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Some sad news and a question on algae...

Susan Watts | 13:12 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

Harry Hart, an original thinker on making better use of algae - to re-claim desert land as a source of food or fuel, and to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - has died.

His funeral is today.

Harry was in touch with the BBC for many years, and Newsnight interviewed him back in 2008, when we were working on a film on novel technologies for capturing carbon. You can see the website interview with Harry and Newsnight film here.

Harry had a colourful life. He worked as a television cameraman, filming some of the most notable events and people of the last century, including Mother Teresa when she was relatively unknown and the World Cup of 1966.

After filming the UK nuclear tests in the Monte Bello Islands in Australia and seeing fellow crew members apparently suffer from what they believed to be radiation poisoning, Harry became interested in unconventional ideas on nutrition.

His view of the world, and our use of resources, began to change when he filmed a documentary called One Man's Hunger on poverty in northern India. He saw great promise in growing algae as a source of food, and many mainstream scientists now agree with him.

One group, the FREdome Visionary Trust based in Hertfordshire, is securing start-up funding for a demonstration project along the lines of Harry's thinking.

This uses sewage waste - sent by tanker to arid coastlines, instead of being dumped at sea - to reclaim land and grow algae and other crops as a source of food, fuel and fertiliser, as well as trees to create the required moist microclimate.

The founder of the project, Greg Peachey, has been invited by the Arab Water Forum to talk on desert reclamation at their annual congress later this year.

Harry spent much of his time building up a substantial store of 35 years worth of research materials on this subject, now stored in a barn in Suffolk.

This archive is looking for a home, without which the material it contains will most likely be destroyed. Anyone interested?


  • Comment number 1.


    Harry was wonderfully wild and unfocused. He refused to have his life story put into print, even though I introduced him to a ghost writer (Ian Harrison). He refused because he was old-style self-effacing British, and blinded to the fact the algal message would not stand on its own in modern Edgyland. So he died with neither story 'getting out'. Hopefully Greg Peachy will have some luck.

    As for Harry's archive: I would venture it belongs in the Science Museum. Algal knowledge and technology is way past where it was when the material therein was accumulated. There is, without doubt, a wonderful story to be told. Harry was a true visionary; we don't make 'em like that any more. And THAT is another sorry tale.

    My thanks to Susan Watts for this tribute.

  • Comment number 2.

    what a nice, decent man Harry Hart was, hope we hear more about him....

  • Comment number 3.

    i'm sure the chinese will take the archive.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you for this tribute Susan. I met Harry after watching the video of you interviewing him about algae. I found him to be inspirational. RIP Harry and best wishes to his wonderful friends and family whom I had the privilege to meet today at his funeral.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am gratified to see an article about the potential for algae as one of very few realistic options to address some of the problems we are confronted by. I sometimes make a reference to it on other fora and am met with a mixture of confusion, disbelief, stupidity and mockery.

    The technology to achieve workable systems is definitely a great challenge but it is the kind of complex challenge that lies entirely within that which is already known, largely conventional engineering although also some cutting edge biology is involved, not a theoretical conjecture or 'punt' into the future such as 'fusion power'.

    Question-Would it be possible to filter and classify the archive and place different sections in different places. I can imagine that many academic venues would hesitate to take on a barns worth of of material, a huge cataloging and archiving undertaking.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm so sorry to hear that Harry has died, and so long after the event. But so that all his enthusiasm and work can be maintained and built upon. It's clearly the way to go.
    Oliver Dowding

  • Comment number 7.


    The essence of Harry's desert reclamation was sand + sea + sunlight, and a low-tech ethos, reversing the damage previously done by man. But the current ethos is perverse - perverse in the extreme. In all probability, Health and Safety et al would scupper Harry's PlanPlan.

    The Kogi are making another film - we should take more notice this time.


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