Vandana Shiva: Bill Gates Empires ‘Must Be Dismantled’

In an interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola, Vandana Shiva says, “… if In the next decade, if we don’t protect what has to be protected … and take away the sainthood from this criminal, they will leave nothing much to be saved.”

In this interview, Vandana Shiva, Ph.D., discusses the importance and benefits of regenerative agriculture and a future Regeneration International project that we’ll be collaborating on.

We’re currently facing enormously powerful technocrats who are hell-bent on ushering in the Great Reset, which will complete the ongoing transfer of wealth and resource ownership from the poor and middle classes to the ultra-rich. Perhaps the most well-known of the individuals pushing for this is Bill Gates who, like John Rockefeller a century before him, rehabilitated his sorely tarnished image by turning to philanthropy.

However, Gates’ brand of philanthropy, so far, has helped few and harmed many. While his PR machine has managed to turn public opinion about him such that many now view him as a global savior who donates his wealth for the good of the planet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Gates’ stranglehold on global health

The magnitude of Gates’ role over global health recently dawned on me. I believe the COVID-19 catastrophe would not have been possible had it not been for the World Health Organization (WHO), which Gates appears to exert shadow-control over. Remember, it was primarily the WHO that facilitated this global shutdown and adoption of freedom-robbing, economy-destroying measures by virtually every government on the planet.

When then-President Trump halted U.S. funding of the WHO in 2020, Gates became the biggest funder of the WHO. As explained in “WHO Insider Blows Whistle on Gates and GAVI,” the WHO has turned global health security into a dictatorship, where the director general has assumed sole power to make decisions that member states must abide by, but according to a long-term WHO insider, Gates’ vaccine alliance GAVI actually appears to be the directing power behind the WHO.

The two — Gates and the WHO — have been working hand in hand pushing for a global vaccination campaign, and Gates has a great deal of money invested in these vaccines. We’ve also seen extraordinary efforts to censor natural alternatives and inexpensive, readily available and clearly effective drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, and it appears the reason for this is probably because they’re competitors to the vaccine.

Emergency use authorization for pandemic vaccines are only given when there are no other treatments, so vilifying alternatives has been a key strategy to protect vaccine profits.

The parallels between Rockefeller and Gates

As noted by Shiva, the comparisons between Rockefeller and Gates are quite apt. Rockefeller created not just Big Oil but also Big Finance and Big Pharma. He had intimate connections with IG Farben. There was a Standard Oil IG Farben company. Without the fossil fuels of Standard Oil, IG Farben couldn’t have made synthetic fertilizers or fuels.

In 1910, Rockefeller and Carnegie produced The Flexner Report, which was the beginning of the end for natural medicine in the conventional medical school curriculum. They eliminated it because it saw natural medicine as a hugely competitive threat to the new pharmaceuticals that were primarily derived from the oil industry.

Much of Rockefeller’s history has been captured by Lily Kay, who sifted through Molecular Vision of Life’s archives. There, she discovered that the Nazi regime, which was a eugenics regime that thought some people were inferior and needed to be exterminated to keep the superior race pure, didn’t vanish when Germany lost the war.

Eugenics simply migrated to the U.S., and was taken up by Rockefeller under the term of “social psychology as biological determinants.” The word gene did not exist at that time. Instead, they called it “atoms of determinism.” Rockefeller paid for much of the eugenics research, which ultimately resulted in the silencing and suppression of true health.

To be healthy means to be whole, and wholeness refers to the “self-organized brilliance of your integrated body as a complex system,” Shiva says. That’s what Ayurveda is based on, and even this ancient system of medicine has been attacked in recent times. The notion of genetic determination ignores this foundational wholeness, seeking instead to divide the human body into mechanical components controlled by your genes.

“Coming back to the parallels, Rockefeller was behind it because he was driving the chemical industry. When the wars were over, they said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have all these chemicals to sell.’ And they invented the Green Revolution and pushed the Green Revolution on India.

“Rockefeller, the World Bank, the U.S. all worked together, and if the farmers of India are protesting today, it’s a result of Rockefeller’s initiative, the Green Revolution in India. Most people don’t realize what high cost India has borne; what high cost the state of Panjon has born.

“Then you have Gates joining up with Rockefeller and creating the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) … which pretends to be his solution to climate change. I say, “My god, what kind of stage has the world reached that absolute nonsense can pass the science?” I’ll give you just three examples from his chapter on agriculture, in which he talks about how we grow things.

“First of all, plants are not things. Plants are sentient beings. Our culture knows it. We have the sacred tulsi. We have the sacred neem. We have the sacred banyan. They are sentient beings. So many people are awake to animal rights. I think we need more people awake to plant rights and really tell Mr. Gates, “No, plants are not things.”

“He goes on to celebrate Norman Borlaug, who was in the DuPont defense lab, whose job it was to push these four chemicals by adapting the plants [to them]. So, he created the dwarf variety, because the tall varieties are free varieties … [Gates] says we’re eating food because of Borlaug. No, people are starving because of Borlaug. The farmers are dying because of Borlaug.”

Gates offers problems as solutions

Gates hails synthetic fertilizer is the greatest agricultural invention. “Doesn’t he realize synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are creating desertification, dead zones in the ocean and nitric oxide, which is a greenhouse gas?” Shiva says. In short, he’s offering the problem as the solution. Gates also, apparently, does not understand that nitrogen-fixing plants can fix nitrogen. He incorrectly claims that plants cannot fix nitrogen.

Gates is equally wrong about methane production from livestock. “Have you smelt methane behind nomadic tribes?” Shiva asks. “Have you ever smelt methane behind our sacred cow in India? No, they don’t emit methane.” The reason cows in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) emit methane that stinks to high heaven is because they’re fed an unnatural diet of grains and placed in crowded quarters. It’s not a natural phenomenon. It’s a man-made one.

“You know what Mr. Gates wants to teach us? He says cows make methane because of their poor stomachs,” Shiva says. “They call them containers. I think we should sue him for undoing basic biology 101. You’ve talked about how he controls the WHO. He’s also trying to take control of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“[FAO] has recognized ecological agriculture is the way to go and supported [regenerative] agriculture up until last year, when Gates started to take charge. Now he’s moving the food summit to New York. Five hundred organizations have said, ‘This is no longer a food summit, it’s a poison summit. The poison cartel and Bill Gates are running it to push more poisons, now under new names. So, we have a lot of work to do.’”

The answer to the environmental problems we face is not more of the very things that created the problems in the first place, which is what Gates proposes. The answer is regenerative agriculture and real food.

“When people are eating healthy food, there is no problem,” Shiva says. “[Gates] wants to commit a crime against our gut microbiome, pushing more fake food through Impossible Food. And he wants to create conditions so that real food will disappear. That’s why we all have to organize together and the scientists have to start being protected.

“There’s an extinction taking place. They call it the sixth mass extinction. Most people think the sixth mass extinction is about other species. They don’t realize large parts of humanity are being pushed to extinction. Food is health, as Hippocrates said, [and that requires] indigenous systems of learning, ecological agriculture, small farmers.

“In Bill Gates’ design, all this that makes life, life, that makes society, society, that makes community, community, that makes healthy beings, he would like to push this to extinction because he’s afraid of independence, freedom, health and our beingness. He wants us to be ‘thingness,’ but we are beings …

“The worst crime against the Earth and against humanity is using gene editing technologies for gene drives, which is a collaboration of Gates with DARPA, the defense research system. Gene drives are deliberately driving [us] to extinction. Now he does it in the name of ending malaria. No. It’s about driving to extinction.

“Amaranth is a sacred food for us. It’s a very, very important source of nutrition … There’s an application in that DARPA-Gates report of driving the amaranth to extinction through gene rights. And when this was raised at the Convention on Biological Diversity, do you know what he did? He actually hired a public relations agency and bribed government representatives to not say no. Can you imagine?”

Gates’ long-term play

Gates clearly had a long-term vision in mind from the start. His growing control of the WHO began over a decade ago. Over this span of time, he also started transitioning into Big Pharma and the fake food industry, which would allow his influence over the WHO’s global health recommendations to really pay off.

While fake foods have many potential problems, one in particular is elevated levels of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA). If you eat real food, you’re going to get more than enough LA. Our industrial Western diet, however, provides far more than is needed for optimal health already, and engineered meats are particularly loaded with LA, as they’re made with genetically modified soy oil and canola oil.

This massive excess of LA will encourage and promote virtually all degenerative diseases, thereby accelerating the destruction of human health. In addition to that, Gates is also investing in pharmaceuticals, which of course are touted as the answer to degenerative disease. Again, his solutions to ill health are actually the problem. Shiva says:

“Gates … [is] entering every field that has to do with life. Our work in Navdanya, which means nine seeds, is basically work on biodiversity in agriculture. We started to bring together all the work that he’s doing in taking over. I mentioned the Rockefeller Green Revolution, now the Gates-Rockefeller Green Revolution in Africa. The next step he wants to push is … digital agriculture.

“He calls it Gates Ag One, and the headquarters of this is exactly where the Monsanto headquarters are, in St. Louis, Missouri. Gates Ag One is one [type of] agriculture for the whole world, organized top down. He’s written about it. We have a whole section on it in our new report, ‘Gates to a Global Empire.’”

Stolen farmer data is repackaged and sold back to them

What does digital agriculture entail? For starters, it entails the introduction of a digital surveillance system. So far, Shiva’s organization has managed to prevent Gates from introducing a seed surveillance startup, where farmers would not be allowed to grow seeds unless approved by Gates surveillance system.

The data mining, Shiva says, is needed because they don’t actually know agriculture. This is why Gates finances the policing of farmers. He needs to mine their data to learn how farming is actually done. This knowledge is then repackaged and sold back to the farmers. It’s evil genius at its finest.

Through his funding, Gates now also controls the world’s seed supply, and his financing of gene editing research has undercut biosafety laws across the world. As explained by Shiva, the only country that doesn’t have biosafety laws is the U.S. “The rest of the world does because we have a treaty called the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,” she says.

“While he created the appearance of philanthropy, what he’s doing is giving tiny bits of money to very vital institutions. But with those bits of money, they attract government money, which was running those institutions. Now, because of his clout, he is taking control of the agenda of these institutions. In the meantime, he’s pushing patenting, be it on drugs, vaccines or on seeds.”

Taken together, Gates ends up wielding enormous control over global agriculture and food production, and there’s virtually no evidence to suggest he has good intentions.

The anatomy of monopolization

The company that collects patents on gene-edited organisms, both in health and agriculture, is Editas, founded by a main financial investor for the Gates Foundation. Gates is also a big investor in Editas.

“So, here’s a company called Editas to edit the world as if it is a Word program. The two scientists who got the Nobel Prize this year have both been funded in their research by Gates. My mind went back to how Rockefeller financed the research, got the Nobel Prize, and then made the money.

“So, you finance the research. Then you finance the public institutions, whether they be national or international. You invest and force them down the path where they can only use what is your patented intellectual property. And, as he has said in an interview, his smartest investment was vaccines, because it is a 1-to-20 return. Put $1 in and make $20. How many billions of dollars have been put in? You can imagine how many trillions will be made.

“At the end of it, where does food come from? It comes from seed. He wants to control it. It comes from land. He’s controlling that. He’s become the biggest farmland owner [in the U.S.]. But you need weather [control]. You need a stable climate.

“So, what could be a weapon of control of agriculture? Weather modification. He calls it geoengineering. This is engineering of the climate. Again, making it look like he’s going to solve global warming by creating global cooling.”

As explained by Shiva, Gates is also heavily invested in climate modification technologies that not only will destabilize the earth’s climate systems more, but also can be weaponized against the people by controlling rainfall and drought. In India, they’ve been having massive hail during harvest time, which destroys the harvest.

Is the UN subservient to Gates?

According to Shiva, Gates is also corrupting the UN system, just like he’s corrupted world governments and the WHO, and in so doing, he’s destroying the efforts built over the last three decades to protect the global environment.

“Whether it be the climate treaty, the biodiversity treaty or the atmospheric treaties, he is absolutely behaving as if the UN is his subservient institution,” Shiva says. “[He thinks] governments and regulatory bodies should not exist … and that people in democracy have no business to speak. [If they do], they’re conspiracy theorists.”

Taking down Gates’ empires

As it stands right now, ordinary people are forced to fight battles that are in actuality rooted in institutional, structural and societal crimes. These crimes really need to be addressed the way Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire was addressed. In the case of Gates, his empire is actually multiple empires, and they all need to be dismantled. To that end, I will be collaborating with Shiva and Regeneration International, which she co-founded, on a project to boycott Gates’ empires.

“I’ve noticed that no matter what the movement, they’re using the word regeneration now. It could be a health movement, a democracy movement, a peace movement, a women’s movement — everyone has realized that regeneration is what we have to shift to,” Shiva says.

“So, what do we need to be doing in the next decade? For me, the next decade is the determining decade, because these petty minds’ insatiable greed want to go so fast that if, in the next decade, we don’t protect what has to be protected, build resilient alternatives and take away the sainthood from this criminal, they will leave nothing much to be saved.

“The poison cartel is also big pharma. People think agriculture is here, medicine is there. No. The same criminal corporations gave us agrichemicals. They gave us bad medicine that creates more disease than it solves. So, Big PharmaBig AgBig Poison — it’s all one. And Bill Gates is holding it all together even more, and trying to make them bigger because he has investments in all of them …

“I think [seeds] is where we have to begin … I’m hoping that we will be able, together, to launch a global movement soon to take back our seeds from the international seed banks. The strategy is we need to remind the world that these are public institutions [and] that they’re accountable to the farmers whose collections these [seeds] are …

“On the food question, I think that’s the big one because food and health go [together]. In Ayurveda, it says food is the best medicine, and if you don’t eat good food, then no medicine can cure whatever disease you have. The best medicine is good eating. And Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ So, I think this is the time to really grow a very big global campaign for food freedom.

“Food freedom means you cannot destroy our right to grow food. Secondly, you cannot destroy our governments’ obligations to us to support regenerative agriculture rather than support degenerative agriculture and subsidize it. And third, I think we should call for a worldwide boycott of lab foods …

“Another part of this should be, don’t let Big Tech enter our bodies. Let big tech not enter life sciences … These guys will make life illegal. Living will be illegal except as a little piece in their machine through their permission.”

Each year, Navdanya holds a two-week campaign on food freedom starting October 2, which is nonviolence day. We now need to take that campaign to the global stage, and I will do my part to aid this effort. So, mark your calendar and prepare to join us in a global boycott of food that makes you sick — processed food, GMO foods, lab-created foods, fake meats, all of it.

More information

You can learn more about Shiva’s work and her many projects on Navdanya.org. During the first week of April every year, Navdanya gives a five-day course called Annam, Food as Health, via Zoom. In this course, you’ll learn about soil and plant biodiversity and healthy eating for optimal health.

You can also learn more by reading the report “Earth Rising, Women Rising: Regenerating the Earth, Seeding the Future,” written by female farmers. And, again, mark your calendars and plan your participation in the food freedom campaign, starting October 2, 2021.

“When all the spiritual forces, all of nature’s forces and most of people’s forces are aligned together, what can [a few] billionaires, technocrats — who want to be richer than they are, greedier than they are, more violent than they are — do?” Shiva says. “They don’t count in the long run, really. It’s just that we cannot afford to not do the things that we can do.”

Reposted with permission from Mercola.com

Regenerative Grazing – Increased Production, Biodiversity Resilience, Profits and a Climate Change Solution

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Picture courtesy of Richard Teague

Around 68 percent of the world’s agricultural lands (eight billion acres as compared to four billion acres of croplands) are used for grazing. The majority of these landscapes are unsuitable for cropping. They are home to over a billion people who are dependent on the livestock that graze on them for their living.  These landscapes are often some of most degraded lands on the planet due to deforestation and inappropriate grazing practices.

The good news is that there are a range of grazing systems that are proven to regenerate these ecosystems, increasing ground covers, biodiversity, soil organic matter, water holding capacity, and production outcomes.

Adaptive Multi-paddock (AMP) Grazing

One of the most successful methods of managing weeds and improving the productivity of pastures is called adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing. In many of the current grazing systems, where the animals are not rotated across pastures and rangelands, the animals tend to overgraze on the species that they prefer and continuously eat them all the way down to the ground, even pulling them out by the roots. This devastates the most nutritious grasses and allows weeds and invasive species to proliferate. Too many grazing systems allow the stock to overgraze, leaving bare, exposed soil that ends up being eroded by wind and water. Much of the environmental degradation in arid and semi-arid areas (which currently comprise 40% of the Earth’s lands) is due to degenerative grazing practices.

AMP rotates a large number of livestock across smaller paddocks or delineating grazing areas for short periods, forcing them to thoroughly graze all the edible plants. Being massed together (mob grazing) forces the livestock to eat all the edible plants, not just their preferred species, resulting in a more efficient use of the pasture.

The higher stock density also ensures that weeds are crushed and trampled and that the manure is kicked and scattered across the ground, fertilizing the soil. The animals are then moved to another pasture or paddock and the process is repeated. There is a continuous rotation of controlled grazing in different pastures, and animals only return to the original paddock when the grasses and groundcover has regrown.

The key to AMP systems is intense, short periods of grazing that ensure that fewer than 50 percent of the available forage is eaten. This means that ground covers will not shed too many roots and will consequently recover more quickly. Research shows that these systems produce much more feed per hectare, are better at efficiently using rainfall, and significantly improve soil health and fertility. Farms managed with AMP systems can carry more stock per acre than those with fixed stocking systems.

Picture Courtesy of Christine Jones and Acres USA

Another very important benefit of these rotational systems is better control of internal parasites. Starting with clean stock is important. Most stock get infected from the eggs of the parasites in the bare soil. By always ensuring that less that 50 percent the leaf area is eaten, ranchers can prevent the mouths of livestock from being in contact with the eggs of the parasites. The other important management technique is to know the length of the lifecycle of the parasites and to not return the stock to a

Picture courtesy of Richard Teague

paddock/cell until the life cycle has finished. In some cases this will require a period of up to three life cycles to ensure that the paddock /cell is clean.

Researchers have demonstrated that the appropriate time-managed grazing systems will not kill a single plant and will increase the biodiversity of native plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms in the farm ecosystem.

Some of the most successful examples of AMP use multiple species in succession, such as grazing cattle followed by sheep followed by poultry, as each will tend to eat different species.

AMP grazing with sheep (courtesy of Google Photos).

Rotational grazing is also being use with many poultry species for both eggs and meat. Following cattle with chickens is a great way to spread cattle manure and to reduce pests and weeds, since chickens eat the bugs and weed seeds. Geese can also be very useful in managing weeds. Young Chinese geese can be trained to eat specific weeds by feeding these weeds to goslings when they are very young. They develop a taste for these weeds and they become their preferred forage. The geese will actively seek them out and graze them down.

 

AMP grazing with young poultry (courtesy of Google Photos).

The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil organic matter faster than many other agricultural systems, and this carbon is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by Machmuller and and others show that regenerative grazing practices can regenerate soil and ground covers in three years. The ranches studied increased their cation exchange capacity (nutrient availability) by 95 percent and increased their water holding capacity by 34 percent.

These grazing systems are some of the best ways to increase soil organic matter levels. Machmuller et al. noted that they sequestered 29,360 kg of COper hectare per year. This is an enormous amount of carbon dioxide being taken out of the air by photosynthesis and converted into organic matter to feed the soil microbiome.  Several studies show that the amount of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere is greater than greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems showing that scaling up regenerative grazing can help to reverse climate change. There are several soil carbon credit schemes that are paying farmers and ranchers for increasing soil organic matter levels.

Regenerative grazing can turn livestock production from being one of the major contributors to climate change into one of the largest solutions to climate change.

There are many farming and research organizations involved in scaling up regenerative 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 and increase pasture species diversity thereby improving productivity, water holding capacity, and soil organic matter levels. There are numerous excellent books, websites, online social groups, and organizations that can provide detailed information on the most effective systems.

Some of the resource links are provided below

Regeneration International

https://www.facebook.com/regenerationinternational/

Books

Acres USA is a great online bookstore for Regenerative Agriculture

Another excellent publisher of books on regenerative and organic food and farming is Chelsea Green Publishers.

Chelsea Green published Ronnie Cummins’ 2020 book on Regenerative and Organic food and farming as a solution to Climate Change: Grassroots Rising: A Call to Acion on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal.

Professional Trainers/Consultants

Savory Hubs

Facebook groups – there are many more than these – search to find local groups

Soils4Climate

Regenerative Agriculture Group

Regenerative Agriculture to Reverse Global Warming

Soils For Life

Innovation in Agriculture

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

 

Pasture Cropping—The Innovative No-kill, No-till System Developed by Australian Farmers

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Regenerative agriculture is a global farming revolution with rapid uptake and interest around the world. Five years ago hardly anyone had heard about it. It is in the news nearly everyday now. This  agricultural revolution has been led by innovative farmers rather than scientists, researchers and governments. It is being applied to all agricultural sectors including cropping, grazing and perennial horticulture.

In previous articles we have described how regenerative agriculture maximizes the photosynthesis of plants to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to increase soil organic matter. Soil organic matter is a good proxy for soil health, as it is important for improving fertility and water capture in soils, thus improving productivity and profitability in farming.

Many regenerative farmers sow their fields with mixtures of plants just to capture carbon dioxide to improve the levels of soil organic matter. These are called cover crops and are distinct from the cash crop. The cover crop builds soil fertility. The cash crop earns an income. 

Pasture Cropping—the No-kill, No-till System

Australia has many innovative regenerative farmers. The two farmers below are pioneers of a cover cropping system called pasture cropping. This is where the cash crop is planted into a perennial pasture instead of into bare soil. There is no need to plough out the pasture species as weeds or kill them with herbicides before planting the cash crop. The perennial pasture becomes the cover crop.

This was first developed by Colin Seis in New South Wales. The principle is based on the sound ecological fact that annual plants grow in perennial systems. The key is to adapt this principle to the appropriate management system for the specific cash crops and climate.

The pasture is first grazed or slashed to ensure that it is very short. This adds organic matter in the form of manure, cut grass, and shed roots into the soil to build soil fertility and to reduce root competition from the pasture. The cash crop such as oats is directly planted into the pasture.

Image courtesy of Colin Seis

Heres Colin Seiss own description of pasture cropping:      

 A 20-hectare (50 acre) crop of echidna oats that was sown and harvested in 2003 . . . This crops yield was 4.3 tonnes/hectare (31 bushels/acre). This yield is at least equal to the district average, where full ground-disturbance cropping methods were used.” 

This profit does not include the value of the extra grazing. On Winona, Colin Seis’s farm, it is between $50–60/hectare because the pasture is grazed up to the point of sowing. When using traditional cropping practices where ground preparation and weed control methods are utilized for periods of up to four to six months before the crop is sown, no quality grazing can be achieved.” 

“It was also learnt that sowing a crop in this manner stimulated perennial grass seedlings to grow in numbers and diversity, giving considerably more tonnes/hectare of plant growth. This produces more stock feed after the crop is harvested and totally eliminates the need to re-sow pastures into the cropped areas. Cropping methods used in the past require that all vegetation is killed prior to sowing the crop and while the crop is growing.” 

Image courtesy of Colin Seis

“From a farm economic point of view, the potential for good profit is excellent because the cost of growing crops in this manner is a fraction of conventional cropping. The added benefit in a mixed farm situation is that up to six months extra grazing is achieved with this method compared with the loss of grazing due to ground preparation and weed control required in traditional cropping methods. As a general rule, an underlying principle of the success of this method is 100 percent ground cover 100 percent of the time.” 

 

Other benefits are more difficult to quantify. These are the vast improvement in perennial plant numbers and diversity of the pasture following the crop. This means that there is no need to re-sow pastures, which can cost in excess of $150 per hectare, and considerably more should contractors be used for pasture establishment.

Independent studies at Winona on pasture cropping by the Department of Land and Water have found that pasture cropping is 27 percent more profitable than conventional agriculture; this is coupled with great environment benefits that will improve the soil and regenerate our landscapes.  

Pasture cropping is one of the best ways to increase soil organic matter. The fields are covered with photosynthesizing leaves all year, capturing CO2, which are deposited deep into the soil by the roots of perennial cover crops. Dr. Christine Jones has conducted research at Colin Siess property showing that 168.5 tons of CO2 per hectare (170,000 pounds/acre) were sequestered over the course of ten years. The sequestration rate in 2009–2010 was 33 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year.

This huge addition of soil organic matter has stimulated the soil microbiome to release the minerals locked up in the parent material of the soil, dramatically increasing soil fertility. The following increases in soil mineral fertility have occurred in ten years with only the addition of a small amount of phosphorus:

A soil comparison between Colin Seis’s farm (Winona) and a nearby property shows significantly improved soil carbon levels in areas that have been pasture cropped. 10cm = 4 inches. Image courtesy of Dr. Christine Jones.

 

Calcium       277%

Magnesium 138%

Potassium   146%

Sulphur       157%

Phosphorus 151%

Zinc             186%

Iron              122%

Copper        202%

Boron          156%

Molybdenum   151%

Cobalt         179%

Selenium     117%

 

The Soil Kee System

An excellent example of the development of pasture cropping / no-till no-kill is the Soil Kee, which was designed by Neils Olsen.

First the ground cover/pasture is grazed or mulched to reduce root and light competition. Then the Soil Kee breaks up root mass, lifts and aerates the soil, top-dresses the ground cover/pasture in narrow strips, and plants seeds, all with minimal soil disturbance. The seeds of the cover/cash crops are planted and simultaneously fed an organic nutrient such as guano. The faster the seed germinates and grows, the greater the yield. It is critical to get the biology and nutrition to the seed at germination and to remove root competition.

 

 

A perennial pasture a few days after the Soil Kee was used to break up the root mass and plant the seeds of the cover crop.

Pasture cropping is excellent at increasing soil organic matter/soil carbon. Neils Olsen has been paid for sequestering 11 tonnes of CO2 per hectare (11,000 pounds/acre) per year, under the Australian governments Carbon Farming Scheme in 2019. In 2020, he was paid for 13 tonnes of CO2 per hectare (13,000 per acre) per year. He is the first farmer in the world to be paid for sequestering soil carbon under a government regulated system.

Niels Olsen with a multispecies cover crop of legumes, grasses, and grains for livestock. This mix grows strongly in mid-winter. Cereals, pulses, and other cash crops can be planted into the pasture to produce high-value cash crops.

Regenerative agricultural systems such as cover cropping and pasture cropping are radically changing the conventional approach to weed management. They have shown that the belief that any plant that is not our cash crop is a weed and needs to be destroyed is no longer correct. The fact is that plant diversity builds resilience and increases yields, not the other way around. The key  is developing management systems that change competition from other plants into mutualism and symbiosis that benefit the cash crop.

 Multispecies cover crops produce more biomass and nutrients than single-species monocultures. In the example of the Soil Kee system, the amount of stock feed is more than double the usual perennial or annual pastures in the district.

Variations of these systems are being developed all the time and are being used very successfully in horticulture, grazing and broadacre agriculture. To quote Colin Seis, “as a general rule, an underlying principle of the success of this method is 100 percent ground cover 100 percent of the time.”

 

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Best Practices: How Regenerative & Organic Agriculture and Land Use Can Reverse Global Warming

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Summary 

  • The earth’s soils, along with trees and plants, are the largest sink or depository for carbon after the oceans.
  • Regenerative organic agricultural practices sequester CO2 and store it in the soil and above ground as organic matter. Perennial polycultures, agroforestry, and reforestation can sustain and increase both above ground and below ground carbon.
  • Scaling up a small percentage (5-10%) of best practice regenerative and organic systems will result in billions of tons (Gt) of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil and into continuous, perennial above ground biomass. The identification, funding, and deployment of these best practices on 5-10% or more of the world’s total croplands (4 billion acres), rangelands (8 billion acres), and forestlands (10 billion acres) will be more than enough to draw down and cancel out all the current CO2 and greenhouse gases (43 Gt of CO2) that are currently being emitted, without putting any more CO2 into the atmosphere or the oceans.
  • Currently when carbon dioxide CO2 is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels or destructive agriculture or land use practices (currently 43 Gt of CO2 emissions per year), approximately 50% of these 43 Gt of CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere (21.5 Gt of CO2 annually), while 25% is absorbed by land, plants, and trees (10.75 Gt CO2), and the remainder 25% (10.75 Gt CO2) is absorbed into the ocean. Therefore, we need to begin to draw down 32.25 Gt CO2 (and eventually more) of current total emissions (in conjunction with the conversion to alternative energy and energy conservation), in order to reach net zero emissions (eliminate or cancel out all the emissions going into the atmosphere and the oceans). We will need a net drawdown of 32.75 Gt as soon as possible since 10.75 Gt is already being sequestered by our soils and forests. Once we stop putting more CO2 into the oceans (and the atmosphere), while continuing down the path of alternative energy and regenerative agriculture and land use, the oceans, soils, and biota will be able to draw down evermore significant amounts of the legacy (excess) carbon in the atmosphere, which, in turn, will begin to steadily reduce global warming.
  • Regeneration International, a global regenerative and organic agriculture network, with 354 partner organizations in 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe has begun to help publicize global best practices and coordinate the deployment, funding, and scaling up of these systems.

 

Introduction

Hardly anyone had heard of regenerative agriculture before September 2014, when Regeneration International was founded by a small group of international leaders in the organic, agroecology, holistic management, environment, and natural health movements with the goal of changing the global conversation on climate, farming, and land use.  Now the topic of regenerative agriculture is in the news everyday all around the world.

The concept of a coordinated global regeneration movement was initially put forth at the massive Climate Change March in New York, September 22, 2014, at a press conference in the Rodale Institute headquarters. The press conference brought together a global network of like-minded farmers, ranchers, land managers, consumer, and climate activists.

RI’s first General Assembly was held in Costa Rica in 2015 with participants from every continent.  In five years Regeneration International has grown with 354 partner organizations in 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe. RI and our allies have been successful in promoting the concept of regenerative agriculture as a game-changing system for ecosystem restoration and sequestering carbon dioxide on a scale and timeline appropriate to our current Climate Emergency.

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is based on a range of farming, livestock management, and land use practices that utilize the photosynthesis of plants and trees to capture CO2 and store it in the soil and above ground. Regenerative agriculture is now being used as a generic term for the many farming systems that use techniques such as longer rotations, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost, organic fertilizers, holistic livestock management, and agroforestry. However, Regeneration International believes that true regenerative agriculture must be both organic and regenerative.

Other terms describing regenerative agriculture Include: organic agriculture, agroforestry, agroecology, permaculture, holistic grazing, silvopasture, syntropic farming, pasture cropping and other agricultural systems that can increase soil organic matter/carbon. Soil organic matter is an important proxy for soil health—as soils with low levels are not healthy.

The soil holds almost three times the amount of carbon as the atmosphere and biomass (forests and plants) combined. Long term research shows that soil carbon can be stable for more than 100 years, while appropriate forestry and agroforestry practices can store carbon aboveground on a continuous basis.

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. Despite the global economic shut down as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 levels still set a new record of 417.2 ppm in May 2020. This is a massive increase in emissions per year since the Paris Agreement and shows the reality is that most countries are not even close to meeting their Paris reduction commitments.

Reversing Climate Change

417 ppm far exceeds the Paris objective of limiting the earth’s temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems will have to drawdown the current increase of emissions of 3.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that, at a minimum, 25.61 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year needs to be drawn down from the atmosphere. But in reality we need to drawdown 31.25 Gt of CO2 or more if we want to stop more CO2 from heating up our already overheated oceans and begin to drawdown the legacy 417 ppm CO2 lodged in the atmosphere.

The Potential of “Best Practices” of Regenerative Agriculture

There are numerous regenerative farming systems that can sequester CO2 from the atmosphere through enhanced plant photosynthesis and turn this CO2 into soil organic matter through the actions of the roots and soil biology – the soil microbiome. Others can increase above ground carbon storage through regenerative forest and agroforestry/silvopasture practices. We don’t have time to waste on farming or land use systems that only sequester small amounts of CO2. We need to concentrate on qualitatively scaling up and expanding systems that can achieve high levels of carbon sequestration and ecosystem restoration, systems that are appropriate and scalable for different countries, regions, cultures, and ecosystems.

The simple back of the envelope calculations used for the examples below are a good exercise to show the world-changing potential of these best practice regenerative systems to address the climate emergency and actually start to reverse global warming.

Agave Agroforestry System

The “Billion Agave Project” is a game-changing ecosystem regeneration strategy recently adopted by a growing number of innovative Mexican farms in the high-desert region of Guanajuato, now spreading across Mexico.

This agroforestry system combines the dense cultivation (800 per acre, 2,000 per hectare) of agave plants and nitrogen-fixing companion tree species (such as mesquite), with holistic rotational grazing of livestock. The result is a high-biomass, high forage-yielding system that works well even on degraded, semi-arid lands.

The system produces large amounts of agave leaf and root stem or piña. When chopped and fermented in closed containers, this plant material produces an excellent, inexpensive silage as animal fodder.

Having a large quantity of fermented animal forage on hand reduces the pressure to overgraze brittle rangelands and improves soil health, water retention, and animal health, while drawing down and storing massive amounts of atmospheric CO2 (270 tons of CO2 stored above ground per hectare on a continuous annual basis after 3-10 years.)

The agave agroforestry system can be scaled up across much of the arid and semi-arid regions of the world using native legume trees and grasses, to form highly productive biodiverse agro-forestry systems that are based on the native species of each region. The chopping and fermentation of the legume tree seed pods, such as mesquite (which fix nitrogen and nutrients into the soil), added to the fermented agave, produce a high protein animal fodder superior to alfalfa and at a fraction of the cost, all without the need for any irrigation or synthetic chemicals whatsoever.

Recent research by Hudson Carbon shows that this agave agroforestry system can sequester 270 tons of CO2 per hectare (109 tons per acre) above ground per year on a continuous basis, without counting below ground sequestration nor the amount of carbon sequestered by the (200 per acre) companion trees.

According to the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) approximately 40 per cent of the world’s land (4 billion hectares, 10 billion acres) is composed of deserts and drylands, mainly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These areas sustain over two billion people and supply about 60 per cent of the world’s food production. If the organic and regenerative agave agroforestry system was deployed globally on 10% (400 million hectares) of these 4 billion hectares of arid and semi-arid drylands, it would sequester 10.8 Gt of CO2 per year. This represents approximately 1/3 of the amount of CO2 that needs to be sequestered every year to reverse climate change.

BEAM

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, produces organic compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms, especially fungal material. Multiple crops grown with BEAM have achieved very high levels of sequestration and yields. Research published 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 are currently being replicated in other trials.

These figures mean that BEAM can sequester 37,700 kilos (37.7 tons) of CO2 per hectare per year which is approximately 15.3 tons of CO2 per acre.

BEAM can be used in all soil based food production systems including annual crops, permanent crops and grazing systems, including arid and semi-arid regions. If BEAM was deployed globally on just 5 % of all (2.5 billion hectares or 12 billion acres) agricultural lands, it would sequester 9.18 Gt of CO2 per year.

Potential of “No Kill No Till” Bio-intensive Organic

Singing Frogs Farm, located just north of San Francisco, California, is a highly productive No Kill No Till richly biodiverse organic, agroecological horticulture farm on 3 acres. The key to their no till system is to cover the planting beds with mulch and compost instead of plowing them, or using herbicides, and planting directly into the compost, along with a high biodiversity of cash and cover crops that are continuously rotated to break weed, disease and pest cycles.

According to Chico State University they have increased the soil organic matter (SOM) levels by 400% in six years. The Kaisers, the owner/operators of Singing Frogs Farm, have increased their SOM from 2.4% to an optimal 7-8% with an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year. This farming system is applicable to more than 80% of farms around the world as the majority of farmers have less than 2 hectares (5 acres). If the Singing Frogs farm was extrapolated globally across 5% of arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 8.9 Gt of CO2/yr.

Potential of Regenerative Grazing

There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence based practices showing that regenerative grazing systems can sequester more greenhouse gases than they emit, making them a major solution for reversing climate change.

As well as sequestering CO2, these systems regenerate degraded pasture and rangelands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 68% 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 10 % the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 9.86 Gt of CO2 per year.

Pasture Cropping

Pasture cropping is where the cash crop is planted into a perennial pasture instead of into bare soil. There is no need to plough out the pasture species as weeds or kill them with herbicides before planting the cash crop. The perennial pasture becomes the cover crop.

This was first developed by Colin Seis in New South Wales. The principle is based on the sound ecological fact that annual plants grow in perennial systems. The key is to adapt this principle to the appropriate management system for the specific cash crops and climate.

An excellent example of the development of pasture cropping / no-till no-kill is the Soil Kee, which was designed by Neils Olsen.

First the ground cover/pasture is grazed or mulched to reduce root and light competition. Then the Soil Kee breaks up root mass, lifts and aerates the soil, top-dresses the ground cover/pasture in narrow strips, and plants seeds, all with minimal soil disturbance. The seeds of the cover/cash crops are planted and simultaneously fed an organic nutrient such as guano. The faster the seed germinates and grows, the greater the yield. It is critical to get the biology and nutrition to the seed at germination and to remove root competition.

Pasture cropping is excellent at increasing soil organic matter/soil carbon. Neils Olsen has been paid for sequestering 11 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year, under the Australian government’s Carbon Farming Scheme in 2019. He was paid for 13 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year in 2020. He is the first farmer in the world to be paid for sequestering soil carbon under a government regulated system.

If this system were deployed on 10% of all agricultural lands it would sequester 6.38 Gt of CO2 per year.

Global Reforestation

In addition to re-carbonizing and regenerating agricultural lands, a major part of regenerating the Earth and reversing climate change will be to preserve, restore, and expand the world’s 10 billion acres of forests and wetlands.  This reforestation and afforestation will include planting up to a trillion tress in deforested areas, as well as several hundred billion trees and perennials back into the world’s four billion acres of cropland (agroforestry) and eight billion acres of pasturelands or rangeland (silvopasture).

The global tree population, which covers 30% of the Earth’s land area, is estimated to be three trillion trees, with 15 billion trees cut down every year. Since humans began farming, 10,000 years ago, approximately half of the trees on Earth have been cut down and not replanted. The Earth’s forests and wetlands now sequester over 700 billion tons of carbon, and currently draw down, even with massive deforestation and forest fires taken into account, an additional “net sink” of 1.2 gigatons of carbon. (White, Biosequestration and Biological Diversity, p.101) The net sink or carbon sequestration power of today’s forests amounts to approximately 12% of all current human emissions.

If “net deforestation” (more tress being cut down, clear-cut, or burned than the amount of healthy and new tree growth) could be halted in forested areas, especially in tropical areas where the trees grow faster and store the most carbon, and forests worldwide could be managed to increase photosynthesis and biomass through massive reforestation (and by thinning out crowded forest areas with thousands of trees per acre to hundreds of the healthiest and largest trees per acre), the world’s forests could net sequester four billion tons or more of atmospheric carbon a year, a full 40% of all current human emissions.  Along with renewable energy and carbon farming, If we stop deforestation and reforest the Earth with an a trillion, species-appropriate trees, and then maintain these trees, we can literally reverse global warming. 

The United Nations Environmental Project (UNEP) has now announced a new goal for global reforestation and carbon sequestration called the “Trillion Tree Campaign.” The UN points out that there is enough deforested or empty space in rural and urban areas to plant a trillion trees on the planet of which 600 billion mature trees can be expected to survive. And this trillion tree planting campaign does not include the additional 100 billion-plus trees that could and should be planted on the Earth’s 12 billion acres of croplands and pastures utilizing the tried-and-proven carbon sequestering, livestock friendly, fertility-enhancing techniques of agroforestry and silvopasture. UNEP warns however that there are “170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction,” that must be protected for crucial carbon storage and biodiversity protection.

According to UNEP, “Global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.” 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.

The UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign is inspired in part by a recent study by Dr. Thomas Crowther and others, integrating data from ground-based surveys and satellites, that found that replanting the world’s forests (an additional 1.2 trillion trees) on a massive scale in the empty spaces in forests, deforested areas, and degraded and abandoned land across the planet would draw down 100 billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere.

According to Crowther: “There’s 400 gigatons now, in the 3 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,” he said.

And Crowther’s projections (10 years or 450 Gt of CO2 emissions that can be sequestered via global reforestation) do not include the massive amount of carbon drawdown and sequestration we can achieve through agroforestry and silvopasture practices, planting trees, if only a few trees per acre, on the US and the world’s often deforested 4 billion acres of croplands and 8 billion acres of pasturelands, rangelands, and pastures.

Ending the Climate Emergency- Scaling Up

Regeneration International has 354 partner organizations in 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe. This gives us the ability work with our partner organizations on every arable continent to develop and scale up appropriate regenerative agricultural solutions for multiple countries and regions.

Transitioning a small proportion (10%) of global agricultural production to these evidence based, best-practice, regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate, especially in conjunction with an aggressive global reforestation program such as the Trillion Tree Campaign.

If the RI-sponsored organic and regenerative agave agroforestry system is deployed globally on 10% (400 million hectares) of arid and semi-arid drylands, it will sequester 10.8 Gt of CO2 per year.

Five percent of global agricultural lands regenerated by the BEAM organic compost system can sequester 9.18 Gt of CO2 per year.

Five percent of small holder farms across arable and permanent crop lands using Singing Frogs Farm’s biointensive organic No Kill No Till systems could sequester 8.9 Gt of CO2/yr.

Ten percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing could sequester 9.86 Gt of CO2 per year.

10% of agricultural lands using pasture cropping could sequester 6.38 Gt of CO2 per year.

The deployment of all of these regenerative and organic best practices across the world on 5-10% of all agricultural lands (including arid and semi-arid lands where raising crops and grazing animals are increasingly problematic) would result in 45.12  Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil, and stored aboveground on a continuous basis, which is 50% more than the amount of sequestration needed to drawdown the 31.25 Gt of CO2 that is currently being released into the atmosphere and the oceans. And this does not include the massive CO2 sequestration that is possible under the Trillion Tree Campaign.

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.

Aiming to achieve 5-10% adoption rates for these regenerative and organic practices across the globe is realistic and achievable. The critical priorities are to educate consumers and build market demand, identify and promote regenerative best practices in all the countries and regions of the world, change public policies wherever possible (from the local to the international level) and then fund (through private and public money), expand, and scale up these regenerative and organic systems to restore ecosystems, sequester carbon, regenerate public health and eliminate rural poverty.

It is time to get on with restoring global ecosystems and drawing down excess CO2  by scaling up the existing “best practices” regenerative agriculture, livestock management, forest practices, and land use. All of this is very doable and achievable. It will require substantial investment in natural capital from existing private and public funders and national and international institutions, but it is obviously “worth the cost” compared to the business as usual of our current “suicide economy.” It will require training organizations and relevant NGOs to run courses and workshops from Main Street to the Middle East and beyond, scaled up through grassroots-powered farmer to farmer training systems, and supported by urban consumers across the world. The hour is late. But there is still time to turn things around.

The widespread adoption of best practice regenerative and organic practices 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

Jones C, (2009) Adapting farming to climate variability, Amazing Carbon, www.amazingcarbon.com

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

Kulp SA & Strauss BH (2019), New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding, Nature Communications, (2019)10:4844,  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12808-z, www.nature.com/naturecommunications

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

Rohling EJ, K. Grant, M. Bolshaw, A. P. Roberts, M. Siddall, Ch. Hemleben and M. Kucera (2009) Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles, Nature Geoscience, advance online publication,  www.nature.com/naturegeoscience

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

UNCCD, 2017, The Global Land Outlook 2017, Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Platz der Vereinten Nationen 153113 Bonn, Germany

https://knowledge.unccd.int/sites/default/files/2018-06/GLO%20English_Full_Report_rev1.pdf

Global Agricultural Land Figures

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 Hectares (593,570 square miles)

The Billion Agave Project Calculations

According to the UNCCD The Global Land Outlook 2017, almost 45 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is located on drylands, mainly in Africa and Asia.

45% of croplands (4,911,622,700 ha x 45%) = 2.2 billion Hectares

2.2 x 270 tons of CO2 per ha = 594 Gt of CO2 per year

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)

Singing Frogs Farm Calculations

The Kaisers have managed to increase their soil organic matter from 2.4% to an optimal 7-8% in just six years, an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year (Elizabeth Kaiser Pers. Com. 2018 and Chico State University https://www.csuchico.edu/regenerativeagriculture/demos/singing-frogs.shtml

“An increase of 1% in the level of soil carbon in the 0-30cm soil profile equates to sequestration of 154 tCO2/ha if an average bulk density of 1.4 g/cm3” (Jones C. 2009)

3/4 % OM = 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare (115,500 pounds an acre per year)

This system can be used on arable and permanent crop lands. Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares plus Permanent crops: 153,733,800 Hectares = 1,550,108,100 Hectares

Extrapolated globally across arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 179 Gt of CO2/yr (1,550,108,100 Hectares x 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare = 179,037,485,550 metric tons)

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)

Pasture Cropping Calculations

Agricultural lands 4,911,622,700 ha x 13t CO2/ha/yr = 63.8 Gt of CO2 per year

Global Reforestation Calculations

The Trillion Tree Project

 

Andre Leu is the International Director for Regeneration International. To sign up for RI’s email newsletter, click here.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International. To keep up with RI’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Regenerative Food and Farming: The Road Forward

My usual response to the question “What is Regenerative Food and Farming?” goes something like this: Regenerative agriculture and animal husbandry is the next and higher stage of organic food and farming, not only free from toxic pesticides, GMOs, chemical fertilizers, and factory farm production, and therefore good for human health; but also regenerative in terms of the health of the soil, the environment, the animals, the climate, and rural livelihoods as well. Or as my fellow steering committee member for Regeneration International, Vandana Shiva puts it: “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.”

In 2010 Olaf Christen stated that: “Regenerative agriculture is an approach in agriculture that rejects pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and is intended to improve the regeneration of the topsoil, biodiversity and the water cycle.”

This corresponds almost exactly with the stated principles of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) or Organics International. Since 2014, the Rodale Institute, IFOAM, Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Patagonia, the Real Organic Project, the Biodynamic Movement, the Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International, Navdanya, and others have also been discussing and implementing organic standards, practices, and certification which incorporate regenerative principles.

According to Australian regenerative pioneer Christine Jones: “Agriculture is regenerative if soils, water cycles, vegetation and productivity continuously improve instead of just maintaining the status [quo]. The diversity, quality, vitality and health of the soil, plants, animals and people also improve together.“

In September 2014 when a group of us, including Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Will Allen, Steve Rye, Alexis Baden-Meyer, and staff from Dr. Bronner’s, Dr. Mercola, Organic Consumers Association, and the Rodale Institute organized a press conference at the massive climate march in New York City to announce the formation of Regeneration International, we set for ourselves a simple, but what seemed like then, ambitious goal. We all agreed we needed to fundamentally change the conversation on the climate crisis in the US and around the world—then narrowly focused on renewable energy and energy conservation—so as to incorporate regenerative and organic food, farming, and land use as a major solution to global warming, given its proven ability to drawdown and sequester massive amounts of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, forests, and plants.

Now, less than a decade later I believe our growing Regeneration Movement has achieved this goal. Regeneration is now the hottest topic in the natural and organic food and farming sector, while climate activists including the Sunrise Movement and 350.org in the US regularly talk about the role of organic and regenerative practices in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. More and more people now understand that we can achieve, through enhanced photosynthesis and drawdown, the “Net Zero” emissions goal in 2030-50 that nearly everyone now agrees will be necessary if we are to avoid runaway global warming and climate catastrophe.

Inside Regeneration International, which now includes 400 affiliates in more than 60 countries, our conversation has shifted to identifying regenerative and organic “best practices” around the globe. Our goal is to strategize how we can help qualitatively expand and scale-up regenerative best practices so that organic and regenerative becomes the norm, rather than just the alternative, for the planet’s now degenerative multi-trillion dollar food, farming, and land use system.

Of course our discussions and strategizing are not just an academic exercise. As most of us now realize, our very survival as a civilization and a species is threatened by a systemic crisis that has degraded climate stability, our food, and our environment, along with every major aspect of modern life. This mega-crisis cannot be resolved by piecemeal reforms or minor adjustments such as slightly cutting our current levels of fossil fuel use, reducing global deforestation, soil degradation, and military spending. Either we move beyond merely treating the symptoms of our planetary degeneration and build instead a New System based upon regenerative and organic food, farming, and land use, coupled with renewable energy practices, and global cooperation instead of belligerence, or else we will soon (likely within 25 years) pass the point of no return.

A big challenge is how do we describe the crisis of global warming and severe climate change in such a way that everyday people understand the problem and grasp the solution that we’re proposing i.e. renewable energy and regenerative food, farming, and land use? The bottom line is that humans have put too much CO2 and other greenhouse gases (especially methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere (from burning fossil fuels and destructive land use), trapping the sun’s heat from radiating back into space and heating up the planet. And unfortunately, because of the destructive food, farming, and forestry practices that have degraded a major portion of the Earth’s landscape, we’re not drawing down enough of these CO2 emissions through plant photosynthesis to cool things off. In a word, there’s too much CO2 and greenhouse gas pollution blanketing the sky (and saturating the oceans) and not enough life-giving carbon in the ground and in our living plants, trees, pastures, and rangelands.

Increasing plant and forest photosynthesis (accomplished via enhanced soil fertility and biological life, as well as an adequate amount of water and minerals) is the only practical way that we can draw down a significant amount of the excess CO2 and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that are heating up the Earth and disrupting our climate. Through photosynthesis, plants and trees utilize solar energy to break down CO2 from the atmosphere, release oxygen, and transform the remaining carbon into plant biomass and liquid carbon. Photosynthesis basically enables plants to grow above ground and produce biomass, but also stimulates growth below ground as plants transfer a portion of the liquid carbon they produce through photosynthesis into their root systems to feed the soil microorganisms that in turn feed the plant. From the standpoint of drawing down enough CO2 and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequestering them in our soils and biota to reverse global warming, qualitatively enhanced photosynthesis is all-important.

As my contribution to the global expansion of regenerative and organic food and farming practices, I have spent the last several years working with Mexican farmers and ranchers, consumer organizations, elected political officials (mainly at the local and state level), and socially and environmentally-concerned “impact investors.” Our goal is to develop and qualitatively expand what we believe is a game-changer for much of the 40% of the world’s pasturelands and rangelands that are arid and semi-arid, areas where it is now nearly impossible to grow food crops, and where it is too overgrazed and degraded for proper livestock grazing. We call this Mexico-based agave and agroforestry/livestock management system Agave Power: Greening the Desert, and are happy to report that its ideas and practices are now starting to spread from the high desert plateau of Guanajuato across much of arid and semi-arid Mexico. We now are receiving inquiries and requests for information about this agave-based, polyculture/perennial system from desert and semi-desert areas all over the world, including Central America, the Southwestern US, Argentina, Chile, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia, Myanmar, and Oman. You can learn more about this Agave Power system on the websites of Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association.

What I and others have learned “on the ground” trying to expand and scale-up regenerative and organic best practices is that there are four basic drivers of regenerative (or conversely degenerative) food, farming, and land use. The first is consumer awareness and market demand. Without an army of conscious consumers and widespread market demand, regenerative practices are unlikely to reach critical mass. Second is farmer, rancher, and land stewardship innovation, including the development of value-added products and ecosystem restoration services.

The third driver is policy change and public funding, starting at the local and regional level. And last but not least is regenerative finance—large-scale investing on the part of the private sector, what is now commonly known as “impact investing.”  In order to qualitatively expand organic and regenerative best practices and achieve critical mass sufficient to transform our currently degenerative systems, we need all four of these drivers to be activated and working in synergy.

Let’s look now at four contemporary drivers of Degeneration—degenerative food, farming, and land use, in order to understand what the forces or drivers are that are holding us back from moving forward to Regeneration.

(1) Degenerated grassroots consciousness and morale. When literally billions of people, a critical mass of the 99 percent, are hungry, malnourished, scared, and divided, struggling to survive with justice and dignity; when the majority of the global body politic are threatened and assaulted by a toxic environment and food system; when hundreds of millions are overwhelmed by economic stress due to low wages and the high cost of living; when hundreds of millions are weakened by chronic health problems, or battered by floods, droughts, and weather extremes; when seemingly endless wars and land grabs for water, land and strategic resources spiral out of control; when indentured politicians, corporations, Big Tech, and the mass media manipulate crises such as COVID-19  to stamp out freedom of expression and participatory democracy in order to force a “Business-as-Usual” or “Great Reset” paradigm down our throats, regenerative change, Big Change, will not come easily.

Dis-empowered, exploited people, overwhelmed by the challenges of everyday survival, usually don’t have the luxury of connecting the dots between the issues that are pressing down on them and focusing on the Big Picture. It’s the job of Regenerators to connect the dots between the climate crisis and people’s everyday concerns such as food, health, jobs, and economic justice, to globalize awareness, political mobilization, and most of all, to globalize hope.

It’s the job of regenerators to make the connections between personal and public health and planetary health, to expose the truth about the origins, nature, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19 and chronic disease, and to mobilize the public to reject a so-called Great Reset, disguised as fundamental reform, but actually a Trojan Horse for a 21st Century Technocracy that is profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian. Regenerators have to be able to make the connections between different issues and concerns, identify and support best practitioners and policies, build synergy between social forces, effectively lobby governments (starting at the local level), businesses, and investors for change; all the while educating and organizing grassroots alliances and campaigns across communities, constituencies, and even national borders. But this of course will not be easy, nor will it take place overnight.

Our profoundly destructive, degenerative, climate-destabilizing food and farming system, primarily based upon industrial agriculture inputs and practices, is held together by a multi-billion-dollar system of marketing and advertising that has misled or literally brainwashed a global army of consumers into believing that cheap, artificially flavored, “fast food” is not only acceptable, but “normal” and “natural.” After decades of consuming sugar, salt, carbohydrate-rich, and “bad fat”-laden foods from industrial farms, animal factories, and chemical manufacturing plants, many consumers have literally become addicted to the artificial flavors and aromas that make super-processed foods and “food-like substances” so popular.

(2) Degenerate “conventional” farms, farming, and livestock management. Compounding the lack of nutritional education, choice, poverty, inertia, and apathy of a large segment of consumers, other major factors driving our degenerative food and farming system include the routine and deeply institutionalized practices of industrial and chemical-intensive farming and land use (mono-cropping, heavy plowing, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs, factory farms, deforestation, wetlands destruction) today. These soil, climate, health, and environmentally-destructive practices are especially prevalent on the world’s 50 million large farms, which, in part, are kept in place by global government subsidies totaling $500 billion a year. Meanwhile there are few or no subsidies for organic or regenerative farmers, especially small farmers (80% of the world’s farmers are small farmers), nor for farmers and ranchers who seek to make this transition. Reinforcing these multi-billion dollar subsidies for bad farming practices are a global network of chemical and agri-business controlled agricultural research and teaching institutions, focused on producing cheap food and fiber (no matter what the cost to the environment, climate, and public health) and ago-export agricultural commodities (often pesticide-intensive GMO grains). Of course what we need instead are subsidies, research, and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to produce healthy, organic, and regenerative food for local, regional, and domestic markets, rewarding farmers with a fair price for producing healthy food and being a steward, rather than a destroyer, of the environment.

Monopoly control. Another driver of degeneration, holding back farmer adoption of regenerative practices, and determining the type of food and crops that are produced, is the monopoly or near-monopoly control by giant agribusiness corporations over much of the food system, especially in the industrialized countries, as well as the monopoly or near monopoly control by giant retail chains such as Wal-Mart and internet giants like Amazon. The out-of-control “Foodopoly” that dominates our food system is designed to maximize short-term profits and exports for the large transnational corporations, preserve patents and monopoly control over seeds, and uphold international trade agreements (NAFTA, WTO) that favor corporate agri-business and large farms over small farms, factory farms over traditional grazing and animal husbandry, and agro-exports instead of production for local and regional markets.

Food and farming is the largest industry in the world with consumers spending an estimated $7.5 trillion dollars a year on food. In addition, the largely unacknowledged social, environmental, and health costs (i.e. collateral damage) of the industrial food chain amounts to an additional $4.8 trillion dollars a year.

(3 and 4) Degenerate public policy and public and private investments. Agriculture is the largest employer in the world with 570 million farmers and farm laborers supporting 3.5 billion people in rural households and communities. In addition to workers on the farm, food chain workers in processing, distribution, and retail make up hundreds of millions of other jobs in the world, with over 20 million food chain workers in the US alone (17.5% of the total workforce.) This makes public policy relating to food, farming, and land use very important. Unfortunately, thousands of laws and regulations are passed every year, in every country and locality, that basically prop-up conventional (i.e. industrial, factory farm, export-oriented, GMO) food and farming, while there is very little legislation passed or resources geared toward promoting organic and regenerative food and farming. Trillions of dollars have been, and continue to be, invested in the so-called “conventional” food and farming sector; including trillions from the savings and pension funds of many conscious consumers, who would no doubt prefer their savings to be invested in a different manner, if they knew how to do this. Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of public or private investment is currently going toward organic, grass-fed, free-range, and other healthy foods produced by small and medium-sized farms and ranches for local and regional consumption.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate, healthy societies . . . our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, is directly connected to the soil, biodiversity, and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems.  Regenerative organic farming and land use can move us back into balance, back to a stable climate and a life-supporting environment.

It’s time to move beyond degenerate ethics, farming, land use, energy policies, politics, and economics. It’s time to move beyond “too little, too late” mitigation and sustainability strategies. It’s time to inspire and mobilize a mighty global army of Regenerators, before it’s too late.

Roadmap to Regeneration in the United States, 2020–2030

The following is the last chapter of the book, “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal,” by Ronnie Cummins.

Read in Spanish here.

 

“We have the outline of a plan. We need a mass mobilization of people and resources, something not unlike the U.S. involvement in World War II or the Apollo moon missions—but even bigger. We must transform our energy system, transportation, housing, agriculture and more.”

—Stephanie Kelton, Andres Bernal, and Greg Carlock, “We Can Pay for a Green New Deal”

The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the time when the United States and global grassroots finally began to awaken to the existential crisis posed by global warming. Part of this great awakening was no doubt due to the fact that violent weather, forest fires, drought, floods, water shortages, crop failures, and unusually prolonged heat and/or cold waves became the “new normal,” striking home in both the Global North and the Global South, falling hardest on the poor and marginalized, but striking fear into the hearts of the middle and upper classes as well.

With international scientists finally dropping their customary caution and pointing out that the “end is near” in terms of irreversible climate change, the mass media, a significant number of global policy makers, and hundreds of millions of ordinary people seemed to simultaneously wake up across the world.

Young climate activists, under the banner of the Sunrise Movement in the United States and the Extinction Rebellion in the UK and other countries, sat in at politicians’ offices and blocked streets and roadways, demanding immediate and bold action. The Sunrise Movement captured headlines and mass public attention by calling for a sweeping change in US federal policy: the Green New Deal. An international school strike, known as Fridays for the Future, initiated in Sweden by high school student Greta Thunberg, has begun to spread globally, with millions of students in over a hundred nations walking out of classes and organizing rallies and protests to demand bold action from their governments to reverse climate change.

But, of course, this great global awakening is just the beginning. As 350.org climate action leader Bill McKibben and others have pointed out, we now likely are at the point of our last chance to act on the climate crisis before it’s too late. Here in the United States, we can’t wait one or two more presidential election cycles before we take decisive action. Either we bring about bold economic and policy change, starting immediately, or we are doomed. Either we elect and rally behind insurgent green and social justice leaders and implement sweeping changes, or our global awakening in 2018 will be judged by future generations as too little, too late.

The Green New Deal under Attack

In the United States, the Sunrise Movement and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (GND), though endorsed by more than a hundred members of Congress, as well as leading 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and others, was immediately attacked as “too radical” or “utopian” by both climate-change-denying Republicans and neoliberals and indentured Democrats beholden to Big Oil and corporate agribusiness. In particular, the GND’s proposition of achieving zero emissions by 2030 was dismissed as an impractical and dangerous measure that would wreck the economy and put millions of working-class people out of work.

If you read the GND proposal carefully, the criticism it has received is not justified, but it underlines the importance of being able to clearly explain to the American public and the global body politic exactly what we mean by a full-blown green energy and regenerative economy, with jobs for everyone willing to work and a just transition to net zero emissions by 2030. To gain and maintain majority support for policies such as the GND, we must be able to explain to everyday people not only the basics of reducing fossil fuel use and drawing down carbon through regenerative practices but also, as outlined earlier, how we can readily finance this great transition by increasing today’s outrageously low taxes on the wealthy and large corporations and implementing a full menu of government appropriations, bonds, loan programs, jobs, and infrastructure projects, similar to the New Deal policies of the 1930s and ’40s.

If we can properly explain what net zero emissions (as opposed to zero emissions) and a green economy with decent-paying jobs for all would mean, a critical mass of people and voters will likely see the GND for what it is: our last and best hope, a practical and comprehensive program based on sound science, public need, and commonsense survival.

Initial polls in the United States in December 2018 found that 81 percent of the public (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) basically supported the idea of a GND. Later polls in 2019, even after prolonged criticisms (and misinformation) in the mass media, showed continuing majority support by 63 percent of Americans. But, of course, the oligarchy and its indentured politicians and media spokespersons will continue to attack the GND. They will try to deny or ridicule the idea that we can actually change our current fossil fuel–dependent system, provide good jobs for everyone willing to work in reconstructing our urban and rural infrastructure and agriculture, and reverse climate change. To overcome these naysayers and gain critical mass, we will have to get organized and united as never before. We will have to carry out an unprecedented campaign of mass public education and mobilization, catalyzing a ballot box revolution that will put an end to the corporate domination of the US political system—and inspiring others around the world to do the same.

Zero and Net Zero Emissions

Unfortunately, most of the public, and even some of the early proponents of the GND, don’t yet properly know how to explain what natural carbon sequestration actually means, what net zero fossil fuel emissions means, or what we’re talking about when we say that regenerative food, farming, and land use, combined with renewable energy, can actually stop and then reverse, not just slow down, global warming.

In this regard, it is extremely important for Regeneration and GND advocates to be able to explain the difference between zero fossil fuel emissions and net zero fossil fuel emissions. Net zero emissions refers to the point in time at which we will be drawing down as much of our GHG emissions as we are still putting into the atmosphere and into our oceans. But zero emissions, in the minds of ordinary people, means literally just that—no fossil fuel or greenhouse gas emissions, period. A worthy goal to shoot for, but something that will likely take us more than ten years to achieve.

Net zero emissions takes into consideration the equivalent effect or impact of carbon drawdown. Of course we can’t immediately, or even within a decade, move to global zero emissions by shutting down all cars, manufacturing, home heating and air conditioning, construction, and all commercial enterprises that utilize fossil fuels without wrecking the economy. But we can, even on the same tight ten-year time frame of 2020–2030, achieve net zero emissions through a combination of aggressive fossil fuel emissions reduction and aggressive regenerative carbon drawdown. Net zero GHG emissions will have the same practical impact on reducing global warming as zero emissions.

Of course, beyond net zero emissions, our long-term goal is to achieve net negative emissions, as soon as possible, whereby we begin to draw down and transfer 200 to 286 billion tons of excess atmospheric carbon—the dangerous legacy load of 820 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere, where it’s undermining climate stability—into our living soils and forests, where it will bring enormous benefits. Over a long period of time, this net negative process, as part of a new green economy, will enable our supersaturated oceans to release some of the excess carbon that they have absorbed from human-caused emissions, reducing the acidity of the oceans and restabilizing global habitat for marine life as well.

Reaching Net Zero Emissions in the United States by 2030

As emphasized in chapter 2, don’t let a bunch of numbers confuse you. Basically, what we have to do in the United States and the rest of the world over the next ten years is to cut fossil fuel emissions in half and then draw down the equivalent of the remaining GHG emissions into our soils, forests, and plants through regenerative practices.

In order to achieve the goal of net zero emissions in the United States by 2030, as called for in the GND, the most practical and achievable plan will be to reduce our current levels of net fossil fuel emissions from 5.7 billion tons of CO2e to 2.75 billion tons of CO2e, a reduction of 50 percent, while we simultaneously draw down and sequester in our soils and forests an equal amount (2.75 billion tons of CO2e).

In 2018, US GHG emissions amounted to approximately 16 percent of total global emissions (37.1 billion tons of CO2e). In comparison, the US population of 330 million amounts to only 4.27 percent of the world’s population. In other words, the United States is emitting approximately four times as much GHG per capita as the average person on the planet. In fact, the United States is responsible for an estimated 28.8 percent of all human-derived global emissions since the onset of the industrial revolution in 1750.

A GND for achieving a carbon-neutral economy in the United States by 2030 will necessarily involve eliminating 45 to 60 percent of our current 5.75 billion tons of CO2e fossil fuel emissions, while sequestering the remaining two to three billion tons of CO2e through regenerative agriculture, reforestation, and ecosystem restoration. This represents an ambitious but realistic goal, according to numerous experts and current best practices, assuming we can generate sufficient political pressure to force the White House, Congress, and state and local governments to reject business as usual and take bold action.

Categories of Emissions

The EPA breaks down the sources of the United States’s gross GHG emissions into five broad categories: transportation (29 percent), electricity production (28 percent), industry (22 percent), commercial and residential (12 percent), and agriculture (9 percent). Taking the agriculture category at face value, you’d likely infer that food, farming, and land use are no more than a minor factor (9 percent) in the United States’ contribution to the global climate crisis. However, if you look more closely at the carbon or CO2e “footprint” of the food, farming, and land use sector as a whole (including fossil fuels used in on-farm production, food and crop transportation, food processing, packaging, and refrigeration, as well as the chemical inputs of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, off-gassing of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide from soils and landfills, and destruction of wetlands and soil organic carbon), you start to realize that food, farming, and land use are actually responsible for almost half of all US GHG emissions, not just the 9 percent attributed by the EPA and the USDA to “agriculture.”

On the other hand, organic and regenerative farming and land management practices and forest growth in the United States are routinely overlooked as being important solutions to global warming and climate change. Properly managed lands and forest growth actually draw down a considerable amount of excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Currently they sequester 714 million tons of CO2e (or 11 percent of US gross emissions) annually, even according to the EPA, and even in their currently degraded condition.

We Need Net Zero Emissions by 2030, Not 2050

There is a debate in progressive political circles about whether we should adopt a more conservative goal, as put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and most nations, to achieve net 45 percent reductions in GHGs by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050, or whether we should instead aim for a much more ambitious goal, in line with the goals of the GND, to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

A number of nations have already pledged to reach net zero emissions before 2050, including Bhutan (which has already achieved net zero emissions), Norway (2030), Uruguay (2030), Finland (2035), Iceland (2040), and Sweden (2045). The state of California, too, can be added to this list (2045). The European Union is currently operating under a net zero 2050 timeline but will likely set a stricter goal soon.

Let’s now look in more detail at how we can reduce fossil fuel emissions in the United States by 45 to 60 percent in the next decade through energy conservation and making the transition to renewable energy. Following that, let’s look at how we can draw down or sequester the remaining two to three billion tons of GHGs that we will still be emitting in a decade, so as to achieve net zero emissions.

US Roadmap Part One: Reducing Fossil Fuel Emissions by 45 to 60 Percent

The United States is fortunate to have the natural resources to help lead the global community in a transition to a green energy future, complemented by regenerative agriculture and land use. We not only have some of the best wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass resources on Earth, but our forests, soils, farmlands, grasslands, wetlands, and marine ecosystems have the inherent capacity, if properly managed and regenerated, to sequester as much CO2e as we are currently emitting, and even more. Perhaps most important of all, we have a new generation of youth, personified by the Sunrise Movement, supported by a new wave of climate-conscious, insurgent politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ready and willing to take the lead.

On the renewable energy front, the United States, under a new administration in 2021 and beyond, will need to step up the pace. We must rapidly expand the US solar, wind, and renewable energy economy, which in 2017, according to the EPA, provided approximately 13 percent of our energy needs, including 22 percent of our electricity. As we ramp up renewables, we must phase out coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power plants, as rapidly as possible. Germany, with a powerful economy similar to that of the United States, has been operating under a plan for ten years to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030, and will likely soon be raising its goals for emissions reductions even higher. If the United States sets a goal for a 60 percent reduction in fossil fuel use/GHG emissions by 2030, similar to that of Germany, we should be able to sequester the remaining 40 percent of GHGs through regenerative food, farming, reforestation, and ecosystem restoration practices, enabling us to reach net zero emissions (carbon neutrality) by 2030. Although 60 percent in emissions reductions is an achievable goal, as we will demonstrate below, even with 45 to 50 percent reductions we can still reach carbon neutrality by maximizing regenerative agriculture and forest/land management practices.

To reduce fossil fuel use and GHG emissions by 45 to 60 percent over the next decade, we will need to generate 75 to 85 percent or more of our electricity (which now releases 28 percent of our total emissions) with renewables, basically shutting down coal generation for electricity. This will reduce current overall emissions by approximately 20 to 24 percent. Energy conservation measures across all sectors (utilities, transportation, buildings, manufacturing, agriculture) will need to go along with this renewable energy revolution in the electricity sector.

According to a comprehensive study published in 2015 by Mark Z. Jacobson and a team of experts in the peer-reviewed journal Energy and Environmental Science, all fifty states in the nation have the potential to convert their fossil fuel–based electricity, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry systems to ones powered entirely by wind, water, and sunlight, replacing 80 to 85 percent of existing fossil fuel and nuclear energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. In terms of the economic impact of this mass conversion to renewable energy on employment, the study’s authors state: “Over all 50 states, converting would provide ~3.9 million 40-year construction jobs and ~2.0 million 40-year operation jobs for the energy facilities alone, the sum of which would outweigh the ~3.9 million jobs lost in the conventional energy sector.”

In terms of technological innovation, according to numerous studies, it is now cheaper and more profitable to build and operate electricity generation systems using solar and wind power than it is using coal, nuclear, or petroleum power.

But in order to replace coal, natural gas, nuclear, and petroleum as our primary power sources, our national (and international) electrical grid infrastructure will have to be rebuilt to facilitate decentralized power production and electricity sharing across regions. Also, we will obviously need to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure (including pipelines), curtail oil and natural gas exploration and extraction, phase out polluting power plants, and electrify manufacturing, transportation, and heating. All of these measures mean leaving most, and eventually all, remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

To pay for this transition, we will need to transfer massive government subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables and, at the same time, ensure a just transition and program of retraining for four million current workers in the fossil fuel sector, as outlined in the GND. If we don’t ensure a just transition (job retraining, job replacement, and/or retirement) for fossil fuel workers, we will likely never gain the political support for the GND that we need.

In the transportation sector (29 percent of current emissions), we will need to double or triple vehicle fuel economy standards and replace our gas and diesel guzzlers with as many electric cars, buses, trucks, tractors, and trains as possible so as to achieve 50 percent market share for electric vehicles by 2030. In order to do this, we will need to pay consumers, businesses, and municipalities a subsidy to switch over to electric vehicles and electrified mass transportation. This could potentially cut overall emissions by approximately 50 percent in the transportation sector. According to MIT Technology Review, given battery technology advances and cost reductions (electric cars will soon be cheaper to buy and operate than gas-driven vehicles), over half of new auto sales in 2040 will be electric vehicles.

Beyond automobiles, a growing number of nations are leading the way in terms of converting petroleum-driven buses, trucks, and trains to electricity. According to a report released at the San Francisco Global Climate Action Summit in 2018:

Every 5 weeks, China adds a fleet of electric buses equivalent to the entire London bus fleet—9500 buses. Technologies are now market ready, societally acceptable and economically attractive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 51% by 2030, through electric vehicles, mass transit and adapting the global shipping fleet. . . . However, the transformation will slow dramatically without strong national and city policies, for example setting target dates to ban internal combustion engines.

In the industrial and manufacturing sector, including heavy industry, light industry, feedstocks, and food processing (22 percent of all fossil fuel emissions), we will need to reduce coal and petroleum use by at least 50 percent through dramatic increases in recycling rates, switching over as quickly as possible to electrical power generated by renewables, and efficiency improvements, such as “making products more material-efficient . . . extending lifespan and reducing weight.” In the light industry sector, including food, textile, wood, printing, and consumer products manufacturing, as well as more fossil fuel–intensive industries such as steel, aluminum, cement, and plastic production, according to experts, we can reduce overall emissions by 50 percent using current technologies and efficiencies. Of course, addressing overconsumption and waste on the part of consumers, especially more affluent consumers, will need to be part of this mission.

A transition from cement to timber in the construction industry (a growing number of buildings, even high-rise buildings, are now being built from wood, using new techniques) could eliminate 5 to 6 percent of all GHG emissions. Similar climate-friendly changes in the manufacturing, construction, and industrial sector will reduce emissions by another 10 percent, for a cumulative total reduction of emissions of 45 to 49 percent in the electricity/utilities, transportation, and manufacturing sectors.

Residential and commercial buildings now account for almost 11 percent of all fossil fuel use in the United States. We can achieve a 50 percent reduction in emissions in this sector with retrofitting, insulating, changes in building codes, and greater energy efficiency, utilizing heat pumps, solar power, heat storage, and district heating systems based upon renewable energy. This retrofitting of our buildings will reduce our overall emissions by another 5 to 6 percent, while creating millions and millions of new jobs.

This brings us to 50 to 55 percent in overall fossil fuel emissions reductions by 2030. We can achieve a further 5 to 10 percent overall emissions reduction in the food and farming sector by reducing the consumption of fossil fuel–derived materials and products (plastics, food packaging, highly processed foods), by eliminating food waste and clothing waste, by recycling organic waste instead of dumping it into landfills, where it releases methane and CO2, and by drastically reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from fracking, natural gas, and chemical-intensive agriculture and factory farm inputs and practices (diesel fuel, chemical fertilizers, and petroleum-derived pesticides). Sixteen percent of all US GHG emissions comprise the potent heat-trapping gases nitrous oxide and methane—a significant percentage of which come from chemical-intensive industrial agriculture emissions from heavy pesticide and fertilizer use.

Implementing all of these transformations/reductions in the electricity, transportation, manufacturing, residential and commercial buildings, food, farming, and consumption sectors, as called for by the GND, can enable the United States to basically match the emissions reduction goals of Germany, with a 60 percent decrease in GHG emissions by 2030 (from 5.9 billion tons of CO2e to 2.36 billion tons).

The remaining 40 percent of net reductions (2.36 billion tons of CO2e) required to reach net zero emissions and a carbon-neutral USA by 2030 will need to be sequestered in our 1.9 billion acres of croplands, pasturelands, rangelands, wetlands, forests, urban landscapes, and vegetation through regenerative food, farming, forestry, land management, and ecosystem restoration practices. Let’s now look in more detail at a Regeneration and carbon sequestration plan for the next decade.

US Roadmap Part Two: Sequestering Remaining CO2e through Regenerative Food, Farming, and Land Use Practices

Utilizing satellites, surveys, and other sources, the USDA categorizes the 1.9 billion acres of the Lower 48 (i.e., all the states excluding Alaska and Hawaii) as follows: 654 million acres of pasture or rangeland (much of which is degraded), 539 million acres of forest (much of which needs to be reforested), 392 million acres of cropland (most of which is degraded in terms of soil carbon), 169 million acres of “special use” lands (parks and national/state forests), 69 million acres of urban land, and 69 million acres of “miscellaneous.”

Currently, as estimated by the EPA, the Lower 48 (1.9 billion acres) are sequestering 714 million tons of CO2e (or 11 percent of US gross GHG emissions). To reach our goal of net zero emissions by 2030 (assuming energy conservation and renewable energy can reduce gross emissions by 60 percent), these 1.9 billion acres, or rather a significant percentage of these acres, will have to be regenerated and reforested over the next decade so that they can sequester approximately three to four times as much atmospheric carbon as they are currently sequestering. Looking at scaling up existing best practices, we can see that this great sequestration and recarbonization of our soils and biota is indeed possible.

Let’s look at the practices (and the math) of potential carbon sequestration (and reduction of methane and nitrous oxide emissions) on the 1.9 billion acres of US farmland, pastures, rangelands, forests, and other landscapes by 2030.

Regenerating US Pasture and Rangeland

US pasture and rangeland (654 million acres) covers more than one-third of the Lower 48. One-quarter (158 million acres) of this acreage is administered by the US government and is usually open to livestock grazing by ranchers for a fee. Another 127 million acres that the EPA classifies as croplands are used by farmers to grow animal feed for livestock. This means that the livestock and livestock feed portions of our agricultural lands adds up to 781 million acres, 41 percent of all the land in the Lower 48.

The majority of these pastures and rangelands were once a diverse landscape—grasslands and natural prairie covered with native (deep-rooted) grasses, trees, bushes, and plants. This carbon-rich, climate-friendly landscape sequestered large amounts of atmospheric carbon, supported biodiversity and wildlife, and efficiently infiltrated rainfall and snowmelt into the topsoil and groundwater, springs, and aquifers. Before the advent of the plow and the repeating rifle and the ruthless occupation of Native lands, large herds of migratory buffalo, elk, deer, and other mammals grazed on the grasslands as they moved across the continent, while millions of “keystone species,” including beavers (wetlands builders), prairie dogs (soil excavators), and wolves (forcing grazing herds to band together and killing off sick and diseased animals), worked in natural harmony to keep the landscape regenerated and hydrated.

At the present time, most of these 781 million acres have been plowed under, deforested, and/or overgrazed, leaving them eroded, degraded, and lacking in terms of soil organic carbon, soil fertility, and biodiversity. America’s once healthy pasturelands and farmlands have become major greenhouse gas emitters, rather than soil carbon sinks or repositories. But with regenerative changes in grazing practices and livestock management, including switching cattle and herbivores away from chemical-intensive, fossil fuel–intensive GMO grains to a 100 percent grass-fed diet, and moving poultry and pork from confinement to free-range pasture, raised on a diet of organic and regeneratively produced grains, we can bring US rangelands and pasturelands back to full life and vitality.

Cattle and other herbivores such as sheep, goats, and buffalo should be outdoors, grazing on pasture grass, while omnivores such as poultry and pigs should be moved out of confinement and raised outdoors in a free-range or agroforestry setting, getting some of their nutrition/food in their pastures or wooded paddocks, while getting most of their nutrition from grains and forage that have been grown in a regenerative manner (no-till, cover-cropped, alley-cropped, biodiverse, chemical-free, agroforestry). Cattle and other herbivores will thrive and produce healthier meat and dairy products once they return to a 100 percent grass diet, as will chickens and pigs raised in a natural free-range environment. And consumers, once they understand the nutritional, environmental, climate, and animal welfare superiority of grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy, will increasingly choose to buy these products, especially if current subsidies—direct and indirect—for factory farms and factory-farmed animal feeds are eliminated.

Of course, all of this will require major subsidies for farmers and ranchers (including guaranteed fair prices, supply management, and payments for soil conservation) as well as changes in consumer purchasing and consumption, including a drastic reduction in the purchasing and consumption of factory-farmed meat, dairy, and other grain-fed animal products (chicken, poultry, and factory-farmed fish).

To carry out this restoration on a large enough scale, we will have to put an end to wasting millions of acres of our valuable farmlands to grow grain for herbivores (cows, sheep, goats, and bison)—animals that should not be eating grains at all. We will also need to stop sacrificing thirty-eight million acres of our valuable farmlands to the production of ethanol and biodiesel from corn and soybeans and instead convert these row-crop commodity farms back into diverse crop production and grazing. The process of producing ethanol and biodiesel from GMO corn and soybeans, contrary to industry claims, actually uses up more fossil fuels in its growing and production cycle than it saves by allowing us to burn ethanol or biodiesel in our cars.

Regenerative management of these pasturelands and rangelands will utilize soil-building techniques such as no-till farming, multispecies cover cropping, roller crimping (breaking the plant stalks and leaving them on the field rather than plowing or spraying pesticides when the cover crops mature), and grazing animals holistically and rotationally. Once restored and under regenerative management, these lands can sequester approximately twelve tons of CO2e per acre per year.

Guaranteed subsidies for soil conservation practices, a waiver of grazing fees on properly grazed federal lands, and fair prices (coupled with supply management) for farmers and ranchers for their meat, dairy, and grains are some of the key policies we will need to implement after the 2020 elections in order to promote regenerative, carbon-sequestering management of the majority of these 781 acres of pasturelands, rangelands, and animal feed croplands. The federal farm and soil conservation policies that we will need to fund in order to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2030 include the following:

Expansion of the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, with billions of additional dollars a year to increase regenerative practices such as cover cropping, prescribed grazing, riparian buffers, and no-till farming.

Expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to include 100 million acres by 2030, raising rental payments made to farmers, and promoting regeneration practices, including agroforestry and holistic grazing, on these CRP lands.

Expansion of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to substantially increase the acreage that farmers place into agriculture conservation and wetlands easements.

A major increase in the funding for research into conservation and holistic grazing, focusing on research into the reduction of carbon emissions in the agricultural sector and eliminating degenerative factory-farm production methods, as well as research dedicated to soil health.

Billions of dollars in increased incentives for local and regional food systems, as well as incentives for reforestation, regenerative forest management, and restoration of coastal wetlands. We will need to reforest over 65 million acres by 2030, on a combination of Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal lands, as well as on state, local, tribal, and nonprofit-owned lands. By 2050 we will need to reforest more than 250 million acres.

We must protect millions of at-risk acres of federal, state, local, tribal, and other lands by 2030 using forest management, controlled burns, and holistic grazing practices to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and to increase forest health/resilience. We need to plant an average of fifty million trees per year in urban areas across America to reduce the heat island effect and protect communities from extreme weather. In addition, we need to invest in wood product innovation and in biochar, creating jobs in rural and urban communities. Besides these measures, we need to restore or prevent the loss of 12 to 25 million acres of coastal and inland wetlands by 2030.

If holistic grazing and livestock/pasture management best practices were carried out on just a quarter of total pastureland, rangeland, and animal feed cropland in the United States, we would still be able to sequester 2.34 billion tons of CO2e—approximately 100 percent of the carbon sequestration we need (in combination with a transition to renewable energy) to reach net zero emissions by 2030.

Regenerating US Cropland

US cropland (392 million acres) includes 52 million acres idled or lying fallow at any given time, 38 million acres used for corn ethanol or soy biodiesel, 77 million acres for human food for US consumers, 127 million acres for livestock food crops (especially corn and soy), 22 million acres for wheat exports, 14 million acres for cotton (fiber and animal feed), and 69 million acres for other grains and food exports. Yet despite its enormous agricultural production, the United States imported 15 percent of its food and beverages in 2016, including 30 percent of its fruits and vegetables.

Disregarding the 127 million acres of cropland used for livestock grains and fodder, which we have discussed in conjunction with pasture and rangeland above, the United States’ 265 million acres of additional cropland can potentially be regenerated in order to store more carbon and improve fertility, water quality, biodiversity, food safety, and food quality or nutrition.

Traditional organic crop farming (no chemicals, cover cropping, minimum or no tillage, use of natural fertilizers) can sequester CO2e at a rate of up to 5.7 tons of CO2e per acre per year. However, Dr. David Johnson’s New Mexico lab and field research on regenerative compost shows that high-fungal-content, biologically rich, semi-anaerobic compost and compost extracts produce not just very high crop yields but also massive carbon sequestration, with rates of over four tons of carbon (fifteen tons of CO2e) per acre per year. As Dr. Johnson notes, if these compost practices were scaled up on the world’s four billion acres of croplands, “the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Johnson’s methods mirror traditional and indigenous compost and agroecological farming practices utilized in India and other regions.

If traditional organic crop practices were implemented on all of the 265 million acres of US cropland (again, not counting land given over to animal feed crops), we could sequester 1.3 billion tons of GHGs. If organic practices were employed on just 50 percent of these croplands, we could sequester 650 million tons. With traditional organic practices on just one-quarter of this cropland, we could sequester 325 million tons.

But if advanced organic practices like Dr. Johnson’s were implemented, we could sequester 3.9 billion tons a year on 265 million acres, or 1.95 billion tons on half of this acreage, or almost 1 billion tons of GHGs on one-quarter of this acreage.

As a conservative estimate, with a combination of traditional organic and advanced organic methods on one-quarter of US cropland, we will be able to achieve 663 million tons of CO2e sequestration—approximately one-quarter of what we need.

Necessary measures to transform US crop production will include increasing the market share of organic food from its current 5.5 percent of all food sales and 10 percent of all produce (fruit and vegetable) sales to 50 percent of all sales by 2030. At the same time, we will need to convert thirty-eight million acres of corn (ethanol) and soybean (biodiesel) crops back into multispecies perennial grasslands and pasture and/or organic multispecies grain production. We will also need to implement soil restoration, regeneration, and agroforestry practices on our fifty-two million acres of idle or fallow land, utilizing government programs to subsidize farmers for restorative and regenerative practices.

Regenerating US Forestlands

US forestland (539 million acres), or rather “unprotected” forests and timberlands in the terminology of the USDA, account for one-quarter of the land in the Lower 48. These 539 million acres do not include the “special use” protected or semi-protected forest acreage in national parks (29 million acres of land), state parks (15 million acres), or wilderness and wildlife areas (64 million acres), or the “miscellaneous” (“low economic value”) acres of trees and shrubs located in marshes, deserts, and wetlands. Nor does this acreage include trees in urban areas.

If we count all these other forested (or “treed”) areas, however, forests comprise one-third of the total US land area. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that forests covered half the country prior to European settlement.

The EPA estimates that US forests currently sequester approximately 9 percent of all US GHG emissions (531 million tons of CO2e) every year. Over the next ten years, in order to reach carbon neutrality, we will need to embark upon a major program of reforestation and afforestation—preserving, expanding, and improving our forests (both private and publicly owned) and tree cover (both urban and rural).

According to the rather conservative projections made by the Nature Conservancy, reforestation of forty to fifty million acres in the United States could reach three hundred million tons of additional CO2e captured per year by 2025. But according to a more recent study by Dr. Thomas Crowther and others, mentioned in chapter 4, the United States has 254 million acres of degraded forests or treeless landscapes (excluding croplands and urban areas) that could be reforested, especially in the South, Southeast, and Northeast regions of the country. These 254 million reforested acres could potentially sequester, using the Nature Conservancy projections, 1.5 billion tons of GHGs annually.

Even if we reforest only one-quarter of the potential area that could be reforested in the United States by 2030, we will still be able to sequester 375 million tons of CO2e—approximately 15 percent of what we need.

As a recent article titled “Let’s Reforest America to Act on Climate” points out: “Under the original New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted three billion trees and employed three million workers in the process. America is well positioned to advance a similar effort again, with almost 20 million acres of recently disturbed land needing reforestation.”

“Special use” lands (169 million acres), including parks, wildlife areas, highways, railroads, and military bases, include millions of additional acres suitable for reforestation and afforestation, as identified by Crowther and others.

Urban areas (69 million acres) make up 3.6 percent of the land area of the Lower 48 but include 81 percent of the population (19 percent of people live in rural areas). Urban areas are growing by a million acres a year. Lawn areas in US cities and towns are estimated to include forty million acres of turf grass, covering 1.9 percent of the land. Although Crowther and others do not include urban areas in their totals for land that could be reforested, obviously millions of acres in urban areas are suitable for planting trees, which would then sequester carbon, reduce summertime urban temperatures, and provide shade, food, and habitat for humans, pollinators, and animals. In the United States, we should set a goal for planting 500 million new trees in urban areas by 2030.

Regenerating So-Called “Miscellaneous Lands”

“Miscellaneous lands” (69 million acres) are categorized by the USDA as having “low economic value.” These lands include cemeteries, golf courses, and airports, but also marshes and coastal wetlands. Contrary to the USDA’s assessment, the nation’s marshes and wetlands are enormously important in terms of sequestering carbon, filtering pollution, buffering hurricanes, preserving water quality, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. As part of a national campaign of ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration in the United States, we will need to restore millions of acres of wetlands, marshes, and marine ecosystems. It is estimated that the continental United States (not including Alaska) once had 220 million acres of wetlands, most of which have now been drained or destroyed. Restoring 12 to 25 million acres of marshlands and wetlands in the Lower 48 would sequester 75 to 150 million tons of CO2e annually.

The Bottom Line for US Carbon Neutrality

The bottom line for achieving carbon neutrality in the United States by 2030 is to basically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 45 to 60 percent in our electricity, transportation, housing, construction, and manufacturing sectors, in line with what other advanced industrial nations such as Germany are undertaking, while simultaneously carrying out the regenerative, carbon-sequestering agriculture and land use practices outlined above. With changes in livestock and pasture management on just a quarter of total pastureland, rangeland, and animal feed cropland (781 million acres), by 2030 we can sequester more than 2.34 billion tons of CO2e annually. With changes in management, utilizing organic and advanced organic methods, on a quarter of our 265 million acres of croplands (not counting land used to produce animal feed), we can achieve an additional 663 million tons of CO2e sequestration. With reforestation and afforestation on 25 percent of the 254 million acres of degraded forests or treeless landscapes (excluding croplands and urban areas) in the United States, we can sequester an additional 375 million tons of CO2e. Restoration of wetlands can sequester an additional 75 to 150 million tons. Altogether, by 2030, this great regeneration will sequester 3.4 billion tons of CO2e annually, enough to enable the United States to reach carbon neutrality, even if the country only manages to reach 45 percent in fossil fuel reductions, rather than the 60 percent that Germany and a number of other nations will achieve.

Altogether, with the ongoing restoration and regeneration of our 1.9 billion acres of pasturelands, rangelands, croplands, forests, and wetlands—driven by changes in public policy, consumer demand, and farmer/land management innovation—we, as part of a GND, can lead the United States (and, by example, the world) away from climate catastrophe to carbon neutrality. This will then prepare us to keep moving forward beyond 2030: to draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere into our revitalized soils, forests, and plants to reverse global warming and restore our precious environment and climate. But the hour is late. We need a GND and a Regeneration revolution. And we need to step up our public education, coalition building, direct action, and electoral insurgency now.

Political Power Now: Greening the White House and the Congress

We have no choice but to move boldly forward with a system-changing GND in the United States and other nations, infused with the goal of 100 percent renewable energy and a massive scaling up of regenerative food, farming, and land use policies and practices. But if we hope to gain the support we need from working people and lower-income communities, renewable energy and regenerative food and farming must be delivered as part of a popular overall package for a just transition that includes full employment, livable wages, universal health care, debt relief, and free public education as well.

Like it or not, what the United States does or does not do in the 2020 election (and the 2020–2030 decade) is crucially important. We need a new president, we need a new green-minded majority in the House and the Senate, and we need new green and Regeneration-supportive government officials and public policies in all of our states, counties, cities, and towns. This means that our number one priority, given our limited timeline, must be to join and help build a mass movement to take power in Congress and the White House in 2020 and 2022.

Fortunately, we already have the initial public support (63 percent of people in the United States currently support the GND), grassroots leaders (the Sunrise Movement and a growing activist rainbow of movements and Regenerators), and a new insurgent group of political leaders who share our vision, who will be welcomed by an already Regeneration-minded movement and government in the nations around the world. We already have 90 or more of the 435 members of the House of Representatives who have endorsed the GND, along with a dozen high-profile senators. All of the leading Democratic Party candidates for president in 2020, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have endorsed the GND. For the first time ever, climate change has become a major electoral theme in the United States and other nations.

Jump-Starting the Green Machine

The next step prior to the crucial November 2020 presidential and congressional elections in the United States (and elections in other nations) is to build mass awareness at the local, state, and congressional levels. We need local GND/Regeneration committees; we need speaker’s bureaus; we need media teams; we need fundraisers, coalition builders, and grassroots and grasstops lobbyists; and we need online and, most important, on-the-ground activism (petitions, teach-ins, door knocking, protests, electoral campaigns, ballot initiatives). We must start now to build broad-based, powerful, bipartisan if possible, statewide and national coalitions for a GND that highlight not only renewable energy, but regenerative food, farming, and land use policies and practices as well.

We have no choice but to break down the issue silos that divide us—we don’t have time for anyone to think, “My issue is more important than your issue,” or “My constituency is more important than your constituency.” We must connect the dots, create synergy, and unite a critical mass of heretofore single-issue, limited-constituency movements (climate, peace, labor, health, environment, food, farming, and social justice). At the same time, on the political front we must strive to bring together for discussion and common action progressive Democrats and conservation-minded Independents, Republicans, and Libertarians. We must build awareness and cooperation in a survival-oriented united front that can elect green and Regeneration-minded majorities in both urban and rural districts. Breaking down walls and issue silos, we must convince renewable energy and progressive political activists that regenerative food, farming, and land use practices and policies are essential, while at the same time getting food, farming, and environmental/conservation activists to understand that we must all become climate activists and renewable energy advocates and we must all get involved in political action.

The Power of One in Catastrophic Times

No doubt you’ve heard something like the message of this book before. I’ve personally been writing and campaigning around a host of life-or-death political, food, farming, and environmental issues like these for fifty years, starting with the threat of nuclear annihilation in the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The exciting, world-changing difference now is that objective conditions are finally ripe for a Regeneration revolution in the United States and around the world. What I’ve said and written before about the environment, food, health, politics, war, and peace, with every ounce of knowledge and passion I could muster, was basically true. It’s just that we, the global grassroots—farmers and consumers, students and workers, and our political and activist leaders—weren’t quite ready yet. The crisis of the past fifty years hadn’t yet reached its present intensity. In addition, up until now, we didn’t have a workable plan, strategy, and tactics. We didn’t have a GND or a set of radical political leaders at the federal level to rally behind. We didn’t have grassroots leaders in every community like those that we have now. We didn’t have a full understanding of the relationship between food, farming, land use, soil health, fossil fuels, climate change, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation, justice, international relations, war, and peace. Now we do. Now we can connect the dots and move forward together, not just in one region or country, but globally.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech I gave twenty-five years ago, on September 24, 1995, at the US-Canada International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes. I think my message from then is even more relevant today:

The time bomb we call the future is ticking away even as we consider these matters. We have no time to lose. The time for standing around and feeling inadequate or frustrated is over. If you’ve been waiting for new movement leadership and new ideas to arrive, wait no longer. Look in the mirror, look at the people around you today. Go back to your community and form an affinity group of like-minded individuals, people whom you feel good about. Work with people who will make your social change efforts effective as well as fulfilling, and yes, even joyful. People bold enough to take on the corporate Global Lords, yet humble and grounded enough to practice what they preach. Once properly grounded, link up your core group and your outreach and coalition-building efforts with other compatible groups in your community, county, state, and region. If you’re not exactly certain of how to go about getting organized in your community, then search out the activist “coaches” and social-change movement “veterans” who are willing to help you. Don’t mourn about the state of the world or the state of your individual soul! Organize! There’s only one reason for joining up in the worldwide movement to save the planet and build a more democratic and ethically sound commonwealth: because it’s the best way to live.

It makes a great deal of difference what you and I do as individuals in our everyday lives. It makes a difference how you and I behave in the marketplace, and in the realm of civil society and politics. How we act, what we talk about with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. How we spend our money and our precious spare time. How we raise our children. What we read and share and write as we sit in front of our computers and cell phone screens. Which groups we join, support, and donate money to. Which politicians we lobby and vote for.

Never underestimate the power of one individual—yourself. But please understand, at the same time, that what we do as individuals will never be enough. We have to get organized, and we have to help others, in our region, in our nation, and everywhere, build a mighty green Regeneration movement. The time to begin is now.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of   Regeneration International and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and the author of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal.”

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Agave Power: Greening the Desert

Read in Spanish here.

Agave, from the Greek word αγαυή, meaning “noble” or “admirable,” is a common perennial desert succulent, with thick fleshy leaves and sharp thorns. Agave plants evolved originally in Mexico, the Southwestern US, and Central America, but are also found today in the hot, arid, and semi-arid drylands of South America, Africa, Oceana, and Asia. Agaves are best known for producing textiles (henequen and sisal) from its fibrous leaves, and alcoholic beverages, tequila, pulque, and mescal, from its sizeable stem or piña, and more recently bio-ethanol from the bagasse or leftover pulp after the piña is distilled.

Agave’s several hundred different varieties are found growing on approximately 20% of the earth’s lands, often growing in the same desertified, degraded cropland or rangeland areas as nitrogen-fixing, deep-rooted trees or shrubs such as mesquite, acacia, or leucaena. Agaves can tolerate intense heat and will readily grow in drylands or semi-desert landscapes where there is a minimum annual rainfall of approximately 10 inches or 250 mm, and where the temperature never drops below 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius).

The several billion small farmers and rural families living in the world’s drylands are often among the most impoverished communities in the world, with increasing numbers being forced to migrate to cities or across borders in search of employment. Decades of deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, destructive use of agricultural chemicals, and heavy tillage or plowing have severely degenerated the soils, fertility, water retention, and biodiversity of most arid and semi-arid lands. With climate change, limited and unpredictable rainfall, and increasingly degraded soil in these drylands, it has become increasingly difficult to raise traditional food crops (such as corn, beans, and squash in Mexico) or generate sufficient grass and forage for animals. Many dryland areas are in danger of degenerating even further into literal desert, unable to sustain any crops or livestock whatsoever. Besides struggling with degraded landscapes, poverty, and crop failure, social conflict, drug trafficking, and organized crime often plague these areas, forcing millions to migrate to urban areas or across borders to seek employment.

Agaves

Agaves basically require no irrigation, literally drawing moisture directly from the air and storing it in their thick thorny leaves (pencas) and stem or heart (piña) utilizing their Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) photosynthetic pathway, which enables the plant to grow and produce significant amounts of biomass, even under conditions of severely restricted water availability and prolonged droughts. Agaves reproduce by putting out shoots or hijuelos alongside the mother plant, (approximately 3-4 per year) or through seeds, if the plant is allowed to flower at the end of its 8-13 year (or more) lifespan.

A number of agave varieties appropriate for drylands agroforestry (salmiana, americana, mapisaga) readily grow into large plants, reaching a weight of 650 kilograms (1400 pounds) to one ton in the space of 8-13 years. Agaves are among the world’s top 15 plants or trees in terms of drawing downlarge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing plant biomass. [Footnote: Park S. Nobel, Desert Wisdom/Agaves and Cacti, p.132] Certain varieties of agave are capable of producing up to 43 tons of dry weight biomass per hectare (17 tons of biomass per acre) or more per year on a continuous basis. In addition, the water use of agaves (and other desert-adapted CAM plants) is typically 4-12 times more efficient than other plants and trees, with average water demand approximately 6 times lower.

Agave-Based Agroforestry

Agave’s nitrogen-fixing, deep-rooted companion trees or shrubs such as mesquite and acacias have adapted to survive in these same dryland environments as well. From an environmental, soil health, and carbon-sequestering perspective, agaves should be cultivated, not as a monoculture, as is commonly done with agave azul(the blue agave species) on tequila plantations in Mexico (often 3,000-4,000 plants per hectare/1215-1600 plants per acre), but as a polyculture. In this polyculture agroforestry system, several varieties of agave are interspersed with native nitrogen-fixing trees or shrubs (such as mesquite or acacias), pasture grass, and cover crops, which fix the nitrogen and nutrients into the soil which the agave needs to draw upon in order to grow and produce significant amounts of biomass/animal forage. If grown as a polyculture, agaves and their companion trees and shrubs can be cultivated on a continuous basis, producing large amounts of biomass and sequestering significant amounts of carbon above ground and below ground, without depleting soil fertility or biodiversity.

In addition to these polyculture practices, planned rotational grazing on these agroforestry pastures not only provides significant forage for livestock, but done properly (neither overgrazing nor under-grazing), further improves or regenerates the soil, eliminating dead grasses, invasive species, facilitating water infiltration (in part through ground disturbance i.e. hoof prints), concentrating animal manure and urine, and increasing soil organic matter, soil carbon, biodiversity, and fertility.

Although agave is a plant that grows prolifically in some of the harshest climates in the world, up until now this plant has been largely ignored, if not outright denigrated. Apart from producing alcoholic beverages, agaves are often considered a plant and livestock pest, along with its thorny, nitrogen-fixing, leguminous companion trees or shrubs such as mesquite and acacias.

But now, the development of a new agave-based agroforestry and holistic livestock management system in the semi-arid drylands of Guanajuato, Mexico, utilizing basic ecosystem restorations techniques, permaculture design, and silage production using anaerobic fermentation, is changing the image of agave and their companion trees. This agave-powered agroforestry and livestock management system is demonstrating that native plants, long overlooked, have the potential to regenerate the drylands, provide large amounts of inexpensive but essential forage for grazing animals, and alleviate rural poverty.

Moving beyond conventional monoculture and chemical-intensive farm practices, and combining the traditional indigenous knowledge of native desert plants and natural fermentation, an innovative group of Mexico-based farmers have learned how to reforest and green their drylands, all without the use of irrigation or expensive and toxic agricultural inputs.

They have accomplished this by densely planting, pruning, and inter-cropping high-biomass, high-forage producing species of agaves (average 2000 per hectare, 810 per acre) among pre-existing deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing tree or shrub species (500 per hectare) such as mesquite and acacia, or alongside transplanted tree seedlings. These agaves naturally produce large amounts of plant leaf or pencas every year, which can then be chopped up and fermented, turned into silage.  Agave’s perennial silage production far exceeds most other forage production (most of which require irrigation and expensive chemical inputs) with three different varieties (salmiana, americana, and mapisaga) in various locations producing approximately 40 tons per acre or 100 tons per hectare, of fermented silage, annually. The variety crassispina, valuable for its high-sugar piña content for mescal, produces slightly less than 50% of the penca biomass than the other three varieties (average 46.6 tons per year).

The agave silage of the three most productive varieties has a considerable market value of $100 US per ton (up to $4,000 US per acre or $10,000 per hectare gross profit, with 50% of this amount being net profit after subtracting production and labor costs). This system, in combination with rotational grazing, has the capacity to feed up to 60 sheep, lambs or goats per acre/per year or 150 per hectare, doubling net income to S4,000 US per acre or $10,000 per hectare. Once certified as organic, lamb production can easily increase net profits to $5,000 US per acre or $12,000 per hectare annually.

In addition, the agave stem or piña, with a market value of $150 US per ton, harvested at the end of the agave plant’s 8-13 year-lifespan for mescal (a valuable distilled liquor) or inulin (a valuable nutritional supplement) can weigh 150-200 kg. (330-450 pounds), in the three most productive varieties. Again the crassispiña variety has a much smaller piña (160 tons per 2000 plants). The value of the piña from 2000 agave plants for the salmiana, americana, and mapisaga varieties, harvested once, at the end of the plant’s productive lifespan (approximately 10 years) has a market value of $52,500 US per hectare, with the market value for inulin being considerably more.

Combining the market value of the penca and piña of the three most productive varieties we arrive at a total gross market value of $152,500 US per hectare and $61,538 per acre, over 10 years. Adding the value of the 72,000 hijuelos or shoots of 2000 agave plants (each producing an average of 36 shoots or clones) with a value of 12 pesos or 60 cents US per shoot we get an additional $43,200 gross income over 10 years. Total estimated gross income per hectare for pencas ($100,000), pinas ($52,500), and hijuelos ($43,200) over 10 years will be $195,700, with expenses to establish and maintain the system projected to be $13,047 per hectare. As these numbers indicate, this system has tremendous economic potential.

Pioneered by sheep and goat ranchers in the municipality of San Luis de la Paz, Mexico and then expanded and modified by organic farmers and researchers in San Miguel de Allende, “Agave Power” as the new Movement calls itself, is starting to attract regional and even international attention on the part of farmers, government officials, climate activists, and investors. One of the most exciting aspects of this new agroforestry system is its potential to be eventually established or replicated, not only across Mexico, but in a significant percentage of the world’s arid and semi-arid drylands, (including major areas in Central America, Latin America, the Southwestern US, Asia, Oceana, and Africa). Arid and semi-arid drylands constitute, according to the United Nations Convention to Prevent Desertification, 40% of the Earth’s lands.

Alleviating Rural Poverty

Besides improving soils, regenerating ecosystems, and sequestering carbon, the economic impact of this agroforestry system appears to be a long-overdue game-changer in terms of reducing and eliminating rural poverty. Currently 90% of Mexico’s dryland farmers (86% of whom do not have wells or irrigation) are unable to generate any profit whatsoever from farm production, according to government statistics. The average rural household income in Mexico is approximately $5,000-6,000 US per year, derived overwhelmingly from off-farm employment and remittances or money sent home from Mexican immigrants working in the US or Canada. Almost 50% of Mexicans, according to government statistics, are living in poverty or extreme poverty.

The chart below compares the high productivity of agave (in terms of animal forage or silage production) compared to other forage crops, all of which, unlike agave and mesquite, require expensive and/or unavailable irrigation or crop inputs. The second chart compares the productivity, in terms of penca or leaf biomass, from the species salmiana. See appendix for comparisons of other agave species in a number of different locations.

 

Deploying the Agave-Based Agroforestry System

The first step in deploying this agave-powered agroforestry and holistic livestock management system involves carrying out basic ecosystem restoration practices. Restoration is necessary given that most dryland areas suffer from degraded soils, erosion, low fertility, and low rainfall retention in soils. Initial ecosystem restoration typically requires putting up fencing or repairing fencing for livestock control, constructing rock barriers (check dams) for erosion control, building up contoured rows and terracing, subsoiling (to break up hardpan soils), transplanting agaves of different varieties and ages (1600-2500 per hectare or 650-1000 per acre), sowing pasture grasses, as well as transplanting (if not previously forested) mesquite or other nitrogen-fixing trees (500 per hectare or 200 per acre) or shrubs. Depending on the management plan, not all agaves will be planted in the same year, but at times 10-20% per year so as to stagger harvest times for the agave piñas, which are harvested at the end of the particular species’ 8-13- year lifespan.

This in turn is followed by no-till soil management (after initial subsoiling) and sowing pasture grasses and cover crops of legumes, meanwhile temporarily “resting” pasture (i.e. keeping animals out of overgrazed pastures or rangelands) long enough to allow regeneration of forage and survival of young agaves and tree seedlings. Following these initial steps of ecosystem restoration and planting agaves and establishing sufficient tree cover, which can take up to five years, the next step is carefully implementing planned rotational grazing of sheep and goats (or other livestock) across these pasturelands and rangelands, at least during the rainy season (4-6 months per year), utilizing moveable solar fencing and/or shepherds and shepherd dogs (neither overgrazing nor under-grazing); supplementing pasture forage, especially during the six-eight-month dry season, with fermented agave silage. During the dry season many families will choose to keep the breeding stock on their smaller family parcels or paddocks, feeding them fermented silage (either agave or agave/mesquite pod mix) to keep them healthy throughout the dry season, when pasture grasses are severely limited.

By implementing these restoration and agroforestry practices, farmers and ranchers can begin to regenerate dryland landscapes and improve the health and productivity of their livestock, provide affordable food for their families, improve their livelihoods, and at the same time, deliver valuable ecosystem services, reducing soil erosion, recharging water tables, and sequestering and storing large amounts of atmospheric carbon in plant biomass and soils, both aboveground and below ground.

Fermenting the Agave Leaves: A Revolutionary Innovation

The revolutionary innovation of a pioneering group of Guanajuato farmers has been to turn a heretofore indigestible, but massive and accessible source of biomass, the agave leaves or pencas, into a valuable animal feed, utilizing the natural process of anaerobic fermentation to transform the plants’ indigestible saponin and lectin compounds into digestible carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber. To do this they have developed a relatively simple machine, hooked up to a tractor, that can chop up the very tough pruned leaves of the agave. After chopping the agave’s leaves or pencas (into what looks like green coleslaw) they then anaerobically ferment this wet silage (ideally along with the chopped-up protein-rich pods of the mesquite tree) in a closed container, such as a five-gallon plastic container with a lid, removing as much oxygen as possible (by tapping it down) before closing the lid.

The fermented end-product, golden-colored after 30 days, is a nutritious but very inexpensive silage or animal fodder, that costs approximately one Mexican peso (or five cents US) per kilogram/2.2 pounds (fermented agave alone) or two pesos (agave and mesquite pods together) per kilogram to produce. In San Miguel de Allende, the containers we use, during this initial experimental stage of the project cost $3 US per unit for a 20 liter or 5 gallon plastic container or cubeta with a lid, with a lifespan of 25 uses or more before they must be recycled.

This means that the current costs per use of the 20-liter container holding the foraje or silage is 15 cents US or three pesos for 20 liters/kg. This brings the production and storage costs up for fermented agave from one peso (5 cents US) to 1.15 pesos (5.75 US cents) per kilo, far less expensive and resource intensive than alfalfa (4 pesos or 20 cents US per kilo with irrigation required) or hay (4 pesos per kilo), and much more nutritious than corn stalks or rastrojo (2 pesos per kilo). One advantage of these recyclable plastic containers is that a 20-liter container filled with fermented silage weighs only 20 kg or 44 pounds, making it easier to handle. However, Agave Power researchers are now developing silage storage alternatives that will eliminate the necessity for the relatively expensive 20 liter/20 kg plastic cubetas or containers.

The agave silage production system provides the cash-strapped rancher or farmer with an alternative to having to purchase alfalfa (expensive at 20 cents US per kg and water-intensive) or hay (likewise expensive) or corn stalks (labor intensive and nutritionally-deficient), especially during the dry season.

According to Dr. Juan Frias, one of the pioneers of this process, lambs or adult sheep readily convert 10 kilos of fermented agave silage into one kilo of body weight. At five to 10 cents per kilo (two cents per pound), this highly nutritious silage can eventually make the difference between poverty and a decent income for literally millions of the world’s dryland small farmers and herders. Typically, an adult sheep will consume 2-2.5 kilograms of silage every day, while a lamb of up to five months of age will consume 500-800 grams per day.  (Cattle will consume 10 times as much silage per day as sheep, approximately 25 kg per day.) Under the agave system for sheep and goats it costs approximately 20 pesos or one dollar a pound (live weight) to produce what is worth, at ongoing market rates for non-organic mutton or goat, 40 pesos or two dollars per pound. (Certified organic lamb, mutton, or goat will bring in 25-50 percent more). In ongoing experiments in San Miguel de Allende, pigs and chickens have remained healthy and productive with fermented agave forage providing 25% of their diet, reducing feed costs considerably.

The bountiful harvest of this regenerative, high-biomass, high carbon-sequestering system includes not only extremely low-cost, nutritious animal forage (up to 100 tons or more per hectare per year of fermented silage, starting in years three-five, averaged out over ten years), but also high-quality organic lamb, mutton, cheese, milk, aquamiel (agave sap), pulque (a mildly alcoholic beverage), inulin (a nutritional supplement), and distilled agave liquor (mescal), all produced organically with no synthetic chemicals or pesticides whatsoever, at affordable prices, with excess agave biomass fiber, and bagasse available for textiles, compost, biochar, construction materials, and bioethanol.

Regenerative Economics: The Bottom Line

In order to motivate a critical mass of impoverished farmers and ranchers struggling to make a living in the degraded drylands of Mexico, or in any of the arid and semi-arid areas in the world, to adopt this system, it is necessary to have a strong economic incentive.  There absolutely must be economic rewards, both short term and long term, in terms of farm income, if we expect rapid adoption of this system. Fortunately, the agave/mesquite agroforestry system provides this, starting in year three and steadily increasing each year thereafter, producing large amounts of low-cost silage to feed to their livestock and a steady and growing revenue stream from selling their surplus pencaspinas, and silage from their farm or communal lands (ejidos).

Given that these farmers have little or no operating capital, there needs to be a system to provide financing (loans and grants) and technical assistance to deploy this regenerative system and maintain it over the crucial 5-year initiation period. Based upon a decade of implementation and experimentation, we estimate that this agave agroforestry system will cost approximately $1300 US dollars per year, per hectare to establish and maintain, averaged out over a ten-year period. See chart below. By year five, however this system will be able to pay out initial operating loans (upfront costs in years one or one through five are much higher than in successive years) and begin to generate a net profit.

The overwhelming majority of Mexican dryland farmers, as noted previously, have no wells for irrigation (86%) and make little no money (90%) from their subsistence agriculture practices (raising corn, beans, and squash and livestock). Although the majority of rural smallholders are low-income or impoverished, they do however typically own their own (family or self-built) houses and farm sheds or buildings as well as title or ownership to their own parcels of land, typically five hectares (12 acres) or less, as well as their livestock. And beyond their individual parcels, three million Mexican families are also joint owners of communal lands or ejidos, which constitute 56% of total national agricultural lands (103 million hectares or 254 million acres).  Ejidos arose out the widespread land reform and land redistribution policies following the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20. Large landholdings or haciendas were broken up and distributed to small farmers and rural village organizations, ejidos.

Unfortunately, most of the lands belonging to Mexico’s 28,000 communal landholding ejidos are arid or semi-arid with no wells or irrigation. But being an ejido member does give a family access and communal grazing (some cultivation) rights to the (typically overgrazed) ejido or village communally-owned land. Some ejidos including those in the drylands are quite large, encompassing 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) or more. In contrast to farmers in the US or the rest of the world, most of these Mexican dryland or ejido farmers have little or no debt. For many their bank account is their livestock, which they sell as necessary to pay for out of the ordinary household and personal expenses. As noted earlier, most Mexican farmers today subsist on the income from off-farm jobs by family members, and remittances sent home from family members working in the US or Canada. They understand first hand that climate change and degraded soils are making it nearly impossible for them to grow their traditional milpas (raising corn, beans, and squash during the rainy season) or raise healthy livestock for family consumption and sales. Most are aware that their livestock often cost them as much labor and money to raise (or more) than their value for family subsistence or their value in the marketplace.

Mexico has a total of 2400 municipios or counties located in 32 states. Across Mexico small farmers are already cultivating agave in 1000 municipios and nine states, harvesting piñas for mescal production. None of these areas, however, except for Hacienda Zamarippa in San Luis de la Paz, and Via Organica (and surrounding ejidos) in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, are currently harvesting pencas or agave leaf to produce fermented silage for livestock. However, as the word spreads about the incredible value of pencas and the agave/mesquite agroforestry developing in the state of Guanajuato, farmers in most of the nation’s edijos and municipios will be interested in deploying this system in their areas.

With modest start-up financing, operating capital, and technical assistance (much of which can be farmer-to-farmer training), a critical mass of Mexican smallholders will be able to benefit enormously from establishing this agave-based agroforestry and livestock management system on their private parcels, and benefit even more by collectively deploying this system with their other ejido members on communal lands. With the ability to generate a net income up to $6-12,000 US per year/per hectare of fermented agave silage (and lamb/sheep/livestock production) on their lands, low maintenance costs after initial deployment, and with production steadily increasing three to five years after implementation, this agave system has the potential to spread all across Mexico (and all the arid and semi-arid drylands of the world.)  As tens of thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of small farmers and farm families start to become self-sufficient in providing 100% of the feed and nutrition for their livestock, dryland farmers will have the opportunity to move out of poverty and regenerate household and rural community economies, restoring land fertility and essential ecosystem services at the same time.

The extraordinary characteristic of this agave agroforestry system is that it generates almost immediate rewards. Starting from seedlings or agave shoots, (hijuelos they are called) in year three in the 8-13-year life-span of these agaves, farmers can begin to prune and harvest the lower plant leaves or pencas from these agaves (pruning approximately 20% of leaf biomass every year starting in year three) and start to produce tons of nutritious fermented animal feed/silage. Individual agave leaves or pencas from a mature plant can weigh more than 20 kilos or 45 pounds each.

Because the system requires no inputs or chemicals, the meat, milk, or forage produced can readily be certified organic, likely increasing its wholesale value in the marketplace. In addition the piñas or plant stem from 2000 agave plants (one hectare) with an average piña per plant of 150-200 kg (3 pesos or 15 cents US per KG) can generate a one-time revenue of $45,000-60,000 US dollars) at the final harvest of the agave plant, when all remaining leaves and stem are harvested. But even as agaves are completely harvested at the end of their 8-13-year life span, other agave seedlings or hijuelos (shoots) of various ages which have steadily been planted alongside side them will maintain the same level of biomass and silage production. In a hectare of 2,000 agave plants, approximately 72,000 hijuelos or new baby plants (averaging 36 per mother plant) will be produced over a ten-year period. These 72,000 baby plants (ready for transplanting) have a current market value over a ten-year period of 12 Mexico pesos (60 cents US) each or $43,200 US ($4,320 US per year).

Financing the Agave-Based Agroforestry System

Although Mexico’s dryland small-holders are typically debt-free, they are cash poor. To establish and maintain this system, as the chart below indicates, they will need approximately $1300 US dollars a year per hectare ($466 per acre) for a total cost over 10 years at $13,047.  Starting in year five, each hectare should be generating $10,000 worth of fermented silage or foraje per year.

By year five, farmers deploying the system will be generating enough income from silage production and livestock sales to pay off the entire 10-year loan. From this point on they will become economically self-sufficient, and, in fact, will have the opportunity to become moderately prosperous. Pressure to overgraze communal lands will decrease, as will the pressure on rural people to migrate to cities or to the US and Canada. Meanwhile massive amounts of atmospheric carbon will have begun to be sequestered above ground and below ground, enabling many of Mexico’s 2400 counties (municipalidades) to reach net zero carbon emissions. In addition, other ecosystem services will improve, including reduced topsoil erosion, more rainfall/water retention in soils, more soil organic matter, increased tree and shrub cover, increased biodiversity (above ground and below ground), restoration of grazing areas, and increased soil fertility.

Natural Carbon Sequestration in Regenerated Soils and Plants

Mexico, like every nation, has an obligation, under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) through converting to renewable forms of energy (especially solar and wind) and energy conservation, at the same time, drawing down excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing, through the process of enhanced forest and plant photosynthesis, this “drawdown” carbon in its biomass, roots, and soil. Agave-based agroforestry (2000 agave plants per hectare) as a perennial system, with the capacity of agave plants to produce 135 kg. per plant of dry weight biomass per hectare over 10 years, can store aboveground approximately 73.6 tons of carbon per hectare (30 tons per acre) over a ten- year period, on a continuous basis, not counting the carbon stored by companion trees or shrubs such as mesquite and acacias. In terms of above ground (and below ground) carbon/carbon dioxide sequestration capacity over 10 years (i.e. 74 tons carbon per year per hectare or 270 tons of CO2e), this system, maintained as a polyculture with continuous perennial growth, is among the most soil regenerative on earth, especially considering the fact that it can be deployed in harsh arid and semi-arid climates, on degraded land, basically overgrazed and unsuitable for growing crops, with no irrigation or chemical inputs required whatsoever. In Mexico, where 60% of all farmlands or rangelands are arid or semi-arid, this system has the capacity to sequester 100% of the nation’s current Greenhouse Gas emissions (590 million tons of CO2e) if deployed on approximately 1.1% or 2.185 million hectares (2000 agaves and 500 mesquites) of the nation’s total lands (197 million hectares). Communally-owned ejido lands in Mexico alone account for more than 100 million hectares. The largest eco-system restoration project in recent until now has been the decade-long restoration of the Loess Plateau (1.5 million hectares) in north-central China in the 1990s.

In a municipalidad or county like San Miguel de Allende, Mexico covering 1,537 Km2 (153,700 hectares) with estimated annual Greenhouse Gas emissions of 654,360 t/CO2/yr (178,300 t/C/yr) the agave/mesquite agroforestry system (sequestering 270 tons of CO2e above ground per hectare continuously after 10 years) would need to be deployed on approximately 2,423 hectares (5,986 acres) or 1.6% of the land in order to cancel out all current emissions. There are 2400 municipalidades or counties in Mexico, including 1000 that are already growing agave and harvesting the pinas for mescal.

In the watershed of Tambula Picachos in the municipality of San Miguel there are 39,022 hectares of rural land (mainly ejido land) in need of restoration (93.4% show signs of erosion, 53% with compacted soil). Deploying the agave/mesquite agroforestry on 2,423 hectares (6.2%) of this degraded land would be enough to cancel out all current emissions in the municipality of San Miguel.

The economic value of growing agave on this 2,423 hectares (including silage, pinas, and hijuelos) averaged out over 10 years would amount to roughly $47.7 million dollars US per year, a tremendous boost to the economy. In comparison, San Miguel de Allende, one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico (with 1.3 visitors annually) brings in one billion dollars a year from tourism, it’s number one revenue generator.

Above ground Carbon Sequestration Figures

 

APPENDIX

Global Alliance for Organic Districts: Scaling Up Organic Agriculture

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient local food systems that promote healthy people, environmental stewardship and a strong local economy. Lobbying governments around the world to adopt and support organic regenerative farming practices is paramount to establishing and maintaining local food systems and access to healthy food. 

During these trying times, Regeneration International (RI) has remained steadfast in its efforts to spread the word about organic regenerative agriculture to local governments, municipalities, cities and regions worldwide.

Our latest endeavor includes participating in the virtual launch of the first Global Alliance for Organic Districts (GAOD), an alliance announced on World Food Day 2020 between Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) and the International Network of Eco Regions (I.N.N.E.R.). 

The goal is for the initiative to create synergy between groups working to promote organic regenerative agriculture across the globe. It’s supported by several founding member organizations including RI, IFOAM Organics International, IFOAM Organics Asia and the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines (LOAMCP).

RI’s role in the alliance is to promote and highlight soil health as the most effective tool to curb climate change while providing local communities with nutrient-dense food. 

GAOD and its partners also joined and have voiced their support for the 4Per1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, a project launched in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. 

The initiative provides an international framework on how to demonstrate the role of agriculture and healthy soil in addressing food security and climate change. 

The project recently launched a strategic plan to use carbon-rich soil to stop climate change and end world hunger by 2050, and by 2030 the project aims to: 

“. . . provide a supportive framework and action plan to conceptualize, implement, promote and follow up actions, on soil health and soil carbon, through an enhanced collaboration between stakeholders of the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

During the virtual online summit, GAOD’s co-president Salvatore Basile expressed his gratitude  and acknowledged the importance of the 4Per1000 Initiative to provide a framework on agricultural climate mitigation for local policymakers worldwide. He said: 

“From this day, we will promote the potential of organic regenerative agriculture to mitigate climate and build resilient local economies to mitigate the growing environmental threats global communities are facing.”

In a video message aired at the online event, Paul Luu, an agronomist specialized in tropical agronomy and executive secretary of the 4Per1000 Initiative, thanked GAOD, ALGOA and I.N.N.E.R. for becoming members of the project.

“This is an important and strong signal to local authorities to encourage and promote carbon sequestration in soils through appropriate agriculture and forestry practices. Agroecology will remain a mere concept if no farmer or forester implement appropriate practices in their fields or forests and if local authorities do not work to create an enabling environment for such practices.” 

Through the work happening on-the-ground at Via Organica, the Mexico-based sister organization of the Organic Consumers Association, RI will provide GAOD’s 4Per1000 task force groups with insights for implementing localized agriculture designed to mitigate climate change. 

The project at Via Organica, based in San Miguel de Allende, provides training to local communities on how to reforest landscapes with the planting of mesquite (which has nitrogen-fixing capacities) and agave, which has tremendous power to grow in extreme dryland conditions while sequestering huge amounts of carbon with its increased biomass. 

The agave then gets converted into a low-cost animal feed for local sheepherders who practice holistic grazing methods. 

A recently published [LINK] video featuring RI’s Latin America Director Ercilia Sahores and Francisco Peyret, the environment director for the city San Miguel de Allende, showcases the innovative agave-mesquite model. 

“We want to implement the goals of the ‘4Per1000’ Initiative, and this means taking action. This year, we are planting 2,000 hectares [of agave and mesquite] and we have 20,000 hectares that we want to convert into productive and regenerate areas,” said Pevret.

The agave planting project and the work being done at Via Organica has inspired officials in the  Guanajuato government to launch their own pilot project. 

In the featured video, Sahores said: 

“Change happens at the local level, and that is from where we need to act and gather our forces. GAOD and the RI network can have a greater influence on public policies, bringing to evidence that the health of food and climate are one.”

 RI’s participation in the ALGOA/GAOD summit contributed to a working group that includes participants from every continent on the globe to discuss the main challenges for scaling up regenerative agriculture.

The working group identifies what the challenges are, how they can be overcome and what GAOD can do to assist in that mission. 

We found that many of these needs are universal, including access to land, fair compensation for farmers to maintain and regenerate ecosystems, consumer awareness, and training on regenerative agriculture practices.

Stay tuned for more updates on the global regeneration front. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. 

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The Long-Term Disaster Far Worse than the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is a long-term disaster far worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic will end in a few years; however, the world will lose many millions more to sickness, hunger, poverty and catastrophic weather events because of the unprecedented climate emergency.

The world reached a record of 417.2 parts per million of carbon dioxide (ppm CO2)  in the atmosphere in May 2020 – the most in over 3 million years.

A study published in May 2019 shows that if we don’t succeed in radically reducing emissions, civilization could collapse by 2050. As reported by the New York Post, the authors of the report say: 

“This scenario provides a glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it, in which the challenges to global security are simply overwhelming and political panic becomes the norm.

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 carbon dioxide and store it in the soil. The soil holds almost three times 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. 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 more than 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 is 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. We are on track to shoot far 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. 

Despite the global economic shut down as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic CO2 levels still set a new record of 417.2 ppm in May 2020. This is a massive increase in emissions per year since the Paris Agreement 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 peer reviewed research published by Rohling et al. in the scientific journal, Nature Geoscience, the last time the world had 380 ppm, was 3.0–3.5 Million years ago. Temperatures were between 5 to 16 C warmer (9 – 28.8 F) and sea levels were 20 to 30 meters higher (65 to 100 ft) There was a mass extinction event around that period.

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises. The world will continue to heat up because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2 levels to drop naturally.

Global sea level rise will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal USA, New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Dar es Salam and other low-lying cities and regions to go underwater. 

According to the latest report by Spratt and Dunlop, sea level rise and droughts and floods will cause a huge crisis for over a billion people by 2050, throwing our civilization into chaos. A peer-reviewed paper by Kulp et al. Nature Communications shows that sea level rises will cause a huge refugee crisis for 340 million people by 2050.

The world cannot cope with a few million refugees from Africa, Central America and the Middle East. How do we cope with hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be widespread conflict over food, water and land.

The United Nations Paris Agreement proposes net CO2 neutrality by 2050. The evidence shows this will be too late to stop the enormous damage of catastrophic climate change. At the current rate of emissions there would be close to 500 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The fact is we are in a serious climate emergency now. We must speed up the transition to renewable energy, stop the clearing of all forests and we have to make a great effort to drawdown CO2  in the atmosphere to the pre industrial level of 280 ppm.

Reversing climate change

Four hundred and seventeen ppm is way past the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems would have to draw down 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. We have to draw down more than this to reduce the levels of CO2 in order to regenerate our climate and prevent a catastrophic climate emergency.

The potential of three best-practice regenerative agriculture systems

There are numerous regenerative farming systems that can sequester CO2  from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and turn it into soil organic matter through the actions of the roots and soil biology or the soil microbiome. 

We don’t have time to waste on farming systems that only sequester small amounts of CO2. We need to concentrate on scaling up systems that can achieve high levels of sequestration. The simple back of the envelope calculations used for the three examples below are a good exercise to show the considerable potential of these best-practice regenerative systems to reverse the climate emergency.

Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management (BEAM)

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 and yields. 

Research published 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 are currently being 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, including arid and semi arid regions. If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2 per year.

The Johnson-Su composting method creates compost teeming with microorganisms that improve soil health and plant growth and increase the soil’s potential to sequester carbon.

 

Potential of “No Kill No Till”

Singing Frogs Farm is a highly productive “No Kill No Till” richly biodiverse organic, agro-ecological horticulture farm on three acres. The key to their no-till system is to cover the planting beds with mulch and compost instead of plowing them or using herbicides, and planting directly into the compost, along with a high biodiversity of cash and cover crops that are continuously rotated to break weed, disease and pest cycles.

According to Chico State University, they have increased the soil organic matter (SOM) levels by 400 percent in six years. The Kaisers have increased their SOM from 2.4 percent to an optimal 7-8 percent with an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year. This farming system is applicable to more than 80 percent of farmers around the world as the majority of farmers have less than two hectares or five acres. 

If the Singing Frog farm was extrapolated globally across arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 179 Gt of CO2 per year.

The 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 these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 68 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 found: 

“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.”

That means 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.

Regenerative grazing systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Ending the climate emergency

Transitioning a small proportion of global agricultural production to these 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.

Ten percent of smallholder farms across arable and permanent crop lands using Singing Frog Farm’s “No Kill No Till” systems could sequester 18 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 46.5 Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil which is more than the amount of sequestration needed to draw down 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 emergency and we need every tool in the toolbox 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. 

Most importantly, this needs to be scaled up through proven farmer-to-farmer training systems. The evidence shows that these types of peer-to-peer systems are the most effective way to increase adoption of best practices.

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 | CC-BY 4.0 Open Access | rec: 13 Jan 2015, publ: 13 Jan 2015

Jones C, (2009) Adapting farming to climate variability, Amazing Carbon.

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

Kulp SA & Strauss BH (2019), New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding, Nature Communications, (2019)10:4844.

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

Rohling EJ, K. Grant, M. Bolshaw, A. P. Roberts, M. Siddall, Ch. Hemleben and M. Kucera (2009) Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles, Nature Geoscience, advance online publication.

Spratt D and Dunlop I, 2019, Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approachBreakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, Australia, May 2019 Updated 11 June 2019

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

Global Agricultural Land Figures

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 Hectares (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) 

Singing Frogs Farm Calculations

The Kaisers have managed to increase their soil organic matter from 2.4% to an optimal 7-8% in just six years, an average increase of about 3/4 of a percentage point per year (Elizabeth Kaiser Pers. Com. 2018 and Chico State University https://www.csuchico.edu/regenerativeagriculture/demos/singing-frogs.shtml)

“An increase of 1% in the level of soil carbon in the 0-30cm soil profile equates to

sequestration of 154 tCO2/ha if an average bulk density of 1.4 g/cm3” (Jones C. 2009)

3/4 % OM = 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare (115,500 pounds an acre per year)

This system can be used on arable and permanent crop lands. Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares plus Permanent crops: 153,733,800 Hectares = 1,550,108,100 Hectares

Extrapolated globally across arable and permanent crop lands it would sequester 179 Gt of CO2/yr (1,550,108,100 Hectares x 115.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare = 179,037,485,550 metric tons)

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)

Trails of Regeneration: Agroforestry Works With Nature, Uses Trees to Grow Food

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – In our latest “Trails of Regeneration” episode, we explore the roots of agroforestry and how industrial agriculture has pushed aside ancient farming practices that produce healthy food while also caring for the environment. 

The old saying “nature knows best” rings true when it comes to agriculture. Working with nature instead of against it is a mindset that dates back early in human history when farmers relied on ancestral knowledge and traditions to grow food. 

Our new episode, “Agroforestry Today Part 1: A Brief History of Agroforestry,” features Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre and president of the European Agroforestry Federation.

Agroforestry is a form of agriculture that incorporates trees and shrubs with food crops. It puts nature first and is one of the most ancient forms of farming. Agroforestry considers the natural landscape and the integration of trees to create a food system with environmental, social and economic benefits. 

Worms has spent decades researching and developing agroforestry systems around the world. He is one of a handful of political and scientific agroforestry lobbyists in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe where he lends his expertise on agricultural policies.

Agroforestry: The art of reading a landscape to enhance agricultural productivity 

In a Zoom interview with Regeneration International, Worms explained how the introduction of modern technology in the agricultural sectorthink pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and farming equipment such as tractors, plows and combineshas in many ways brought thousands of years of agricultural evolution using trees to a standstill. 

The bright side is that as the limitations of industrialized agriculture become more obvious, we are rediscovering the wisdom of ancient agroforestry knowledge, said Worms. 

At the World Agroforestry Centre, Worms is working on new ways to implement agroforestry systems worldwide and in regions faced with food shortages and the impacts of climate change and desertification. 

Trees have proven to be an important resource through human history. Trees provide food and fuel, help fertilize soils and protect farmland from pests, diseases and extreme weather conditions. 

Combining trees, shrubs and grasses with food crops and livestock creates a functional ecosystem that’s efficient at producing a variety of healthy foods. In the featured video, Worms explains that natural landscapes where fruits and grasses grow together almost always have trees in them. 

Farmers learned early on the benefits of growing food alongside trees

Farmers who saved and planted seeds harvest after harvest learned early on that trees are beneficial when grown with certain food crops, said Worms. A good example of this exists in the high plateaus of Papua New Guinea, an island researchers believe is where the banana was first domesticated

Humans first settled in Papua New Guinea about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Despite the cool-to-cold climate, agriculture was in full swing in the region’s highlands by 7,000 B.C. The environment, dotted with swamps and rich in flora and fauna, helped make it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. 

Early foods systems such as those in Papua New Guinea are prime examples of ancient agroforestry, said Worms, adding: 

“If you look at those landscapes, they are typical agroforestry landscapes with multi-strata gardens, annuals on the ground, vines climbing along with trees, mid-level shrubs and taller trees with animals and crops in between.”

Agroforestry is practiced throughout ancient human history

Examples of agroforestry systems span the globe throughout human history. From the domestication of the cacao tree in Central and Latin America, to the fig treewhich originated in southwest Asia and is one of the oldest fruits eaten by humansagroforestry systems have produced some of today’s most popular foods.

Early humans that practiced agroforestry developed successful farming systems not because they had scientists in white lab coats, but because they had a constant process of trial and error. The good things were adopted and passed on, and the bad things were abandoned, said Worms, adding: 

“But modernity has swept that away. Knowledge that was painstakingly gained by millennia of our ancestors has completely disappeared.”

Replacing farming practices based on thousands of years of ancestral knowledge with chemical-dependent industrial agriculture has degraded the soil, eliminated biodiversity, stripped food of essential nutrients and enslaved and indebted farmers to major agriculture corporations. 

The good news is that a return to agroforestry and the scaling up of organic and regenerative agriculture systems can reverse the damage caused by industrial agriculture. 

Environmentally focused food and farming systems can improve the social and economic livelihood of farmers, rebuild soil health, promote biodiversity and clean watersheds, produce healthy food and mitigate climate change by drawing down and storing carbon in the soil. 

As Food Tank: The Think Tank For Food wrote so eloquently in October: 

“If we are going to protect our planet and keep healthy food on our table, agroecology is the way forward.”

To learn more about agroforestry and some of today’s best practices, stay tuned for the next episode, “Agroforestry Today P 2: Today’s Good Practices,” in this two-part series.

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. Julie Wilson, communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), contributed to this article.

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