This is another post in my “Signs of Hope” Series. Courtney White’s new book “Grass, Soil, Hope: A journey through carbon country” is an example of the literature of “regenerative farming” or “regenerative agriculture”.
“This book tackles an increasingly crucial question: What can we do about the seemingly intractable challenges confronting all of humanity today, including climate change, global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, and economic instability?
The quick answers are: Build topsoil. Fix creeks. Eat meat from pasture-raised animals.
Scientists maintain that a mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. But how could this be accomplished? What would it cost? Is it even possible?
Yes, says author Courtney White, it is not only possible, but essential for the long-term health and sustainability of our environment and our economy.
Right now, the only possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is through plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon sequestration activities. These include a range of already existing, low-tech, and proven practices: composting, no-till farming, climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands, increasing biodiversity, and producing local food.
In Grass, Soil, Hope, the author shows how all these practical strategies can be bundled together into an economic and ecological whole, with the aim of reducing atmospheric CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things. Soil is a huge natural sink for carbon dioxide. If we can draw increasing amounts carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely in the soil then we can significantly address all the multiple challenges that now appear so intractable.” (Quoted from http://media.chelseagreen.com//grass-soil-hope).
Regenerative farming sequesters carbon in the soil, improves the fertility of the soil, and improves both the quantity and the quality of crops. It is a win win win process.
However, regenerative farming requires a change in farming practices. It requires the farmer to learn new things and to change practices. Several NGOs have significant funding to work with third world farmers to encourage this shift, so we can hope for a useful impact on atmospheric CO2 in the near future
The large scale, highly mechanized factory farms that dominate US agriculture are NOT well suited to make the shift to regenerative farming and are likely to resist. Given the political clout of the big ag lobby, this means that the US is likely to continue subsidies to the factory farms instead of facilitating the change to regenerative farming. It would help a great deal if we could get congress to support the family farmer instead of subsidizing the corporate farming giants.
What can you and I do to help?
There are a number of things that the average urban dweller can do to encourage the transition to regenerative farming.
- Support farmer’s markets. To the extent possible switch your food purchases from the supermarkets to the farmer’s markets. This takes sales from the factory farms and gives them to local farmers. It also reduces oil consumption from transporting food long distances across the country.
- Buy organic. Most organic farms are already using regenerative farming methods.
- Buy “free range” eggs and meat. Unlike factory farmed animals, free range chickens and grazing animals are good for the land.
- Patronize restaurants that get their food locally.
These actions will not only benefit the climate and the global ecosystem, but they will also reduce your personal risk for cancer. Foods from the factory farms are drenched in pesticides and other chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens. Avoiding these foods to the extent possible will probably lengthen your life span.
I welcome reader questions, comments, or criticisms. Contact me at cyberneticapress (at) gmail.com