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Cheryl Hughes: Brass Tactics

Carbon mineralization is the process in which carbon dioxide becomes a solid mineral, such as carbonate.  It is a chemical reaction that happens when certain rocks are exposed to carbon dioxide.  The process happens naturally over time, but it can be sped up artificially.  In Iceland, there is a plant in operation that can potentially suck 4,00 tons of CO2 out of the air every year.  The CO2 will be injected deep into the ground to be mineralized.  That much carbon equates to emissions from 870 cars.  The plant, built by Switzerland’s Climeworks, cost between ten and fifteen million dollars to build.

The plant, operated by Iceland’s Carbfix, uses fans to draw air into a collector which has a filter.  When the filter is filled with CO2, the collector is closed, and the temperature is raised.  This process releases the CO2 from the filter, after which the concentrated gas is collected.  The CO2 is mixed with water and injected 1,000 meters into the nearby basalt rock, where it is mineralized.  “Carbfix says the CO2-water mixture turns to stone in about two years and hydride of Sulphur (HS2) within four months” (

If this bold idea works, it will be a game changer in the attempt to curb green house gases.  Just hold that thought.

Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana and founder of the group Foo Fighters, was raised by a single mom.  She was a teacher and educator for thirty-five years.  Recently, I listened to an interview in which he said he had been the worst student in the school where his mom had been a teacher.  To his mom’s credit, she recognized, early on, her son’s musical ability, and took him to hear jazz bands. 

I’ve thought about how differently Grohl’s life would have turned out if she had reacted differently, if she had been embarrassed by her son, if she had been angry at her son, if she believed her son just wasn’t trying.  Thankfully, she was able to assess the situation, put her own feelings on the back burner, and redirect any hopes and dreams she might have had for her son.

“I knew how smart he was.  I knew what a good writer he was.  There was no reason why he shouldn’t be a great student, except he just didn’t like it,” his mom, Ginny, said (  Dave auditioned for the band Scream when he was seventeen years old.  They invited him to go on tour, and Ginny Grohl—the career teacher—let her son drop out of school and go with them.  This was way before Dave Grohl became the famous musician, before he had made a gazillion dollars.  Can you imagine what Ginny’s friends and family said, how they talked about her, how they condemned her.

She was brave, however, and because she was open to this different path for her son, his life, as well as the lives of those around him, were changed forever.  Just hold that thought.

Years ago, we had an employee who would say, “Now, we’re getting down to the brass tactics, boys,” anytime the job came down to the minute details it would take to finish up.  I knew the phrase was actually, “getting down to the brass tacks,” but I didn’t want to be a know-it-all, so I never corrected him.  I knew the phrase was attributed to the fact that years ago, people used brass nails when nailing coffins shut, but I’d never thought about why that meant getting down to the basic details of a situation.  According to, because death is final, there is no more quibbling over what is or isn’t or what should or shouldn’t be.  All doubt about the situation is over.  You are down to the brass tacks.

But what about brass tactics?  Maybe the guy was on to something.  The word tactic refers to a carefully planned strategy.  If you say someone is brass, that means he/she has self-assurance and boldness.  It took brass tactics to build that carbon mineralization plant.  Ginny Grohl employed brass tactics when she took her son, the failing student, to jazz clubs, where he learned rhythms and techniques he would later incorporate into his own music.  Maybe, ”brass tactics” is like George W. Bush’s word, “misremembering.”  I heard somebody use that one just the other day.  Maybe, our employee created a whole new phrase to describe a bold idea implemented.  Brass tactics.  I like the sound of it.  I wonder what Mariam Webster would think.  Maybe, I’ll ask.


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