Regenerative Agriculture – The Solution to Atmospheric Carbon

If you follow our Facebook page you will have recently seen the image below. It was shared many times and sparked a lot of questions and debate so we thought it would be a good topic to cover here in a bit more detail.

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Soil holds carbon. Soil hold a whole lot of carbon. Other than the oceans and fossil fuel deposits, soil is the largest reservoir of carbon on the planet. “What about the atmosphere?”, you might ask. Well, soil holds more than double the amount of carbon in our atmosphere and vegetation combined. In fact, the dark color of rich fertile soil is due to the presence of organic carbon compounds. Sadly, over that last several centuries our soils have been degraded and eroded by short sighted agricultural processes. Not only has this released a great deal of carbon from soils but also reduced it’s capacity to store it.

The good news is that we can fix this issue and, among other benefits, remove excess carbon from our atmosphere and actually sequester more than 100% of current annual COemissions . The answers is adopting soil restorative agriculture techniques and then relying on a natural process you learned about in primary school: photosynthesis. Thats right, simply plants converting carbon in the air into organic molecules exuded by roots to feed hungry microbes underground.

Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University,  refers to soil restoration as “low hanging fruit” and says it can serve as a “bridge” to climate safety during the transition to a non-fossil fuel economy.  Further, the Rodale Institute has demonstrated that regenerative organic farming could actually capture carbon dioxide in quantities exceeding global emissions. So lets get down to the nuts and bolts of this shall we.

What Are Restorative Agriculture Techniques?

“Restorative Agriculture Techniques” or “Regenerative Agriculture” describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change (Remember, don’t say climate change!) by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon draw down and sequestration. They include:

  1. No-till/minimum tillage. Tillage breaks up (pulverizes) soil aggregation and fungal communities while adding excess O2 to the soil for increased respiration and CO2 emission. It can be one of the most degrading agricultural practices, greatly increasing soil erosion and carbon loss. A secondary effect is soil capping and slaking that can plug soil spaces for percolation creating much more water runoff and soil loss. Conversely, no-till/minimum tillage, in conjunction with other regenerative practices, enhances soil aggregation, water infiltration and retention, and carbon sequestration. However, some soils benefit from interim ripping to break apart hardpans, which can increase root zones and yields and have the capacity to increase soil health and carbon sequestration. Certain low level chiseling may have similar positive effects.
  2. Soil fertility is increased in regenerative systems biologically through application of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures, which restore the plant/soil microbiome to promote liberation, transfer, and cycling of essential soil nutrients. Artificial and synthetic fertilizers have created imbalances in the structure and function of microbial communities in soils, bypassing the natural biological acquisition of nutrients for the plants, creating a dependent agroecosystem and weaker, less resilient plants. Research has observed that application of synthetic and artificial fertilizers contribute to climate change through (i) the energy costs of production and transportation of the fertilizers, (ii) chemical breakdown and migration into water resources and the atmosphere; (iii) the distortion of soil microbial communities including the diminution of soil methanothrops, and (iv) the accelerated decomposition of soil organic matter.
  3. Building biological ecosystem diversity begins with inoculation of soils with composts or compost extracts to restore soil microbial community population, structure and functionality restoring soil system energy (compounds as exudates) through full-time planting of multiple crop intercrop plantings, multispecies cover crops, and borders planted for bee habitat and other beneficial insects. This can include the highly successful push-pull systems. It is critical to change synthetic nutrient dependent monocultures, low-biodiversity and soil degrading practices.
  4. Well-managed grazing practices stimulate improved plant growth, increased soil carbon deposits, and overall pasture and grazing land productivity while greatly increasing soil fertility, insect and plant biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration. These practices not only improve ecological health, but also the health of the animal and human consumer through improved micro-nutrients availability and better dietary omega balances. Feed lots and confined animal feeding systems contribute dramatically to (i) unhealthy monoculture production systems, (ii) low nutrient density forage (iii) increased water pollution, (iv) antibiotic usage and resistance, and (v) CO2 and methane emissions, all of which together yield broken and ecosystem-degrading food-production systems.

 

If you would like to learn more I recommend checking out this Rosdale Institute’s white paper. I found The Carbon Farming Solution by Eric Toensmeier to be very informative and am very excited about the upcoming book Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming by Frank Holzman. And the go plant something!

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Decentralized Food Production: Revolutionaries Need Gardens

“The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy, and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.” – Bill Mollison

 

If you are familiar with the content here on the blog and the Everyday Sustainable Facebook page, you have probably noticed that there is a decent amount related to food production. That is because I believe it is the key to, well, everything. Food has the power to nourish or poison; to heal or to kill; to liberate or to enslave. It has been the fuel of all life and human activity since the beginning. Chase here to talk about why I believe returning to a decentralized food production model is not only possible but imperative to ensuring a healthy, safe, and sustainable life for ourselves and future generations.

For millennia humans have lived as part of and in balance with nature. If a fruit or plant tasted good and did not seem to have any adverse effects like death, the seeds were saved and spread in order to produce more. One apple was turned into a half dozen apples trees, which turned into an orchard. Crops and trees were propagated and traded across continents. These essentially free living means of production were recognized and employed as replicable systems.  Human kind rose to preeminence fueling itself with food that could literally be picked up off the ground.

But over the course of the last 150 or so years, much of human kind has collected into or around urban centers and moved from a production based society to a consumption based society. Rather than spending our time doing things for ourselves (self sufficiency) and have taken jobs doing things for other people so we can have money to pay other people to do things for us. This has lead to the centralization of knowledge and skills vital to our existence (dependency). Don’t get me wrong, there are both positive and negatives to this. However, being dependent on industry and/or government for you basic physiological needs not only places us in a position to be manipulated and controlled but also potentially puts our health and lives in danger.

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Decentralization allows us all to disconnect from the fragile and violent systems of centralized politics and finance run by corrupt politicians, international bankers, and monopolistic global corporations. Not everyone can put away a couple million dollars, invest it properly, and one day retire on passive income. But anyone can put in time, effort and resources today to supply their basic food needs and enjoy a passive income in the form of delicious healthy food for decades to come! And when you build a system around permaculture, you get something truly amazing. Automated food production. This is the future. Every individual will once again be closely involved in their food production. People will either grow and forage for their food themselves, or know the person(s) who does. I’m certain of it, because it’s just a better and more resilient system for long term success and health.

You don’t have to take my word for it. It’s already a reality in some places on this planet. The rest of us just have some catching up to do.

In this tiny suburban back yard of only 640 square feet you will find:

  • 80 medicinal plants
  • 30 fruit trees
  • 22 varieties of berries
  • vertical growing spaces
  • annual yields of 154 lbs of vegetables and 355 lbs of fruit

How many suburban homes have empty lawns? Lawns they spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on every year to keep green and sterile, when they could spend that money to build a real asset that would pay dividends for years to come.

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How many apartments have patios or balconies that are empty save for a rarely used folding chair or two?

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How many urban buildings have flat roof top not being used for much other than absorbing and later radiating solar heat?

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These are all opportunities and the realization that anyone can do this anywhere should give us all a powerful wake up call.

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” ― Bill Mollison

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Your Guide to Sustainability Documentaries on Netflix

One thing I may have missed in our post Baby Steps Towards Sustainable Living is the importance of self education. There are an endless number of outstanding books and videos on YouTube, both of which I am sure to address in the future, but today I will share some of my favorite documentaries you can stream on Netflix.

What The Health

After this article was initially posted, I had multiple posts on social media asking why this film wasn’t included. The answer was very simple: I hadn’t seen it! Now that I have, I completely understand. “What The Health” is the follow-up film from the creators of the award-winning documentary “Cowspiracy” that exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick. It is a great companion film to the next documentary on our list, “Forks Over Knives”

Forks Over Knives

I start off our list with Lee Filkerson’s “Forks Over Knives” because this one has inspired change in our family’s diet. This film examines a study by researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn that found that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. This film might just save your life.

 

More Than Honey

In “More Than Honey,” Oscar-nominated director Markus Imhoof provides an inside look at the industrial apiary business across the globe. This movie is a cinematographic masterpiece that explains the crises our pollinators are currently facing.

 

Fed Up

Did you know that there are 600,000 food items in America and that 80% of them have added sugar? Did you know that our current generation of youth is the first expected to live a shorter life than their parents? That’s insane. Katie Couric and Stephanie Soechtig’s film, “FED UP,” is an examination of America’s obesity epidemic and the food industry’s role in aggravating it. It may just change the way to eat.

 

Minimalism

This is another film that inspired change for our family. Is asks, how might your life be better with less? “MINIMALISM: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS” examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

 

Food Inc.

Another great film. “Food Inc.” is a perfect illustration of F. William Engdahl’s book ‘Seeds of Destruction‘, which explains how international agribusinesses are trying to monopolize vertically and horizontally food production on a world scale. Unfortunately at the cost of our health.

 

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Gretchen, stop trying to make “Climate Change” happen. It’s not going to happen.

I’m sorry, I am fluent in movie quotes and just couldn’t help myself with the title. But, if you are honest with yourself after reading this post, I think you will find that the emotion or curiosity you felt when you read it perfectly illustrates the point I am about to make. Chase here to talk about why I think we should all stop using phrases like “global warming” and “climate change” if we ever want to accomplish anything.

Over the past few decades our culture has become obsessed with labeling very complex issues with catchy, easy to digest buzzwords. This is no doubt due to the influence of media, particularly online media, and the marketing industry. The downside is that when we take such large and complex issues and try to wrap them up in a buzzword, we force people to either be 100% in support or 100% in opposition to all facets of it with no room for nuance and compromise (that is not a bad word). These buzzwords become incendiary language and cause people to instantly dig in their heels and reject your cause outright. In my opinion, this has a lot to do with why our society and government have become so polarized and gridlocked on many issues.

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So what do I suggest? I suggest we stop being lazy! Understand that these issues are enormously complex and stop trying to solve them in broad generalities. Speak directly to what resonates with the audience. Instead of telling people we need to leave fossil fuel energy production behind to fight climate change, we should try to explain that renewable energy has the potential to create a huge number of jobs and be a major economic growth sector. Instead of telling them that we need to transition to electrically powered transportation to fight global warming, we should try framing our dependence on oil as a national security issue that we have the technology to solve. And oh, by the way, these things are all much more sustainable and better for our environment too!

We should also seek out unlikely allies and work with them where our issues intersect. For example, Ducks Unlimited is a 501c nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and upland habitats for waterfowl. Their objective is to do those things to ensure that waterfowl hunting remains sustainable, but guess which habitats are best at carbon sequestration? Wetlands and forests!

These are just a few examples of subtle changes we can make that may help reach people and perhaps make progress, even if we don’t use the same lingo and our stated goals are different. Give it a try, see what happens. Whatever you do though, don’t screw it up by saying “climate change”!

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Death of the Internal Combustion Engine

Less than a month after Tesla became the United State’s most valuable automakerFinancial Post is reporting on a newly published study by Stanford University economist Tony Seba that is sending shock waves through the automotive and oil industries. After careful analysis of current market and economic trends along with technology investments and advancements, Seba’s forecast titled Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030 suggests that by the late-2020s the internal combustion engine will be all but extinct on the dealer showroom.

According to Seba, this revolution is being driven by technology and simple economics rather than government policies. Electric cars are currently the fastest growing segment in the global automotive industry. March 2017 saw a 134% increase in electric automobile sales over March 2016 and a 87% increase Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016. With this kind of growth, two things are occurring: 1) the economies of scale are making electric cars and their components cheaper to produce and 2) the automotive industry worldwide is pouring billions of dollars into battery and electric systems research and development.

Over the next 2-3 years battery ranges are predicted to meet and exceed to 350-400 mile range petrol powered vehicles typically reach and entry level electric vehicle prices are projected to break below $30,000. By 2022-2023 entry level EVs will be approaching $20,000. That is when, according to Seba, the avalanche will occur. “What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally,” Professor Seba projects. With EV life expectancy in excess of 1 million miles, almost zero maintenance, and less than 7 cents per mile to operate, internal combustion will simple become obsolete.

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This shift is not without its challenges. The US government stands to lose up to $50 billion in fuel tax revenue, funds that are used for road construction and other surface transportation projects. “Certain high-cost countries, companies, and fields will see their oil production entirely wiped out. Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP could see 40 percent to 50 percent of their assets become stranded,” the report states. Additionally, the traditional automakers with their large bureaucracies are at risk of being leapfrogged by nimble cash flush tech companies that are already making moves in the industry. That is a lot of economic and geo-political instability added to an already complex world stage.

While I feel like Seba’s projections are a little optimistic, the trends are clearly pointing in one direction. And with renewable energy constituting the majority of new energy production coming on line the news is all the sweeter. What are your thoughts on this? Comment below and let us know.

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