Geoengineering: Pseudoscience at COP23

Imagine this: You’re at a secluded space with 25,000 people from all over the world. This space has been created exclusively for the purpose of hosting an international meeting. Once you leave, this space will be dismantled and there will be no trace of its existence.

To enter this space, you need a special badge. To obtain this badge you need to follow a number of steps that include providing copious amounts of personal information and eventually, if you fulfill all the requirements, you’ll be granted a pass.

Once you arrive to this space, you have to follow strict security measures to enter, but once there, you’re provided with everything you may need: an arguably secure Internet connection, colorful stall bathrooms with signs that indicate the correct position to sit on the toilet, a water bottle that can be refilled at any of the water stations that have been set up, really expensive food with up to 20% of organic ingredients guaranteed and multiple outlets to plug in your phone or computer. You also find a computer center with printers, screens indicating the gazillion panels and side events happening simultaneously at the space, and plenty of sandwiches, canapés, coffee and even sometimes wine or cocktails—depending on the time of the day—given to you for free by event organizers with the only condition that you do attend their event.

There is a blue zone (here Bula zone, the most common way to greet in Fiji, the country that co-hosts this event) and a green zone (in this case the Bonn zone). People move in waves from the blue zone, where official negotiations take place to the green zone where side events and some high-level meetings happen.

In the middle of these two areas, which for practical and visual purposes I’ll call cyan, you can stand for hours watching thousands of people from all nationalities, languages, cultures and ethnicities moving back and forth, trying to get a meeting with their country delegation, finding the meeting space where the best side event connected to their area of work or interest is, and lobbying governments or high level delegations to buy their latest idea to either mitigate or adapt to the inevitable: a warming planet.

All of this at a sterilized space that doesn’t let the very cold air from outside be felt or street smells or sounds to permeate. A space filled with screens, talking computers and lights, and virtual reality displays that makes it look like a scene from  Blade Runner—the original one.

All these people have gathered with one purpose: limit the rise of temperatures below 2°C. They are aware of the fact that changes in climate are taking the elevator, and solutions and actions are taking the stairs. Perhaps the lack of enforcement and mandatory systems in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is part of the reason why this is happening? Or could it be the lack of appropriate and sufficient investment and funding in projects devoted to regenerating the system instead of degenerating it by producing, consuming and extracting the old way?

Whatever the reason, the thousands of people in the green, blue and cyan zones are afraid. And fear, as we know, is a bad adviser, mainly because it opens the door to those who come with magical solutions, pseudoscience, and smoke and mirrors, those who are often the ones who created the problem in the first place.

At COP23, which was held in Bonn, Germany from Nov. 6 – 17, those smoke and mirrors were known as geoengineering. Geoengineering proposals were covered in detail in the newspaper offered at COP. A particularly interesting article caught my attention. The title: “Risky last-minute options.” It compared Plan B (geoengineering) to a course of chemotherapy with high risks. Some of the examples for this Plan B, as addressed in the article, are the use of mirrors (positioned in near-Earth space, these mirrors will reflect the rays of the sun back into space), global reforestation, chemical substances (mostly sulphur, distributed by aircrafts in the upper echelons of the atmosphere to cool the Earth by reflecting the sunlight), white house roofs and roads, and redirecting the CO2 from fossil power plants into the Earth’s crust so that over time it converts into rock.

A delegation sent by the United States, a country that has withdrawn from the Paris agreement but knows big business when it sees it, was the strongest advocate for this science fiction, Plan B type of solutions. It makes sense that the United States would seek geoengineering as a financial opportunity and a way to continue emitting even when they know it is nothing but a dangerous patch that doesn’t attack the root causes of the problem.

But there was even more. I turned the official newspaper pages and found articles talking about another solution. I walked by the green, cyan and blue zones and saw booths with information about it. I attended panels and people discussed it. I heard it in the hallways as well. People were talking about Beccs. Beccs, or Bioenergy with Carbon Capture Storage, seems like the less crazy of the science fiction strategies. Except that it comes with a very high cost. What it does is it captures carbon from the air by growing trees, burning those trees to generate energy, and burying the emissions using carbon capture and storage. For the whole scheme to work, trees have to be replanted to continue the cycle.

This technology and all of its potential profitability is sponsored by ______ (fill in the blanks with the name of your favorite extractive corporation).

What are the potential effects of Beccs? This “technology” would cover acres with monoculture plantations, ruining woodland biodiversity and its capacity to suck carbon. It has been estimated that for Beccs to generate the necessary amount of negative emissions to hit 1.5C, 5 million square kilometers of land would be needed. It would imply waiting for years to have the replacement trees ready to be burned and, fundamentally, it would displace millions of farmers and indigenous populations from their lands that would now be used as tree farmlands for burning creating more poverty, forced migration and food insecurity. Nothing that we haven’t seen before.

Clearly, human beings have a hard time thinking long term. Long term isn’t sexy or profitable, and doesn’t result in political electoral benefits. We created this spaces where we could make ourselves feel a little bit better about what we’re doing for future generations and pat each other on the back before we headed home, before this bubble where we coexisted for two weeks disappears and things become less urgent, and the planet is no longer in the spotlight.

But if we continue this way, if we don’t change the root causes of the problem, then this story will end soon. Perhaps it’s time for us to start writing our own novel, one where the main characters are those who have for centuries been neglected and persecuted.

A story that tells the tales of the many people who are, every day, doing something to better our planet, from regenerating the soils to creating more efficient and sustainable means of transportation, from defending biodiversity at the cost of risking or sacrificing their own lives, to those who are investing their time, minds and money to come up with real, non-threatening, holistic solutions that can solve the problem.

This, my friends, is not science fiction. This is something that’s happening all over the world and is happening now. It’s time for us to record, write and propagate this story. A story with deep, rich roots that go deep into the ground. A story that also sequesters carbon.

Ercilia Sahores is political director for Organic Consumers Association – Mexico, and a representative of Regeneration International.

Regeneration International: Report and Lessons from COP23

Regeneration International (RI) sent a small delegation to the COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. Our delegation consisted of: a German-French, an English-French, a Zimbabwean and an Argentine. What sounds like the beginning of a joke—a German, an Englishman, a Zimbabwean and an Argentine walk into a bar—turned out to be a great combination of different skill sets, languages, cultures, experiences . . . and lots of porridge for breakfast.

The RI team set off for the COP23 Climate Summit with a clear mission and some concrete goals:

  1. To film and document experiences of best practitioners and official delegations pushing for a regenerative agenda and for initiatives looking to better the soil, health and livelihood of communities.
  2. To organize side events focused on the role of women in fighting climate change.
  3. To follow closely the official negotiations related to agriculture.
  4. To participate in the 4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative day to learn more about the initiative and how we can help facilitate democratic, inclusive participation in its constituency.
  5. To organize an informal gathering, outside the COP23 venue, for farmers, producers, activists, policymakers and media.
  6. To document positive outcomes that could signal progress from previous COPs, but also to identify red flags, setbacks and potential threats.

We’re pleased to report that we obtained some good results:

  1. Filming and documenting. RI interviewed Barbara Hachipuka Banda, from Shumei, who teaches small scale women-farmers about “natural agriculture,” covered a story on how millions of farmers are using trees to regenerate vast swaths of land across Africa, talked to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Ethiopia about Ecosystem Restoration, and discussed the fundamental issue of the supersized climate footprint of Big meat and Dairy.
  2. Organization of side events. RI co-organized, with WECAN, side events where grassroots and indigenous women leaders shared their experiences, actions and defense of forests and biodiversity, their advocacy for regeneration and agroecological implementation, their resistance against fossil fuels and their defense, in every place and time, of rights of nature.

  1. Strong participation in 4 p 1000 meetings. RI attended the 4 per 1000 Initiative’s second Meeting of the Forum in Bonn on November 16, 2017. (We also attended the first meeting, held in November last year at the COP22 summit in Marrakesh, and a funding meeting in Meknes, Morocco, in April 2016. Our reports are here and here.

The mission of the 4 per 1000 Initiative, according to its website, is “to help member countries and organizations to develop projects, actions and programs based on scientific knowledge that lead to the protection and increase of stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC) at an ideal rate of 4/100 (0.4%) per year.”

This most recent meeting included a high-level segment in the morning, with agricultural ministers from several countries, including: the new French Minister (in a clear gesture from the new French government of the continuation of French support to the initiative); Spain, one of the biggest financial allies in support of the initiative; and Hungary and Tunisia. FAO Director Eduardo Mansur, UNCCD lead scientist Barron Orr, and several others also spoke at the meeting.

Highlights from the 4 per 1000 meeting include:

  • Familiarization with the research priorities of the 4 per 1000 Scientific and Technical Committee, which include a focus on soil organic carbon sequestration and its role in reducing global climate change, how to estimate SOC storage potential, the development of management practices, and how to monitor, report and verify results.
  • The committee has also developed a set of reference criteria and indicators to assess regenerative projects identified by members of the consortium, which could eventually qualify for funding so that they can be improved and expanded.
  • Unveiling of the new 4 per 1000 website which includes more information on the role and structure of the consortium of governance of the initiative, the forum of partners, the scientific and technical committee, and ways to participate. 
  1. Co-Organization of “Speed up the Cool Down” event. On November 15, Biovision, IFOAM Organics International, Shumei International, Terra Genesis International and RI organized a Speed up the Cool Down event. Over 50 people, including farmers, climate justice activists, indigenous and women’s rights advocates, agroecologists, and the growing regenerative agriculture movement came together at IFOAM Organics International Headquarters to learn and collaborate on ways to reverse climate change.

The event allowed RI to provide a positive communication space for a growing network of regenerators who are putting carbon back into the ground and doing it in a sustainable and natural way using organic regenerative farming and land-use practices.

   

Positive outcomes, potential threats

 As with past climate summits, COP23 revealed what’s going right with the climate movement, and what’s not—the proverbial case of the good, the bad (or in this case, neutral) and the ugly.

We identified a few positive (“the good”) outcomes, including:

  1. Adoption of the Koroniva Joint Work on Agriculture. After COP 17 brought agriculture into the negotiations, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advance (SBSTA), a technical body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was asked to give recommendations on agriculture during in-session workshop and meetings.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture will work with the SBSTA and the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body of Implementation (the SBI) to address issues related to agriculture, so that the issue of agriculture as a climate solution moves beyond the scientific and technical aspects to implementation.

The focus of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture includes:

  • Modalities for implementing the outcomes of the in-session workshops organized over the past years.
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience.
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management.
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.
  • Improved livestock management systems.
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in agriculture.

RI will join countries, stakeholders and other observer organizations in submitting recommendations before the next session of subsidiary bodies in April-May 2018.

  1. Creation of the Tanaloa Dialogue. This is a space created in Bonn to give room to inclusive and participatory processes that allow governments, civil society, private sector and researchers to share stories and showcase best practices on how to raise the bar for nationally determined contributions (NCDs). This could turn out to be a positive development, depending on how it’s implemented and whether the private sector attempts to co-op it.
  2. Adoption of a gender platform. This platform, which includes a gender action plan and a local communities and indigenous peoples platform, was operationalized with the goal to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices, and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to address climate change.
  3. Syria joined the Paris Climate Accord. That makes the U.S. the only country in the world to opt out of the global climate agreement.

In addition to the above “good” outcomes, we observed a few that were a bit more on the “neutral” side, including:

  1. U.S. mayors, cities and states pledge to support the Climate Agreement. In a public rebuke of Trump’s withdrawal, they made the hashtag #wearestill a viral sensation at COP23. Their pavilion, one of the largest ones at the summit (in keeping with U.S. tradition), hosted continuous talks and events. The downside? Major sponsors included Mars, Inc. and Walmart—not exactly pillars of the climate movement.
  2. China takes the lead. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. was considered a leader in the global climate movement. Now that the U.S. has withdrawn, China is at the helm of that ship.

And then, there’s the “ugly,” which we put in the “science fiction” portion of the COP23 program. Largely promoted by the U.S. lobby, military-like, risky climate “solutions,” such as geoengineering, popped up at almost every side event during the two-week summit.

So concerning is the geoengineering talk, that we devoted an entire article to it. Read our report on the impact these “solutions” could have on the planet and their potential for gaining traction, given their financial attractiveness to investors.

Ercilia Sahores is political director for the Organic Consumers Association – Mexico, and a representative of Regeneration International.

COP23 Overview: Climate Conference Tip-Toes Around Regenerative Agriculture as Solution to Global Warming

On November 6, the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicked off in Bonn, Germany, the nation’s former capital. Germany is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to pollution. It’s also the largest polluter in all of Europe. But Germany is not alone in the polluting business—and countries are not the only big polluters.

The world’s top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, according to a report published by GRAIN, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Let us briefly go back to COP23, where Big Meat and Dairy are also participating. Several statements have been made so far at the meeting and there have been a few surprises. Unfortunately, it seems that COP23 will not be particularly innovative, especially when it comes to agricultural policies.

COP23 started under the following premises:

  1. There is no time to waste and the Paris Agreement must be implemented as soon as possible.
  2. The climate disasters we experienced in 2017 (devastating hurricanes and floods, long droughts and extreme temperatures) are not isolated, random events. Rather, they’re directly connected to climate change and unless we do something about it, they’ll become more and more frequent.
  3. With or without the U.S. being part of the negotiations, those countries that have signed up must commit to reaching the goal of making sure warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally, 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  4. Rich countries must compensate poor countries, which are the most vulnerable to climate change, even when they have been the least responsible for it. The financial commitment agreed upon in Paris is now being reviewed to see if it is sufficient and adequate. It’s also crucial to determine how the funding that would have come from the U.S. will be covered once it officially leaves the agreement in 2020.

COP23 Surprises

  1. Syria, the only country that had not signed the Paris Climate Agreement after Nicaragua joined in late October, has finally agreed to be part of it. As a result, the U.S. has become increasingly more isolated as it’s now the only nation on Earth that does not recognize the agreement.
  2. The general mood (COP’s halls are usually the best place to get an idea of what people are really thinking about—beyond protocol) is that the U.S. government’s decision to leave the agreement has only created a stronger sense of solidarity among nations, which can now implement and lead the charge to reverse climate change. Many nations are competing to be the recipient of international recognition, as well as the distribution of copious amounts of funding, which in turn will pave the way for the creation of a number of agencies, departments and many other intermediate bodies.

COP23 As Usual:

  1. The negotiation of agreements behind closed doors while civil society organizations and NGOs host side events. This is a way to prove that during COPs, there is civil society participation, but without ever really having to compromise.
  2. Giving more relevance to controversial solutions to which much capital has already been invested and promised, such as geoengineering and nuclear energy. It’s not a coincidence that despite saying the U.S. will not be part of the negotiations, the Trump administration sent a team to COP23 to advocate for more fossil fuel use.
  3. Pushing existing projects that have proven effective for fighting climate change, but don’t seem to have the same financial incentive.
  4. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen so far, the negotiations seem to ignore regenerative agriculture as being the solution to climate change. While predictable, this is actually a greater setback than other COPs, which have at least mentioned agriculture, desertification and soil restoration as being key factors in reversing climate change.

Why agriculture?

As previously mentioned, last year the world’s top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases than all of Germany. Industrialized agriculture, which doesn’t account for the 500 plus million small farmers and 200 million herders that exist in the world, is a type of production that pollutes the atmosphere, our soils and waterways.

Industrialized agriculture has huge negative impacts on human health too. While producing and selling poison, Big Agriculture ruins not just local economies, but also the means of life and survival of thousands of farmers who rely on a healthy environment for their production.

At Regeneration International, we know that industrial agriculture is a critical part of the problem. But we also know that agriculture, done the right way or rather the regenerative way, is a fundamental part of the solution.

The conversations at COP23 would be entirely different if Big Meat and Dairy giants like Cargill, Tyson or JBS were held accountable for the health and environmental destruction they have caused—a significant portion of which has been funded by government subsidies.

COP23 negotiations could actually focus on real solutions if polluting corporations acknowledged their contribution to climate change, and transitioned away from chemical- and factory farm-based agriculture to a system focused on soil health, animal welfare, nutritious food and farmworker rights.

Instead, the negotiations have thus far focused on whether or not the Paris Agreement is achievable, a lack of funding and Trump’s latest insult. A genuine effort to hold polluting corporations accountable would shift the mood at COP23 from the same corporate rhetoric we so often hear to one centered on human health, environment and climate-related solutions.

Global Warming ‘Costing Taxpayers Billions.’ Here’s How to Fix It.

Another report sounding the alarm about climate change.

Another missed opportunity to talk about the most promising solution: regenerative agriculture.

The New York Times yesterday cited a new report by the notoriously conservative Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said “climate change is costing taxpayers billions.”

CNN also reported on the GAO study, which calls on Trump to “craft appropriate responses.”

The CNN coverage noted several initiatives to combat climate change undertaken under the Obama administration—the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis, and the Paris climate agreement, which saw almost every country agree to voluntary limits on future carbon emissions.

The current climate-denying Trump administration wants to scrap those and other climate initiatives, in favor of prioritizing corporate profits.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because once again, a major report on the costs—financial, social, environmental, political—of doing nothing to slow runaway global warming focuses exclusively on reducing carbon emissions.  The new report fails to mention that even if we achieved zero emissions tomorrow, we’re still in big trouble—unless we draw down and sequester the billions of tons of carbon already in the atmosphere.

Once again, a major report on global warming fails to acknowledge that we have the tools readily at our disposal to draw down that carbon. They are the regenerative agriculture and land-use practices outlined in a recent Stanford Woods Institute report, which says:

“If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could “significantly” offset increasing global emissions. They call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource.”

The federal government has no problem subsidizing—to the tune of $20 billion/year—GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a major role in making global warming worse.

But Congress wants to cut back on research that would help us improve soil health as a means of combating global warming?

Fortunately, other governments are incorporating “the soil solution” into their policies and plans to combat global warming. The most significant is France’s “4 for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015.

In the U.S., some states are taking steps of their own to enact regenerative agriculture policies, notably California, Vermont and Massachusetts.

If your state isn’t on the list, maybe it’s time to start building a Regeneration Movement in your own community?

We can no longer ignore our best hope for averting climate catastrophe. If federal lawmakers won’t acknowledge the soil solutiion, we need to make sure our local and state officials get on board.

The Seeds of Vandana Shiva

Meet Precious Phiri who spends her days teaching farmers in Zimbabwe how to mitigate climate change.
Specifically, she instructs them in holistic land management, a method that rejuvenates depleted water and degraded soil while drawing climate-changing C02 out of the atmosphere.
Originally trained by the Savory Institute, the enthusiastic Ms. Phiri explains that a cornerstone of holistic management is that eco-systems without animals create ecological imbalance. Grasslands, for example, deteriorate when the food chain that keeps them alive is disturbed. Deprived of a symbiotic relationship with ruminants, grass dies and then soil dies. And, in the process, climate-disrupting carbon discharges into the atmosphere.
It’s simple but not obvious: Ecosystems need both fauna and flora to thrive. Think of the oceans without whales or Yellowstone National Park without wolves. It’s the great web of life.
The phenomenon, sometimes described as a “trophic cascade,” is a biological process that flows between every part of the food chain.
Here Precious explains it:
Here’s another obvious but often-overlooked fact: Healthy humans come from healthy food that originates in healthy soil. And there is no way to support this synergy between our health and the biosphere in an industrial food system: Big Ag and Big Food disrupts precious water cycles, destroys biodiversity, pummels the biosphere with toxic pesticides, and imprisons innocent animals that should be on the land. This isn’t mere sentiment; it’s actually climate science.
In a regenerative world, it’s OK to eat meat, but if you’re going to do so, it’s imperative to transition to organic, grass-fed and free-range–and not in the quantities Big Ag and Big Food would have you do. Any other way and we are contributing to global warming, impacting our health and, by the way, engaging significantly in animal cruelty. Of course it’s more than OK to be vegan or vegetarian but, ecologically speaking, there is also an argument for conscious meat eating.
Vandana Shiva is vegetarian and also a founding member of Regeneration International, an organization that promotes and researches this stuff. Here’s a clip of her talking about the animals at her Navdanya farm.
And here are some books to read if you’d like to know more:
It’s a whole new world of hope for the environment, the climate and our own health. Perhaps the most hopeful story ever that too few people have heard.
P.S: About progress on our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story: We’ve just completed laying in additional dialogue, now we’re working on music and B-Roll. Onwards we go!
Please contribute to this next phase of our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story here: Every bit helps to get the film completed (and into your hands) sooner rather than later!

‘Four for 1000’: A Global Initiative to Reverse Global Warming Through Regenerative Agriculture and Land Use

“Four for 1000”: Burning Questions

Question One: What is the “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015?

Answer: “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” is a global plan and agreement to reverse global warming, soil degradation, deteriorating public health and rural poverty by scaling up regenerative food, farming and land use practices.

Under this Initiative, over the next 25 years, regenerative agriculture and large-scale ecosystem restoration can qualitatively preserve and improve soils, pastures, forests and wetlands while simultaneously drawing down (through enhanced plant photosynthesis) billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere, turning it into biomass and sequestering it in our soils.

In simplest terms, 4/1000 calls for the global community to draw down as much CO2 from the atmosphere as we’re currently emitting, and at the same time stop emitting other greenhouse gases.

Question Two: How many countries and regions of the world have signed on to the 4/1000 Initiative?

Answer: Approximately 40 countries and regions of the world have already signed on to the 4/1000 Initiative. Hundreds of grassroots civil society organizations also have signed on.

Proponents of 4/1000 expect most nations, regions and cities will sign on to the Initiative before the end of this decade, to meet their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Commitments) obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Countries already signed on include: France, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, and Uruguay.

Question Three: Does the 4/1000 Initiative propose that we can reverse global warming and feed the world without drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions?

Answer: No. The proponents of the 4/1000 Initiative believe that we need to achieve both zero fossil fuel emissions and maximum drawdown of excess CO2 from the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

Question Four: Why is this global Initiative called the “Four for 1000 Initiative?”

Answer: 4/1000 refers to the average percentage of soil carbon increase that we need to achieve every year for the next 25 years in order to stabilize the climate and reverse global warming.

A 4/1000 increase in the amount of carbon stored in global soils (currently 1.5-2.5 trillion tons, depending on how deep you measure the carbon) over the next 25 years, combined with zero fossil fuel emissions, will enable us to sequester enough additional carbon (150-250 billion tons, or 6-10 billion tons per year) in our soils and forests to bring the atmosphere back to the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm of CO2 required to stabilize the climate, increase soil fertility, improve public health, secure food sovereignty, reduce global strife, and reverse global warming.

Question Five: Is it really possible to achieve the 4/1000 carbon drawdown goal of sequestering 6-10 billion tons of carbon per year, and continuing this for the next 25 years?

Answer: Yes, it is possible for global regenerative food, farming and land use (including forestry) practices to sequester 6-10 billion tons of carbon per year. How do we know this? Because the earth’s 22 billion acres of farmland, pasture and forests—even in their currently degraded condition—are already sequestering a net 1.5 billion tons of carbon annually. And because millions of organic or transition-to-regenerative farmers and ranchers and—“best practitioners”—are already sequestering far more than 4/1000 percent in additional soil carbon every year. Some report sequestering as much as 600 times this amount.

Question Six: What are the respective roles of consumers, farmers and other sectors in moving to a regenerative system of food, farming and land use?

Answer: Regenerative food, farming and land use will require a radical transformation in consciousness and in purchasing habits among a critical mass of 3-4 billion food and fiber consumers in the global North and the South.

On a global scale, consumers will need to move away from purchasing trillions of dollars of chemical, GMO and energy-intensive industrial agriculture foods, including meat, dairy and poultry from factory farms, and highly processed and packaged foods. Consumers also will need to eliminate food waste.

Reversing climate change and feeding the world will also require a transformation in production practices by a critical mass of the world’s 500 million small farmers, 200 million herders and 50 million large farmers. Regenerative farming methods include: holistic management and planned rotational grazing of livestock; cover-cropping; no-till practices; agro-forestry; diverse crop rotations, including integrating livestock grazing; use of compost, manure and biochar; and use of deeper-rooting plants and perennials. Synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and GMO monocultures are not included in regenerative farming methods.

Forest and fishing communities, homeowners and the approximately one billion urban food producers, gardeners and landscape managers also have a major role to play in the transition to regenerative agriculture and land-management system.

Question Seven: Is regenerative food and farming the same as organic, agro-ecological farming or rotational grazing?

Answer: No. Most practitioners of organic, agro-ecological and rotational grazing methods, certified or not, can be described as “potentially regenerative” or in “transition to regenerative.”

There are a number of terms used to describe ecological farming and ranching practices across the world, including agro-ecology, agro-forestry, permaculture, biodynamic, holistic management or grazing, conservation agriculture, organic, and others. All these agricultural systems support soil conservation practices to a certain degree. However, only regenerative food and farming has as its central focus the maximization of soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

Question Eight: What are the main driving forces of global warming and climate instability? What roles do industrial agriculture, factory farming, GMO seeds, food processing, packaging, food waste, and mindless consumerism play in emitting greenhouse gases and degrading the soil and forests’ ability to sequester carbon and enhance biodiversity?

Answer: If you look closely at the entire process (often called the “carbon footprint”) of global food, farming and land use, our current chemical- and GMO-intensive, industrial, globalized, wasteful and highly processed system of food and fiber produces an alarming 44%-57% of all greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.

Of this 44%-57% figure, the majority of emissions come from the world’s 50 million large industrial, chemical and GMO-intensive farmers and factory farms, who control 75% of all farm and, and produce 30% of the world’s food. (These figures contrast sharply with the role played by the 500 million smallholder farms and 200 million small herders who cultivate crops and graze animals on 25% of the land, while producing 70% of the world’s food).

In terms of the categories of food and farming greenhouse gas emissions this 44%-57% figure breaks down as follows:

• direct use of oil and gas in farming: 11%-15%

• deforestation 10%-15%

• transport 5%-6%

• processing and packaging 8%-10%

• freezing and retail 2%-4%

• waste 3%-4%.

We’ll never reach zero fossil fuel/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, much less sequester a critical mass of excess atmospheric CO2, without a fundamental transformation of our entire food, farming, and land use system.

Question Nine: What is the current market share of Regenerative food and farming versus degenerative?

Answer: Global consumers living beyond the bare subsistence level (approximately 50% of the world’s population), as opposed to those three billion or more living at subsistence level, now spend $7.55 trillion on food. Much of that food is produced by the world’s 50 million large farmers and ranchers, who use degenerative, rather than regenerative practices.

Of course many of the world’s 700 million small subsistence farmers and herders are also using chemicals, grazing animals improperly, undermining soil fertility, and destroying wetlands and forests under the pressures of poverty and because they lack of access to good land, technical assistance, financing, markets and other resources.

About 75% of all food sold today in the Global North and among the middle classes of the developing world is low-nutrient processed food. And almost half of total food produced is either wasted or overconsumed.

The hidden costs of our degenerative food and farming system are staggering: $4.8 trillion in annual expenditures for social, health and environmental damages. (ETC Group, “Who Will Feed the World?” 2017)

There is very little food and fiber produced today that can genuinely be described as 100% regenerative. In terms of less degenerative or potentially “transition to regenerative,” the global certified (or non-certified) organic food, grass-fed and sustainably produced food market is considerably less than $1 trillion.

Question Ten: What is most important in terms of driving food, farming and land use in a regenerative direction: public policy or marketplace demand?

Answer: Both are essential. So far marketplace demand and the survival of traditional farming and animal husbandry practices are driving regenerative and potentially regenerative food, farming and land use, although support for organic and grass- fed production is increasing in some regions, especially the U.S. and Europe. In some countries most of the beef production is currently 100% grass-fed (Australia and Uruguay for example), and therefore at least semi-regenerative.

Unfortunately, governments of the world provide $600 billion a year or more in subsidies to industrial agriculture, GMOs, globalized exports and factory farms. Only a fraction of government subsidies go to organic, grass-fed, or what can be called “transition-to-regenerative” practices.

In the long run we will need both marketplace pressure and billions of dollars in annual public policy/public financing to move the majority of the world’s 750 million farms and ranches in a regenerative direction, as well as to carry out large-scale ecosystem restoration, reforestation and wetlands preservation.

Question Eleven: How can conscious consumers and the current minority of regenerative farmers, ranchers and land managers get more of their counterparts on board?

Mass public education for consumers, farmers and land managers on the health, environmental, social, economic, and climate benefits of regenerative food, farming and land use, combined with free technical assistance, training and financial incentives for farmers will be necessary to move from degenerative consumption and production practices to regenerative.

In each local area, region and nation best practices and practitioners will need to be identified and publicized. We also will need to establish regenerative pilot projects, provide farmer-to-farmer education, and scale up of public policy reform and financing.

Question Twelve: How many farmers, herders, ranchers and land managers are currently carrying out regenerative, or potentially regenerative, as opposed to degenerative, practices?

Answer: There are 2.5 million certified organic farms in 120 nations that can be characterized as potentially regenerative or transition-to-regenerative. There are probably 10-20 times more who are farming organically (but are not certified) and are supplying their families and local markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 25-50 million of the world’s 750 million farms are utilizing traditional, sustainable practices, and could potentially make the transition to regenerative practices with sufficient technical and financial assistance.

Question Thirteen: What percentage of consumers and farmers will have to adopt regenerative production and consumption practices if we are to meet the goals of the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: Focusing on the world’s current 25-50 million “potentially regenerative” farmers, herders and ranchers, we need to move these sustainable producers into full or near-full regenerative mode over the next five years (2017-2022). At the same time, we need to move another 50 million from chemical or degenerative practices into transition-to-regenerative practices (organic, whether certified or not, grass-fed, permaculture, agro-ecological). Then we need to double this pace between 2022-2027, so that we end up in 10 years with 100 million regenerative producers and another 100 million “transition-to-regenerative” producers.

By 2032 we need to accelerate this process so as to have the majority of the world’s farmers, herders and land managers (400 million or so farms and ranches) involved in regenerative or near regenerative practices. During this same time periode, 2017-2032, we will have to make a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, and convert the majority of the world’s consumers to regenerative thinking and purchasing.

All of this presupposes strong marketplace pressure on food and fiber corporations to transfer from degenerative to regenerative supply chains, and fundamental changes in government policy by cities, counties, nation states and international agencies and funding institutions.

Question Fourteen: What are the major obstacles to achieving the goals of the 4 for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: The main obstacles to achieving the goals of  the 4/1000 Initiative are:

• lack of public knowledge, not only of the 4/1000 Initiative, but of the drawdown/regeneration agriculture, consumption, and land use perspectives in general

• massive taxpayer subsidies in most of the countries of the world of corporate-controlled degenerative food, farming and land use practices

• lack of unity and cooperation between food, farming, climate, environmental, peace, democracy, natural health, and justice movements, both within national borders and across borders internationally

• lack of public policy initiatives and financing for regenerative initiatives such as 4/1000.

All these degeneration drivers are related to corporate control of the national and international economy and corporate corruption of the political process.

Question Fifteen: How can I persuade my organization, city, county, state or nation to sign on to the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: We need to carefully build strategic core groups and coalitions at our organizational, local, county, state and national levels, with participation from food, farming, climate, environmental, peace, democracy, natural health, and justice movements. Additionally, we need to use public education and grassroots lobbying to get our local, county, state and national governments to sign on to the 4/1000 Initiative and to generate and support significate change in marketplace dynamics and public policy.

Question Sixteen: Where can I find out more about regenerative food, farming and land use, so that I can become an effective citizen lobbyist and activist?

Answer: Visit the Regeneration International website.

And check out the resources at Bio4climate.org.

Question Seventeen: Where can I find out more about the Four for 1000 Initiative?

Answer: Visit the 4/1000 website.

Read this policy brief.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE

First Steps Toward Building a Regeneration Movement in Your Local Community

The paradigm shift from degenerative food, farming and land-use practices toward regenerative practices—those that regenerate soil, biodiversity, health, local economies and climate stability—is arguably the most critical transformation occurring throughout the world today.

Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but also to reverse global warming. At the same time, these practices provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation and global conflict.

The promise of regeneration lies in its ability to increase plant photosynthesis on a large scale. Plant photosynthesis, which draws down CO2 from the atmosphere and releases oxygen, transfers carbon into the plant roots and soil. Fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices across billions of acres of land, as well as the shift to 100- percent renewable energy, has the potential to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate.

As this great drawdown and re-carbonization of the soil and biota occurs, civilization will reap a wide range of other benefits. These include increased soil fertility, increased soil moisture (rainfall retention), the return of regular rainfall and weather patterns, increased food production, nutrient-rich food, enhanced biodiversity, rural and urban economic development and millions of new “green” jobs.

The biggest obstacle we face in scaling regenerative agriculture is educating the public on a global scale. Only a small percentage of citizens, farmers, scientists and policymakers understand the benefits of regenerative food and farming. Some haven’t even heard the term. Therefore, our initial task is to educate folks on the message of regeneration. From there, we can organize core groups, coalitions, pilot projects and policy reforms in every town, city, state and nation.

The following action plan is designed to jumpstart an educational campaign on regenerative food, farming and land-use.

Step 1. Learn the basic principles of regenerative food, farming and land-use.

 Learn how to explain regenerative food, farming and land use as a solution to climate change, global food insecurity, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, public health and more. Be sure to avoid the “doom and gloom” climate change talk, and instead focus on the solution: regeneration.

Once you understand the principles of regenerative food, farming and land use, get excited! Your inspiration will inspire others to join the cause. Over time, you’ll improve your outreach and your ability to recruit others. A good place to start is to engage in conversations with people you already know, and who are concerned about the crises we currently face.

Avoid those closed off to the concept of regeneration. Focus instead on people who are open minded and interested in solutions. You’ll know you’re ready to spread the message of regeneration on a larger scale once you’ve inspired those closest to you, i.e. friends, family members, co-workers.

For more information on regeneration, visit http://regenerationinternational.org.

For the latest research on regenerative agriculture, visit http://regenerationinternational.org/annotated-bibliography/

For trending news on regenerative agriculture, visit http://regenerationinternational.org/news/

Step 2. Develop a core group of 4-5 regenerators. Then join or create your local “Regenerate” Facebook group

 Candidates for these groups include but aren’t limited to local food, climate, farm and political activists; environmentalists; local church members; students; teachers; gardeners; and artists.

Plan a potluck or study group to build your core group’s understanding of our most pressing issues and brainstorm ways to grow your mission. Ask your members to join a local “Regenerate” Facebook group. Or create one if there isn’t an existing group in your area. Click here to find your local “Regenerate” group: http://orgcns.org/2wF6Yn2

You may also register as an affiliate of Regeneration International here: http://regenerationinternational.org/join-us

Step 3. Get familiar with the Global 4/1000 Initiative on Soils and Food Security.

 The 4/1000 initiative is the only global local-to-national climate strategy to sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere as a means of reversing climate change.

Think of the 4/1000 initiative as sort of a Global Declaration of Interdependence, an acknowledgement and a pledge, from people all over the world, to commit to a plan to regenerate our planet.

Activists in dozens of countries worldwide are now using the 4/1000 initiative as an outreach tool for recruiting individuals and organizations to join the regeneration movement. Our hope is that these coalitions will lobby representatives at the city, county, state, national and international levels to pass resolutions supportive of the 4/1000 initiative.

Regeneration International’s goal is to get 50,000 community-based organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to sign on to the 4/1000 Initiative by 2020, ultimately inspiring a global grassroots movement.

Step 4. Develop a plan of action for reaching the masses.

 For the regeneration movement to take root, individuals and groups will need to understand the importance of connecting the dots between what they or their organizations are already working on, and the global campaign to regenerate the Earth’s natural systems, including climate, and soil and water cycles—and ultimately the health of the planet and all who inhabit it.

Target groups include: food, environmental, farm, climate, peace, immigration and faith-based groups, as well as students and others with an open mind and interest in regeneration.

How will you reach out to these groups? How will you identify people within the groups who are receptive to regeneration as an over-arching solution to multiple crises? Suggestions include attending their meetings, listening to their concerns, then finding an opening to introduce the concept of regeneration. Some groups like to have speakers/presentations at their meetings—can you get on the schedule? Or maybe invite a few people from multiple groups to a separate gathering, to discuss their work, and how it fits in with the regeneration movement?

Step 5. Contact Regeneration International to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings.

 Once your core group has educated other groups and individuals in your area, built a critical mass of organizations signed on to the 4/1000 initiative, and begun lobbying local representatives to pass 4/1000 resolutions, contact Regeneration International info@regenerationinternational.org to learn how to arrange regional and national meetings to spread the message of regeneration even more widely.

Regeneration International can also provide resources for promoting and scaling regenerative plot projects http://www.regenerationhub.co/en/ and best practices for your region.

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

Regeneration International Second General Assembly Addresses State of the Regeneration Movement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 22, 2017

English: Katherine Paul, 207.653 3090, Katherine@regenerationinternational.org

Spanish: Ercilia Sahores, +52 (55) 6257 7901, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico – About 105 experts in soil, water and land management, agriculture, media and campaign strategy assembled today in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a three-day international conference on how to scale up organic and regenerative agriculture, land management and livestock grazing to address global warming, global food insecurity and public health.

Representatives from 21 countries are attending the three-day strategy meeting organized by Regeneration International (RI), a project of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

The conference is being held at OCA’s Vía Orgánica teaching farm and conference center. It is RI’s first global strategy meeting since the organization’s initial launch in June 2015, in Costa Rica.

“We are in the terminal phase of a degenerative food and farming system which forms the underlying basis for war, poverty, poor health and food insecurity,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director and a member of the RI steering committee. “The hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers and herders around the world have the power to turn things around. They need our support to scale up regenerative farming and land-management practices that will draw down and sequester carbon, produce abundant, nutrient-dense food and regenerate local economies.”

“This is a gathering about the future of the world, pure and simple, said Larry Kopald, co-founder of The Carbon Underground, a founding partner of RI. “If we don’t quickly draw down carbon and restore our soil, we will lose the chance to keep feeding the planet and to deal with climate change.”

Andre Leu, president of IFOAM International and an RI steering committee member said: “This is the beginning of one of the fastest-growing movements in the world. The word ‘regeneration’ is resonating. We have the science now to scale up regenerative farming. We have the responsibility to scale it up. If we don’t, we face a real threat of extinction by the end of this century.”

Participants of the General Assembly will attend sessions on how to fund and scale up the Regeneration Movement, how to support the France’s 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, and how to build a grassroots movement around regenerative food, farming and climate.

Regeneration International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.

Sowing the Seeds of Earth Democracy in Trump Times : The Planetary Crisis, Responsibilities and Rights

5th of June is World Environment Day – a day to remember that we are part of the Earth, and that we all have a duty to care. That two centuries of fossil fuel driven development is pushing humanity to the brink. And we need to change course.

This environment day is dominated by President Trump walking out of the Paris agreement. A “concrete-ist” afraid of the “winds of change”. What does Trump’s cowardice imply for international obligations to protect the earth, for a future based on ecological justice, for sowing the seeds of Earth Democracy?

Environmental laws at the national level were created in the 1970’s to protect the Earth from harm, and because we are part of the Earth, to protect people from harm.

In 1992, at the Earth Summit, the International community adopted two major ecological principles – the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle, and signed two legally binding agreements – The UN Convention on the Conservation of Biodiversity,(CBD) and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

Both treaties were shaped by the emerging ecological sciences and the deepening ecology movement. One was a scientific response to the ecological impact of pollution of the atmosphere due to use of fossil fuels.The second was a scientific response to the genetic pollution caused by GMOs and the erosion of biodiversity due to the spread of industrial, chemical monocultures. Three years after Rio, the UN Leipzig Conference on Plant Genetic Resources assessed that 75 % biodiversity had disappeared because of the Green Revolution and Industrial farming.

Interdisciplinary science and democratic movements created the momentum for International Environmental law. Science and Democracy continue to be the forces challenging the mindless threat to the Earth because of corporate greed.

In the case of Climate Change the key issue is reduction of emissions and strategies for adaptation. In the case of Biodiversity Conservation the key issues are Biosafety and promotion of practices that conserve Biodiversity.

Both treaties connect in agriculture, our daily bread. How we grow our food has a major impact on the health of the planet and the health of people.

Industrial agriculture is based on fossil fuels and the chemicals it uses are derived from fossil fuels. As I have mentioned in my book “Soil not Oil” 50% of the atmospheric pollution linked to excess carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, methane comes from and industrial, globalised food system. The same fossil fuel intensive, poison intensive industrial agriculture is also destroying the biodiversity of our seeds and crops, soil biodiversity, killing pollinators, destroying water resources. It is also responsible for 75% of the disease epidemic related to bad food produced by oil.

The alternative, a biodiversity intensive, ecology intensive, localised food system, rejuvenates the health of the planet, and our health. Through biodiversity of plants fixing atmospheric carbon and nitrogen, excess gases are removed from the atmosphere where they cause pollution and climate instability, and are put in the soil where they rejuvenate fertility and produce more and healthier food.

The same food and agriculture systems that conserve and rejuvenate biodiversity also mitigate climate change. They contribute to health and to increased livelihoods in regenerative living economies.

People and communities everywhere are giving up poisons and adopting agroecology. They are shifting from an agriculture destroying the health of the planet and our health to a regenerating healing agriculture. They are obeying the laws of Gaia and waking up to the Rights of Mother Earth, simultaneously enhancing human well being. They are not waiting for governments to trump each other just to see who gets what share of a divided planet. Some governments are also waking up to both their obligations, and with it the possibilities of creating post fossil fuel economies through regenerative agriculture and renewable energies.

The most basic contest today is between the laws of the Earth and the lawlessness and irresponsibility of greed combined with ignorance. By backing out of the Paris agreement on Climate, President Trump has acted against the planet and our common humanity. He has supported irresponsibility, greed and lawlessness. Surprise? No.

He is of course not the first US President to have tried to undermine the UN treaties. Senior President Bush in the lead up to Rio said “Our Lifestyles are not negotiable”. To protect the GMO industry and the poison cartel, he refused to sign the Biosafety protocol to the CBD to regulate GMOs. President Obama continued to put pressure on India to undo its patent laws (which do not allow patents on seeds) – to assist Monsanto establish seed monopolies – to serve the empire. That is when I wrote the open letter to Obama and Modi to uphold our laws.

President Obama flew into Copenhagen and undid the legally binding UNFCC, replacing it with voluntary commitments. That is why President Morales took the initiative to initiate the Draft of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a process I was involved in.

So there are two processes at work today – one is going beyond fossil fuel industrialism, beyond anthropocentrism, to create Earth Democracy based on the Rights of all beings.

The second process is the intensification of the processes of destruction based on greed, and destructive power of a small minority of powerful “league” of men.

The highest laws that govern our lives, and allow us to live, are laws of the Earth, of Gaia, of ecology.

As members of the Earth Community, our rights to her seeds and biodiversity, her soil and land, her water and air, are derived from our responsibility to protect and rejuvenate her resources.

And the rights of each being, including every human being are defined by the rights of other beings.

As the ancient Isha Upanishad states, all beings have the rights to the earth’s resources, and any person taking more than their share is nothing but a thief. A league of extraordinary thieves.

KEEP READING ON SEED FREEDOM

Regeneration: The Next Stage of Organic Food and Farming—And Civilization

Regenerate—to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the moral nature; to cause to be born again. (New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997)

When a reporter asked him [Mahatma Gandhi] what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied: “I think it would be a good idea.”

A growing corps of organic, climate, environmental, social justice and peace activists are promoting a new world-changing paradigm that can potentially save us from global catastrophe. The name of this new paradigm and movement is regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land use.

Regenerative agriculture and land use incorporates the traditional and indigenous best practices of organic farming, animal husbandry and environmental conservation. Regeneration puts a central focus on improving soil health and fertility (recarbonizing the soil), increasing biodiversity, and qualitatively enhancing forest health, animal welfare, food nutrition and rural (especially small farmer) prosperity.

The basic menu for a Regeneration Revolution is to unite the world’s 3 billion rural farmers, ranchers and herders with several billion health, environmental and justice-minded consumers to overturn “business as usual” and embark on a global campaign of cooperation, solidarity and regeneration.

According to food activist Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.”

So how can regenerative agriculture do all these things: increase soil fertility; maximize crop yields; draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soils, plants and trees to re-stabilize the climate and restore normal rainfall; increase soil water retention; make food more nutritious; reduce rural poverty; and begin to pacify the world’s hotspots of violence?

First, let’s look at what Michael Pollan, the U.S.’s most influential writer on food and farming, has to say about the miraculous regenerative power of Mother Nature and enhanced photosynthesis:

Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant… Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands [or cropland] are properly managed… that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us…

This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up… For thousands of years we grew food by depleting soil carbon and, in the last hundred or so, the carbon in fossil fuel as well. But now we know how to grow even more food while at the same time returning carbon and fertility and water to the soil.

A 2015 article in the Guardian summarizes some of the most important practices of Regenerative Agriculture:

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, re-mineralizes soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff.”

If you want to understand the basic science and biology of how regenerative agriculture can draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere over the next 25 years and store it in our soils and forests (in combination with a 100-percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions) to not only mitigate, but actually reverse global warming, read this article by one of North America’s leading organic farmers, Jack Kittridge.

If you want a general overview of news and articles on regenerative food, farming and land use, you can follow the newsfeed “Cook Organic Not the Planet” by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and/or sign up for OCA’s weekly online newsletter (you can subscribe online, or text “Bytes” to 97779.)

You can also visit the Regeneration International website, where you’ll find this list of books on regenerative agriculture.

Solving the soil, health, environmental and climate crises

Without going into extensive detail here (you can read the references above), we need to connect the dots between our soil, public health, environment and climate crisis. As the widely-read Mercola newsletter puts it:

Virtually every growing environmental and health problem can be traced back to modern food production. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Food insecurity and malnutrition amid mounting food waste
  • Rising obesity and chronic disease rates despite growing health care outlays
  • Diminishing fresh water supplies
  • Toxic agricultural chemicals polluting air, soil and waterways, thereby threatening the entire food chain from top to bottom
  • Disruption of normal climate and rainfall patterns

Connecting the dots between climate and food

We can’t really solve the climate crisis (and the related soil, environmental, and public health crisis) without simultaneously solving the food and farming crisis. We need to stop putting greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere (by moving to 100-percent renewable energy), but we also need to move away from chemical-intensive, energy-intensive food, factory farming and land use, as soon as possible.

Regenerative food and farming has the potential to draw down a critical mass of carbon (200-250 billion tons) from the atmosphere over the next 25 years and store it in our soils and living plants, where it will increase soil fertility, food production and food quality (nutritional density), while re-stabilizing the climate.

The heavy use of pesticides, GMOs, chemical fertilizers and factory-farming by 50 million industrial farmers (mainly in the Global North) is not just poisoning our health and engendering a global epidemic of chronic disease and malnutrition. It’s also destroying our soil, wetlands’ and forests’ natural ability to sequester excess atmospheric carbon into the earth.

The good news is that solar and wind power, and energy conservation are now cheaper than fossil fuels. And most people are starting to understand that organic, grass-fed and freshly-prepared foods are safer and more nutritious than chemical and GMO foods.

The food movement and climate movements must break through our single-issue silos and start to work together. Either we stop Big Coal, Big Oil, fracking, and the mega-pipelines, or climate change will soon morph into climate catastrophe, making it impossible to grow enough food to feed the planet. Every food activist needs to become a climate activist.

On the other hand, every climate activist needs to become a food activist. Our current system of industrial food, farming and land use, now degenerating 75 percent of all global farmland, is “mining” and decarbonizing the soil, destroying our forests, and releasing 44-57 percent of all climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot) into our already supersaturated atmosphere, while at the same time undermining our health with commoditized, overly processed food.

Solving the crisis of rural poverty, democracy and endless war

Out-of-touch and out-of-control governments of the world now take our tax money and spend $500 billion dollars a year mainly subsidizing 50 million industrial farmers to do the wrong thing. These farmers routinely over-till, over-graze (or under-graze), monocrop, and pollute the soil and the environment with chemicals and GMOs to produce cheap commodities (corn, soy, wheat, rice, cotton) and cash crops, low-grade processed food and factory-farmed meat and animal products. Meanwhile 700 million small family farms and herders, comprising the 3 billion people who produce 70 percent of the world’s food on just 25 percent of the world’s acreage, struggle to make ends meet.

If governments can be convinced or forced by the power of the global grassroots to reduce and eventually cut off these $500 billion in annual subsidies to industrial agriculture and Big Food, and instead encourage and reward family farmers and ranchers who improve soil health, biodiversity, animal health and food quality, we can simultaneously reduce global poverty, improve public health, and restore climate stability.

As even the Pentagon now admits, climate change, land degradation (erosion and desertification), and rural poverty are now primary driving forces of sectarian strife and war (and massive waves of refugees) in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. U.S. military intervention in these regions, under the guise of “regime change” or democratization, has only made things worse. This is why every peace activist needs to become a climate and food activist and vice-versa.

Similarly corrupt, out-of-control governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of $5.3 trillion dollars a year, while spending more than $3 trillion dollars annually on weapons, mainly to prop up our global fossil fuel system and overseas empires. If the global grassroots can reach out to one another, bypassing our corrupt governments, and break down the geographic, linguistic and cultural walls that separate us, we can launch a global Regeneration Revolution—on the scale of the global campaign in World War II against the Nazis.

One thing we the grassroots share in all of the 200 nations of the world is this: We are sick and tired of corrupt governments and out-of-control corporations degenerating our lives and threatening our future. The Russian people are not our enemies, nor the Chinese, nor the Iranians. The hour is late. The crisis is dire. But we still have time to regenerate our soils, climate, health, economy, foreign policy, and democracy. We still have time to turn things around.

The global Regeneration Movement we need will likely take several decades to reach critical mass and effectiveness. In spreading the Regeneration message, and building this new Movement at the global grassroots, we must take into account the fact that most regions, nations and people (and in fact many people who are still ignorant of the facts or climate change deniers) will respond more quickly or positively to different aspects or dimensions of our message (i.e. providing jobs; reducing rural and urban poverty and inequality, restoring soil fertility, saving the ocean and marine life, preserving forests, improving nutrition and public health, eliminating hunger and malnutrition, saving biodiversity, restoring animal health and food quality, preserving water, safeguarding Mother Nature or God’s Creation, creating a foundation for peace, democracy, and reconciliation, etc.) rather than to the central life or death message: reversing global warming.

What is important is not that everyone, everywhere immediately agrees 100 percent on all of the specifics of regenerative food, farming and land use—for this is not practical—but rather that we build upon our shared concerns in each community, region, nation and continent. Through a diversity of messages, frames and campaigns, through connecting the dots between all the burning issues, we will find the strength, numbers, courage and compassion to build the largest grassroots coalition in history—to safeguard our common home, our survival, and the survival of the future generations.

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