I haven’t written a lot about why it is I am doing what I am doing, with the people I am doing it with. Like many people, I have spent the last few years reconnecting with my personal values, and how they connect back to the larger whole. Adrienne Maree Brown I think said that the only work that needs to be done is to restore land, and restore relationships. I’ve found that helpful as a guiding light, but still it is up to me to express my vision for this world, and how I came to see Eion as an expression of that vision. To that end, I got together with my team to collect our thoughts and lay down our cards.
Starting at the End
It would be easy to look at Eion and say the goal is to remove a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s not a bad goal — a lot of other companies set the same goal!
But, as motivated as I am about carbon, I am at least as motivated about rural vitality, making farming more profitable so people can keep doing it. Along the way we find that we are working with farmers, truckers, barge operators, lime applicators, rock pulverizers, stevedores, and even agronomists (!) who are pretty much top to bottom family held or employee owned local or regional businesses who have been, and will continue to serve the communities they are in.
While we’re at it, if I think about removing CO2, what I am really thinking about is this world I like to be in, the trees and streams and wildlife, both the places I walk around in, and the places that are fascinating to read about in National Geographic. We’re really talking about maintaining a livable planet if we zoom out a bit. And when we are talking about farmers and local businesses, we’re really talking about rebuilding a rural middle class that is at least as endangered as any species.
I saw Billy Bragg perform in a public park about fifteen years ago. I think it was late era GWB, and I recall the mood at that time was kind of edgy, what with Abu Ghraib and Extreme Rendition, and the crowd was happy to see him but it was against a backdrop of social anxiety. And he told this story of growing up in gray England and just how profoundly moved he was to see the United States of America land a man on the Moon. The fucking MOON. Like, America, you really did something there. And we need you to get it together and do that again.
This has stuck with me for so many years, because I think there is something more than achieving these outcomes, which is to believe that you can achieve these outcomes, because you actually did it. It’s like the societal version of the first time you ride a bike. Exhilarating! And then you do it again, and faster. Success feels good.
And so I think our vision for where we are headed with Eion is to actually catalyze our own belief that we knuckle-headed humans can actually meet these unimaginably daunting challenges.
Doing the Work
My wife and I have a recurring joke about the time she was the Queen of the Pickle Pavilion at the Slow Food Nation event, circa 2008. It was an effort that required a lot of volunteers to do manual work to make a quite brilliant exposition area. And one of the volunteers asked, Do you have anything less manual? I am kind of a “big picture” guy. I never want to be stuck being the big picture guy, I need to be in the game.
I get that carbon needs to have its verifiers, and benchmarkers, and ratings agencies, and watchdogs, and marketplaces, and market analysts, but at the end of the day someone is going to need to do the actual work. That is a big part of what motivates us here, is doing the actual work.
This is where we express our way of doing things — grounded in high-integrity science, building relationships across people that had no idea they had interests in common, moving rock. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing heavy equipment operated by trained professionals: every ton they move is going to remove a ton of CO2. And we sleep easier knowing that we were able to prove our work with math. And essentially every business we work with is uniquely inspiring for the culture they have invented to deliver the products they do.
The fruits of our collective effort
From this set of activities you can see a virtuous cycle begin to take form: making high quality carbon removal meets an unmet demand; delivering it at a larger scale drives down costs; engaging with local businesses means we can’t just “pivot”: we are laying down a commitment to the communities we are in.
That ability to reliably deliver a high quality product enables us to drop the costs, which enables us to meet larger demand. What started off as a boutique product for a tech company with a high willingness to pay evolves into a widespread product that supports decarbonization in all kinds of verticals, from cotton to beef to jet fuel to candy bars. Nobody I have met is insensitive of their role in creating the world their children will live in. By creating a practical way to do it, to be a part of creating it, this carbon removal engine is really a human-based solution.
The Theory of Change
Here it is all together. It still needs some meat on the bones to take it from a big picture to an actual reality, but I am putting my cards down on the table. Eion is not a carbon removal company. It is a company that exists to catalyze the human spirit and remind ourselves that we landed on the Moon once, and we can do it again. We got this.
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