It's called "harmonic resonance," a tuning-fork technology that separates the mélange of materials in a circuit board using only sound waves. This sonic machine is extraordinarily efficient, especially when compared to smelting—the main method for recovering metals from our discarded electronics. Traditionally, an arc plasma furnace is used to melt everything down, which requires a tremendous amount of power, often generated by burning coal.
Over the course of a weekend, they’d build the block of their dreams. “We painted our own bike lanes. We added our own cafe seating. We thinned the streets. We painted murals on the buildings. And we took the empty buildings and put in the businesses we wish we always had.” On the windows of the temporary shops, they posted all the laws they were breaking.
In an act of self-sabotage, they invited the city staff and the mayor out to see what they were doing. They expected to be arrested. But the opposite happened. When the city government could actually see what the world they were opposing looked like, they realized they’d much rather have it the other way.
But when I ask my college students for a show of hands of whose parents are farmers, I get blank stares. About a hundred years ago, half of Americans were farmers. Today that number is close to two percent. In the industrialized world, over just a generation or two, we’ve largely lost our day-to-day connection to the land. We’ve left the open prairies and star-filled nights behind, and now live by the rhythms of traffic, stock markets, nine-to-five schedules, and social media feeds.
The soil from his neighbor’s farm tells the familiar story of the flash flood. Five inches of April rain hit a bare field. Rather than being a blessing, the downpour carries off dirt in a wash of runny mud. When the storm clears, the farmer discovers half the land has taken off. It’s in the river now. Next week, it may be in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, let’s see what happens when the same flash flood hits Gabe’s regenerative farm. Water seeps through the millions of tiny underground canals excavated by the fungal civilization. It pools into countless microscopic reservoirs. It twists into the deep complex world below—an impressive natural aqueduct system—which is ready to catch it. Above ground, some puddles may form as the soil becomes saturated, but the field holds. In the morning, Gabe finds his fortune intact.
Every morning I awoke to an alarm clock of howler monkeys, followed by a crescendo of bird calls and buzzing insects—radio signals in secret languages. Jaguars, serpents, and butterflies added color and movement to this living mosaic. A vaulted tree canopy created a three-dimensional space teeming with the density and diversity of inhabitants that you might expect in the skyscrapers of New York or Hong Kong. Most remarkably, this natural metropolis had been there, in all of its complexity and abundance, for millions of years.
We harvest raw materials from nature. We make something. We use it. We throw it away. We go through this linear sequence over and over but we never close the loop. Everything from food to consumer products to appliances and electronics are simply piled up in giant landfills as if they're worthless. What we have is a value problem, not a waste problem.
“Both types of fiber generation require massive resources. Seven hundred gallons of water are used to make a single cotton T-shirt. The CO2 required to make polyester is enormous as well.” The second thing was that on the back end, consumers in the US throw away fourteen million tons of garment waste every year. “I saw the two bookends and the design challenge really became clear. Is there a way for us to take this waste and break it down and convert it into a high-quality fiber?”
Fast-forward to the eighteenth century in the West when nature and wilderness were wrapped in myth and legend and still widely seen as things to fear or conquer. Great beasts, vast deserts and oceans, tempestuous weather, and inconsistent harvests were our foes to vanquish and supersede. The European Enlightenment’s employment of reason, empirical observation, and the scientific method moved us away from fear and superstition and toward a rational delineation and assessment of nature. Two choices emerged: either sequester and protect nature (local and national parks), or exploit it for our needs (Industrial Revolution and capitalism). Here we see the seeds of both the modern environmental movement and the neoliberal push to let capitalism run free...
Methane from the digester entered the chamber where it fed a colony of hungry bacteria. At first, they started dividing like crazy. Their numbers surged as they colonized this new habitat. Then, with a few twists of the knobs, they were cut off from their food source. They went into survival mode, building up an energy reserve for later. This energy reserve was made from the exact compound of an extremely versatile biopolymer. It was the ideal building block for a wide range of plastics.