Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bushfire prevention: Mechanical Megafauna

Bushfire prevention: Mechanical Megafauna

The megafauna in Australia and America used to munch up the smaller vegetation and defecate fertilizer for the trees. However when humans arrived at those places the megafauna assessed these new small mammals as harmless. Bad mistake. Compare this to Africa where the megafauna evolved alongside humans and they well know to be scared of us and attack us if necessary.

When the megafauna disappeared, the Aboriginal people in Australia discovered the need for controlled burning to maintain the open woodland that was safe from extreme bush fires. This was done on a continuous small scale basis. When European explorers first travelled through the outback they saw smoke from these fires all around.

Left wing governments in Australia and in California have been accused of skimping on controlled burning, contributing to the subsequent disasters. Who can blame governments for disliking controlled burning? It kills wildlife. It is done on windless days but that leads to an unhealthy build up of smoke, affecting local residents. And sometimes the wind picks up and the fire escapes to threaten life and property. And it puts CO₂ into the atmosphere, which seems like a bad idea. The regrowth probably cancels that, but it isn't completely obvious.

I favour attempting to bring back the megafauna, but that is a 100 year project. California and Australia are high tech places, so maybe we can do a high tech solution. I propose the Mechanical Megafauna which will do a better job than controlled burning, and sequester CO₂ as well. The following sci-fi description is one of many ways it might be done.
The giant airship-drone lifted the MechMeg base station from its location and lowered it down carefully between the trees to its next spot. The ground had been mapped with vegetation-penetrating radar. Drones had identified the vegetation at the next stop. 
Everything happened fast after the base station set down. Boston Dynamics robots came quickly out of the base station, cutting down plants and dragging them to the base. Other robots followed to rake up leaf litter and other small stuff. 
The base station processed these by chopping them finely and heating them in a furnace to a very high temperature in a near vacuum. This left a residue that was mostly carbon. It also created a gas with hydrogen and methane which was burnt as part of the energy needed to run the furnace and power the base.
Refueling drones arrived regularly to provide extra hydrogen for the base station and to take away the residual carbon to be sequestered earning carbon credits.
How practical is this? I don't know, but California is very rich.