Carbon dioxide removal: the other solution to the climate crisis

cleaning up carbon dioxide

While the world struggles to end greenhouse gas pollution, a handful of innovators are developing ways to clean it up. Their efforts could reverse climate change.

The atmosphere is a true marvel of physics and engineering. Oxygen and ozone prevent dangerous, high frequency gamma, x-ray and ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth’s surface. Nitrogen and oxygen meanwhile block harmful, fast-moving cosmic rays from deep space. However, the atmosphere allows the visible, life-giving frequencies of sunlight to pass through a kind of window. The sunlight is absorbed by the earth’s surface and beamed outward as infrared radiation, or heat.

Atmospheric transparency to electromagnetic radiation
Atmospheric transparency to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Click to enlarge. Image source: NASA

While providing a protective shield, the atmosphere also maintains temperatures ideal for life. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane absorb and disperse the heat radiating from the earth’s surface. This produces the so-called “greenhouse effect”. Without these naturally occurring heat trapping gases, average global temperatures would be about 30 °C colder.

Increasingly, the greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by human activity are amplifying the heat-trapping properties of the atmosphere, with the now-familiar apocalyptic symptoms: frequent extreme storms, widespread severe drought, wildfire of unprecedented scale, rapidly melting glaciation, and rising sea levels.

The cause and effect of greenhouse gas pollution has become so obvious that the climate crisis can now be summarized in stark terms: Greenhouse gas pollution is dangerously warming the atmosphere. The appropriate response now seems equally obvious: Stop greenhouse gas pollution. Clean it up.

silver bullet

Ways and means

Until recently, the international response to climate change has focused on stopping GHG pollution. Those efforts continue to move along three basic pathways: replacing machinery that burns fossil fuels with devices that run on electricity or zero carbon energy such as wind, solar and geothermal; discontinuing the use of certain industrial chemicals containing fluorine; and reforming land use practices. This has proven to be a complex international undertaking. System change and countless individual actions are required within these spheres of economic activity. Getting all the players in the affected sectors to cooperate in the context of a competitive, bottom-line-oriented world economy is time-consuming. We are likely decades away from a carbon-neutral world if stopping pollution remains the primary goal.

So zero carbon strategies are broadening to include the cleanup of an estimated 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Compared to eliminating a multitude of GHG sources worldwide, cleanup scenarios are, practically speaking, simple and straightforward: remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, permanently and safely store it, and use some of the CO2 or its derivatives as a valuable industrial material. The politics are simpler too. Removing pollution does not require international cooperation. It has zero disruptive effect on the economic status quo. It’s a wide-open field with no industrial incumbents needing to be replaced or shut down. A handful of technologies deployed globally by well-funded public or private organizations could do the job.

Carbon dioxide pollution accounts for about 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the only greenhouse gas for which there are proven methods of removal. These methods are categorized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “negative emissions”, or carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Distinct from removing CO2 from the flue gas of an industrial plant, CDR removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by direct air capture (DAC) technologies and by the enhancement of natural carbon sinks such as soils and surface geology. The captured CO2 can be stored in geological formations, sold to fizzy drink makers, or broken down into oxygen gas and solid carbon, a valuable industrial material.

Carbon dioxide removal is a pragmatic and perhaps overdue shift in climate change thinking and strategy. In an article published in Issues in Science and Technology, Dr. Klaus Lackner and Christophe Jospe re-frame climate change as a waste management problem. “Carbon dioxide emissions represent the metabolic by-product of industrial activities on which billions of people depend to survive and thrive. Now we must learn to safely dispose of this by-product,” they write. While Lackner and Jospe stop short of calling CDR a panacea, they do identify its key role in eliminating greenhouse gas pollution.

Arizona State University’s Klaus Lackner discusses removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Direct air capture will not be a silver bullet that all by itself stops climate change, but it has many assets that can directly address some of the key obstacles to technical, political, and economic progress on climate change,” they write. The scalability and relative simplicity of DAC could ensure that “whatever goes into the atmosphere also comes out, no matter how difficult it is to reduce emissions from particular technologies or sectors, such as transportation. Direct air capture with carbon storage can also, if necessary, lower the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere much faster than natural processes would.”

Klaus Lackner
Klaus Lackner

Klaus Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University and a pioneer in developing DAC since the mid 1990s. His co-author, Christophe Jospe, is Chief Development Officer at Nori, a Seattle-based company that focuses on carbon storage and usage. Nori treats CO2 as a raw material and connects COsuppliers with CO2 buyers. Storing carbon dioxide will entail significant cost, so treating it as a raw material is crucial. In other words, valuable products, derived from captured CO2, could finance a good part of a global cleanup operation.

Diverse pathways, a single purpose

A number of forward-looking organizations, with financial support from government and private investors, are making carbon dioxide removal a reality using DAC and enhanced mineralization processes. They are using CO2 to make stronger concrete, or using it as a feed stock for ultra strong carbon materials. They are combining it with hydrogen to make synthetic fuels, or permanently sequestering the gas.

mechanical trees
Mechanical trees

Silicon Kingdom Holdings, (SKH) based in Dublin, Ireland, is planning to build mechanical tree farms using the capture technology developed by Dr. Lackner. Thousands of times more efficient than natural trees, the devices use anion exchange membranes to remove CO2 from ambient air. A sodium carbonate solution and heat further separate and purify the gas. The CO2 is then pressurized and made available for sequestration or for use in a variety of industrial applications such as synthetic fuels and high strength materials. SKH was established by a group of business and science innovators, including Dr. Lackner, in association with Arizona State University.

Carbon Engineering is making sustainable near-zero-carbon aviation fuel.

Carbon Engineering, based in Squamish, Canada, has designed modular devices that blow ambient air over a capture solution. A closed loop series of chemical processes fixes CO2 and releases it in concentrated form. The firm plans to build full-scale DAC plants to capture a million tonnes of CO2 annually at about $US100 a tonne. The CO2 will be permanently stored underground or combined with hydrogen to make synthetic transportation fuel. Carbon Engineering recently received a $25 million repayable investment from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and has secured over CA$100 million from private investors including Murray Edwards and Bill Gates. The firm is partnering with 1PointFive in the US and Pale Blue Dot in the UK to finance and build commercial DAC plants.

Climeworks air capture units
Modular air capture units. Image source: Climeworks

Climeworks of Switzerland is operating a demonstration plant near Zurich that can remove 900 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere yearly. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s technology, fans blow CO2 through modular units roughly the size of shipping containers. Filters in the units capture the gas, then release it for collection. A small demonstration plant in Troia, Italy, will collect 150 tonnes of CO2 per year. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s process, the CO2 is combined with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuel.

CarbFix core sample
A core sample from an injection site showing CO2 bearing carbonate minerals in basaltic host rock. Photo: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir.

Climeworks also permanently sequesters carbon dioxide underground. In 2019, the organization introduced a public removal and sequestration scheme in partnership with Reykjavik Energy of Iceland. Through its subsidiary CarbFix, Reykjavik Energy injects CO2 from a 303 MW geothermal power plant into subsurface basalt rock. The injected CO2 mineralizes into solid carbonate rock in less than two years. The Climeworks website invites individuals and organizations to pay a monthly subscription – in amounts up to €2,000 per month – to help fund the project. For example, €5 per month will sponsor the sequestration of 61 kilograms of CO2 yearly.

Globally, the storage capacity of basalt is immense. The rock composes about 10 percent of the earth’s continental surface area and underlies most of the planet’s ocean floor. The potential mineral uptake of basalt formations is estimated at between 100 and 250 trillion tons – in theory enough to absorb all the excess CO2 in the atmosphere a hundred times over.

CarbonCure uses CO2 to make a higher-strength concrete.

In Halifax, Canada, CarbonCure injects recycled CO2 into cement during the mixing process. The CO2 mineralizes into calcium carbonate and actually strengthens the concrete as it cures. The process permanently fixes CO2 at relatively low cost, and if scaled to the global concrete market, could sequester over 500 megatons of CO2 annually. CarbonCure presently obtains its CO2 from established suppliers such as fertilizer plants and other cement producers. It expects to use CO2 from DAC technologies as they become available. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, established by Bill Gates and a coalition of private investors including Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, have invested in the company.

Bio-oil by Charm Industrial
Bio-oil destined for sequestration. Source Charm Industrial

In San Francisco, USA, Charm Industrial has a patent pending for a process that produces bio-oil for storage deep underground. Fast pyrolysis converts the carbohydrate compounds in scrap wood, sawdust, and agricultural waste into a stable liquid similar to crude oil. In effect, the company is reversing crude oil extraction and returning carbon to its geological source.

Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta
Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta, explains how olivine are used to sequester carbon dioxide. Image sourec: San Francisco Chronicle

Also in San Francisco, Project Vesta, a non-profit venture, captures CO2 by accelerating the natural weathering of rock. Small grains of olivine, an abundant green volcanic mineral, are spread like sand on shallow beach environments. Wave action abrades the olivine, increasing its surface area. In the process, the mineral reacts to atmospheric CO2 and ocean water – the same silicate-to-carbonate chemical reaction as natural weathering. The olivine becomes limestone which collects on the seafloor. Research suggest that applying olivine on just 2 percent of the world’s shallow ocean shelves would remove one year’s worth of annual global CO2 emissions at low cost. A pilot project is underway on a Caribbean beach, but more testing is required to answer questions about safety and viability.

Stripe, the payment software company, has given financial support to Project Vesta, Charm Industrial, Climeworks and Carboncure. Instead of spending money on projects that curtail emissions through carbon offset programs, the company is distributing  US$ 1 million among these four ventures to help remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Turning CO2 into carbon nanofibres. Dr. Stuart Licht at the American Chemical Society

Meanwhile, C2CNT, comprised of a team of researchers and engineers led by Dr. Stuart Licht of George Washington University, is running a demonstration project at a coal-fired electricity generation plant near Edmonton, Canada. The project captures CO2 from flue gas to produce carbon nanotubes. Using electrolysis, the CO2 is split into oxygen and carbon fibres. The fibres can take different forms for different applications. One form, carbon nanotubes, are a hi-tech industrial material used to make aircraft bodies, tennis rackets and other strong lightweight products. The highest quality nanotubes produced by conventional methods can fetch up to $100,000 per kilogram. Another form of carbon, graphene, is suitable for safe, stable sequestration. The C2CNT project is one of 10 finalists in the Carbon Xprize competition awarded US$500,000 to demonstrate technologies that convert CO2 into valuable products. Capital Power, the owner of the generation plant and host of the demonstration project has invested in C2CNT with the aim of removing CO2 from their flue gas.  

A DAC version of the technology would be self-powered using solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. According to Licht’s calculations, full scale deployment in an area about 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels in as little as 10 years.

Technical innovation goes through several stages. Often, it will start in a university lab. It will then attract the interest of private investors. When things begin to take shape, governments will provide grants. There will be a demonstration phase followed by the technology’s entrance into mainstream markets. Once adopted by the marketplace, costs can go down with economies of scale and the development of production efficiencies. The development of DAC has taken that path. The C2CNT project started in a lab at George Washington University and is now working out of the Genesee generating station, near Edmonton, Canada. When Climeworks’ technology became commercially available in 2014, it captured carbon dioxide for about US$600 per tonne. It now expects to bring costs down closer to US$100 per tonne in two or three years. Carbon Engineering appears to have beaten them to the punch. In 2019 it announced that its fully demonstrated DAC technology was capable of capturing and purifying atmospheric carbon dioxide for under US$100 per tonne.

With CDR, investors like Bill Gates may realize that the near-term cost of cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution is the most pragmatic way to avoid the even costlier long-term effects of the pollution. Capital power, meanwhile, has invested in the C2CNT project in order to continue burning coal to generate electricity. It aims to stop CO2 emissions and pay for the cost of doing so by selling high-value carbon nanotubes derived from those emissions.

As we confront the deepening climate crisis, it helps to remember that we are facing a greenhouse gas pollution crisis, or perhaps less dramatically, a waste management challenge. As we meet that challenge by stopping the pollution at source and removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we can expect things to cool down.

Some things to remember about racism


Fear, mistrust and outrage has a habit of periodically poisoning humanity’s deep well of cultural diversity and achievement. The latest example is the renewed outcry regarding systemic racism swirling around the media universe. But the media universe has a habit of provoking despair by racking up the failures of society. Media literacy – an awareness of how the media universe sells its wares – is perhaps the most effective defence. But media literacy requires working inside the whale, so to speak – working as a journalist, for example – which of course not everyone can do. Suffice to say that news events, the product of the media universe, are the most banal record of human existence. They tell us nothing and everything at the same time.

In our electronic world, where information travels at great speed, news reporters have little or no time to probe the meaning and source of the events they encounter. Pattern recognition is left to the bewildered audience. It is up to all of us, as Herbert Marshall McLuhan suggests from a reclining position, to take a harder look at culturally perpetuated banalities about phenomena like racism, and their origin. For that, we need to look inward. For anyone with a taste for introspection, there are few things to remember:

Bottom line, there is only one human race. We all know that, right? The term “racism” is a misnomer. It sets the stage for divisive and accusatory dialogue at the outset.

When we look at what unites us, in contrast, we understand that the human species (a.k.a. the human race) possesses a discriminatory mind. So when “racism” erupts, or becomes apparent in some awkward social situation, we are seeing how our discriminatory minds work. However, we are also seeing how our discriminatory minds are struggling with unexamined ideas. We have been colonized by ideas that have accumulated in the cultural narrative. For all intents and purposes, those ideas make us react in fearful, hostile or guilt-ridden ways.

In current social discourse, whether face-to-face or curated through electronic media, we are dealing with cultural ideas about race far more than we are dealing with the realities of the moment. When we have a real life encounter with a person of another so-called “race”, our minds supply a corresponding construct of ideas based the cultural narrative regarding that person. This happens as matter of course in our general encounters with the space-time continuum. In any case, the immediate experience and the ideas can clash, occasionally in spectacular fashion. The situation is resolved when we examine the source and validity of the ideas. The guilt, fear and hostility around “race” that has accumulated like rubbish in the cultural narrative is examined and accounted for. We clear the decks. It so happens that there are many who know how to do this with humour and compassion.

Discriminatory thinking – discernment – is a human attribute, so discriminatory thinking is therefore naturally systemic to all societies. However, all human societies have historically been susceptible to hearsay, conflict, fear, and misinformation. Ergo, so-called racism is systemic in all societies. Some people, and some institutions within a given society manage the issue better than others.

We cannot effectively “fight racism” unless we think of it as a failure of the individual and collective mind to evaluate and process experience. Denying experience does not help. If we attack racism through censorship or legislation, the fear-based ideas that support it simply retreat into a dark corner and lie in wait for the next crisis of faith.

Seth speaks about viruses and epidemics

by Seth
(channeled by Jane Roberts, 1977, 1979 & 1980)

As we deal with the covid-19 pandemic, we are driven and guided by partial understanding of viruses and their role in the natural world. Medical science may be able to observe viral structure, but its ability to observe viral behavior is limited. The following material, originating from outside our day-to-day world – and the conventional framework of scientific inquiry – fills in some of the gaps, and suggests that we are not under some kind of random attack from a malignant entity.

Viruses as part of the body’s overall health system
and viruses as biological statements

Viruses serve many purposes, as 1 have said before. The body contains all kinds of viruses, including those considered deadly, but those are usually not only harmless, or inactive, but beneficial to the body’s overall balance.

The body maintains its vitality not only through the physical motion and agility that you perceive, but by microscopic agility, and actions within microseconds, that you do not perceive. There is as much motion, stimulation, and reaction in the interior bodily environment as the body meets through its encounters with the exterior environment. The body must now and then “flush its systems out,” run through its repertoire, raise its temperature, activate its hormonal actions more strongly. In such ways it keeps its system of immunities clear. That system operates always. To some extent, it is a way that the body distinguishes between self and non-self.

In certain fashions, that system also keeps the body from squandering its energies, preserving biological integrity. Otherwise it would be as if you did not know where your own house began or ended, and so tried to heat the entire neighbourhood. So some indispositions “caused by viruses” are accepted by the body as welcome triggers, to clean out that system, and this applies to your present indispositions.

More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.

When a skunk is frightened, it throws-off a foul odour indeed, and when people are frightened they react in somewhat the same fashion at times, biologically reacting to stimuli in the environment that they consider alarming. They throw off a barrage of “foul viruses” – that is, they actually collect and mobilize from within their own bodies viruses that are potentially harmful, biologically trigger these, or activate them, and send them out into the environment in self protection, to ward off the enemy.

In a fashion this is a kind of biological aggression. The viruses, however, also represent tensions that the person involved is getting rid of. That is one kind of statement. It is often used in a very strong manner in times of war, or great social upheaval, when people feel frightened.

(Addressing transcriber Robert F. Butts: Now, your friend had been to the [Lake Placid] Olympics, and he was charged by the great physical vitality that he felt watching that athletic panorama. [Because of that, and for other personal reasons], he could find no release for the intense energy he felt, so he got rid of it, protected himself, and threw out his threatening biological posture: the viruses.

Your bodies had not received any such goodies in some time, so they exuberantly used them as triggers to regenerate the immune systems.

Many people had such reactions as your friend’s, coming from the Olympics, in that they did not know how to use and release their own energies-as if they themselves felt put in an inferior position in comparison to such achievements.)

There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses – in a fashion – again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient – but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.

All of this has to do with [mankind’s] intent and understanding. The same relationships, however, do not only exist between human bodies, of course, but between man and the animals and the plants in the environment, and is part of the unending biological communication that overall produces the vitality of physical experience.

. . .

Certain “diseases” are protections against other diseases, and the body on its own is its own excellent regulator.

Obviously those abilities operate best when you trust them. The body’s systems know what diseases are in the air, so to speak, and will often set up countermeasures ahead of time, giving you what you experience as an indisposition of one kind or another – but an indisposition that is actually a statement of prevention against another condition.

There is great traffic flow in a city: A body knows how to leap out of the way in a moment’s time from an approaching car. In the interior physical environment there is far greater traffic flow. There are decisions made in periods of time so brief you cannot imagine them – reactions that are almost over before they begin, reactions so fast you cannot perceive them as the body responds to its inner reality, and to all the stimuli from the exterior environment. The body is an open system. As solid as it seems to you, there are constant chemical reactions between it and the world, electromagnetic adjustments, alterations of balance, changes of relationships – alterations that occur between the body and its relationship with every other physical event, from the position of the planets and moon and the sun, to the position of the smallest grain of sand, to the tiniest microbe in anyone’s intestine.

All of those adjustments are made without your conscious notice, and yet fit in with your overall purposes and intents.

From Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, by Jane Roberts, 1986, Amber-Allen Publishing

Viruses and their responses

You could not live without viruses, nor could your biological reality as you know it now exist.

Viruses appear to be “the bad guys”, and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These – and I am putting it as simply as possible – take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.

As an example from another field, consider poisons. Belladonna can be quite deadly, yet small doses of it were known to aid the body in disease conditions.

The viruses in the body have a social, cooperative existence. Their effects become deadly only under certain conditions. The viruses must be triggered into destructive activity, and this happens only at a certain point, when the individual involved is actively seeking either death or a crisis situation biologically.

The initial contagion in such cases is always emotional and mental. Social conditions are usually involved, so that an individual is, say, at the lower end of a poor social environment, a seeming victim of it, or in a situation where his individual value as a social member is severely weakened.

Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive – though it does – as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.

I told you that viruses mutate. Such is often the case. It seems quite scientific to believe in inoculations against such dangerous diseases – and certainly, scientifically, inoculations seem to work: People in your time right now are not plagued by smallpox, for example. Some cultures have believed that illnesses were caused by demons. Medicine men, through certain ceremonies, would try to rid the body of the demons – and those methods worked also. The belief system was tight and accepted, and it only began to fail when those societies encountered “civilized views”.

If you call the demons “negative beliefs”, however, then you have taken strides forward. People continue to die of diseases. Many of your scientific procedures, including inoculations, of themselves “cause” new diseases. It does not help a patient inoculated against smallpox and polio if [eventually] he dies of cancer as a result of his negative beliefs.

What I have said about viruses applies to all biological life. Viruses are “highly intelligent” – meaning that they react quickly to stimuli. They are responsive to emotional states. They are social. Their scale of life varies considerably, and some can be inactive for centuries, and revive. They have extensive memory patterns, biologically imprinted. Some can multiply in the tens of thousands within seconds. They are in many ways the basis of biological life, but you are aware of them only when they show “a deadly face”.

You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

About epidemics

In the following passages, Seth refers both to the “days of the great plagues in England” and to virus epidemics. The plagues that ravaged England and Europe are believed to have been infections not of viruses but of the Yersinia pestis coccobacillus bacterium spread by fleas.

To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.

On one level the deaths are a protest against the time in which they occur. Those involved have private reasons, however. The reasons, of course, vary from one individual to another, yet all involved “want their death to serve a purpose” beyond private concerns. Partially, then, such deaths are meant to make the survivors question the conditions – for unconsciously the species well knows there are reasons for such mass deaths that go beyond accepted beliefs.

In some historical periods the plight of the poor was so horrible, so unendurable, that outbreaks of the plague occurred, literally resulting in a complete destruction of large areas of the environment in which such social, political, and economic conditions existed. [Those] plagues took rich and poor alike, however, so the complacent well-to-do could see quite clearly, for example, that to some extent sanitary conditions, privacy, peace of mind, had to be granted to the poor alike, for the results of their dissatisfaction would have quite practical results. Those were deaths of protest.

Individually, each “victim” was to one extent or another a “victim” of apathy, despair, or hopelessness, which automatically lowered bodily defenses.

Not only do such states of mind lower the defenses, however, but they activate and change the body’s chemistries, alter its balances, and initiate disease conditions. Many viruses inherently capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.

If [certain viruses] are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become “deadly”. Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain. Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.

The environment in which an outbreak occurs points at the political, sociological, and economic conditions that have evolved, causing such disorder. Often such outbreaks take place after ineffective political or social action – that is, after some unified mass social protest – has failed, or is considered hopeless. They often occur also in wartime on the part of a populace [that] is against a given war in which [its] country is involved.

Initially there is a psychic contagion: Despair moves faster than a mosquito, or any outward carrier of a given disease. The mental state brings about the activation of a virus that is, in those terms, passive. Despair may seem passive only because it feels that exterior action is hopeless – but its fires rage inwardly, and that kind of contagion can leap from bed to bed and from heart to heart. It touches those, however, who are in the same state only, and to some extent it brings about an acceleration in which something can indeed be done in terms of group action.

Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.

There are also even deeper biological connections with the heart of nature. You are biological creatures. Your proud human consciousness rests on the vast “unconscious” integrity of your physical being. In that regard your consciousness is as natural as your toe. In terms of the species’ integrity your mental states are, then, highly important. Despair or apathy is a biological “enemy”. Social conditions, political states, economic policies, and even religious or philosophical frameworks that foster such mental states, bring about a biological retaliation. They act like fire applied to a plant.

The epidemics then serve many purposes – warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.

Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed, however: They were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery. The horror of the conditions overwhelmed them where earlier they were not involved.

The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems – problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.

These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics – why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive – for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.

In your society scientific medical beliefs operate, and a kind of preventative medicine, mentioned earlier, in which procedures [of inoculation] are taken, bringing about in healthy individuals a minute disease condition that then gives immunity against a more massive visitation. In the case of any given disease this procedure might work quite well for those who believe in it. It is, however, the belief, and not the procedure, that works.

I am not recommending that you abandon the procedure when it obviously works for so many – yet you should understand why it brings about the desired results.

Such medical technology is highly specific, however. You cannot be inoculated with the desire to live, or with the zest, delight, or contentment of the healthy animal. If you have decided to die, protected from one disease in such a manner, you will promptly come down with another, or have an accident. The immunization, while specifically effective, may only reinforce prior beliefs about the body’s ineffectiveness. It may appear that left alone the body would surely develop whatever disease might be “fashionable” at the time, so that the specific victory might result in the ultimate defeat as far as your beliefs are concerned.

You have your own medical systems, however. I do not mean to undermine them, since they are undermining themselves. Some of my statements clearly cannot be proven, in your terms, and appear almost sacrilegious. Yet, throughout your history no man or woman has died who did not want to die, regardless of the state of medical technology. Specific diseases have certain symbolic meanings, varying with the times and the places.

There has been great discussion in past years about the survival of the fittest, in Darwinian terms, but little emphasis is placed upon the quality of life, or of survival itself; or in human terms, [there has been] little probing into the question of what makes life worthwhile. Quite simply, if life is not worthwhile, no species will have a reason to continue.

Civilizations are literally social species. They die when they see no reason to live, yet they seed other civilizations. Your private mental states en masse bring about the mass cultural stance of your civilization. To some extent, then, the survival of your civilization is quite literally dependent upon the condition of each individual; and that condition is initially a spiritual, psychic state that gives birth to the physical organism. That organism is intimately connected to the natural biological state of each other person, and to each other living thing, or entity, however minute.

Despite all “realistic” pragmatic tales to the contrary, the natural state of life itself is one of joy, acquiescence with itself – a state in which action is effective, and the power to act is a natural right. You would see this quite clearly with plants, animals, and all other life if you were not so blinded by beliefs to the contrary. You would feel it in the activity of your bodies, in which the vital individual affirmation of your cells brings about the mass, immensely complicated achievement of your physical being. That activity naturally promotes health and vitality.

I am not speaking of some romanticized, “passive,” floppy, spiritual world, but of a clear reality without impediments, in which the opposite of despair and apathy reigns.

From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

Covid-19, a heretical perspective

Wartime Emergency Hospital, Kansas

An non-physical personality channeled by Jane Roberts in the late 1970s sheds light on viruses and epidemics

The Covid-19 virus is killing people and taxing medical systems with alarming speed worldwide, but the pandemic is as much a rampant half-baked theoretical construct as it is a physical event. We don’t know how widespread the virus is compared to other seasonal flu eruptions. Social distancing may slow the contagion, but we don’t know if the strategy will change the number of afflicted people in the long run. At any rate, and for better and for worse, our response has been to bring much of the world economy to a standstill.

The reaction to covid-19 is based on partial understanding. We know what the virus looks like; we know what it can do to the cellular structure of the human body. We understand that it can spread through water droplets ejected from the nose and mouth. But we don’t know why, for example, some people seem resistant to it while others are not. Some people die from pneumonia triggered by the viral infection, some recover, some have only mild symptoms, and an unknown number may remain asymptomatic for the duration of the pandemic.

There is widespread belief that, because covid-19 is a “novel” virus, our immune systems are not fully prepared to fend off its attack. While we frantically search for a vaccine, we, the self-proclaimed reigning species on the planet, feel oddly united in our sudden vulnerability.

From the outside looking in

There is information available that sheds some light on the situation, and it comes from a source foreign to scientific enquiry; from outside the framework of day-to-day awareness, in fact. This makes the material somewhat heretical. The material was channeled by the intuitive writer Jane Roberts who, over the course of a decade beginning in 1970, entered a trance state to dictate a number of books authored by an entity named “Seth”. A non-physical personality no longer focused in space-time, Seth lived many lives on earth, one of them self-described as a “politically minded, crooked old Pope” in 300 AD. What the long gone pope says about viruses is clear and direct:

“The viruses in the body have a social, cooperative existence. Their effects become deadly only under certain conditions. The viruses must be triggered into destructive activity, and this happens only at a certain point, when the individual involved is actively seeking either death or a crisis situation biologically.” [1]

Statements like these are challenging for those of us who seek comfort in prevailing beliefs about life, death and victimhood. They nevertheless have a certain quality that may ring true to the open minded reader; we want to hear more. Obligingly, Seth goes on to list various characteristics of viruses that escape scientific scrutiny. For example, viruses:

  • are social,
  • react quickly and knowingly to stimuli,
  • are responsive to emotional states,
  • can revive after centuries of inactivity,
  • have extensive memory patterns, and
  • can multiply by the tens of thousands within seconds. [2]

We are told that legions of viruses dwell within each of us, and that those viruses have a symbiotic, responsive relationship to our bodies. Viruses are in fact an essential element of biology and play a key role in maintaining overall health. We are unaware of them until they manifest destructive behavior.

We also learn that when people are under great stress and highly alarmed, their bodies can eject harmful viruses into the environment as a means of defense, much as a skunk throws off spray from its scent glands. A sort of “biological aggression”, such responses will occur at times of deep social crisis such as wartime and rampant injustice. At a more immediate level, ejecting viruses is also a way of ridding the body of unwanted stress. [3]

Seth also had this to say about epidemics:

“To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.” [4]

These, of course, would be meta-mass statements, deeply psychological – “spiritual” even – and of a different order than the online petitions and street protests commonly used to provoke government action.

Through selfish neglect, humans have a way of allowing wretched conditions to take hold in the social order: extreme poverty and inequality, senseless warfare, indifferent and flagrant abuse of the natural world. The conditions are eventually “normalized”, but some part of the human psyche refuses to accept them, and sooner or later the psyche responds, erupting en masse into the social environment in a most direct and dramatic way. Society as a whole is shocked into recognition. Yet these are not straightforward events, where everyone in the path of destruction gets mowed down. Seth cites historical events to illustrate:

“Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed however: they were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery.” [5]

Moral, psychological and social triggers

The way Seth describes viral behavior and pandemic events suggests that we are not passive victims in the path of a microscopic predator. There are far more interactive, subjective and personal dynamics at play. Some may find this far-fetched, even heretical. It is certainly “unscientific” because the source of the information is unverifiable and the statements cannot be proven.

Nevertheless, there are interesting correlations.

Who remembers having the flu as a child, staying at home in bed (away from the stress of school), and being cared for by their mother, who did not get sick? Why did she not get sick?

There is inconclusive evidence regarding the national origin of the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, but there is no disputing the fact that it erupted in military bases in various locations during the later stages of World War I. In 2000, one team of researchers found evidence of an acute respiratory illness at a base in Etaples, France, in the winter of 1915-16. Noted virologist John Oxford, a member of the research team, observed that the Etaples base, one of the largest ever built and equipped with 22 hospitals, housed a minimum of 100,000 soldiers on any given day, with over a million men passing through over time. Oxford described the camp as the “perfect breeding-ground for influenza viruses, because so many young men of different nationalities were mixing under fairly strenuous circumstances.” [6] “Fairly strenuous circumstances” is surely an understatement.

Later, in a book review, Oxford alluded to the horrors of war. “I believe,” he wrote, “that from the gas-ridden, overcrowded trenches and nearby hospitals of already ruined Europe, filled with enough pigs, chickens and ducks to feed 2 million troops each day, arose a 10,000-nucleotide beast surrounded by a fragile lipid sphere. It seeded itself around the world while its biological clock ticked to ring at midnight on 11 November 1918, when it exploded worldwide.” [7] The used and abused troops were coming home and spreading some very bad news.

In contrast, covid-19 is thought to have emerged in a wet market that sells wildlife in Wuhan, China. Wet markets offer fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats much like farm markets in other parts of the world. But in China, living, sometimes exotic animals (alligators, peacocks, snakes, bears, for example) are brought into these public markets, kept in cages and slaughtered just prior to being sold. According to Christopher St. Cavish of the Los Angeles Times, the buyers subscribe to a traditional Chinese belief that eating certain wild animal parts confers wealth and status, and enhances health and vitality. However, sale of these meats is poorly regulated, so sanitary conditions can be correspondingly slack, to put it mildly. [8]

The animals face brutal conditions, no better no worse perhaps than the general conditions we routinely impose on the natural world – and sometimes on each other. Because the caged animals at the Wuhan wet market doubtlessly felt unbearably stressed, it is not unreasonable to conclude that they retaliated the only way they could: with a biological weapon. Time will tell just how effective that weapon will be.

Will we be shocked into recognition? That would be the best outcome.

Photo: Soldiers ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston, near Fort Riley, Kansas.


[1] The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p 184, Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

[2] Ibid, p 185

[3] Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, p 264, by Jane Roberts, 1986, Amber-Allen Publishing

[4] The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p 19, Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

[5] Ibid, p 21

[6] Flu epidemic traced to Great War transit camp, Steve Connor, The Independent, January 8, 2000

[7] Nature’s biological weapon  The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50 million people — and it could happen again. Nature, Vol 429, May 27, 2004,

[8] No, China’s fresh food markets did not cause coronavirus

Two billion points of carbon dioxide pollution

lawn mowers

To stop carbon dioxide pollution, energy conversion devises that burn fossil fuels must be replaced

Fossil fuel corporations are typically blamed for the climate crisis, but strictly speaking, what’s changing the thermodynamics of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide pollution, the product of fossil fuel combustion. Fossil fuel producers are not the issue, it’s what we do with their product.

Worldwide, an estimated two billion fossil-fuel-burning engines propel a global inventory of automobiles, locomotives, ships, aircraft, stationary power generators, lawnmowers and hand-held tools. Tens of thousands of industrial boilers drive electric generators in electricity plants. Hundreds of blast furnaces and kilns produce steel and cement. Millions of oil furnaces heat homes and millions of gas stoves cook food.

To stop carbon dioxide pollution, humans have to stop using these greenhouse gas pollution devices and use other means to produce mechanical energy.

Progressive jurisdictions are moving in this direction. The state of California has mandated 100 percent greenhouse-gas-free energy by 2045. The city of Vancouver, Canada, is aiming for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

California and Vancouver can fulfill such ambitions partly because both jurisdictions have enormous renewable energy resources available to power their respective electric grids. California, the world’s wealthiest sub-national economy, has a wealth of solar, wind and geothermal energy. Vancouver is situated in British Columbia where the grid is already 95 percent powered by hydro electricity.

Poland, in contrast, has very modest renewable energy resources. Nevertheless, in 2019 it began reversing a long-standing dependence on coal. It has initiated a policy to meet 15 percent of its gross energy consumption with renewables by 2030. To go further, Poland may have to embrace nuclear energy or become part of Europe’s low carbon electric grid.

While technological solutions to stop carbon dioxide pollution are readily available, the main difficulty is implementing those solutions at the required speed: yesterday at the latest. At present, zero carbon energy targets will only be achieved when wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, or small nuclear are fully adopted by electric power generators and when electric vehicles fully displace gas powered vehicles around the globe. A slow process if left to economic forces alone.

Quickly stopping greenhouse gas pollution is a challenge for industry and individuals alike. The transportation sector can accelerate its transition to electric propulsion. The electricity sector can accelerate its transition to wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and fourth generation nuclear energy.runner and cyclist vancouver seawall Individuals and organizations that own fossil fuel-dependent energy devices can stop using them. People can choose to walk or take a bus. Enterprises that build fossil fuel-dependent energy devices for any purpose can build substitutes. All of this is happening in fits and starts the world over, so it’s time to focus and push hard for accelerated diffusion and adoption of zero carbon technologies and behavior.

If petitions and street demonstrations are your thing, tell the builders and users of carbon dioxide pollution devices – vehicle manufacturers, electric power companies, steel plants, gas furnace and stove manufacturers – to cease and desist as soon as possible.

Energy transition – it’s not that complicated

no fossil fuel combustion

Political discourse regarding the global transition to a low carbon economy often presents competing strategies: system change, wind down fossil fuel production, usher in a Green New Deal, block oil pipeline construction, implement carbon taxes, de-grow the economy. There is an unsettling lack of focus and practicality. However, common to all points of view is the undeniable necessity of energy transition. and while energy systems are indeed complex, and replacing them on the fly is a singular challenge, the principles underlying energy transition itself are fairly straightforward. Here are some key things to remember.

1) We stop GHG pollution by means of energy transition

Carbon dioxide accounts for up to 75 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and is produced almost entirely by the world’s inventory of coal-fired electricity plants, gasoline powered automobiles, cement plants, steel mills, home oil furnaces, gas stoves, and gas powered hand tools.

We end carbon dioxide pollution by replacing these technologies. The replacements, largely powered by electricity, are mature, proven, and rapidly becoming cost competitive.

While energy transition aims to stop carbon dioxide pollution, the cleanup part is equally important. A number of technologies are in the works for “negative emissions” – that is, ways and means to remove accumulated CO2 directly from the air. One of them is at the demonstration stage. Another, the STEP process is in development in a lab at George Washington University, and may be capable of capturing and disposing of carbon dioxide at the volume and speed necessary to prevent catastrophic warming of the atmosphere.

2) All energy transition strategies have a common goal: replace fossil fuel-based energy conversion devices

It’s early in the game, but zero carbon outcomes are being pursued now in four energy-intensive sectors of the global economy: electricity generation, transportation, heavy industries (such as cement and steel manufacturing), and building/home operations. To stop carbon dioxide pollution, each sector is taking steps to replace the specific technologies that produce said pollution. For example, the automotive industry is replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors in the aggregate fleet of about a billion motor vehicles worldwide. One innovative company is offering retrofit electric drive systems for existing vehicles. Grid operators around the world will eventually retire several thousand coal, oil or natural gas-fired steam turbines, along with the facilities that house them. They are to be replaced with wind turbines, solar arrays, geothermal plants, or fourth generation nuclear reactors.

The guiding principle is to replace energy conversion devices (ECDs) that emit carbon dioxide pollution with ECDs that do not. Complex infrastructure, transmission systems, and processes built around all such devices are added, replaced or modified accordingly.

3) Industrial initiative is at least as important as political will

Energy transition policy is formulated in board rooms and factories as much as in the offices of government. Automobile manufacturers build electric propulsion systems. Electric utilities install solar panels and wind turbines designed and built by multinational corporations. The role of bureaucrats and elected officials is to work with these private sector entities and do everything possible to foster industrial initiative, innovation and market diffusion of their zero-carbon energy devices and systems.

4) Energy transition is a phase out / phase in process

Energy transitions have happened before. In the last century, internal combustion engines replaced horses, and diesel-electric locomotives replaced coal-fired steam engines. Such transitions were spontaneous and occurred at their own pace, with little or no social disruption, and were usually confined to one economic sector.

The 21st Century rendition of energy transition is different to the extent that it reaches into all energy-intensive sectors in all industrial economies. At the same time, it is sharply delineated, aiming specifically to replace the deeply rooted, fossil fuel-based devices that power the modern world.

There is a time element involved, a phase-out/phase-in process taking place. This requires careful management of energy systems so they there is energy available to effectively carry out transition. Energy supplies must be maintained for the outgoing system as well as the incoming system. For a while, pipelines will coexist with EV charging stations. It looks bad, but it’s not.

The role of government

Governments that design policy to support private sector energy transition can be confident they are on track. China, the UK and a few other jurisdictions have already set dates for phasing out internal combustion engines in automobiles. The state of Oregon changed public utility regulations to allow the sale of electricity at roadside EV charging stations. If industry doesn’t take the hint, governments may have to go further. Phasing in zero-carbon ECDs at the maximum possible speed may require the kind of direct industrial control that occurred during mobilization at the outset of two world wars. Whatever happens, sustained clear-headed cooperation among government, the people, and the globalized private sector is necessary.