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A Real and Ready Solution for Climate Change

I still remember the only time I saw my grandfather cry. This was decades ago, and I was a little kid – but it’s the kind of thing that stays with you. Grandpa Ted had recently sold their farm, so when I found him sitting alone on the porch and quietly weeping, I thought he was crying about that. But he wasn’t crying about selling the farm (he was an old man by then and likely it was time to retire); but he was very sad about something else.

Wiping his eyes, he started talking about “alfalfa,” and “crop rotation,” and “cover crops,” and of course at the time I had no idea what he was talking about. But I distinctly remember him saying, “They’re ruining the land.” (He was an old-fashioned farmer, one of the proud hold-outs, who refused to adopt many of the new farming practices that were introduced after World War II.)

I’m writing this personal introduction just for full disclosure (as they say): I suspect memories of my grandfather may have influenced my response to a scientific report I recently read and found to be quite exciting.

The U.S. Rodale Institute’s peer-reviewed study, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, is so hopeful and filled with common sense about the future that it’s a must-read for anyone needing some inspiration in these difficult times.

With regard to rising greenhouse gas emissions, their study states: “We suggest an obvious and immediately available solution – put the carbon back to work in the terrestrial carbon ‘sinks’ that are literally right beneath our feet. Excess carbon in the atmosphere is surely toxic to life, but we are, after all, carbon-based life forms, and returning stable carbon to the soil can support ecological abundance.” [1]

Through using organic farming practices that maximize soil’s carbon-fixing capacities, not only can climate change be reversed, but soil itself can be restored. The study states: “Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices.”

Using organic farming practices like cover crops, residue mulching, composting, crop rotation, and reduced tillage would “ensure that land will not be left bare and that soil carbon will be fixed, rather than lost” into the atmosphere.

There are bold statements throughout the study, like this one: “We don’t have to wait for technological wizardry: regenerative organic agriculture can substantially mitigate climate change now.”

And this: “Agriculture that sequesters carbon is also agriculture that addresses our planetary water crisis, extreme poverty and food insecurity, while protecting and enhancing the environment now and for future generations. Regenerative organic agriculture is the key to this shift. It is the climate solution ready for widespread adoption now.”

The study even succinctly addresses the impending “need to feed nine billion people” – the standard talking-point always used by the GMO lobby to try to discredit organic agriculture’s crop yields. The Rodale Institute’s study of actual yields from real-world farming sites around the planet shows that organic farming “can outcompete conventional yields for almost all food crops studied including corn, wheat, rice, soybean and sunflower.”

The study also states: “Hunger and food access are not yield issues. They are economic and social issues which, in large part, are the result of inappropriate agricultural and development policies that have created, and continue to reinforce, rural hunger. We currently overproduce calories. In fact, we already produce enough calories to feed nine billion people. Hunger and food access are inequality issues that can be ameliorated, in part, by robust support for small-scale regenerative agriculture.”

The Rodale study came out ten months ago (October 2014), but I didn’t see anything about it (even in the alternative press) until B.C.’s the Watershed Sentinel alerted Canadian readers to it in their current (Summer 2015) issue. [2]

Calling the Rodale study “astounding,” the magazine’s editor Delores Broten wrote: “As is so often the case with ecology, the science confirms what our hearts tell us. The organic gardener’s mantra is ‘Feed the Soil, Not the Plants’.” The Rodale study shows what we need to do to make an immediate difference on climate change, Broten noted: “No fancy gadgets, no high end geo-engineering, no expensive new devices, and best of all, no poisonous legacy. Just hard work and common sense, producing healthy food for all and tending the earth.”

My grandfather would be pleased.

Footnotes/Links

[1] Rodale Institute, “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” October 2014. www.rodaleinstitute.org

[2] Delores Broten, “Growing Goodness,” The Watershed Sentinel, Summer 2015. www.watershedsentinel.ca

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Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.

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