Water is a new realm for climate action and represents a relatively easy fix, following nature's model
As climate action finally begins in the United States in earnest, leaders face a maze of choices. The data keep coming in, and shifting, and sometimes changing. An example: methane is 25 times more impactful than carbon dioxide, per our EPA. Yet other credible and science-based entities state it’s 67 times more impactful, or 89 times. The fact that methane does not sustain in our atmosphere the same length of time as carbon dioxide does complicate quantifying its impact. We long for the day we can rely on data based on factual, empirical, nonpolitical science.
Manatees in Florida feed on coastal seagrass, a species at risk from phosphorus surge
On one occasion, ironically, in Clear Water, Florida, I experienced their passive and gentle presence. Unequivocally, the nuances around their life model require hard science. But it seems like, today at least, human political divisions are being superseded by the manatee. We are putting political division aside, in order to save a remarkable species.
Floating Island International (FII) is reaching out to the international floating photovoltaic (FPV) community. The U.S. is poised to “Make America great... again” around the emerging alternative energy market.
With some two-trillion dollars earmarked for climate action by the Biden administration just in the U.S., FII is poised to fill in the critical environmental gaps associated with conventional FPV projects.
The US has two-trillion dollars earmarked for climate action, and it's time to break out around FPV, fix impaired water, and reduce GHG too.
The environmental impact of FPV projects is squarely in the realm of BioHaven Floating Islands. A space where the US could break out around FPV is with the cleaning of impaired waterways, a no-brainer integration between what we do and what floating solar market needs. Freshwater, currently the source of some 20% of total greenhouse gas, can be stewarded back to health, fish productivity, and high impact climate changing gas reduction.
Nature-as-model, biomimicry, is the gentle arm-twister that pulls us towards actual sustainability! Here at the Shepherd, Montana research center, where BioHaven Floating Islands were born, we marvel at the result when we partner with Nature.
We partner with autotrophic life forms, like hyper-accumulator plants that cycle exponentially more nutrients (and other contaminants) out of water than regular plants do. We design BioHavens to give these superstars of the plant kingdom the best possible growth conditions, to help us fix water!
Today we face a pandemic virus. And we don’t know where the end zone is. As a race, we will do our best to survive and thrive, but the reality is that we don’t know how to contend with every natural threat. We do know, however, that another massive threat is looming. Our fresh water has been hit with a triple punch…massive nutrient surges, inaction by uninformed water stewards, and climate change. The result is a form of desertification.
Floating Island International (FII) provides hope to the market. The company was founded in 2005, and currently has over 9,000 BioHaven islands, our signature product line, launched and fixing nutrient impaired water around the globe. The islands are all about cleaning water. They employ a concentrated wetland effect, and in the process cycle nutrients that otherwise grow cyanobacteria and dangerous Harmful Algae Blooms into healthy water and fish.
Seeing our way clear of the hubris and toxic noise from spent people, folks who simply don’t have a sense of propriety, of reasonable behavior, who don’t know where or how to spend their energy, that is the challenge of life in the United States in 2021 if we want a better future.
Clear vision through the fog of obfuscation, of fallacy, of misdirected anger, is rare. But it is happening. There is a movement that does not bow to misdirection. It simply advances. The movement is called Biomimicry.
Biomimicry is the model for a better future.
Is it true… can we grow new real estate and take a bite out of greenhouse gas emissions in the process?
Who would challenge the obvious truth, the basic statement that “they aren’t making more real estate”? It’s clear in the general public’s mind that real estate is finite. Right? But is it? Since 2005, Floating Island International has “launched” 10,000 pieces of real estate around the planet - some large, some small, all of them representing new “land” that wasn’t there before. And these new islands actually grow over time, and as they grow, they fight climate change.
Today as the entire planet battles a viral pandemic—a battle we are increasingly uncertain about winning based on the rush of COVID evolutions—it’s fitting that we consider water and the evolutionary forces it faces. Clean water is at the heart of the mission of Floating Island International.
The Clean Water Act(s), in place since the early ’70s, October 1972 to be exact, gave us clear direction, and blatant contaminant pollution became forbidden.
At the time it was passed, a time of rivers that actually caught on fire, we were a nation ready to act. Montana’s own Senator Max Baucus led from the Democratic aisle, and bipartisan movement took place. But the Act didn’t address nutrient pollution. That would have meant telling farmers that fertilizer needed to be regulated. America, the world’s breadbasket, wasn’t ready for that.
Now, nearly a half century later, nutrient pollution regularly results in Harmful Algae Blooms of incredible volume. These blooms occur in headwater states, like Montana, and stretch down to the Gulf of Mexico They occur in every sector of the country, and the Lake Erie’s and Chesapeake Bays of our country are the recipients, and the victims. And as they die, so will we.
Biomimicry works for profit too!
Nature as Model is biomimicry. Nature as business model is something different again, but fundamental in several critical respects.
We humans are short sighted. Over the last hundred years, immediate gratification has been the rule. We look for short-term ROI. In fact, having completed a Crowd Funded equity raise, and tracked the occasional queries from a few hundred investors, I can’t help chuckling as I recount the several queries from one such investor. “When can I sell my shares? When can I make a profit?” Note, this individual had invested all of one hundred dollars.
Nature is the ultimate inventor. She has more prototypes under her belt than any other inventor, and we call it “evolution.” And evolution, which includes prototype development and testing, takes time. Not necessarily human scale time either.
Q Cells' focus on quality control is demonstrated by their years of quality assurance research supporting development of heat and moisture resistant PV panel design. According to this article, their efforts have resulted in a state-of-the-art project that will generate some 41 MegaWatts of clean solar power for the region.
Stretching out on a chaise lounge, listening to the gentle lap of waves as the sun sets in the west. Idle dreams after a day spent on clear, delicious water. Oh yes, and a fish fry for dinner.
Or—cleaning off the green gunk that chokes the prop of a motorboat while swatting at mosquitoes and rushing to escape into a screened off porch! Holding one’s breath so as not to inhale biogas so concentrated that ignition seems possible. Not the relatively neutral carbon dioxide associated with a swamp, but actual methane!
A friend recently sent me an article by Drew Costly that describes a movement to transition Rikers Island, a prison and psychiatric center on a 400-acre island on NYC’s East River, into a green infrastructure demonstration site, a place where individuals from local communities of color can experience alternative environmental action. Such opportunities are rare, and to be prized. A trio of city council members, Costa Constantinides, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, introduced legislation that became the “Renewable Rikers Act.” The City Council has committed to the plan, and the current prison that is Rikers Island is scheduled to come offline by 2026.
It’s one of the few places in NYC with enough space to allow for green infrastructure innovation to merge with environmental justice, and the vision is for this island to become a green oasis of sorts to generate solar energy and clean up water, while providing an educational opportunity for locals.
Look at recent developments and the future becomes clear
Having been afforded the opportunity to make a difference relative to water management, (after all, I have my own research laboratory in Fish Fry Lake) recent developments are exciting. Here’s what I’m talking about:
One river, the Susquehanna, provides 40% of the nutrients that are impairing Chesapeake Bay. As the river comes out of New York state and moves through urban centers like Harrisburg and ultimately, Baltimore, industry and agriculture have had their way with it. The water is both impaired and dangerous. According to NOAA, 52% of Americans live within coastal counties. Take Alaska out of the equation and the relative coastal human concentrations become even more apparent.
Agriculture's contribution to nutrient impairment of water is somewhere between 80 to 85%. Farmers, mostly white, have been sold a bill of goods. Most believe that synthetic fertilizer is fundamental to their livelihood. The chemical giants have sold them on this “impaired” wisdom. So, rivers like the Susquehanna, continue to send their “load” down watershed.
Catch a four-pound Smallmouth Bass from an eddy of the river downstream from Harrisburg and check it out for deformities. Is it safe to eat?
With the ongoing transition from obtuse and flat-out harmful environmental stewardship associated with Donald Trump, FII has quantified some of the impact of eutrophic, nutrient enriched agricultural water relative to greenhouse gas emissions. In a nutshell, by teaming with BioHaven’s nutrient reduction capacity, the Floating Photovoltaic (FPV) game can see bigger wins with carbon credit reduction revenue. By transitioning nutrient rich water, already at pandemic levels in the developed world (in particular here in the U.S.) FPV launches will qualify for carbon credit revenue.
There are other “applications” for BioHaven’s tried and true capabilities. These include key habitat expansion for critical biota, like pollinators and the growth of native sport fish. Safeguards the world's natural capital, and promises biodiversity! But FPV has not, to this point, been a water quality pitch.
Our company has thousands of island launches under its belt, compared to just hundreds by the entire FPV industry. FII is the American embodiment of constructed wetland, but much more resilient, more versatile, and has a minimal footprint, particularly in the form of real estate, required to pull off a BioHaven water quality solution.
Natural Midge and Mosquito Management
Beyond simple regenerative farming, stewardship is fundamental. It must include water. When it doesn’t, nature steps in and provides niche biota that fill every biotic opportunity with some form of life.
The same parallel in the Midwest averages four times this number. So, the water is managed tightly for production, but then it can quickly become a liability. If it sits around in puddles for more than five days, it and the associated nutrients, the orthophosphate and nitrogen associated with it, cycles into mosquitoes and midges. Think West Nile and Blue Tongue disease.
COVID and Basic Health
As our nation transitions through COVID we’ve learned several lessons. People of color are more vulnerable to this particular virus. A higher proportion of this fraction of our population dies when exposed. But think back on the original news blasts about COVID: The luxury cruise liner, the Diamond Princess, where essentially 700 out of 3,711 became infected, and fourteen died over the space of several weeks. None of us knows for sure whether we will survive and sustain through this virus, if and when we are exposed. But we have learned several critical lessons over the last ten months.
I applaud movement by NREL to track the disposition of some 800 million metric tons (currently) of solar panels as they near end-of-life. NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) is leading research around floating photovoltaic (FPV) development in North America. Part of this is taking a realistic look at the longevity of FPV. The panels include valuable forms of silica and other precious materials that represent recycling opportunities associated with their 30-year design life.
Recent movement towards floating photovoltaic installations makes development of effective solar recycling policy particularly critical. Also, assuring the longevity of FPV. We can’t have potentially toxic materials contaminating precious waterways, particularly hydroelectric reservoirs that are frequently used as drinking water sources.
Floating Island International (FII) currently targets a sixty-year design life of its floating treatment wetland modules, BioHavens, some 9,000 of which have been launched since 2005. Our movement towards an extended usable life of our proprietary floating islands primarily used to increase natural wetland effect associated with improved water quality, may facilitate useful life extension for solar panels as well. Longevity of FPV could be extended by including our BioHaven technology in the design plan.
Mother Nature's prototypes
Human-scale thinking relative to durability and resilience does not necessarily track with environmental reality. The most invariably resilient lifeforms are some of Mother Nature's many prototypes.
Humans and our science are caught up in intellectual inertia. Here’s a quick, but fundamental example: Today many wetland experts are operating within a belief system that is focused on a mistake. They believe that nature’s food web is initiated by plant life, specifically, by phytoplankton. In fact, in freshwater, this presumption is almost always wrong.
My company has spent the better part of a million dollars experimenting with magic pills. These take several forms in connection with water. But they are truly just experiments. They aren’t magic at all. They are like shooting at clay pigeons… in the dark.
There is a real, and simple, explanation for this. It explains why results are never exactly replicable in natural systems. Put very plainly, there are too many variables in natural systems. From our human perspective this is a problem. From nature’s perspective, this is biocomplexity. It’s a wonder!
How many species of microbes are present in a waterway? More than you could count in an hour. In fact, more than you could count in a day. The biocomplexity of waterways is vast. When a salesman represents that their “magic pill” will accomplish your goal, know that the goal may indeed be accomplished, but that the accurate explanation for the “fix” is probably quite different than the salesperson's explanation.
Nature is wonderful, and nature does not abide with the human vision of a “fix”. You don’t just add your magic elixir to a waterway, and say “Abracadabra”, and collect your fee, and walk away. Not from nature.
Nature does not abide with human comfort goals. Nature doesn’t really care about humans. It just is.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.