Human-caused climate change began not only with the burning of fossil fuels, but also with our exploitation of the Earth’s soil. Indigenous societies, many of which have sophisticated farming systems structured around knowledge of environmental limits, have often been violently displaced from their lands or forced to accept European agricultural models. As colonialism and mining practices spread around the world, the land was, for the first time, exposed to the plow. After only a few decades of intense plowing, 50% of the original organic matter in the earth’s soil has been oxidized and released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Land use, deforestation and industrial agriculture today contribute around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions
Fortunately, land use practices can be one of the most important solutions to the climate crisis, given the soil’s ability to sequester and retain carbon. A tablespoon of soil contains billions of microbes that collectively hold more carbon than all the animals put together.
Billions of tons of carbon are found underground, three times more than in the atmosphere. Microbes are the key to carbon sequestration because they transfer organic matter from plants and animals to the soil. This process enhances soil fertility while removing carbon from the atmosphere and locking it in.
With the advent of industrial agriculture, it is estimated that we lost 133 billion tonnes of soil carbon.
To keep warming at 1.5 ° C and preserve a liveable planet, we must both significantly reduce our emissions and achieve widespread carbon sequestration. The famous Project Drawdown shows in its data no other more effective way to fight global warming than to capture carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and the growth of plants, trees and other plants. Yet industrial-style monoculture farming practices such as plowing, stripping of land, the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides and amendments, and the long-distance transport of crops add significantly to our emissions. GES.
Conversely, regenerative agriculture practices can extract and sequester carbon. Healthy soil needs and stores carbon. Regenerative agriculture practices are most often economical over time, safer for farm workers, “low tech” and use local knowledge. These practices can restore degraded lands, improve water retention, reduce flooding, provide more nutrient-dense foods, improve air and water quality with reduced use of herbicides, pesticides and of toxic fertilizers, protect pollinators, create local and balanced ecosystems, promote crop resilience, disperse heat, reverse climate change and reconnect people to the land. Regenerative agriculture involves several basic practices: minimal soil disturbance, organic production, application of compost, use of cover crops, and crop rotation. Regenerative practices take different forms; some involving cattle grazing with meadows and food trees, and others resembling the Hawaiian haupua’a system.
There is a maturing global scientific consensus on the need to move from industrialized agriculture to regenerative practices, as well as the ability of regenerative practices to match the yields of conventional methods, especially in a less climate-stable world. The Historical International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development is the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment of agriculture to date. The most salient finding of IAASTD is that a radical transformation of the world’s food and agricultural systems – especially the policies and institutions that affect them – is necessary if we are to overcome the converging economic and environmental crises and feed the world. in a sustainable manner. He found that small-scale diversified agriculture is responsible for the lion’s share of global agriculture, and that “the greatest opportunity to improve livelihoods and equity exists in diversified production systems at small scale in developing countries. On the other hand, 60% of American farmland is used for GMO corn and soybeans which are used for animal feed, fuel and corn syrup. These larger farms have bigger problems, including substantial greenhouse gas emissions, and are more vulnerable to climate impacts.
To learn more about the benefits of regenerative agriculture, tune in on July 14, at 6 p.m., to the monthly Remote Climate Action Forum. To register for the online forum, go to bit.ly/rootsofclimatechange. Those who register for the July Forum – “The Roots of Climate Change: Solutions in the Ground” will have free access to the documentary “Kiss the Ground”.
This film gives a good explanation of how regenerative farming practices benefit the environment, although it simplifies both the problem and the solution and does not address deeper extraction systems and the mentality. of cultural supremacy that gave birth to destructive land practices in the first place. .
Other documentaries that pay more attention to the role of Indigenous regenerative agriculture are “Gather” and “Tending the Wild”. The forum can also be viewed live on the Zero Waste Kaua’i Facebook page. For more information on the Kaua’i Climate Action Coalition or to get involved, email [email protected]
Laurel brier is involved in the Kaua’i Climate Action Coalition, formerly known as Apollo Kaua’i. The KCAC meets on the third Monday of the month at 5 p.m. KCAC partners with Surfrider and Zero Waste Kaua’i to deliver a monthly educational series on the climate crisis and related topics on the second Wednesday of the month on Zoom and the ZWK Live Facebook page.