Local farmers sowing seeds of carbon farming
Written by Stephanie Hiller
This year, the third warmest in recorded history, spring has come a month early, with regions all across the United States experiencing May temperatures in March. While warmer temperatures are welcome after a cold, wet winter, the cause is not.
Oceans are warming and rising, and last year was the fourth consecutive year of mass seal pup strandings along local beaches due to reduced populations of anchovies and sardines. Glaciers are melting and collapsing at record rates. Heat waves and fires are likely to threaten our placid summers. Worse disasters loom in our children’s future.
Despite what the Trump administration says, climate change is here. As Naomi Klein pointed out in a 2011 article in The Nation, climate deniers know its consequences full-well: Addressing climate change means not only ending the flow of their black gold—it’s the end of their entire way of life.
“To lower global emissions,” she writes, “can only be done by radically reordering our economic and political systems in many ways antithetical to their ‘free market belief system.’” Hence, oil companies have invested billions to convince much of the voting public that climate change is a hoax and accomplished the ultimate coup d’état with the installation of a like-minded government that will raise the temperature, and the consequences, even more.
But we still have a chance to pull back from our race to the edge. There is a climate-change solution that can take root at the local level which can actually reverse climate change by at least 40 percent. By changing the way we grow food, we can actually draw down carbon from the atmosphere and put it to good use where it belongs: In the soil. Call it carbon farming.
North Bay farmers have led the way with these techniques, and with the help of climate-advocacy groups, they won state support to promote a program that just might save the world.
The California Healthy Soils Initiative (CHSI), launched on January 11 in Sacramento by the National Resource Conservation Service and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, encourages farmers to adopt carbon-friendly farming methods by offering grants and training assistance. Grant applications will be accepted later this spring.
Judging from the number of people who turned out for the September “Building Partnerships on Healthy Soil” summit—more than 200 for the conference itself and many more via webcast—interest in this carbon-friendly “regenerative” soil-management program is growing. It can’t come too soon: The very existence of topsoil is at risk.
The World Wildlife Fund reports that more than half of the topsoil worldwide has been lost over the past 150 years, mostly due to industrial agriculture. Some sources say that the loss is more like 70 percent. It’s possible that in 60 years, the topsoil on heavily grazed and monocropped farmlands will be gone, leaving nothing but an impervious layer of hardpan in its place, conditions that led to the Dust Bowl phenomenon in parts of the United States and Canada in the 1930s. Without its thin skin of topsoil, fertile land turns to desert, a process that has been accelerating all over the world in large part because of intensive industrial agriculture.
But David Runsten, policy director of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), says that agriculture can be part of the solution. He began working with the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a nonprofit that advocates for climate-friendly agricultural policy, in 2009 to get state officials to embrace carbon farming.
SOURCE: Pacific Sun