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Articles by Bill Hewitt

I have been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. I blog on climate change for the Foreign Policy Association. (http://climatechange.foreignpolicyblogs.com/) I was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain as a Sierra Club leader in New York City. I spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation and also worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. I am a writer and editor, the principal of Hewitt Communications, and teach a class on climate change in the Global Affairs MS program at NYU.

Featured Article

Can biochar save us from climate change? We need more research to know for sure. (Photo by Visionshare.)

Special Series: What’s the deal with offsets?Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristImagine a system that can:

(potentially) store billions of tons of carbon in soil for centuries; dramatically reduce agricultural waste, forest debris and some municipal solid waste, thus eliminating the production of greenhouse gases that result from their decomposition; generate energy to both power itself and a surplus for use in surface transportation or electricity generation; and greatly increases the productivity of agricultural soil, thus reducing the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.

This is the promise of biochar — the carbon-rich remains of “burning” organic matter via an oxygen-free process. According to the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), biochar “has four value streams: waste reduction, energy production, soil fertilization, and carbon sequestration.” This has implications for both developing and developed economies — and, most importantly, the interrelated problems of global warming and food security.

Based on the work of researchers in the Amazon who discovered the startling properties of terra preta,... Read more