Lopa Brunjes on Biochar and Carbon Reduction


Lopa-brunjes (2)Lopa Brunjes started her TEDxBerkeley talk by asking the audience how many people had heard of BIOCHAR, which is essentially a porous charcoal, through a process called pyrolysis.

Biochar is known to slow climate change by sequestering, or trapping, carbon that would otherwise have seeped into the atmosphere. It apparently also improves the fertility of the soil and the quality of ground water, leading to more productive agriculture.

The problem today? Organic biomass naturally decomposes and when it does, carbon dioxide gets released into the atmosphere. By taking that organic biomass and thoroughly cooking it at extreme temperatures in an oven without oxygen (pyrolysis), it locks the carbon inside the cooked material (biochar).

She talked about how she came to learn about the climate change, which was while meditating with ants on a small island near Lombok. It was here where she came to the realization that climate change is an interconnectivity issue. Early on in ‘her search,’ she jumped around a lot to find something that had meaning for her. By the time she was 24, she had already had 30 jobs.

The quote that most moves her? Work is love made visible – Khalil Gibran.

She’s finding meaning now through her work with biochar and carbon reduction. “The bottom line,” she says, “we’re putting too much carbon into the atmosphere. To make a real difference, we have to put the carbon back. Lopa currently manages a comprehensive strategy at Biochar Engineering in Golden Colorado, that focus on removing market barriers to scaling biochar, via market development, attracting capital, and stakeholder engagement.

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Some sad facts: 1,000 years of work and growth and modern agriculture can destroy it in 30 years.

Lopa feels that biochar, which builds soil structure, has a key role to play in climate change and the green revolution.

Half of the carbon ends up in biochar and the other half of biochar offsets fossil fuels. If this was used on a global scale, biochar could convert 12% of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

At a somewhat peak moment of her talk, she simply walked off the stage without saying a word and then a seconds later, came back with a wheel barrel full of biochar.

She dumped it on the stage and says with conviction: “if we don’t put it back into the earth, it’ll end up in the air.”

Not a bad way to make an impact. Lopa believes that in order for us to really change course and make it a sustainable change, we all have to work together and that each one of us is a piece of the puzzle to the solution.