There’s just something about the color green and carbon dioxide absorption. Of course, there’s green vegetation, which breathes in carbon dioxide. There’s also, apparently, a green rock called olivine, found in abundance around the world, which slowly takes in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when exposed to the elements.
Olivine is so effective at scrubbing the air of excess carbon dioxide that a retired geochemist from the Netherlands, Olaf Schuiling, has recently proposed spreading the material on fields, beaches, dikes, pathways and even children’s sandboxes around the world as a way to combat climate change, reports The New York Times.
“Let the earth help us to save the Earth,” said Schuiling, who has been championing the idea for decades.
According to Schuiling, the amount of olivine needed to begin curbing climate change is about the equivalent of 3,000 Hoover Dams. That’s a lot of olivine, but there’s more than enough of it on Earth to meet those needs. It’s also an amount that is well within the means of modern large-scale mining. As Schuiling points out, we already spend our resources extracting coal and oil from the Earth. Why couldn’t we re-purpose some of those efforts toward olivine instead?
Critics point out that it would take decades before Schuiling’s plan, even if implemented in full, would begin to alter the carbon content of our atmosphere. Even if it could be implemented, it might work too slowly to make a difference. Spreading olivine all over the place could also have some unforeseen consequences that are difficult to predict. For instance, olivine contains trace amounts of metals that could contaminate the environment in other ways.
But Schuiling remains firm in his resolve. He notes that his idea is, at the very least, a far less extreme solution to climate change than many other geoengineering proposals, or ideas that attempt to solve the climate change crisis by manipulating nature.
“When I started, I was a nutty professor,” said Schuiling. But when he gives a talk nowadays, “the first question after I finish is, ‘Why don’t we do it?'”
The idea gives a whole new meaning to “going green.” At the very least, more green sand landscaping probably couldn’t hurt. More people should at least be aware of the environmental benefits of olivine building materials. The material’s colorful tint could make for an attractive and potentially fashionable landscaping option.