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Altered Carbon

Recent scientific research has opened the door for more innovative and, frankly, humble solutions to our CO2 crisis. Photo: Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images
Baratunde Thurston
April 7, 2024

In the closing days of March, I found myself at the 35th annual Bioneers conference in Berkeley, California. The weather was nearly perfect, such that you could almost forget, for a moment, the drastic transformation of our planet’s climate. Last year was the hottest on record in human history, extreme weather events are on the rise, and our CO2 emissions continue to climb. Just two years earlier, uncontrolled wildfires ripped across this part of California, burning thousands of acres and choking the sky with smoke.

This year’s Bioneers event brought together scientists and academics, of course, but ultimately it was a gathering of planet-loving humans, seeking to restore environmental balance through science, journalism, and activism. I heard from people like Colette Pichon Battle, a lawyer and climate justice organizer for Taproot Earth; Charlotte Michaluk, a 17-year-old scientist and engineer; and Oren Lyons, a Member Chief of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs and the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy. Each delivered powerful seminars addressing our climate and democracy crises, with a special focus on the ways in which human activity produces absurd and ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide—we’re all familiar with the hockey stick graph—far more than our natural systems are able to absorb. But these talks also underscored the fact that if we act now, in concert with these systems, we can both decarbonize our economy and begin to restore balance to the ecosystem.