I’ve posted so many stories about the soil and how important and significant healthy soil can be in reducing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. In other words, every day, we are stepping on one of the solutions to climate change. This short 3:30 video helps explains it.
France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.K., Germany and Mexico are among the more than two dozen countries that have so far signed on to what one day will likely be recognized as the most significant climate initiative in history.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is not yet on board with the plan—even though our country’s toxic, fossil-fuel-based, heavily subsidized (with taxpayer money), degenerative industrial agriculture system is a primary driver of global warming.
The French Government launched the 4/1000 Initiative which, distilled to simplest terms, says this: If, on a global scale, we increase the soil carbon content of the soil by .04 percent each year for the next 25 years, we can draw down a critical mass of excess carbon from the atmosphere and begin to reverse global warming.
Is the French initiative realistic? Yes, even by conservative estimates.
Industrial, degenerative farming practices, which include tilling, deforestation, wetlands destruction and the use of massive amounts of synthetic and toxic fertilizers and pesticides, have stripped 136 billion tons of carbon out of the soil and sent it up into the atmosphere. Using the French government’s modest estimates, we can transfer, via enhanced plant photosynthesis, 150 billion tons of this carbon back into the soil in the next 25 years.
How do we achieve those numbers? All we have to do is help just 10 percent of the world’s farmers and ranchers adopt regenerative organic agriculture, holistic grazing and land management practices—and by help, we mean direct a portion of the billions of dollars earmarked for climate solution projects to farmers who regenerate, not degenerate, the world’s soils.
Regenerative agriculture represents more than a shift of practices. It is also a shift in paradigm and in our basic relationship to nature – as a comparison with geoengineering highlights.
First, regenerative agriculture seeks to mimic nature, not dominate it. As Ray Archuleta, a soil-health specialist at the USDA, puts it, “We want to go away from control and command agriculture. We should farm in nature’s image.” In contrast, geoengineering seeks to take our centuries-long domination of nature to a new extreme, making the entire planet an object of manipulation.
Second, regenerative agriculture is a departure from linear thinking and its control of variables through mechanical and chemical means. It values the diversity of polycultures, in which animals and plants form a complex, symbiotic, robust system. Geoengineering, on the other hand, ignores the law of unintended consequences that plagues any attempt to engineer a highly nonlinear system. It exemplifies linear thinking: if the atmosphere is too warm, add a cooling factor. But who knows what will happen?
Third, regenerative agriculture seeks to address the deep basis of ecological health: the soil. It sees low fertility, runoff and other problems as symptoms, not the root problem. Geoengineering, on the other hand, addresses the symptom – global warming – while leaving the cause untouched.
Read up on it: restoring our land, regenerative agriculture, forests, deserts, abandoned farms……..the amount of biological activity going on underneath our feet, which involves the transfer of carbon from the air to the soil into microbes and other little tiny creatures down there, is incredible. We’ve been ignoring a cheap, natural, unobtrusive form of geoengineering that most of us can appreciate, understand and adopt.
Just google regenerative agriculture, or soil carbon sink, and read some of the stuff that pops up. My recommendation: Kristin Ohlson’s book, “The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet.” It will excite you (if you’re into dirt and farms and soil and worms and microbes and farmer politics).
Plants and soil soak up carbon, and one of the reasons carbon emissions are rising so rapidly is that we are losing or degrading these carbon sinks. From chopped-down forests to trampled grasslands to burping cows, agriculture, forestry, and other land use account for between 21 to 24 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If we reforested our lands and increased the capacity of our carbon sinks in other ways, it would help reduce our net carbon emissions. UCS found in a 2014 report that “over half of the gap between what countries intend to do to reduce emissions and what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change could be closed by stronger actions in the land sector.”
So why aren’t developed nations’ INDCs including more specifics on how they will improve land use and measure progress? In part it’s just an oversight because developed countries emit so much through burning fossil fuels for electricity, industry, and transportation. “They may look at their overall economy and say agriculture and forestry are a small percentage of the economy and think they don’t make a big difference, so they focus on the fossil fuel sectors,” says Boucher. “I don’t think they’ve realized there are substantial emissions from the land sector and that the potential for sequestration is quite large.”
McDougall had considered pursuing a formal organic certification for his meat products and farm, Studio Hill, but decided he wanted to do more than tell customers what’s not in the food—the absence of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. McDougall sought instead a certification that would tell consumers what is in their food, how the food was raised and how the land was improved by its production.
“The certification is intended to help legitimize this style of farming as an economically viable option for farmers,” McDougall said. “It is our hope that this certification program not only creates a high-value market for regeneratively-grown food, but also rewards regenerative farmers for their work with better marketing opportunities and bigger margins.”
Also known as “carbon farming,” regenerative agriculture practices put the emphasis on soil health using nature’s systems to regenerate the land. According to Andre Leu, president of IFOAM—Organics International, “Rebuilding soil by sequestering carbon reduces CO2 from the atmosphere and creates land that is more drought resistant and grows healthier, food, plants and animals.”
The certification includes three standard, binary tests: if topsoil has increased; if carbon has been sequestered; or if soil organic matter has increased. A farm would need to meet only one of these criteria, over a three-year period and with each successive year, to be certified as regenerative.
Healthy soil via regenerative agriculture is gaining traction worldwide with 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, a visionary initiative introduced at last December’s COP21 and signed by 25 countries, to increase the organic carbon level of each country’s agricultural soils by 0.4 percent each year.
Famous California vegan restaurateurs under fire over revelation they eat meat
The California-based husband and wife founders of celebrity-endorsed vegan restaurant group Cafe Gratitudesay they have received death threats after it was revealed last week that they are raising, slaughtering and eating animals on their farm north of San Francisco. (Gasp!)
Matthew and Terces Engelhart, both in their sixties, who opened the first Cafe Gratitude in 2004 and whose celebrity followers have included Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé and Sacha Baron Cohen, countered the firestorm of criticism with a defense of the “regenerative agriculture” methods they now use on their Be Love Farm in Vacaville, calling it a personal choice made in the privacy of their home.
“We started to observe nature and what we saw is that nature doesn’t exist without animals,” says Matthew Engelhart about his “transition” into meat products after nearly 40 years of vegetarianism.
Lundgren is launching Blue Dasher Farm, which, according to the farm’s website, aims to be “the first of a network of research, education and demonstration farms to bring scientific support to biodiverse food production.”
Lundgren wants to showcase regenerative agriculture methods on Blue Dasher Farm. These include cover crops to reduce weeds and insect pressure, diversified crop rotations, soil fertility practices and conservation crops to increase pollinators, such as bees, among others.
Blue Dasher Farm aims to bridge the gap between farmers and researchers.
“We want to pair agroecologists with producers and train the next generation of farmers, ranches, beekeepers and scientists,” he said. “We have so much we can learn from each other.”
Blue Dasher Farm won’t be organic, but will encompass organic methods. “A lot of what we are doing fits into the organic model,” Lundgren said. “But I don’t think farmers will need to be organic to be more profitable using regenerative practices.”
Lundgren believes that changes in agriculture and food production will come from the grassroots and not from top-down approaches of government, universities and corporations.
“Transformational changes need to be done to food systems and these changes come from the bottom up,” he said. “We need science to innovate agriculture and not maintain the current paradigm. We want to give scientific support to grassroots efforts in regenerative agriculture.”