush, etc.
  6. industry and manufacturing
  7. machinery
  8. agriculture
  9. novelty and luxury items; such as vinyl records, picture frames and other collectibles.
  10. Other? There must be more. Any suggestions?
Then here's a list of what I don't know, or may not be completely clear about, in terms of the subject matter that's been brought up as I've been writing:
  1. Identifying tangible ways and means, or critical pathways, to arrive at an action or event that produces a CARBON NEGATIVE result.
  2. What exactly is CARBON NEGATIVE? Oxygen being released from a tree that you planted? Is it only oxygen, or are there other elements involved (that are the antithesis of carbon)? Not having a strong chemistry background, this is probably my weakest area.
  3. Is it theoretically possible for a community, or the American public for that matter, to become CARBON NEGATIVE?
That last question is probably the overlying question who's answer we won't be able to get to until we've done further research and engaged in a very protracted discussion---and arrived at some determinations... and we may never be able to answer that question.

I don't really have a plan for the CARBON NEGATIVE discussion, it's really evolving even as I write it---at least initially. Maybe as things unfold we can break it down into more specific sub-topics, focus on individual issues, and identify correlations and relationships amongst certain sub-topics... then maybe we'll be able to come up with some solutions and, I'm hoping, a blueprint to follow in being as effective as possible (and hopefully CARBON NEGATIVE) in our everyday lives.

Feel free to post any comments and help out, as you're all part of this discussion too! S

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