For anybody who hasn’t been following all the Big Moves being mapped out by the Ontario Governments public transit planning arm called Metrolinx, the projected Air Rail Link (ARL) is a bold initiative to finally connect Toronto’s Union Station with Pearson International Airport via a dedicated express train…All in time for the 2015 Pan American Games.
The objective behind the Air Rail Link is to ensure reliable travel times between the downtown core and the countries largest airport, while taking millions of car trips off the GTA’s already congested roadways in the process. The big challenge is to lay groundwork for a rail system that will be ‘Futureproof”, while still assuring that it can be up and running inside of the incredibly tight timeline for a project of this size.
Beyond the obvious need for re-establishing political unity and effective cost-controls at a time of enormous bureaucratic upheave in Toronto’s transit landscape (Thanks again, Rob Ford) the next biggest requirements for this project are the logistical challenges of assuring not just an environmentally responsible solution, but also a beneficial one that will set standards for clean transit systems for many decades to come…So what stands in the way of this progress?
For most people, the only thing that farming and barbecuing might have in common is where the supply produced by one, meets the market demands of the other on the supermarket shelf. In a day and age where instant gratification trumps tradition, Farmers long ago turned their fields into sterile sponges that they must now constantly fertilize with man-made nitrogen and phosphates. Meanwhile back on the homestead, the fast-firing convenience of gas powered BBQ grills have largely displaced charcoal as the heat of choice for backyard barbecue. Yet charcoal might soon make an enormous comeback in ways that propane and petrochemical fertilizers could never touch, and which will have an enormous impact on farming practices that once relied on the natural biodiversity of soil to sustain healthy crops. This renaissance of ancient agricultural methods will not only enrich our largely depleted farm fields, but also serve to use currently wasted BioMass to sequester carbon and thus combat global warming….by turning it into BioChar.
The trick to this ecologically brilliant shortcut is to simply prepare charcoal at a higher temperature to produce BioChar in an environmentally beneficial process that will far surpass it’s popular role as the perfect heat for traditional barbecue. This old-fashioned soil enrichment method might not only break the petrochemical fertilizer addictions of industrial farming methods, but also serve to naturally capture and store carbon in a stable state that could benefit our environment for centuries to come. If you think that there are still lessons to be learned from the Past, here’s a peek at a Future that can be carbon fixed by BioChar…
As a world supplier of primary resources like lumber and oil, Canadians were once stereotyped a “hewers of wood” working in a pristine green wilderness of fresh water and never-ending forests. Nowadays, thanks to the Eco-PR efforts of organizations like Greenpeace, Canada has gained more notoriety for oilsands that are widely regarded as a filthy and enormously wasteful source of fossil-fuel energy. A source of fuel who’s extraction is made economically feasible only by high price of crude oil yet without factoring in the environmental impact and future cleanup costs down the line. So much for “Green” stereotypes.
Forestry and Agriculture, on the other hand, are still a clearly green and renewable resources that are poised to turn into major sources of power production via the alluring prospects of widespread BioMass generation methods. No longer will we simply see crops and trees as a source of food for cities, construction materials and wooden poles for transmitting power along roadways, but rather as sources of feedstock for secondary green industries that can use otherwise wasted bio-mass to actually generate power for those very same hydro lines.
The question is, what stands in the way of displacing coal and natural gas from our current power supply, and how will bio-mass be different than burning any other fuel for electricity?