There's A Way to Save Our Future. So Why Aren't More People Talking About It?
"Organic regenerative agriculture and land use is the other half of the climate solution," says Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association. (Photo: File)
Transitioning to organic regenerative agriculture practices 'offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster.'
"Instead of subsidizing a food and farming system that contributes to global warming while degenerating soils and local economies, we should start rewarding farmers and ranchers for restoring the soil's organic matter and drawing down carbon."
—Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association
Among the solutions mentioned in the piece: "fertilizing the oceans with iron to make them absorb more carbon," "planting more forests," and "carbon capture technologies."
But there was no mention of agroecology, or regenerative agriculture—practices that work with nature, avoiding the damaging impacts of industrial agriculture, such as no-till farming, composting, planned grazing, and cover crops.
As Diana Donlon, food and climate director at the Center for Food Safety, said earlier this month to mark World Soil Day: "Through regenerative farming practices, we have the ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, where it is wreaking havoc, and store it in the soil, where it is greatly lacking and where it has multiple benefits for food, water and climate security."
For Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, omitting these practices from mainstream reporting, and not including them in the conversation about climate change, is a missed opportunity.
"No talk of global warming solutions is complete without addressing agriculture—both its contribution to global warming and its potential for solving the crisis," she told Common Dreams on Thursday.
She noted that the world’s soils have lost 50–70 percent of their carbon stocks and fertility—a crisis largely attributed to modern chemical-intensive, factory-farm, GMO-based industrial agriculture. And she cited a recent report from GRAIN, which shows that when deforestation, transportation, synthetic fertilizer production, and wetlands destruction are factored in, Big Ag contributes more than 50 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
"We must restore the soil's potential to store carbon," Paul declared. "We must also, in addition to reducing emissions, draw down billions of tons of CO2 already in the atmosphere."
"Fortunately," she continued, "we have the tools to do this. Organic regenerative agriculture and land use is the other half of the climate solution."
Though some have said the COP21 talks were "a disaster for agroecology," Paul points to the French 4 per 1000 Initiative, through which governments can now incorporate carbon sequestration through organic agriculture into their climate plans. She urged the U.S. to follow France's lead.
"Instead of subsidizing a food and farming system that contributes to global warming while degenerating soils and local economies," she said, "we should start rewarding farmers and ranchers for restoring the soil's organic matter and drawing down carbon."
Yet a recent study looking at research-dollar allocation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed a dearth of funding for agroecological research and "an urgent need for additional public funding for systems-based agroecology and sustainable agriculture research."
Indeed, the future of the planet depends on it, Paul said. "Transitioning from industrial ag, a huge contributor to global warming, to organic regenerative offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster."
Soil Can Reverse Climate Change:
A Message of Hope
On September 24 last year, the Pope, after addressing a Joint Session of Congress on the environmental and moral crisis of climate change, will speak to one of the largest congregations at the National Mall since two million people attended President Obama’s inauguration. Shortly before he speaks, Larry Kopald, from The Carbon Underground, a not-for-profit organization, will deliver a message of hope to the crowd.
“For the first time a real solution to climate change has emerged. Studies from around the world are clearly showing that restoring the health of soil harmed by industrial farming techniques can not only sequester enough carbon to halt climate change, but has the potential to actually reverse it in our lifetime, all while feeding us abundant and healthy food. It’s literally a shovel-ready solution to the biggest crisis facing humanity.”
The Carbon Underground is part of a growing global coalition of research institutes, businesses, universities, religious organizations, and civil society organizations that are pointing to the new science showing how simply growing our food in a healthier manner, where soil is kept vibrant and alive, can draw down and store enough carbon to reverse climate change.
Martin Kirk, from the think-tank The Rules, said today, “This isn’t about waiting for some brilliant new technology to be invented. This is about using a technology tested and refined over hundreds of millions of years, called photosynthesis. It is quite literally a system for ensuring that life can flourish. The problem is that we are harming our soil so much that we’re effectively shutting this system down. We can wake it up again, starting today. The moral case for doing so is unimpeachable.”
Most people don’t know that between 40% and 50% of manmade carbon emissions are created by industrial agriculture and our food production systems. But we now know that what farming put into the atmosphere, farming can remove. "The ability of photosynthesis, leveraged with advanced farming and grazing practices, to return us to preindustrial levels of COs is now clear. This is the world we can hand to our children, if we act now," said Dr. Tim LaSalle, Professor Emeritus, Cal Poly.
Ronnie Cummins, from the Organic Consumer’s Association, goes on to say that “Regenerative farming proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that farms that use the regenerative model can not only feed the planet, they can help the return the whole planetary system to a state of safety and abundance.”
Why, then, haven’t most people heard about regenerative farming? That answer seems to fall into two categories. First, although new studies are pouring in, they are all relatively recent. Second, as the Pope states clearly in his encyclical, greed and special interests are preventing the progress we need to deal with the largest threat facing the planet.
But those special interests are increasingly marginalized, even among large businesses. Rick Ridgeway, Global Director of Sustainability at Patagonia, states that restoring the soil is not only a moral imperative, but also the smart business choice. “At Patagonia our mission is to 'use business to implement solutions to the environmental crisis'. We had been pessimistic that, because of climate change, there may not be timely solutions that avoid the cliff. Not anymore--regenerative agriculture and grazing, with its promise of pulling carbon out of the air and putting back into ground, may allow us to avoid that cliff. As a solution, it is something Patagonia is fully behind.”
The perils of ignoring the evidence are simple: a continued loss of the topsoil, which will not only accelerate climate change but also threaten the food supply. “We have already lost as much as 60% of our topsoil through the use of mono-culture farming and chemicals,” says soil scientist Kris Nichols at the Rodale Institute. “According the UN, we have about 70 years of topsoil left if we don’t begin restoring it now. The good news is that by doing so we can safeguard the global food supply and also provide a solution to climate change.”
Organizers of the Pope’s visit invited The Carbon Underground to speak after recognizing that soil is, indeed, a solution to what the Pope calls “a moral crisis.” Said Lise Van Sustern of the Moral Action on Climate, "While it is essential that people hear about the dire consequences of climate change in order to convince them of the urgent need to take action – it is equally important to show that there is every reason to be hopeful if we turn this worry into action. This story clearly and powerfully provides the actions on solutions that restore our hope."
The Carbon Underground’s Larry Kopald concluded, “Regenerative agriculture, when paired with a continued drive to reduce the amount of fresh carbon we put into the atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels, offers the only viable solution to climate change known to humanity. This solution is ours for the taking. So let’s take it.”
Organization Link - Carbon Underground
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
From Common Dreams @ http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/24/theres-way-save-our-future-so-why-arent-more-people-talking-about-it and http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2015/09/24/soil-can-reverse-climate-change-message-hope-address-popes-dc-congregation
For more information about soil see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/soil
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