Chiang Mai: the good, the bad and the ugly

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Emerging biochar technology may be at the forefront of the fight against Chiang Mai and its infamous smoke and air pollution around the world. After another terrible scorch season where air quality was ranked among the worst in the world, Chiang Mai is often considered the most polluted city in the world.

As scientists around the world grapple with climate change, Chiang Mai is an example of how animal agriculture is a major and often overlooked part of the climate crisis. While coal and gas-fired automobiles tend to gain the most attention in the climate change debate, food production is a massive contributor to the problem.

Michael Schaefer, an American university professor who now heads the Warm Heart Foundation in Chiang Mai, explains that as people earn more money, they want to indulge in more expensive foods such as meat and produce. dairy. With the increased demand for these animal products comes an equally increased need for staple crops that feed these animals such as corn.

Maize growth has become a linchpin of agriculture in Chiang Mai as well as Myanmar and Laos. This farm feeds animals like chickens and pigs, the consumption of which is unlikely to decrease anytime soon. But burning the corn scraps to feed the livestock is what creates Chiang Mai’s huge smoke problem.

Corn is an inefficient crop with only 22% of the plant being edible, making it problematic how much waste to burn. The husk, ear and corn must be cleared before the next year’s crop can be sown. Other clearing methods like tractors or hand picking take too long and are ineffective when a fire can get the job done quickly.

The Warm Heart Foundation proposed to turn this waste from Chiang Mai into biochar, a much more environmentally friendly version of charcoal. Biochar can be used to make smokeless briquettes for our barbecues, as well as to decontaminate soil and fertilizer. By using the waste from burning to create by-products, farmers can essentially have a secondary source of income.

Creating biochar does not require expensive high-tech machinery, as smokeless incinerators can be built from old oil drums or livestock feed troughs. Returning this carbon-rich biochar to Chiang Mai’s soil will last for thousands of years and remove it from the atmosphere.

Animal agriculture and food systems contribute 25 to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Agriculture accounts for half of the usable land on the planet and 77% of that land is used for animal husbandry, even though the animals raised provide only about 18% of the calories consumed by the world’s population. Half of all agricultural crops are used to feed these animals raised for consumption. Animal agriculture also uses 15 times more land, 13 times more water and 11 times more fossil fuels to generate protein.

It’s not a perfect solution for the environment, but a step in the right direction as the world’s conversion to a plant-based diet isn’t likely any time soon. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that farmland the size of North America and Brazil combined could be returned to nature if everyone stopped eating meat.

Letting nature take its course is always the best way to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but without a vegan revolution it’s not likely. If Chiang Mai could start using this model of biochar production, it would remove hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and create more fertile fields with the potential to reduce farmland and return some land to nature. Check trashvideo"}” data-sheets-userformat=”{"2":513,"3":{"1":0},"12":0}”>trashvideo here

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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