Japan’s Ministry of Ag Acknowledges Role of Regenerative Farming in Climate Solution

A breakthrough conference on agriculture and climate change took place May 13-15 in Japan, and Regeneration International was there.

While the content and interaction of the “Agriculture Is the Solution to Climate Change” conference in Otsu, Japan, was dynamic and important, perhaps the most important takeaway from the conference was who organized the event in the first place.

The conference was co-sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in what could be interpreted as a tacit recognition by the world’s third largest economy that agriculture must play a key role in climate-change mitigation.  

The conference was also sponsored by the 4 per 1000 Initiative, and was supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), the World Bank, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Rothamsted Research, and the governments of France and Germany, among others – and it took place just one day after IPCC wrapped up its 49th session in Kyoto, just 13 kilometers from Otsu.

Key speakers from 4 per 1000 and the major supporting organizations and governments all upheld the importance of building soil heath to fight climate change. It was the first-ever international conference in Asia about changing agriculture by adopting management systems that increase soil organic matter as a drawdown and adaptation solution to the climate crisis.

Rice is the most important staple crop in Asia, and RI’s international director Andre Leu gave a keynote presentation on Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI).

SRI can double rice yields, and massively reduce methane emissions, thanks to its lower water usage – and when combined with cover crops, SRI can result in significant soil sequestration of carbon. SRI is a powerful solution for rice farmers all around the world faced with increasing threats of drought, typhoon and coastal storm surge.

A number of RI partners, such as the Biodynamic Association of India and the League of Organic Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines, also took part in the conference, and gave presentations on best practices for mitigating the natural carbon increase in farmland soils.

During an interview with Regeneration International, Paul Luu, Executive Secretary of 4 per 1000, said policymakers and farmers are putting more and more emphasis on agroecology.  Luu spoke about the strong need for more research to be carried out on agroecology, biodynamic farming and regenerative agriculture – for it to be useful in advising transitioning conventional farmers in accordance to their requirements.

Despite there being no mention of climate change in the G7 meeting of agriculture ministers held a few days earlier in nearby Tokyo (because of abstention by the United States government), the Japanese government is working with 4 per 1000 Initiative to include 4 per 1000’s framework in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). KJWA is a decision reached at the UN Climate Conference (COP23) in November 2017, to officially acknowledge the significance of the agriculture sectors in adapting to and mitigating climate change.

The implementation of KJWA is supported by the UNFAO in partnership with other actors at national and international levels. Under this decision the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) supports countries providing technical support to adapt to and mitigate climate change, working in close collaboration with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other partners.

Regeneration International will showcase the progress made by the 4 per 1000 Initiative to encourage countries to come on board with a Soil Health Revolution in agriculture (dubbed the Brown Revolution) at its next General Assembly in Chile in December 2019, to be held in conjunction with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 25 summit in Santiago de Chile December 2-13.

Oliver Gardiner is the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International’s roving reporter.To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.

RI’s Mexico Team Takes Part in First Mexican Congress of Agroecology Conference

On January 1, 1994, Mexico’s Zapatista revolution exploded onto the world stage and instantly grabbed the attention and imagination of progressives and activists around the world.  Among those caught up in the Zapatista revolution were activists and academics pushing back against an almost global corporate takeover of agriculture.  Suddenly a new, different world was possible.

It was only fitting then that the First Mexican Congress of Agroecology was held May 12 to 17 this year in San Cristobal de las Casas, capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas, and ground zero for the vision of a new Mexico launched by the Zapatista revolution. The Congress brought together more than a thousand people from peasant, academic, student and activist communities, and organizations from all over Mexico and around the world—including Regeneration International.

The cross-cutting premise of the Congress was to bring academia and existing grassroots agroecological processes together in a social and collaborative way, while creating the opportunity for rural communities themselves determine their real needs and implement actions to address those needs.

The Intercultural University of Chiapas (UNICH) and the College of the Southern Border (ECOSUR) were the prime movers and organizers of the Congress.  Since 2018, UNICH and ECOSUR have worked closely together to strengthen the exchange of traditional knowledge and experience between rural communities and academia.

From the very beginning and throughout the Congress, during discussions on the origin and history of agroecology in Mexico, peasant communities were spoken of as guardians of agrobiodiversity and as the driving force behind the survival of many of the seeds and plants that have existed in the Americas from pre-Hispanic times until today.

The Congress grappled with the history of agroecology, with an emphasis on the need to build a common future based on the great potential that Mexico has in implementing agroecological techniques.

Participants also worked on organizing a common front to present proposals that feed state and national public policies beneficial to the community at large—policies that create resilience and can reverse the harmful effects that the agro-industrial model has on food quality, food sovereignty, soil, water, air and ecosystems as a whole.  There was also much discussion of agro-industry’s substantial contribution to climate change, and resultant forced migration, an issue that has dominated the news and galvanized public opinion in Mexico, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.  

The wide variety of program topics and the heterogeneity of Congress participants underlined the need to reconcile the multiple perspectives that exist on agroecology in Mexico, in particular the Mayan vision, which from generation to generation has opted for a construction of knowledge and resistance, as well as the academic vision, in Mexico represented by the figure of the well-known late Mexican ethnobotany teacher Efraim Hernández Xocolotzi .

With this goal in mind, of integrating and weaving together Mexico’s many rich and diverse perspectives, Congress roundtables discussed these principal topics: food sovereignty, international experiences in agroecology and good living, farmers’ markets, agroecological production strategies, agroforestry systems, silvopasture and wildlife management, milpa systems, family gardens, pest management, public policy and governance, soils and seeds, women, agroecology and feminism, maize under siege, water and soil, seeds and resilience, and peasant schools, among other topics.

The closing ceremony was held at the historic Teatro Zebadúa in the center of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Speakers at the closing roundtable included Dr. Víctor Suárez Carrera, Mexican Undersecretary of Food Self-Sufficiency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Dr. Crispim Moreira, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative to Mexico; and Dr. Luis García Barrios, director of the southeast region of the National Commission of Science and Technology.

In a packed auditorium, the public peppered authorities with questions on the real capacity for change posed by the Fourth Transformation, a broad proposal put forth by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to solve the problems that the Mexican Revolution—the Third Transformation—left unresolved. It became clear that agroecology must be part of the real transformation of the Mexican Republic, and that this will occur to the extent that a strong and organized society demands the necessary changes so that the public policies that the government implements integrate agroecology as a substantial part of that change.

Ercilia Sahores is a member of the Regeneration International steering committee and Latin America Director. To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.


The 9% Lie: Industrial Food and Climate Change

The Climate Emergency is finally getting the attention of the media and the U.S. (and world) body politic, as well as a growing number of politicians, activists and even U.S. farmers.

This great awakening has arrived just in time, given the record-breaking temperatures, violent weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are quickly becoming the norm. Global scientists have dropped their customary caution. They now warn us that we have to drastically reduce global emissions – by at least 45 percent – over the next decade. Otherwise, we’ll pass the point of no return – defined as reaching 450 ppm or more of CO2 in the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2050 – when our climate crisis will morph into a climate catastrophe. That’s when the melting polar ice and Arctic permafrost will trigger catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, famine and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it.

Most people now understand that we must quickly move to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s far less widely understood that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job alone.

Alongside the massive political and economic campaign to move to 100% (or nearly 100%) renewable energy as soon as possible, we must put an end to the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and farming system and start drawing down and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere, utilizing the enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, reforestation and land restoration.

Regenerative Agriculture” refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:

  • Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.

  • The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.

  • Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.

  • Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.

  • Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

If regenerative food, farming and land use – which is essentially moving to the next stage of organic farming, free-range livestock grazing and eco-system restoration – are just as essential to our survival as moving beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is it that moving beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly-processed junk food to regenerating soils and forests and drawing down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate is getting so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?

The International Food Information Council Foundation released a poll on May 22, 2019, that found that “22 percent [of Americans] had heard of regenerative agriculture and 55 percent said they had not heard of it but were interested in learning more.”

Why don’t more people know about the incredible potential of regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, to fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food? Why is it that the U.S. and global climate movement until recently has focused almost exclusively on reducing emissions through renewable energy?

Our collective ignorance on this crucial topic may have something to do with the fact that we never learned about these things in school, or even college, and until recently there was very little discussion of regeneration in the mass media, or even the alternative media.

But there’s another reason regeneration as a climate solution doesn’t get its due in Congress or in the media: powerful corporations in the food, farming and forestry sector, along with their indentured politicians, don’t want to admit that their current degenerate, climate-destabilizing, “profit-at-any-cost” production practices and business priorities are threatening our very survival.

And government agencies are right there, helping corporate agribusiness and Big Food bury the evidence that these industries’ energy-intensive, chemical-intensive industrial agricultural and food production practices contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) repeatedly claim that industrial agriculture is responsible for a mere 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, GHG “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.”

After hearing this 9-percent figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and farming aren’t that important of a factor in global warming, especially when compared with transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing and heating and cooling our buildings.

What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical, and food corporations are conveniently hiding from the public is that there’s no way to separate “U.S. agriculture” from our “food system” as a whole. Their faulty math (i.e. concealing food and farming emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide the massive fossil fuel use and emissions currently belched out by our enormously wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate-destabilizing (and globalized) food system.

USDA and EPA’s nine-percent figure is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power U.S. tractors and farm equipment, and to manufacture the billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on farmlands?

What about the ethanol industry that eats up 40 percent of our chemical- and energy-intensive GMO corn production? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry incentivizes farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile lands. Taking the entire process into account, corn production for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.

What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from factory farms and the GMO, monocrop industrial grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?

What about the methane emissions from the fracking wells that produce the natural gas that is used in prodigious amounts to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmlands – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates oceanic dead zones as well as releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more damaging than even CO2) into our already oversaturated atmosphere?

What about the 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions that come from processing, packaging (most often non-recycled plastic), refrigerating and transporting our highly processed (mainly junk) food and agricultural commodities on the average 1,500 miles before they reach the consumer?

What about the enormous amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and ecosystem destruction in the international supply chain enabling Big Box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell imported cheap food, in many cases “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished and supersized U.S. consumers?

What about the enormous emissions from U.S. landfills where wasted food (30-50 percent of our entire production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?

A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from U.S. and international food, farming and land use is 44-57 percent, not the 9 percent, as the EPA and USDA suggest.

We’re never going to reach net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030, as the Green New Deal calls for, without a profound change, in fact a revolution, in our food, farming, and land use practices.

This essay is part of The Organic Consumers Association’s Regenerative Agriculture campaign. To sign their petition in support of a Green New Deal that puts regenerative food, farming, and land use front and center, sign here if you’re a farmer, and here if you’re an activist or a green consumer.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams

Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the national coalition of Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal?

A. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal is a bipartisan national coalition of rural and urban farmers and ranchers, and organizations that represent farmers and ranchers. Coalition members share a commitment and work together to advance food and agriculture policies that support organic, regenerative, agroecological and biodynamic food production and land-management practices.

Q. Why was the coalition formed?

A. The Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal coalition was formed for the purpose of ensuring that farmers and ranchers—not just corporate agribusiness lobbyists—have a voice in future agriculture-related policy reforms. The timing of the coalition’s formation coincided with the February 7, 2019, introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution which calls for a 10-year national mobilization to enact massive policy reforms to address, among other issues, global warming, income inequality, corporate monopolies and the lack of access to clean air, water and healthy food for millions of Americans.

Q. Why is the coalition focused on food and farming policy reforms?

A. Many of America’s small- and mid-scale farmers and ranchers, struggling to make ends meet, are at risk of losing farms that have been in their families for many generations. Rural communities are in economic decline. Industrial agriculture practices have led to widespread water and air pollution, soil erosion and degradation, food deserts, and public health crises related to the reckless and excessive use of antibiotics and the mass production of nutritionally deficient food. Current agriculture policies artificially prop up this system, which externalizes the real cost of producing “cheap” food, including the system’s harmful and costly impact on climate, the environment and human health. Yet these policies prevail and persist because powerful agribusiness corporations can afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying Congress. Policies that would support family farms are closely aligned with policies that would achieve the goals laid out in the Green New Deal. For that reason, politics aside, the Green New Deal presents an unprecedented opportunity for farmers and ranchers whose practices provide social, economic and environmental benefits to demand reforms that will improve their prospects for financial success by leveling the playing field.

Q. What will members do to advance the coalition’s policy goals?

A. Coalition members will be invited to participate in any or all of these activities:

  • Collaborate on and build support for legislation that supports farmers and ranchers engaged in or transitioning to regenerative practices.

  • Participate in farm tours, Congressional hearings and/or Capitol Hill briefings aimed at educating members of Congress about the potential of regenerative agriculture to draw down and sequester carbon, and revitalize rural economies.

  • Help educate consumers about the difference between good food and cheap food, and how regenerative farmers and ranchers can play a role in improving air, water and soil quality.

  • Identify and build support for a new USDA secretary of agriculture who will represent the interests of the coalition, not multinational agribusiness corporations.

Q. How does the coalition fit into the Regeneration International network?

A. One of the most urgent questions facing the Regeneration Movement is, “How can we scale up regenerative farming, ranching and land-management practices in time to address the climate emergency?” Scaling up internationally will require a combination of consumer education and demand, farmer training and policy reform. In the U.S., up until the Green New Deal Resolution was introduced, food and farming policy reform was tied to the slow and onerous process of revisiting the U.S. Farm Bill once every five years. Fortunately, the Green New Deal has sparked a national conversation around the intersection of food, farming and climate. The Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal can seize this opportunity to lead that conversation so that it results in transformational, rather than incremental, change in the U.S.

Q. In addition to Regeneration International, who else is assisting in building the coalition?

A. Regeneration International (RI) was tapped by the Sunrise Movement to anchor the Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal coalition. RI is also working with organizations like Family Farm Action, the Institute for Ag Trade & Policy, American Sustainable Business Coalition, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and others to build and support the coalition. The coalition also benefits from input provided by a dedicated Congressional Advisory Committee comprised of members of Congress who support the coalition’s goals and have agreed to assist in reviewing proposed legislation, organizing Congressional hearings and briefings and building support for key pieces of legislation.

Q. How can interested farmers, ranchers and organizations join the coalition?

A. To get involved, farmers, ranchers and organizations should sign this letter to Congress. All letter signers will be consulted on policy questions and USDA secretary nominations, and will be invited to help in education and lobbying efforts. In an effort to fairly represent the policy needs of all farmers engaged in regenerative practices, the coalition seeks to include members from all geographic areas of the U.S., and from all sectors of food and fiber production. The coalition also strives to achieve both gender and ethnic diversity.

The Climate Emergency: Regenerate or Perish

May 2019 was a turning point for climate change. The world reached a record of 415.3 parts per million of carbon dioxide (ppm CO2 ) in the atmosphere—the most in over 3 million years. The UK Parliament declared an environmental and climate emergency on May 1. Pope Francis followed this by declaring a climate emergency on June 14.

A study published in May shows that if we don’t succeed in radically reducing emissions, civilization could collapse by 2050. The authors of the report showed that we are on track to “… a world of  ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it…”

The good news is that we can turn this around by scaling up regenerative agriculture.

Why regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is based on a range of food and farming systems that use the photosynthesis of plants to capture CO2 and store it in the soil. The soil holds more than double the amount of carbon than the atmosphere and biomass (forests and plants) combined.

Why is it so important to dramatically reduce the current rate of CO2 emissions?

If emissions are not reduced soon, we will be going into catastrophic climate change, that we may not be able to reverse. This is because it will take centuries to get the heat out of our oceans. Ocean heat is a significant driver of our weather. The oceans and the atmosphere are already around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the industrial revolution.

The energy needed to heat the atmosphere and the ocean by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more extreme weather events wreaking havoc on our communities and environment.

This extra energy is already violently fueling and disrupting our weather systems. It causing weather events to be far more intense. Winter storms are becoming colder and can be pushed further south and north than normal due to this energy, bringing damaging snowstorms and intense floods. Similarly, summer storms, especially hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical lows etc. are far more frequent and intense with deluging destructive rainfall and floods. Droughts and heat waves are more common and are resulting in more crop failures. They are also fueling damaging forest and grass fires that are burning out whole communities and changing regional ecologies due to not allowing time for recovery before the next fires.

The frequency and intensity of these types of events will only get exponentially worse when the world warms to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) which is the upper limit of the Paris climate agreement. And we are on track to shoot past this goal.

Managing climate change is a major issue that we have to deal with now

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. The level of CO2 reached a new record of 400 ppm in May 2016. However, despite all the commitments countries made in Paris in December 2015, the levels of CO2 increased by 3.3 ppm in 2016 creating a record. It increased by 3.3 ppm from 2018 to set a new record of 415.3 ppm in May 2019. This is a massive 60 percent increase in emissions per year since Paris and shows the reality is that most countries are not even close to meeting their Paris reduction commitments and many must be cheating on or ignoring their obligations.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, “Geological records show that the current levels of CO2 correspond to an ‘equilibrium’ climate last observed in the mid-Pliocene (3–5 million years ago), a climate that was 2–3 °C (3.6 – 5.4 F) warmer, where the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted and even some of the East Antarctic ice was lost, leading to sea levels that were 10–20 m (30 to 60ft) higher than those today.”

Global sea levels rises will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal USA, New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Dar es Salam and other low lying areas to go under water

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2 levels to drop. According to latest report, sea level rises, droughts and floods will cause a huge refugee crisis for over a billion people by 2050 and throw our civilization into chaos. The world cannot cope with 2 million refugees from Syria. How do we cope hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be wars over food, water, land.

The fact is we have to speed up the transition to renewable energy and we have to make a great effort to drawdown CO2 in the atmosphere.

Reversing climate change

Four hundred and fifteen ppm is way past the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).  The levels need to be well below 350 ppm. The excess CO2 must be drawn down from the atmosphere to stop damaging climate change.

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems would have to drawdown the current emissions of 3.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 25.61 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year needs to be drawn down from the atmosphere.

Potential of best practice regenerative agriculture

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, produces compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. Multiple crops grown with BEAM have achieved very high levels of sequestration. Published research by Dr.  Johnson and colleagues show. “… a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” These results have since been replicated in other trials.

These figures mean that BEAM can sequester 37,700 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year which is approximately 37,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

BEAM can be used in all soil based food production systems including annual crops, permanent crops and grazing systems. If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2 per year.

Potential of regenerative grazing

The Savory Institute and many others have been scaling up holistic managed grazing systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil carbon faster than many other agricultural systems and this is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by published Machmuller et al. 2015: “In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively.”

The means that they have sequestered 29,360 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year. This is approximately 29,000 pounds of CO2 per acre. If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt of CO2 per year.

Ending the climate emergency

Transitioning a small proportion of global agricultural production to these two peer-reviewed, evidence based, best practice, regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM could sequester 18.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

And a further 10 percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing could sequester 10 Gt of CO2 per year.

This would result in 28.5 Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil which is more than the amount of sequestration needed to drawdown the 25.61 Gt of CO2 that is currently being emitted.

These back-of-the envelope calculations are designed to show the considerable potential of scaling up proven high-performing regenerative systems. The examples are “shovel ready” solutions as they are based on existing practices. There is no need to invest in expensive, potentially dangerous and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or geo-engineering.

We are in a climate change emergency and we need every tool in the tool box to fix this problem. We don’t have the luxury of wasting precious time on intellectual arguments about whether this is possible or to convince skeptics and land managers unwilling to change.

It is time to get on with drawing down the excess CO2 by scaling up existing regenerative agriculture practices. This is very doable and achievable. It would require minimal financial costs to fund existing institutions, training organizations and relevant NGOs to run courses and workshops.

The widespread adoption of best practice regenerative agriculture systems should be the highest priority for farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, elected representatives, industry, training organizations, educational institutions and climate change organizations. We owe this to future generations and to all the rich biodiversity on our precious living planet.

References/sources:

Johnson D, Ellington J and Eaton W, (2015)  Development of soil microbial communities for promoting sustainability in agriculture and a global carbon fix, PeerJ PrePrints | http://dx.doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.789v1 | CC-BY 4.0 Open Access | rec: 13 Jan 2015, publ: 13 Jan 2015

Lal R (2008). Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in global carbon pools. Energy and Environmental Science, 1: 86–100.

McCosker, T. 2000. “Cell Grazing – The First 10 Years in Australia,” Tropical Grasslands. 34:  207-218.

Machmuller MB, Kramer MG, Cyle TK, Hill N, Hancock D & Thompson A (2014). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6995 doi:10.1038/ncomms7995, Received 21 June 2014 Accepted 20 March 2015 Published 30 April 2015

NOAS (2017). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US)

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/how-much-will-earth-warm-if-carbon-dioxide-doubles-pre-industrial-levels, Accessed Jan 30 2017

Spratt D and Dunlop I, 2019, Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach,  

Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, Australia

www.breakthroughonline.org.au, May 2019 Updated 11 June 2019

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_90dc2a2637f348edae45943a88da04d4.pdf

Tong W, Teague W R, Park C S and Bevers S, 2015, GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains, Sustainability 2015, 7, 13500-13521; doi:10.3390/su71013500, ISSN 2071-1050, www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability

United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015

The total amount of land used to produce food is 4,911,622,700 Hectares (18,963,881 square miles).

This is divided into:

Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares (5,391,431 square miles)

Permanent pastures: 3,358,567,600 Hectares (12,967,502 square miles)

Permanent crops: 153,733,800 square kilometers (593,570 square miles)

BEAM calculations

A basic calculation shows the potential of scaling up this simple technology across the global agricultural lands. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil carbon = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year (t CO2/ha/yr). This means BEAM can sequester 37.7 tons of CO2 per hectare which is approximately 38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2/yr.

(37.7 t CO2/ha/yr X 4,911,622,700 ha = 185,168,175,790t CO2/ha/yr)

Regenerative grazing calculations

To explain the significance of Machmuller’s figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, which means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ha/yr. This is approximately 30,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt CO2/yr.

(29.36t CO2/ha/yr X 3,358,567,600 ha = 98,607,544,736t CO2/ha/yr)

Andre Leu is international director of Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Regeneration 2019: State of the Movement

Regenerate: Formed or created again; spiritually reborn or converted; restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state. –Webster

“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” – Vandana Shiva, Regeneration International Co-Founder

Five years ago, at the massive People’s Climate March in New York City, a small but determined band of food, farm, natural health and climate activists held a press conference at the Rodale Institute in Manhattan, where we announced the formation of a new global network: Regeneration International (RI).

Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Richard Teague, Ryan Zinn, Kris Nichols and myself, among others, put forth the bold, but then little-known proposition that regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, scaled up internationally, and in conjunction with a global transition to renewable energy, could not only substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming, but could actually draw down enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reverse climate change.

We pointed out that a Regeneration Revolution could also dramatically improve the environment, soil fertility, food quality, public health, biodiversity and rural economies, while revitalizing the body politic.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of media to attend our first RI press conference. But 400,000 people marching in the streets of New York did generate massive world media coverage of the impending Climate Emergency.

Five years later . . .

Five years later, our growing Regeneration Movement has come a long way. Regenerative Agriculture is rapidly becoming the most talked about new concept in food, farming and climate circles. Media coverage, both mainstream and alternative, has increased exponentially.

Leading politicians in the U.S., including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now talking about how the combination of regenerative agriculture, natural carbon sequestration in soils, forests, and wetlands, and reducing the massive greenhouse gas emissions of industrial agriculture and factory farms can help us reach “net-zero” emissions by 2030.

The concept of regenerative food and farming was featured in the Green New Deal (GND) Resolution introduced in the U.S. House and Senate February 7. The GND has now been endorsed by more than 100 members of Congress, leading Democratic Party contenders and, according to several polls, the majority of the U.S. body politic.

The GND calls for sweeping economic reforms (jobs for all, free public education, higher wages, universal health care) as well as a transformation of our energy, infrastructure and agricultural systems, including:

. . . working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming… investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health… and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food… removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation… restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency… providing all people of the United States with access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently stated in a social media post (April 7, 2019):

Because of the Green New Deal, entirely new thinkers are now at the policy table instead of just Big Ag and Monsanto writing our public policy for us—from regenerative agriculture experts and family farmers, to indigenous leaders with intergenerational knowledge.

Media waking up to game-changing solutions

On the scientific and public education fronts, a flood of articles, videos and books are highlighting the fact that regenerative farming and ecosystem restoration practices dramatically increase soil fertility and carbon sequestration.

A recent article in Scientific American, features the work of RI member Dr. David Johnson. Johnson’s lab and field research on regenerative compost shows that high-fungal, biologically rich, semi-anaerobic compost and compost extracts produce unusually high crop yields, along with massive carbon sequestration of over four tons of carbon (15 tons of CO2e) per acre per year.

The Scientific American article points out the game-changing implications of Johnson’s compost practices, if scaled-up on the world’s four billion acres of croplands:

Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land.

Johnson’s “bio-reactor” compost also eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers—inoculated soils enriched with cover crops naturally accumulate enough nitrogen for massive plant growth. Dr. Johnson’s BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management) practices mirror traditional and indigenous compost and agroecological farming practices used in India and other regions.

Potential of regenerative grazing gaining notice
 

The Savory InstituteWill Harris (co-chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal coalition), Gabe Brown, the American Grassfed Association, and many others have been demonstrating the efficacy of holistic livestock management practices on every continent.

As RI International Director Andre Leu writes:

There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these (livestock) systems regenerate degraded lands, and improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands (eight billion acres) are used for grazing. The published evidence is showing that correctly managed pastures can build up SOC (Soil Organic Carbon) faster than many other agricultural systems and that the carbon is stored deeper in the soil.

Leu cites a 2015 study conducted in a region with highly degraded soil and pastures in the southeastern U.S. showing that regenerative, holistically managed grazing was able to sequester 3.24 tons of carbon per acre per year (29.36 metric tons of CO2e/hectare/year).

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on all of the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 26 billion tons of carbon per year—that’s two-and-a-half times as much carbon as is currently being emitted by all human activities.  Even if only 10 percent of the world’s ranchers and farmers adopted regenerative practices, we could sequester more than a quarter of all current emissions.

New incentives for reforestation and ecosystem restoration

The Earth’s forests once flourished with an estimated six trillion trees growing, storing water below ground, anchoring top soil, maintaining a healthy, predictable system of rainfall and hydrological balance, sequestering vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in tree trunks, limbs, roots, and soil.

Besides these essential ecosystem services, forests also provided food and habitat for much of the world’s population, especially in the global south.

Now, after several centuries of deforestation, we’ve lost half of our trees and forest cover. And many of our remaining forests are weakened and susceptible to forest fires and pest infestations. We’re now down to an estimated total tree population of three trillion trees on 10 billion acres.

But according to a new United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), “The Trillion Tree Campaign,” global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.

The UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign is inspired in part by a recent study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, Crowther and his fellow researchers, using integrated data from ground-based surveys and satellites, found that replanting the world’s forests (an additional 1.2 trillion trees) on a massive scale in the empty spaces in parks, woods, cities and degraded and abandoned land across the planet would drawdown 100 billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere.

Crowther told the Independent:

“There’s 400 gigatons now, in the three trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out… [trees are] our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change.”

Crowther’s figures don’t even include the massive amount of carbon drawdown and sequestration we can achieve through agroforestry and silvopasture practices, planting trees on the world’s often deforested croplands, pasturelands and rangelands.

More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign, which analyzes and projects not only where trees have been planted, but also the vast areas where forests could be restored. UNEP also emphasizes that there are “170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction” that must be protected for crucial carbon storage and biodiversity protection. 

‘Four for 1000’ global policy initiative gaining traction

At the upcoming Global Climate Summit in Santiago, Chile, December 2-13, regenerative, carbon-sequestering, agricultural and land-use practices will be highlighted for the first time at the international level.

Countries that are having difficulties meeting their 2015 pledges in Paris to reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions to specific levels (most nations are) will now be able to include soil carbon sequestration (along with reforestation and landscape restoration) as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Since the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, three dozen nations and hundreds of municipalities, regions and non-governmental organizations have signed on the “4 for 1000: Soils for  Food Security and Climate Initiative.”

Governments that sign the initiative agree to augment their emissions reductions with a commitment to increase soil carbon sequestration by 4/1000% every year so as to achieve net-zero emissions (drawing down as much GHG as they are emitting) as soon as possible. Regeneration International is an active partner with the French government and others in encouraging nations, regions, municipal governments and organizations to sign-on to the 4 for 1000 Initiative.

What do we go from here?

Besides stepping up our local and individual regenerative education and farming activities, the time has come for regenerators worldwide to focus on grassroots organizing, coalition building and bold political action.

With our Climate Emergency accelerating, and current atmospheric CO2 levels soaring to 415 ppm, we no longer have time to slowly scale up renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land-use practices at our current pace. The inclusion of regenerative food and farming in the U.S. as part of the Green New Deal, amplified in the political arena by several major candidates for President in 2020, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, has opened up an unprecedented opportunity to move forward and gain mass grassroots support. Activists in the UK are now calling for the Labour Party to put forth a bold UK Green New Deal, much as the Sunrise Movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders are doing in the U.S.

The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots finally 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.

People are concerned, alarmed and ready to listen to our message. Now is the time for the Regeneration Movement to step forward and help mobilize our millions of allies and would-be allies. We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in our local communities. Our moral and existential imperative is to mobilize politically and scale up these practices, raising the banner of a Regenerative Green New Deal in every community, region and nation.

The hour is late. But there’s still time to turn things around. If you haven’t already, please sign the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International’s petition for a Green New Deal. If you’re a farmer or rancher, sign here If you’re an activist or a green consumer sign here.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of theRegeneration International steering committee. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Letter from U.S. Farmers & Ranchers to Congress: We Need a Green New Deal

Are you a farmer or rancher? Or a farmer- or rancher-member organization?

Would you like to see Congress pass better food and farming legislation? Legislation that supports you in your efforts to manage your land using practices that improve soil health, contribute to clean water, and produce healthy food?

Do you want agricultural policies that will help you compete in the marketplace, by ensuring fair prices for your products and a level playing field in the marketplace?

Please sign this letter to Congress.

Regeneration: Updates from Around the World

Leer en español aquí

Ever since its creation in 2015, Regeneration International has been working locally to strengthen a global movement of solidarity. So far, 218 regenerative farms or projects located in 55 different countries are part of the Regeneration International Partner Network.

Since the beginning of the year, several workshops, conferences and regional and international meetings have been held to nourish and connect the global regeneration movement. Regeneration Belize held its first General Assembly. In Kenya, we will be present at World Soil Week. And in Chiapas, Mexico, we will participate in the First Mexican Congress of Agroecology.

BELIZE: Regeneration Belize Holds First Annual General Meeting in Belmopan

Regeneration Belize held its first General Assembly meeting on February 13 in the National Agriculture & Trade Show (NATS) conference room in Belmopan, compliments of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Regeneration Belize is the result of the common effort of producers, educators, consumers and educators from Belize and international allies. The first step for the formation of this group was taken during the First Tropical Agriculture Conference that took place in Belmopan in November 2018.

On March 19, Regeneración Belice organized a biocarbon workshop, by Christopher Nesbitt from Maya Mountain Research Farm and board member of Regeneration Belize, with a participation of 51 people. A seed preservation workshop is planned for June with the participation of RI, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), the Ministry of Agriculture and others involved in seed preservation. Regeneration Belize continues to develop numerous events for 2019, from its Second Conference on Regenerative Tropical Agriculture in November to its participation in World Food Day in October.

URUGUAY: Regeneration Movement Gaining Traction in Uruguay!    

On February 14, the workshop “José Ignacio, Regenerative Lighthouse: Water and Soil Free of Agrochemicals” was held La Excusa restaurant, in José Ignacio, Uruguay. The event was held in conjunction with the local Gastronomic Fair, sponsored by several local, national and international organizations and NGOs, including Savory International.

Workshops on regenerative farming practices will be held monthly, in order to spread the regenerative movement across Uruguay. For more information, call or WhatsApp: 598-98106116.

UNITED STATES: Global Earth Repair Conference, Port Townsend, Washington (USA), May 3-5, 2019

The Global Earth Repair Conference will bring together about 500 people to talk about earth repair at local, regional, state, national and international levels. The Global Earth Repair Conference facilitates the exchange of information between earth repair practitioners.

This year’s event will focus on how to apply earth repair to urban areas, farmland, forests, rangeland, shrub steppes, deserts, streams, rivers, coral reefs, oceans and other ecosystems.  Seed collecting, earthworks, swales, nurseries, native plants, plant establishment, hoedads, live staking, sprigging, and much else will be on the menu.

MEXICO: 1er. Congreso Mexicano De Agroecología, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, May 12-17, 2019

Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), together with the Mexican Seeds Network, will participate in the First Mexican Congress of Agroecology with a series of activities related to the defense of seeds and agricultural diversity.

On Wednesday, May 15, there will be workshops on seed production and on the 100% nixtamalized tortilla. There will also be a presentation of “SIEMBRA!,” an educational series on seed production, and a seed exchange.

On Thursday, May 16, there will be a table entitled “seeds and resilience: learning, resistance and construction through the defense, conservation and production of seeds,”  which will feature speakers from the academic and public sector and nonprofits.

EAST AFRICA: Global Soil Week, Nairobi, Kenya, May 27-30, 2019

Global Soil Week will bring soil scientists and practitioners to deliberate on how to create environments that enable the Land Degradation Neutrality in Africa. Regeneration International’s Precious Phiri will partner with the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (Viridiana Alcántara) to conduct a field trip to the Kenyan Savory Hub on the Masai Mara lands. This event will showcase the potential for soil health regeneration in the dry lands of Kenya. The hope is that this will trigger interest among scientists to partner with Savory Hubs on projects geared toward regenerating rangelands.

UNITED STATES: Green New Deal Incites Hope for Comprehensive Ag Policy Change

Regeneration International supports the Green New Deal (GND), a 10-year mobilization plan to address climate change and income inequality in the U.S. The GND offers an unprecedented opportunity to finally unite the environmental, climate, food, labor and economic justice activists in the U.S.  around one policy platform that offers solutions for the multiple crises we face.

RI is working behind the scenes in the U.S. to build a national coalition of farmers and ranchers for a GND with the ultimate goal of drafting and building support for major agricultural policy reforms to address global warming and other crises, including deteriorating public health, water pollution, the collapse of family farms and their communities, loss of wildlife and biodiversity, and low wages for farm and food industry workers.

We’ll make some important announcements about our partnership with the Sunrise Movement in the coming months. For now, if you live in the U.S., please use this form to ask your members of Congress to support the Green New Deal.

Are you a farmer or rancher in the U.S.? Please sign this letter to Congress urging support for a Green New Deal.

Thank you!

Why the Food and Regeneration Movement Should Support a 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 demanded 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.

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.

The GND draft statement calls for “eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country.” It also calls for funding “massive investment in the drawdown of 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. 84 members of Congress, and 11 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. For more information on the Sunrise Movement’s upcoming activities, 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

New Study Confirms: Degenerative Food & Farming System Poses Mortal Threat

A new study calling for a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

Photo credit: Unsplash

The study, the result of three years of work by 26 commissioners from several countries, was released this week by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.  Boyd Swinburn, a University of Auckland professor and co-chair of the commission, as reported by Channel News Asia, said:

“Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories. In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy.”

According to the report, nearly a billion people are hungry and another 2 billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Boyd said that malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition and obesity, is by far the biggest cause of ill health and premature death globally, and that both are expected to be made “significantly worse” by climate change.

A familiar, but welcome call for reform

We have long called for the reform of our degenerative industrial agriculture system. We’ve drawn attention to the impact of industrial agriculture on global warming and deteriorating health. And we’ve highlighted the remarkable potential for organic regenerative agriculture to naturally draw down and sequester carbon, through nature’s own photosynthesis.

We’ve also called on global policymakers to connect the dots between degenerative agriculture, poor health and climate change.

We’ve said all along that the influence of self-serving corporations over policy is largely to blame for U.S. and global policymakers’ collective failure to address our degenerative food and farming system, and the devastation that system has wrought on human health and the environment.

This latest study comes at a time when climate scientists have sounded their most urgent and alarming warnings to date. It also comes at a time of keen interest in a Green New Deal, whose backers are calling for nothing less than radical solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.

Degeneration Nation: the frightening truth

Welcome to Degeneration Nation, where the frightening truth is this: Big Food companies, fast food chains, chemical and seed giants such as Bayer/Monsanto, and corporate agribusiness, aided and abetted by indentured politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties, are slowly but surely poisoning us with unhealthy, nutrient-deficient, contaminated food.

The pesticides, GMOs, hormone disruptors and antibiotic residues in non-organic produce, grains and meat, coupled with the excessive sugar, salt and bad fats in the processed foods and beverages that make up the majority of the American diet, have supersized and degenerated the body politic. An epidemic of chronic diseases directly related to our toxic food and environment has spread across the U.S. and much of the world.

The overwhelming evidence is that human health is seriously deteriorating, and that the underlying causes of this health crisis are directly related not only to our highly toxic industrial practices, but also to our degenerate food, farming and land-management practices.

In the agricultural sector alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies more than 1,400 pesticides and 1,800 so-called “inerts” chemicals in use, in addition to a toxic stew of animal drugs, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers and GMOs. Few of these have been properly tested, singly or in combination, for safety.

The public health and economic consequences of our degraded environment and food system are alarming. A recent Rand Corporation study found that 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic health condition, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more; and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. health care spending of $3.5 trillion.

One out of every two Americans will get cancer at least once in their lifetime. According to recent research, U.S. men born in 1960 have a lifetime cancer risk of 53.5 percent. For women, it’s 47.5 percent.

Seventy percent of U.S. drinking water is contaminated with Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, while 93 percent of consumers now have traces of this toxic poison (active ingredient glyphosate) in our urine.

The authors of “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” report that one in 13 U.S. children have serious food allergies; 6 – 24 percent have serious intestinal problems; 20 percent are obese; 60 percent have chronic headaches; 20 percent suffer from mental disorders and depression. One in every 41 boys and one in every 68 girls are now diagnosed with autism.

Beyond destroying our health, chemical and fossil fuel-intensive factory farms and GMO monocultures are polluting our water and air, degrading our soils, forests and wetlands, killing off biodiversity and heating up the planet.

The delicate rhythms of nature—the Earth’s carbon cycle circulating between the atmosphere, oceans, soils and forests, the water or hydrological cycle and the climate—are unraveling.

Cook organic, not the planet

The Lancet Obesity Commission study is clear: Climate change, obesity and poor nutrition can all be linked in some way to the mass production of processed, nutrient-poor food. This is an idea that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

When most people think about climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the impact of fossil fuels—our non-renewable fossil fuel-based energy system for transportation and for utilities and manufacturing, including the construction and the heating and cooling of our homes, offices and buildings.

What few people understand is that a full 44-57 percent of all global GHG emissions are generated by chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive industrial farm production, food processing, packaging, refrigeration, transportation and destructive land-use practices, such as deforestation, heavy plowing, lack of cover crops and wetlands destruction.

Let’s take a closer look at the 44-57 percent of human GHG emissions coming from our industrial, GMO, factory farm food system, and compare how transitioning to regenerative food, farming and land-management practices would not only drastically reduce these emissions, but actually draw down excess atmospheric carbon and sequester it in our soils, trees and wetlands—and in the process, produce more nutrient-dense, chemical-free food.

Direct use of oil and gas in farming: 11 to 15 percent

Most climate analysts agree that fossil fuel use on farms and ranches, including chemical farm inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), is responsible for at least 11-15 percent of all global CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Most of these emissions come from the use of fossil fuel-powered farm and irrigation equipment and petroleum-derived chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

In addition, the excess manure generated by factory farms, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as the industry calls them, releases significant quantities of methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and the oceans.

How can we reduce these on-farm emissions? By converting chemical- and energy-intensive farms to organic and regenerative crop production and planned rotational grazing and free range livestock production. This will require a combination of conscious consumers and farmers working together, on a local-to-global scale to reject factory farm, GMO, chemically tainted, highly processed food, and radical changes in public policy and investment practices.

Food- and farming-derived deforestation: 15 to 18 percent

Global “land use change” or deforestation is generally recognized as contributing to approximately 20 percent of all GHG emissions over the past 200 years.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that expansion of agriculture, especially for export crops such as GMO soybeans (primarily for animal feed) in Latin America, or palm oil (for biofuels and processed food) in Asia, accounts for 70-90 percent of global deforestation.

Worldwide, industrial agriculture is pushing into grasslands, wetlands and forests, destroying what were previously carbon-sequestering forests and grasslands. Food and farming’s contribution to deforestation thus accounts for 15-18 percent of global GHG emissions.

Over the next 50 years we need to preserve the forests we have left, and plant and nurture a trillion or more new trees. Since the areas of tropical forest deforestation are also the areas of greatest poverty and unemployment, reforestation and forest restoration can provide several hundred million jobs to those local residents and forest dwellers who need them most.

Food transport/food miles: 5 to 6 percent

Globally it is generally agreed that transportation accounts for 20-25 percent of all GHG emissions. According to the ETC group, “we can conservatively estimate that the transportation of food accounts for a quarter of global GHG emissions linked to transportation, or 5-6 percent of all global GHG emissions.” In the U.S. it is commonly estimated that the average food item in your grocery store or restaurant has travelled 1,500 miles before it reaches its final destination. Multi-ingredient processed foods, burn up even more food miles.

If we are to significantly reduce global emissions we will need to drastically reduce the food miles and carbon footprint of our food purchases and focus on fresh non-processed or minimally processed and packaged food produced locally and regionally, including food produced through urban agriculture. Before the second World War most food consumed in the U.S. and other industrialized nations came from a 100-mile radius of where people lived. During the Second World War, 40-50 percent of all food consumed by Americans came from urban “Victory Gardens,” while 30 percent of all food in Great Britain similarly came from urban gardens.

Food processing/packaging: 8 to 10 percent

Food processing has become a major part of the industrial food chain. In the U.S. , the overwhelming majority of food purchased in grocery stores or restaurants (70 percent) is processed food.

ETC group states that the “ . . . transformation of foods into ready-made meals, snacks and beverages requires an enormous amount of energy, mostly in the form of carbon. So does the packaging and canning of these foods. Processing and packaging enables the food industry to stack the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores with hundreds of different formats and brands, but it also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions—some 8 to 10 percent of the global total.”

More and more consumers are recognizing that highly processed food, whether served at home or in fast food restaurants is bad for our health, and that wasteful packaging, misleading advertising and plastic bags and packages are harmful both to our health (especially children’s health) and to our environment, including the oceans.

This awareness has caused a boom in sales of fresh organic produce and animal products in natural and organic food stores and farmer’s markets. Many cities and even entire nations are now moving toward banning plastic bags. Unfortunately, U.S. consumers still spend almost half of their food dollars eating in restaurants and fast food outlets where highly processed, packaged foods dominate the menu. Similarly, in schools and cafeterias pre-cooked processed foods delivered by food service conglomerates have displayed hand-cooked meals prepared from fresh ingredients.

If we are to reduce the 8-10 percent of global fossil fuel emissions coming from food processing and packaging we will need to get back to healthy, organic, regionally produced foods, cooked from scratch with natural ingredients. This will not only benefit our health but will also be better for the health of the climate and the environment.

Food refrigeration & retail: 2 to 4 percent

Approximately 15 percent of all global electricity consumption is for cooling and refrigeration. Of course global food sourcing depends upon keeping fresh produce and animal products cold.

As ETC group says: “Considering that cooling is responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and that leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of GHGs, we can safely say that the refrigeration of foods accounts for some 1-2 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. The retailing of foods accounts for another 1-2 percent.”

Again, reducing our food miles, buying locally and regionally—this is not only good for the planet, but good for our health and the economic well-being of our local farmers and ranchers as well. Until the electricity grid is converted over to renewable energy, food refrigeration, and refrigeration in general (especially air conditioning), will continue to belch out an unsustainable amount of greenhouse gases.

In the meantime we can all do our part, not only by turning down our thermostats, but by buying fresh foods produced locally and regionally, pressuring politicians to require local purchasing for schools and institutions, or better yet, by growing some of our own.

Throwing food into landfills instead of composting 3 to 4 percent

Our industrial food and farming system currently discards 30-50 percent of all the crops and the food that is produced. Not only is this a prodigious waste of the fossil fuel energy and labor involved in producing this food, but the food waste itself generally ends up in garbage dumps and landfills, (rather than being converted into compost) releasing substantial amounts of methane and other GHGs.

Quoting again from ETC Group: “Between 3.5-4.5 percent of global GHG emissions come from waste, and over 90 percent of these are produced by materials originating within the food system.”

Our planet has five pools or repositories where greenhouse gases are absorbed and stored: the oceans, the atmosphere, the soils, vegetation (plants, especially perennial plants, grasses, and forests) and hydrocarbon deposits.

Our global challenge over the next 25 years is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans, leave the remaining fossil fuels (oil, coal, uranium, and natural gas) in the ground, and move a critical mass of excess atmospheric carbon (250 billion tons of carbon) back into the soil, by transitioning to regenerative food, farming and land-use practices. By doing this we will not only be able to reverse global warming—we’ll also produce healthier food and healthier people.

 

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

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams