Letter to Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard,

A farmer from Kentucky, Wendell Berry, wrote in Standing by Words (1983) about a system of nested systems – the individual human within the family within the community, et cetera. Berry: ‘If at any point the hierarchy is reversed, and the smaller (person) begins to control the larger (community), then the destruction of the entire system of systems begins’.  Well, there are signals that we have just passed the turningpoint where citizens develop their own acts of resistance on a large scale as a countervailing power to impotent politics.

Will business and citizens succeed where politicians and civil servants fail on such a large scale? There is hope. Business men and women address to the animal spirits where John Maynard Keynes was writing about. Most individuals usually act by intuition, the best source for knowledge of any kind, according to the Dutch philosopher Spinoza. Anyway, the most important difference will be that business people ánd common people love that small word S-I-M-P-L-E.

So please listen. Yes, there is a simple alternative to carbon capture and sequestration as well as the trade in emission rights, both rather complex strategies for putting to a halt climate change. The alternative is called O-L-I-V-I-N-E, a common mineral in the Earth’s subsurface that weathers quickly on the surface. It’s a natural, simple and cheap way to sequester CO2 by mineral reactions. Removal by reactions with olivine is an attractive option, because it is widely available and reacts easily with the (acid) CO2 from the atmosphere. When olivine is crushed, it weathers completely within a few years, depending on the grain size. All the CO2 that is produced by burning 1 liter of oil can be sequestered by less than 1 liter of olivine. A former professor from Utrecht, allready in the autumn of his years, named Olaf Schuiling  picked up the idea. He met a bold hippy from the North of Holland, Eddy Wijnker, a veteran from the music bizz and an excellent salesman as well. Eddy started a few new companies – the Olivine Group, greenSand – and linked Schuilings vision to real products that can be sold: potting soil, garden soil, roofing and street tiles… Pure greenSand also is used in other structures than buildings, like streets, beaches and dikes. Just crush it and spread it and it starts to suck the CO2 that’s been blamed for bringing about climate change. Individuals like Olaf Schuiling and Eddy Wijnker will contribute more to the solution of all kinds of global problems than the fly-and-talking machines from Parliament. Just because they look around and do what they can.  There’s a big shadow in their way of promissing and doing.  Like T.S.Eliot once wrote: ‘Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow’.

by Frank van Empel

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