And Then There’s Mud–9,000 Year-Old Construction Technology, Denmark Builds a Clean Energy Hub Island, Germany Helps Dominican Republic Fix Trash Problem, and Shell Corp. Ups Its Net-Zero Goals

by | Mar 23, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Turns out raw earth construction materials are great for the climate. In other words–Mud–it does your building good. Plus, Denmark plans to build an artificial island as the world’s first clean energy hub. In our International segment — the dominican republic tackles its trash problem, with an assist from germany, and oil giant Shell corporation promises to reach net-zero emission goals sooner than previously announced.



Bill Gates recently touted a technological breakthrough in cement where CO2 is infused into it during the mixing phase, thus sequestering it. Scientists estimate that 6% of all CO2 emissions annually come from making concrete, so the goal is to help offset those.

Or we could just use mud.

Mud, or Raw Earth Architecture is a construction technology over ten thousand years old. That’s more than nine times longer than cement technology has been around. Examples of sturdy raw earth construction are on every continent, from the Great Wall of China, to the 700-year old, magnificent Alhambra palace and fortress complex in Spain, to quaint cottages in the UK, and even to Yemen in the Middle East. Yemen is home to the walled city of Shibam, built in the 16th century. Called the Manhattan of the Desert, Shibam is home to 7,000 people who still live in seven-story buildings constructed entirely of mud, more than 400 years ago. 

The classic raw earth building techniques of adobe, wattle and daub, rammed earth and cob were vital to local construction economies well into the early 19th Century. So what happened? The problem with mud, says Belgian architect Jean Dethier, and author of The Art of Earth Architecture, a manifest to a return to mud construction technology, is that mud has no industry lobby to promote it. As a result, since the 19th century, raw earth has been positioned as the building material of the impoverished, of the uneducated, of the under-developed nations. 

Why is reviving the classic raw earth building techniques of adobe, wattle and daub, rammed earth and cob so important to saving the climate? Here’s why: if the cement-making industry were a country, it would be the third-most CO2 emitting nation on the planet. Raw earth not only has one 40th of the carbon footprint of the equivalent volume of concrete but is also endlessly recyclable. Using raw earth materials reduces transport emissions because the material is already on site. It also helps eliminate the millions of pounds of debris the cement making industry creates annually. 

Dozens of architects are joining the cause, including Rwandan architect Christian Benimana, and Chennai, India-based architect Krithika Venkatesh. Benimana and Venkatesh have created beautiful raw earth construction projects in their native countries that are drawing praise worldwide. Check out Jean Dethier’s The Art of Earth Architecture wherever books are sold. After all, isn’t it time we had a little more “wattle and daub” in our lives?

DEEPER DIVE: Financial Times, Design Indaba, OZY



The Climate Daily recently reported on Denmark’s commitment to withdraw all new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea in an effort to phase out fossil fuel production by 2050. Now, the country announced plans to build the world’s first clean energy hub — an artificial island to power roughly three million homes with clean energy and alternative fuels. Reported by Fast Company, the artificial island is estimated to be the size of 20 football fields, located roughly 50 miles off the Danish coast. The artificial island would also be surrounded by 200 to 600 wind turbines.

Funded by the Danish government and partner companies, the project will cost around $34 billion and would be the largest construction project in the nation’s history. In an interview with Fast Company, a senior associate at clean energy nonprofit RMI Patrick Molloy explained, the project “offers a pathway for us to step away from fossil fuels and to move to a zero-carbon solution in sectors that a very short time ago looked very difficult to reach.”

DEEPER DIVE: Fast Company, RMI



My wife and I vacationed in the Dominican Republic several years ago. My two starkest memories of the DR are first of how beautiful the people and the beaches are, and second, how every single gully alongside every road we traveled, whether in the capitol city, the rural farmlands, or even right outside of our posh resort brimmed to overflowing with trash and garbage. So I speak from personal experience when I say the DR has a monumental trash problem.

According to its own government, the garbage disposal system there is chaotic and obsolete, Waste separation is practically nil, and even though the country has 350 landfills, much of the trash ends up where I saw it.

Now, in conjunction with the International Climate Initiative, and almost five and half million dollars in funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, the Dominican Republic is getting a makeover. In San Cristobal, local authorities and universities are working with GIZ, a German NGO, to create a modern circular economy. Circular economies are significant because, unlike traditional linear economies where we “make, use, dispose,” circular economies keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value from each resource by recovering and regenerating products. Think, “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

The funding also helped construct a trash sorting facility in the capital city of Santiago, a model for future sites throughout the county. Just as importantly, the funding also brought an educational component to DR schools. Teaching students about organic waste composting and other trash mitigation strategies brings awareness to the next generation of DR citizens, and cements a commitment to preserving their part of the planet.




British-Dutch multinational oil and gas company Shell promises to reach net-zero emission by 2050, raising its previous climate targets. With oil’s continual decline since 2019, Shell plans to expand its renewable and low-carbon business due to growing pressure on the oil and gas sector to address the climate crisis

Reported by Reuters, Shell announced a new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by expanding its low-carbon investments, including biofuels and hydrogen energy. However, unlike its competitors BP and Total, Shell did not introduce plans to expand solar and wind power energy generation.

Let’s talk numbers. Shell aims to reduce net carbon emissions between 6% and 8% from 2016 levels by 2023. The target gradually increases to 100% by 2050. Shell also announced its plan to increase funding. Previously announced at $3 billion, Shell’s new plan promises to invest at least $5 billion between its trading and retail business and renewables developments.