Opinion: Pesticide Safety Unproven (André Leu)

It might surprise you to learn that there is no scientific proof of safety for the majority of the pesticides, additives or chemicals that companies put in our food and our body care and household products. Most are not tested, and when there is testing, it misses the vast majority of diseases at the normal rates at which they occur due to faulty protocols.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a global epidemic of non-communicable chronic diseases: “Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading cause of mortality in the world. This invisible epidemic is an under-appreciated cause of poverty and hinders the economic development of many countries. The burden is growing — the number of people, families and communities afflicted is increasing.”

You cannot catch these diseases from other people. Their multiple causes are a result of environment and lifestyle.

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Farmers Are Excited about Soil Health. That’s Good News for All of Us

“When we think about the challenges in agriculture, carbon—and how to sequester it—is near the top.” So said Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), in opening the grassroots organization’s 2019 annual convention in March. Storing carbon in farm soils is an important climate change solution, but building the health of those soils is also critical for ensuring clean water for communities and helping farmers be productive while coping with the consequences of a climate that is already changing. And throughout the NFU’s three-day gathering, the phrase “soil health” and talk about strategies to achieve it seemed to be on everyone’s tongue.

Though it is hard to quantify, surveys suggest that many US farmers are already taking steps to build soil health and store carbon in their soils.

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Making the Most of the ‘UN Decade on Ecosystems Restoration’: Bioregional Regenerative Development as a Deep Adaptation Pathway

Ecosystem Restoration Camps is a non-profit organisation founded by a movement of people who wanted an action-based solution to address accelerating climate change. The camps are a practical, hands on way to restore land degraded by humans. Our mission is to work with local communities and build camps that transform degraded landscapes into lush, abundant, life-giving ecosystems. We are committed to preserving our planet for future generations. (Source)

On a crisp and frosty April morning in the North of Scotland in 2002, at the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage, some 250 activists and landscape restoration practitioners from all over the world declared the 21st Century as the ‘Century for Earth Restoration’. The conference was called by Alan Watson Featherstone who set up Trees for Life, a project that has since planted close to two million native trees to restore Scotland’s great ‘Caledonian Forest’.

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Ecological Agriculture Needs to Be Made a Priority

The number of farmers moving to ecological agriculture in its various forms — agroecology, organic, biological, biodynamic, regenerative — continues to grow as farmers and consumers become more aware of the harm pesticides and synthetic fertilisers cause to health and the environment.

Alan Broughton takes a look at this phenomenon and asks why the majority of farmers are still holding on to chemical methods and what can be done to increase the ecological uptake.

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At an organic soil management class that I taught in Shepparton, Victoria, I asked each of the dozen participants why they were interested in organics. Everyone of them told me their prime motivating factor was personal and family health.

Secondary reasons included concern for the environment, animal health, the high cost of inputs and a desire to be proud of their produce.

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Regenerative Grazing: A Way Forward for Land and Reef

Dozens of fence line images were presented at the Reef Catchments Sustainable Grazing forum in Mackay on March 28, showing, on one side, strong dense pastures consistently out-performing neighbouring properties using traditional approaches. Some of the most compelling images came from properties in drought regions, where the vastly improved water-holding capacity created by lively soils and strong, deep root structures of regenerative grazing pastures meant there was still coverage on those paddocks.

The forum featured speakers covering a range of topics around grazing, including a compelling big-picture presentation on philosophy and the broader implications of regenerative grazing around climate and land management from special guest, grazier and author Dr Charles Massy.

David McKean from Resource Consulting Services (RCS) gave a highly practical outline of key considerations and techniques in regenerative grazing, including a range of case studies from various climate and landscape types.

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Restoring Natural Forests is the Best Way to Remove Atmospheric Carbon

Keeping global warming below 1.5 °C to avoid dangerous climate change1requires the removal of vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as drastic cuts in emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that around 730 billion tonnes of CO2 (730 petagrams of CO2, or 199 petagrams of carbon, Pg C) must be taken out of the atmosphere by the end of this century2. That is equivalent to all the CO2 emitted by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and China since the Industrial Revolution. No one knows how to capture so much CO2.

Forests must play a part. Locking up carbon in ecosystems is proven, safe and often affordable3. Increasing tree cover has other benefits, from protecting biodiversity to managing water and creating jobs.

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Are We Entering a New Era of Regeneration?

Regeneration is a relatively recent idea that has been gaining traction amongst climate action circles worldwide.

In contrast to sustainability, which aims to maintain a state that avoids continued depletion of natural resources in order to keep ecological balance; regeneration refers to restoration, renewal, and growth.

Photo caption: Pexels

The idea originally took hold with regenerative farming practices, which are a set of holistic farming practices that seek to enhance the health of the soil through things like adding cover crops, not tilling, composting and livestock grazing, all of which contribute to soil health and more carbon sequestration.

At last week’s ReGenFriends summit, experts gathered to explore the theme of Regeneration in all aspects including economics, business impact and farming. Here’s a snapshot of what was presented.

HOW CAN AN ECONOMIC SYSTEM THAT IS EXTRACTIVE BY DESIGN LEAD TO A PROSPEROUS PLANET?
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The Next Wave of Sustainable Fashion Is All about Regenerative Farming

“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

These words from Nobel Prize-nominated teen activist Greta Thunberg helped galvanize 1.4 million people to take to the streets earlier this month to participate in the global school strikes for climate action. And while Thunberg’s message about the environment was alarming, the underlying assumption was that there’s real hope for addressing climate change.

Photo credit: Pexels

When human beings have made such a mess of the planet, where does that hope arise from? For many experts, a groundbreaking way of thinking about agriculture — regenerative farming — offers one of the most concrete reasons for optimism.

“Agriculture really represents the best chance that we have of mitigating and ending the climate crisis,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario at the National Retail Federation in January.

 

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Can Soil Microbes Slow Climate Change?

With global carbon emissions hitting an all-time high in 2018, the world is on a trajectory that climate experts believe will lead to catastrophic warming by 2100 or before. Some of those experts say that to combat the threat, it is now imperative for society to use carbon farming techniques that extract carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soils. Because so much exposed soil across the planet is used for farming, the critical question is whether scientists can find ways to store more carbon while also increasing agricultural yields.

Photo credit: Pexels

David Johnson of New Mexico State University thinks they can. The recipe, he says, is to tip the soil’s fungal-to-bacterial ratio strongly toward the fungi. He has shown how that can be done. Yet it is not clear if techniques can be scaled up economically on large commercial farms everywhere.

 

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There’s a Better Way to Help the Climate than Abstaining from Beef

Jan. 4 Community Voices commentary posed this question: “Why aren’t we all addressing climate change at each meal by skipping the meat?”

The campaign to fight climate change by avoiding eating meat is well-intentioned but not well-informed. In 2017, agriculture contributed 8.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and meat production was responsible for some part of that. But peer-reviewed studies show that even eliminating all of our cattle would have a relatively minor effect on climate change. In contrast, incorporating cattle into a regenerative agriculture system could sequester enough carbon to turn agriculture into a carbon sink, while also eliminating much other environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture.

Photo credit: Pexels

The problem

About 97 percent of the beef produced in the United States comes from cattle that spend half their lives in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as feedlots, each of which might hold tens of thousands of animals.

 

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