Santa Barbara Permaculture Network presents
2024 Eco Hero Award Honoring Albert K. Bates
Biochar Pioneer/Global Ecovillage Network UN Delegate/Author/Permaculture Teacher & Designer
Date: Saturday, February 24, 2024 at 6:30 PM
Santa Barbara Permaculture Network celebrates its fourth Annual Eco Hero Award, honoring Albert K. Bates, Environmental Lawyer, Author, Right Livelihood Award recipient, UN Climate Conference Delegate, and Biochar Pioneer.
A perennial good-natured optimist, but hard-core realist, Albert Bates has been an advocate for the Earth and its ecosystems for over 50 years.
Like many of his generation, he gravitated towards living in an intentional community, joining The Farm ecovillage in Tennessee in 1972, after trekking (Thru-Hiking) north to south the entire Appalachian Trail. In his years at The Farm ecovillage, he learned many practical skills, working as a horse farmer, mason, solar technician, illustrator, typesetter, flour miller, riding instructor, mushroom grower, paramedic, councilman and schoolteacher.
Serving on the executive board of Plenty-USA, a not for profit organization founded by members of The Farm that put small water, energy, and health-care systems into underserved communities around the world. In 1980, The Farm and Plenty were awarded the first Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the alternative Nobel Peace prize, for “caring, sharing and acting with and on behalf of those in need at home and abroad.” Plenty supports economic self-sufficiency, cultural integrity and environmental responsibility in partnership with community groups and organizations in Central America, the U.S., the Caribbean, and Africa.
With Plenty, Bates founded the Natural Rights Center and launched a lawsuit to end atomic power on human rights grounds that went before 22 federal judges and four times to the United States Supreme Court. Bates also challenged uranium mining in the Black Hills and the first strike MX Missile deployment in the Dakotas. He also challenged a State law retroactively disenfranchising all felons, winning a State Supreme Court order that restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 citizens in Tennessee.
As a young lawyer, he defended rural Tennessee residents from some of the most dangerous toxins imaginable that were being dumped by agrochemical companies into the Knox Aquifer, a primary source of citizens drinking water. Bringing in experts and showing statistically high cancer rates by county, he won a statewide ban on fracking and deep well injection.
While researching that case, he began a journey of learning about how climate change might affect water rights in the future, which led to his fifth book, Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do (1990) with a foreword by Al Gore. Shaken by all he learned, he retired from the practice of law and took up forest mushroom farming with a mail-order catalog called Mushroompeople.
Later forays to the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon introduced him to terra preta (dark earth) and biochar, with biochar’s potential for mitigating climate change and improving soil quality where implemented. Biochar is modeled after an ancient practice found in the Amazonian basin, where indigenous people used it with great success for centuries to create rich fertile soils, out of their typically thin tropical soils.
In 1994, Bates founded the Farm Ecovillage Training Center and in 1995 co-founded the Global Ecovillage Network. Both were outshoots of the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology, a nonprofit scientific research, development and demonstration organization, with projects on six continents including resettling Ukrainian refugees with the Green Road project, and regaining food sovereignty for Palestine. He has taught hundreds of courses in permaculture, natural building, ecovillage design, and climate solutions in more than 60 countries, including training certified permaculture instructors in China and Cuba.
He is the prolific author of more than 20 books including Climate in Crisis; The Paris Agreement; The Biochar Solution; Transforming Plastics; The Dark Side of the Ocean; Plagued; and coauthor with Kathleen Draper of Burn: Igniting a New Carbon Drawdown Economy to End the Climate Crisis (in German as Cool Down). His latest book is Retropopulationism: Clawing Back a Stable Planet from Eight Billion and Change (2023).
Co-sponsored by Blue Sky Biochar, the Santa Barbara Independent, Bamboo DNA, Teeccino, Buena Onda Empanadas, Ah Juice, the Community Environmental Council (CEC), SBCC Environmental Horticulture, Explore Ecology, Regenerative Landscape Alliance, Island Seed & Feed, Orella Ranch/Gaviota Givings, Santa Barbara Aquaponics, Sustainable World Radio, Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Foundation, Paradise Found, Quail Springs Permaculture, Hour Books, Mesa Harmony Garden, Wingnut Mushroom Farm, Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, and Earthbanc.
Albert will be attending the International Biochar Conference in Sacramento, CA in February 2024.
The Santa Barbara Permaculture Network Eco Hero Award honors those individuals who have committed themselves to work in service of the planet and its inhabitants for more than thirty years, with actual solutions and concrete ways forward that benefit many, often on a global scale, while demonstrating pathways forward for future generations. Past recipients of the Santa Barbara Permaculture Network Eco Hero Award include John D. Liu; Paul Stamets & Louie Schwartzberg; and John & Nancy Jack Todd. We are honored to have Albert Bates join us in person as the recipient for the 2024 Eco Hero Award. A reception follows in the Lobero courtyard for all ticket holders.