A Call for the Food Movement to Get Behind the Green New Deal

“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan… Half measures will not work… The time for slow and incremental efforts has long past [sic].” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then-candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Huffington Post, June 26, 2018

“Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best-practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate. Regenerative Agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution.” – Andre Leu, international director, Regeneration International, “Reversing Climate Change with Regenerative Agriculture,” October 9, 2018

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

The ‘Great Climate Awakening’ of 2018

The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.

Young climate activists under the banner of the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. and the Extinction Rebellion.

in the UK and other countries, sat in at politicians’ offices. They blocked streets and roadways. They emanded immediate and bold action.

The Green New Deal is born

In the U.S., an insurgent slate of newly elected members of Congress, inspired by the Sunrise Movement and led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have generated headlines and popular support by calling for a Green New Deal (GND), a 21st Century upgrade of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal carried out during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Given the severity of the climate crisis, and the deterioration of the U.S. and global status quo (economic, political, health and environment), it’s no exaggeration to state that the GND is perhaps the most significant blueprint for system change in 100 years.

The GND’s call for a mass conversion to renewable energy and zero emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. by 2030, is in line with what most scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The GND’s call for a mass conversion to renewable energy and zero emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. by 2030, is in line with what most scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But what’s new, and long overdue in this  evolving manifesto is that the GND also calls for the greening, “just transition” and elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from our multi-trillion-dollar food and farming system as well. That call is long overdue, especially given that our degenerative food system generates 44-57 percent  of all global greenhouse gases.

Beyond offering comprehensive energy and agricultural solutions for our climate emergency, what is truly game-changing and revolutionary about the GND is that it calls for system-wide economic regeneration as well: full employment, $15/hr. minimum wage, universal health care, free public education, and economic justice for all—policies extremely popular with the overwhelming majority of the body politic, including students, working class communities and low-income groups.

By bringing together the concerns of youth, food, farmer, environmental and climate activists, with the bread-and-butter concerns of workers and frontline communities, the GND offers nothing less than a contemporary roadmap for survival and regeneration.

As Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, pointed out in a recent email urging groups to sign on to the GND, it is economic injustice, the lack of money in the pockets of workers and consumers, the 80 percent of ordinary people who live from paycheck to paycheck, that has, in large part, held back the greening of America:

Who wouldn’t drive a Tesla, put up solar panels, or buy an energy efficient home in a walkable neighborhood with great public transportation? Everyone wants these things. We all want to enjoy good health, breathe clean air and drink pure water. There aren’t many families who would have to be convinced to eat locally grown organic health food if it were available and they could afford it. The problem is we’ve got student debt. Our mortgages are under water. We’ve got medical bills and childcare to pay for. And many of us have been too poor to go to college, buy a house or start a family. Our country’s struggling family farmers have the same problem. Sure, they’d love to go organic and pay their workers fairly. They want to do what’s best for their families, their communities and their environment. They just have to figure out how to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy first.

Support grows quickly for the GND, but so do attacks

With unprecedented speed, Ocasio-Cortez, insurgent Democrats and the Sunrise Movement have stimulated massive media coverage and generated significant public support for the GND, putting radical change on the national agenda. More than 45 members of Congress, five U.S. Senators, leading 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, hundreds of local officials, and over 600 activist organizations have already endorsed the GND.

In late-2018, polls indicated that 81 percent of Americans support full employment, economic justice and renewable energy, as outlined in the GND.

Yet despite initial strong support for the GND among activists and the general public, establishment politicians (both Democrats and Republicans) and the corporate media have launched a massive counter-attack, denouncing the GND (and Ocasio-Cortez and her allies) as “utopian,” “radical,” “impractical” and even “dangerous.”

The unfortunate truth is that Congress and the mass media are infected and dominated by powerful climate emergency deniers and establishment politicians taking money from fossil fuel companies, climate-destructive industrial agribusiness and Wall Street. Yet with global scientists sounding the alarm that the onset of runaway global warming (with atmospheric CO2 levels of 450 ppm or higher) is not 80 years away or even 50 years away, but more like a dozen years away unless we drastically change course, it can hardly be called “utopian” to organize around a bold emissions-reduction, drawdown and economic development plan that can avert catastrophe, and improve the lives of everyday people at the same time.

Painting Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement as “radical” is not likely to derail the growing insurgency. Because a radical emergency more serious than anything humans have ever faced in our 200,000-year evolution demands a radical solution. As Cortez said in an interview on “60 Minutes” on January 6 (watched by 11 million people), she admits to being a “radical”—not unlike previous “radicals” in American history, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who likewise confronted severe crises demanding radical solutions.

Is it possible to achieve zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030?

On the same “60 Minutes” show, Ocasio-Cortez was pressed on the practicality of zero fossil fuel emissions by 2030. The host tried to trip her up by asking if zero emissions meant that all of us would be driving electric cars within a decade. She responded by saying that there are technological breakthroughs on the horizon that we can’t even imagine yet.

Although it’s undoubtedly true that there are technical breakthroughs in renewable energy and electric cars on the horizon, I wasn’t fully satisfied with Ocasio-Cortez’s answer (even though I admit she’s my favorite political leader of all time). Here’s how I would have answered that question:

“Millions of Americans are going to be driving electric cars in 2030. But you’re right, a lot of us will still be driving our old gasoline-powered vehicles. If you read the details of our proposed Green New Deal carefully, you’ll see that we’re not just talking about rapid reductions in fossil fuel emissions, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases we put up into the sky by burning fossil fuels. We’re also talking about drawing down these same greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, utilizing climate-friendly farming practices that qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis, soil fertility and natural carbon sequestration. These regenerative practices include farming organically, holistic grazing, improving soil health, and restoring our forests, grasslands and wetlands. In other words, we can and must reach zero net emissions in 2030 by drawing down as much atmospheric carbon as we’re still putting up.

“The Green New Deal aims to change not only our climate-destructive energy, manufacturing and transportation systems, but also our degenerative food and farming systems. The Green New Deal is designed to raise the living standards for all Americans, including low-income workers in both rural and urban communities, so that all of us can choose and afford healthier and more climate-friendly lifestyles. In the next decade we must facilitate a just transition away from climate-destabilizing factory farms and fossil fuel-intensive agriculture, at the same time as we switch, as rapidly possible, to 100-percent renewable energy. With renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use working in synergy, there is no doubt that we can reach zero net emissions by 2030, significant negative net emissions by 2050, and literally, along with the rest of the world, reverse global warming and avert climate catastrophe.”

We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in or near our local communities. We simply need to mobilize politically to scale up these practices utilizing the power of a GND. But we’re running out of time unless we can quickly build a massive united front, elect new GND supporters to Congress and the White House in 2020, and pass federal legislation for a GND starting in 2021, as Ocasio-Cortez puts it, “similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan.”

The time to join the GND Revolution is now. On February 5, hubs and homes across the country will host parties to tune into a Sunrise Movement livestream detailing the 2019 GND strategy. Anyone can host a party to grow the movement. These house parties will unite communities to build the people power we need to make the GND happen. To host a party click here.

 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of theRegeneration International steering committee.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams

Regenerative Agriculture Creates a Sprawling Road Map

Blain Hjertaas of Redvers, Sask., and David Rourke of Minto, Man., were both well-known faces before their panel at the MFGA Regenerative Agriculture Conference in Brandon late last November.

Why it matters: Regenerative agriculture has got lots of time in the headlines, but the movement may look very different for an organic farmer with 3,000 acres of annual crops versus a rancher whose land is mostly pasture.

Both are believers in regenerative agriculture, a movement that, among other things, promises more efficient production, resiliency against drought and flood, and the promise that the farm will not only be sustainable with the environment, but actually help regenerate degraded soil.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A conversation with either may fall towards topics like soil carbon, organic matter or soil structure and water infiltration.

At the same time, the two operations could not be more different.

For Hjertaas, it’s all about livestock.

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Why Regenerative Agriculture Is the Future of Food

As we face an ever-growing need to combat climate change, many people around the world are looking at how we produce our food. Agriculture has a strong effect on climate change (and vice versa). While some methods contribute to higher pollution and environmental degradation, others actually have the potential to reverse climate change. And one of those practices is regenerative agriculture.

Defining Regenerative Agriculture

The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative of California State University, Chico and The Carbon Underground — in conjunction with several other companies and organizations — worked together to create a definition for regenerative agriculture. The goal was to give a basic meaning to the relatively new term and to prevent it from being “watered down,” according to The Carbon Underground.

Photo credit: Pexels

“‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.

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Agriculture Is a Big Climate Problem. Now Farmers Are Sharing Solutions

Editor’s note: Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International (RI), and Hans Herren, a member of the RI Steering Committee, were interviewed by Grist during the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

KATOWICE, POLAND — Hans Herren began his farm as a hobby almost 20 years ago. He’s been planting grapes and growing apple orchards on an 11-acre plot of land near Napa Valley in California. Thus far, the venture has been a success, but he knows he needs to make some adjustments soon.

Photo credit: Pixbay

“This year, I lost a lot of apples — the ones that were not inside the tree, covered by leaves so they were in the shade, were burned by the sun,” Herren said. He’s likely going to have to install a screen over his entire orchard to prevent fruit loss.

Today, the average temperature in California is rising, and the nights don’t get as cool as they used to. The warmer nights make for lower-quality grapes, Herren explained, as they’re not given a chance to store nutrients. “I’ve seen the change, even in the 15 years I’ve had those trees,” he said.

 

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Revisiting a Geography of Hope

To be a farmer, at any point in history, means you grow food. You steward the land—soil, water, air, energy, plants, and animals—and make a living from its increase. It seems simple, at least in purpose, if not in practice: Grow good food. Now, in the twenty-first century, awareness is growing that we depend on farmers for more than food. We need farmers and their farmland to sequester carbon, to buffer against floods, and to provide wildlife habitat. Perhaps less evidently, we also need farms to inspire us with their beauty, to cultivate our respect and awe of the more-than-human, and to light the pathways to a more just and prosperous world.  

This is a lot to ask of farmers, but the scope of climate change and biodiversity loss demands more than isolated solutions such as limiting emissions and protecting forests can accomplish.

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Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration

“Shrubbiness is such a remarkable adaptive design that one may wonder why more plants have not adopted it.” (H. C. Stutz, 1989)

In light of the newest IPCC and US climate change reports, coupled with reports of the ongoing declines of wild species—birds, insects—you name them, just so long as they aren’t human, I have turned to thinking about shrubs. It is precisely their adaptive characteristics that give shrubs their potential to be powerful players in soil carbon sequestration and ecosystem regeneration in certain parts of the world, such as the Midwest.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Although alarming, the reports are not surprising to anyone who’s been keeping track. The IPCC report says human global society has 12 years to reduce carbon emissions to 45% below 2010 levels if there is to be any hope of holding overall average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

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How Regenerative Agriculture Could Be Key to the Green New Deal

With the 2018 mid-term election and the prospect of 2020, people are finally beginning electing more climate realists over fossil fuel apologists. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her band of newly elected progressive congresswomen, and Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician and likely presidential candidate, have proposed a Green New Deal. This plan would put the government’s economic resources behind a definitive move to renewable energy and an end to fossil fuel dominance. With the recent IPCC report predicting that the earth will reach critical thresholds as early as 2030, there’s not a moment to waste.

Photo credit: Unsplash

I began covering the grass roots movement against fracking in 2009— five years before the Paris Climate Agreement cited methane release from drilling activities as a major contributor to climate change. Just one year after the Agreement, in 2016, climate was a forgotten step-child, near absent from the debates, primaries, and election. And yet two years later, Americans are now forced to face up to the reality that we may only have twelve more years to mitigate.

What was once predicted as a century away, and next slated to occur fifty years from now  will now occur within the lifetimes of many Baby Boomers, while cutting short the lives of most succeeding generations. The time is past for accepting excuses, denials, and delays. Putting the Green New Deal into play is a top priority for human survival.

But fuel extraction activities are not the only major source of methane’s harm to the atmosphere and climate. And while it’s essential to cease destabilizing the atmosphere and living systems, the next step is repairing the damage and restoring earth to eco-functionality.

Fortunately, new land management practices, refined over the last thirty years, under the rubric, “regenerative agriculture,” are showing tremendous promise in restoring the earth’s disrupted ecologies and climate by:

  1. Reducing (or even eliminating) the second largest contributor to methane release into the atmosphere—industrial food agriculture. This is a major way to slow and prevent climate change
  2. Pulling released carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil and holding it there. This is a major way to reverse climate change
  3. Restoring damaged land so that going forward, it will no longer release carbon, evaporate water, flood, burn, or contaminate plants grown on it. This is a major way to prevent both climate change and other future disruptions.

Regen Ag has another benefit. Since 70% of Americans support universal health care, adding a New Food Deal wing to the Green New Deal would make healthy foods more affordable— and directly promote health and reduce health care costs. For the last three decades, the best health care advice has never deviated: Eat more nutrient rich, less pesticide contaminated food. It’s great to exhort people to eat better, but why not make that economically feasible—a food and health justice issue. Middle and lower income people who can’t afford healthy vegetables, uncontaminated dairy, and non-CAFO meat are stuck eating unhealthy foods produced from government subsidized commodity food crops, like corn and soy.

Economically and environmentally unsustainable, the for-profit conventional food and ag industries are not a good bet for future food security. If over the last forty years, this model was so very successful at “feeding the world,” as the PR claims state, why should tax payer dollars still be required to subsidize this form of agriculture?

As part of a New Food Deal, we could erase these inequities by shifting land use, investment, and subsidy patterns away from corporate giants and towards regenerative agriculture’s local networks of farmers and food growers. Building food security across the country region-by-region will better address future climate disruption than expecting unresponsive monopolies with cheap food and expensive advertising to do it. Rural economic development has the added benefit of putting a safety net under rural populations maligned and rendered invisible by neoliberal policies and politicians.

Over the last few decades, organic food farmers and land managers have pioneered an agricultural and business plan for growing healthier, more nutrient-dense foods while restoring damaged lands to a natural carbon-storing ecology. Putting a price on carbon may provide a temporary economic incentive to reduce fuel use, but it’s far from a comprehensive long-term solution. It turns out that the earth itself is the best and most climate-saving carbon bank. Holding carbon is what soil naturally does— and the interest the greater public can draw from this bank is: healthy food for all. According to Regeneration International, “Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.”

Regen Ag is currently being adopted on a local level, farmer to farmer, all over the world, but there are economic and educational barriers to the transition from soil-depleting, methane releasing, and pesticide-ridden agriculture.

Let’s complement the Green New Deal with a New Food Deal that builds out a new regenerative food economy, putting people to work recovering land, growing food, building food sourcing supply chains, operating local Mom and Pop grocery stories, and setting up early adopters to learn and teach growing, management, nutrition, food prep, recycling, and more in regions all over the country— and the world.

For too long the energy and agricultural industries have successfully evaded regulation while dumping their externalities on the public commons. We must reverse that. Both the Green New Deal and the New Food Deal can reorient the basics— and put Americans, our democracy, and the earth on the path to health.

 

Leaders in Regenerative Agriculture Movement: Its Time to Speed up the Cool Down

Women and Immigrant farmers, Environmentalists, Soil Scientists, Advocates and Food Security Experts Join Forces to Accelerate Action at UN Climate Change Conference (COP 24)

 

Katowice, Poland, December 10, 2018 – Today, Biovision, IFOAM-Organics International, Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Regeneration International and Shumei International announced their side event, Speed Up the Cool Down: Scaling Up Regenerative Solutions to Climate Change, at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland on Wednesday, 12 December 2018 at 11:30-13:00 GMT. The delegation from Australia, India, Mexico, Switzerland, the United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe will travel to Katowice to join thousands of advocates, non-profits, soil scientists and environmentalists to push for action and solutions to drastically reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to reverse climate change.  They are part of a growing movement that aims to draw down carbon into the soil through regenerative agriculture and land management.

 

“According to a peer reviewed study in Nature, the last time the world had 400ppm of CO2 the temperatures were 16C (38F) and the sea levels were 20 to 60 meters higher,” said André Leu, International Director of Regeneration International, one of the co-organizers and a leading voice in the movement. “We have to draw down the excess CO2 with regenerative agriculture to avoid catastrophic climate change,” he added.

The “Speed Up the Cool Down” side event is focused on showcasing concrete “shovel-ready” solutions and frameworks to accelerate carbon sequestration, food sovereignty and biodiversity preservation. Speakers will present on global efforts being made to scale up agroecology, consumer campaigns, true cost accounting and policy change to create resilient communities and ecosystems.

“This year, it is necessary to build a solid framework that fosters adaptive capacity and resilience and contributes to the equitable achievement of the Paris Agreements 1.5C goal,” said Gabor Figezcky, Head of Global Policy at IFOAM – Organics International. “It is also important to safeguard key elements from the Paris Agreement preamble, namely food security, human rights, including the rights of indigenous communities, gender equality, and ecosystem integrity. Transforming our food systems is a key component to address climate change,” he added.

Speakers include: Barbara Hachipuka Banda, Founder/Director, Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia; Hans Herren, President, Biovision, Switzerland; André Leu, International Director, Regeneration International, Australia; Mercedes López Martinez, Director, Vía Orgánica, Mexico; Shamika Mone, Treasurer and Managing Committee member of Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI); and Precious Phiri, Founding Director, EarthWisdom Consulting Co., Zimbabwe.

“Right now there are thousands of small-scale women farmers in rural Zambia working to scale up agroecology programs that support self-sufficiency, resilience, land preservation and biodiversity to avoid crop failures, hunger and forced migration caused by climate change,” said Barbara Hachipuka Banda, Founder of the Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia. “However, we need everyone to play their part in transforming the agricultural system because we are all interconnected, and we are faster and stronger together.”

For more information on the UN Side Event, please visit: https://bit.ly/2B8z7DX

 

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About Biovision

Since 1998, Biovision Foundation has been promoting the development, dissemination and application of sustainable ecological agricultural practices, allowing people in the developing world to help themselves. Key is our holistic approach: The health of people, animals, plants and the environment are central aims in all our projects. Focusing on our key priority of Food security and sustainable agriculture, Biovision is contributing to the implementation of Agenda 2030 both globally and nationally; it takes as its point of reference SDG 2 “Zero Hunger”. Biovision Foundation is a charitable organisation in Switzerland. In 2013, Biovision and its founder Hans Rudolf Herren won the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. For more information, visit www.biovision.ch.

 

About IFOAM-Organics International

Since 1972, IFOAM- Organics International has occupied the unchallenged position as the only international umbrella organization in the organic world, uniting an enormous diversity of stakeholders contributing to the organic vision. As agents of change, their vision is the board adaption of truly sustainable agriculture, value chains and consumption in line with the principles of organic agriculture. At the heart of IFOAM- Organics International are about 800 affiliates in more than 100 countries. For more information, visit www.ifoam.bio.

 

About Regeneration International

Regeneration International, is an international non-governmental organization that promotes, facilitates and accelerates the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems. For more information, visit www.regenerationinternational.org.

 

About Shumei International

Shumei International, headquartered in Japan, is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to working toward the betterment of the human community. Shumei has programs around the world that foster a way of life that is in harmony with nature through Natural Agriculture, the appreciation of art and beauty, and a balance between inner and outer development. For more information, visit www.shumei-international.org.

 

Put More Carbon in Soils to Meet Paris Climate Pledges

Soils are crucial to managing climate change. They contain two to three times more carbon than the atmosphere. Plants circulate carbon dioxide from the air to soils, and consume about one-third of the CO2 that humans produce. Of that, about 10–15% ends up in the earth.

Carbon is also essential for soil fertility and agriculture. Decomposing plants, bacteria, fungi and soil fauna, such as earthworms, release organic matter and nutrients for plant growth, including nitrogen and phosphorus. This gives structure to soil, making it resilient to erosion and able to hold water. Typically, organic matter accounts for a few per cent of the mass of soil near the surface.

Increasing the carbon content of the world’s soils by just a few parts per thousand (0.4%) each year would remove an amount of CO2 from the atmosphere equivalent to the fossil-fuel emissions of the European Union1 (around 3–4 gigatonnes (Gt)).

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Heal the Soil, Cool the Climate

Back when I first started at Green America, in 2000, I remember our president/CEO Alisa Gravitz often cautioning those of us on the editorial team against using the term “end” when it came to climate change. There simply wasn’t a solution available that would “end” or “stop” the climate crisis, she would say. The best the world could hope for was collective action that would curb the worst of its effects. We’d get excited about a set of climate solutions and write that they could help “end global warming,” and Alisa would shake her head sadly and ask us to strike the word “end” for accuracy.

Photo credit: Pexels

That’s not to say that she wasn’t optimistic about the potential of renewable energy—particularly solar—to make a dent in climate change. Or that she wasn’t hopeful that businesses could come up with some powerful innovations.

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