OCA’s Regeneration International and Mexico Teams Headed to COP13

On December 5,  Regeneration International (RI) and La Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos (ACO), both projects of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), will join governments, other NGOs, indigenous communities, academia and citizens from around the world in Cancun, Mexico, for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13).

Two other important meetings— the Nagoya Protocol and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety— will be held in conjunction with the COP13. The resolutions made at these three meetings will affect global food and farming for generations to come.

To coincide with the COP13 meetings, the RI and ACO teams, along with eight local and international groups, have formed a coalition to defend biological and cultural diversity. The coalition, called the #CaravanaCBD, is bringing together social, cultural and indigenous groups to create a community-driven vision for biodiversity that reflects the richness of biocultural knowledge and traditional growing  practices that stem from the eight centers of origin of plants and agriculture, as defined by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity.

As part of its mission, #CaravanaCBD is participating in the Biocultural Diversity Fair (Feria de la Diversidad BioCultural), which is currently under way until December 11, in Mexico City (events will be in Spanish). Communities from across Mexico and other centers of origin around the world are gathering to discuss what cultural biodiversity means to them and how to defend and preserve it. The outcomes of the discussions will be presented during a press conference on December 1, 2016, and the results will be presented at the COP13 in Cancun.

If you’re in Mexico City, join RI, ACO and #CaravanaCBD for music, dancing, movie screenings and dynamic conversations with indigenous communities from across Latin America.

Three reasons we’re participating in the COP13 Biodiversity Conference

La Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos (ACO), Regeneration International (RI) and Vía Orgánica (VO), all projects of the The Organic Consumers Association (OCA),  will attend COP13 to:

  1. Counter the global push towards privatization of biological resources and the push for industrial food systems, which are responsible for widespread biodiversity loss through the use of chemicals, pesticides, GMOs and monocultures;
  2. Promote and defend the rights of indigenous and farmer communities, who have defended biological and cultural diversity on their land for centuries;
  3. Promote regenerative agriculture and land use as essential strategies to restore agrobiodiversity and cultural biodiversity, as well as to cool the planet, feed the world, and provide long-term productivity and resilience for communities around the world.

Here are the events we’ve organized:

Regenerative Agriculture to Combat Climate Change and Restore Biodiversity: Experiences of Latin American Women
Organizers: Regeneration International, Vía Orgánica
Date/time: 5-Dec-2016, 18.15
Location: Contact Group 7, Universal Building, main floor
Language: Spanish (English translation available)

Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Agriculture: Pesticides and Its Impacts on Bees as a Key Discussion
Organizers: Greenpeace, La Asociación de Consumidores Orgánicos
Date/time: 14-Dec-2016, 13:15
Location: IGOs Group Meeting Room, Sunrise Building, Second Floor
Language: English (Spanish translation available)

Adventure Tourism and Ecotourism in Mexico: Encouraging Conversation or Exacerbating Resource Exploitation?
Organizers: Vía Orgánica
Date/time: 15-Dec-2016, 13:15
Location: Contact Group 6 Meeting Room, Universal Building, main floor
Language: Spanish (English translation available)

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Alexandra Groome is campaign and events coordinator for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.

Ercilia Sahores is Latin America political director for the Organic Consumers Association

Message from Marrakesh: Don’t Mourn, Regenerate!

The bad news is that we are fast approaching (likely within 25 years) “the point of no return” for retaining enough climate stability, soil fertility, water and biodiversity to support human life on this planet. The toxic synergy of our out-of-control political, energy, food, farming and land-use systems threaten our very survival. The good news is that tried-and-tested, shovel-ready, regenerative food, farming, grazing and land use practices, scaled up on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forests, combined with zero emissions and a renewable energy economy, can draw down and sequester enough excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into our soils, forests and wetlands to reverse global warming. Besides re-stabilizing the climate, this great carbon ‘drawdown’ and regeneration will qualitatively enhance soil fertility and yields, increase rainwater infiltration and storage in soils, supercharge food quality and nutrition, rejuvenate forests and oceans, and preserve and stimulate biodiversity—thereby addressing the underlying causes of rural poverty, hunger, deteriorating public health, political malaise and global conflict. – Social media post by the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International from the “Green Zone” of the COP22 Global Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco November 18, 2016

The Donald Effect

Thousands of us attending the COP22 Global Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco—delegates and rank-and-file activists from every nation in the world—woke up on November 9, 2016, to the alarming news that rabid climate deniers and zealots for hyper-industrial agriculture and fossil fuels had seized control of the White House and the U.S. Congress.

Just days after a panel of eminent international scientists warned that we are approaching the point of no return in terms of runaway global warming, Donald (“the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing uncompetitive…”) Trump made it clear where he and his cabal of wealthy, misogynist, racist, cronies stand.

The day after the election, Trump announced that he intended to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Treaty, supercharge the coal, fracking and fossil fuel industries, and eliminate federal regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of his “Making America Great Again” agenda, Trump named Myron Ebell to oversee the transition at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell, head of both the climate-denying think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cooler Heads Coalition, was reviled last year at the Paris Climate Summit for being one of the world’s top “climate criminals.”

Intercept newsletter outlined Ebell’s credentials as a point man for the new Climate Denier-in-Chief: “A non-scientist whose funders have included ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, Ebell has been a consistent taunter of both scientists and environmentalists. As a talking head on TV news, he has for years offered false balance on climate change in the form of views so far outside of the mainstream as to be downright bizarre. For Ebell, Al Gore is “an extremist” who “lives in a fantasy world.” And the Pope’s encyclical on climate change is a ‘diatribe against modern industrial civilization.’ Current climate patterns, say Ebell, indicate an imminent ice age rather than a warming planet.

Trump’s Fossil Fuel über alles could not come at a worst moment. Just when the world needs all hands on deck to fight the war against runaway global warming, Trump and his men (and women) are going AWOL. Compounding the threat of Trump and his minions on climate policy, the frightening bottom line for the global grassroots is that politicians, corporations, climate negotiators, scientists, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have seriously underestimated the current and near-future (25 years) impacts of saturating the atmosphere with more greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution than the Earth has endured for hundreds of thousands of years.

The climate chaos unleashed by current GHG levels in the atmosphere (400 ppm of CO2 and rising 2 ppm every year and a one-degree C rise in average global temperatures so far) and oceans is already alarming. But what makes our predicament truly frightening is that the noxious chemical GHG blanket already enveloping the Earth is increasingly magnified by powerful feedback mechanisms including: the melting of the polar icecaps; a sharp increase in water vapor (a powerful global warming gas) in the atmosphere; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; disruption of cloud formations; and the “methane bomb” (the runaway thawing and release into the atmosphere of billions of tons of methane gas now frozen and sequestered in the vast tundra and the shallow sea beds of the Arctic). These planetary global warming feedback mechanisms, unless reversed, will detonate over the next few decades triggering rapidly rising temperatures; rising sea levels and catastrophic coastal flooding; extremely violent storms, droughts, and wildfires; deadly outbreaks of disease and pestilence; and massive crop failures and starvation, culminating in wholesale ecosystem destruction and species extinction.

The call-to-action from Marrakesh is that U.S. and global “business-as-usual” is rapidly moving the planet toward runaway global warming—not just two degrees C of global warming, which will be extremely dangerous, but 5-7 degrees C, which will be catastrophic.

Industrial agriculture, factory farming and deforestation are driving global warming

The energy- and chemical-intensive US and global food and factory farming system, now controlled by a multinational cartel of agribusiness, junk food, chemical and genetic engineering corporations, is literally cooking the planet. By spewing out 15-20 billion tons of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere every year (according to United Nations report, 44-57% of all emissions), by degenerating, with GMOs, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and deforestation, the miraculous ability of soils, forests and wetlands to naturally absorb (through photosynthesis) these greenhouse gases and safely store them in the soils and biota, this system is pushing us toward the final cliff, the “point of no return.” (More on the climate impact of our degenerative food, farming, and land use here. And here).

With demonstrably degenerate Climate Deniers in control of the White House and the U.S. Congress for the next four years, we have no choice but to step up our organizing and our actions, from Main Street to Morocco. Every concerned citizen in the world needs to become an active communicator, starting with family and friends, reaching out to all those willing to listen and make change. Circles of concerned friends and acquaintances must evolve into Circles of Resistance and Regeneration.

Every food, justice, health, peace and democracy activist needs to “connect the dots” between the burning issues and become a climate activist. At the same time, every climate activist needs to move beyond tunnel-vision single-issue organizing to a holistic “Movement of Movements” approach. The first step in global resistance, the first step in regenerating our toxic political, energy, food, farming and land-use system is to broaden our awareness and our consciousness, to break down the walls and the single-issue silos that have held us back from building a truly local-to-global Movement of Movements. Our new Internationale, our new Regeneration Movement, must be powerful and inspirational enough to enable us not only to survive, but to thrive.

Regenerative circles of renewal and resistance

Taking the time to grieve and commiserate over our current political and climate emergency, taking the time to regenerate ourselves and our circles of friends and acquaintances, we must begin to strategically weave together our common concerns, our constituencies, our resistance, our positive actions and solutions.  Once we establish synergy and cooperation among the different currents in the Movement, we will generate ever more powerful waves, circles of renewal and resistance, with the capacity to spread outward from our local communities into entire regions, nations and continents, until a regenerative wave spans the globe. This is la lucha grande, the great struggle, that will last for the rest of our lives. Don’t just mourn, organize. Our lives and the lives of our children hang in the balance.

The good news

The good news is that planetary awareness, along with renewable energy and conservation, is growing by leaps and bounds. Leaving remaining fossil fuels in the ground and converting to solar, expanding wind and other renewable forms of energy, retrofitting our transportation and housing systems, and re-carbonizing and restoring soil fertility, forests and wetlands—these initiatives are not just good for the climate, they’re also good for the growth of ethical businesses, for public health and for the body politic.

We must come to grips with the fact that we will be forced to endure four more dangerous years here in the U.S. in terms of reducing fossil fuel emissions, and phasing out coal and fracking. But as the global grassroots, scientists, farmers and climate negotiators here in Marrakesh have acknowledged, we are all in this together. Spokespersons for China, the world’s largest emitter of fossil fuels, as well as 197 other nations here in Marrakesh, reacting to Trump’s proclamation that the U.S. will abandon the Paris Climate Treaty, have made it clear that they will move forward toward zero emissions by 2050, no matter what the Trump administration does.

We can’t all do everything, but we certainly all can do something. We all eat, and many of us on the Earth (three billion in fact) are still making our living off the land—farming, grazing, fishing, gardening, hunting and gathering. In the consumer economies of the global North hundreds of millions of organic and health-minded consumers are starting to understand that “we are what we eat,” and that what we purchase and consume has a tremendous impact, not only on our health and the health of our families, but on the environment and the climate as well. To regenerate and save the living Earth and human civilization we will need to build an active transnational alliance and solidarity between several billion conscious consumers and farmers. This is the only force with the power to put an end to business as usual.

Our most popular slogans or campaigns here in Marrakesh—emblazoned on our banners, leaflets and t-shirts, broadcast in our newsletters and social media, repeated over and over again in our media interviews and workshops, and translated into multiple languages including English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese are: Cook Organic Not the Planet, Boycott Factory-Farmed Food, and Regeneration International: Cool the Planet, Feed the World.

Moving forward from Marrakesh, we are committed to re-localizing and regenerating local foods, local economies and communities. But while building out and scaling up local solutions, we must also join with our consumer and farmer allies across the globe to literally force multinational GMO, chemical-intensive and factory-farmed food brands and corporations to go organic and grass-fed. And we must pressure organic brands and producers to move beyond organic to fully regenerative practices. Our collective campaigns must ultimately transform the eating and purchasing habits of millions of consumers, raise the living standards of several billion farmers and rural villagers, and free billions of farm animals from cruel and climate-destructive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—putting these animals back on the land where their grazing and natural behaviors will help sequester billions of tons of carbon in pastures and agro-forestry landscapes.

You can learn more about our Cook Organic Not The Planet campaign here. Please sign up for OCA’s newsletter, Organic Bytes:  Please join our Facebook page here:  To find out more about our Regeneration International: Cool the Planet, Feed the World campaign, visit regenerationinternational.org. Follow RI on Facebook
You can sign up for our RI newsletter and enroll yourself and your organization as a supporter or partner.

To acquaint yourself with the basic science that underlies regenerative food and farming, please read this document and share it widely. It’s available in ten different languages on the RI website.

More good news: France’s 4 per 1000 Soils for Food Security and Climate

On November 17, in Marrakesh, following up on the Paris Climate Treaty last year, over two dozen countries and several hundred civil society organizations reaffirmed their commitment to the “4 for 1000 Initiative” originally put forth by the French government. Countries that sign the “4 per 1000 Initiative” pledge, as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mitigate and reverse global warming, to draw down or sequester as much excess atmospheric carbon in their soils as they are currently emitting, utilizing organic, agro-ecological, and regenerative farming, grazing and land use practices, and to continue this process for the next 25 years, until atmospheric levels of GHG return to the safe levels that existed prior to the industrial revolution.

Our Regeneration International project, as well as OCA, are among the civil society organizations that have signed the pledge. We are also now officially part of the 4 per 1000 global consortium, and as such will continue to play an active role in supporting and promoting the initiative.

Regeneration Thursdays

On January 12, 2017, organic, climate, natural health, environmental, peace, justice and regeneration activists across the U.S. and beyond will launch Regeneration Thursdays. The plan is to organize, on the second Thursday of each month, community self-organized meet-ups at designated locations, such as brew pubs and community restaurants. These social gatherings, part celebratory, part serious discussion, are intended to break down walls, make new friends and allies, generate camaraderie, explore potential cooperation, and eventually build up greater grassroots marketplace and political power.

Our hope is that regeneration meet-ups will catalyze and inspire a new dynamic, with activists or would-be activists from all of our Movements—food, climate, peace, justice, natural health, democracy—coming together on a regular basis to celebrate, commiserate and cooperate, to share organic and local food and drink, and to discuss how we can build a stronger synergy between our various efforts and campaigns. Regeneration Thursdays is envisioned as an ongoing campaign, starting small but over time taking root and spreading virally into hundreds, and eventually thousands of communities.

The Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International, along with some of our closest allies, have pledged to provide resources (including organic food) in strategic communities to get the Regeneration Thursdays meet-ups going. Part of the preparation for Regeneration Thursdays will be to work with local regenerators to strategically identify and invite key people, especially youth, who share a broad vision for moving beyond single-issue organizing and campaigning to a more holistic and powerful Movement. If you and your circle of friends or organization are willing to help organize a Regeneration Thursday in your local community, please send an email to: campaigns@organicconsumers.org

The crisis is dire. The hour is late. But we still have time to turn things around. Don’t just mourn. Please join us as we organize, educate, mobilize and regenerate.

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

To support OCA’s work, click here. 

To support OCA’s Regeneration International project, click here.

Meet Abdellah Boudhira, Third-Generation Moroccan Farmer

Abdellah Boudhira, a third-generation farmer in Morocco, has experienced first-hand the downside of conventional farming. Boudhira watched his family farm suffer for decades under the false promises of higher yields, combined with the high costs of chemical inputs like synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides.

In 2012, Boudhira began his farm’s transition to regenerative agriculture in order to save his family farm. Restoring his land’s soil, rescuing local seed varieties and rebuilding a market for local organics in Morocco has been challenging, Boudhira said. But the decision was the right one, he said, after witnessing the damage expensive hybrid seeds and toxic chemicals had inflicted on his most precious resource—soil.

Agriculture is the backbone of Morocco’s economy. But Morocco’s farmers, like so many farmers in other parts of the world, are suffering from recurring drought. Still, according to a 2014 GRAIN report, small farmers like Boudhira are producing 70 percent of the world’s food on less than a quarter of all farmland. And they are producing this food despite the challenges of dwindling natural resources, increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather patterns and the economic impacts of rapidly expanding industrial farms that are crushing local food systems.

Regeneration International invited Boudhira to share his story on November 18, at an event we helped organize for the upcoming COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakesh. Read the interview we conducted with him to learn more about his farm, his transition to regenerative agriculture and his plans for the future.

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Interview with Abdellah Boudhira, October 20 , 2016

Regeneration International: Tell us about your story, how did you get involved in regenerative agriculture?

abdellah_morocco_farmerAbdellah Boudhira: I switched from conventional to regenerative agriculture for many reasons. As a small farmer who works my land by myself I needed to avoid and protect myself from chemicals, which I used to spray nearly four times a week. The second reason is because our land became exhausted from growing only tomatoes year after year. I’m a specialist in growing tomatoes and for more than 20 years my father only grew tomatoes in the same place and eventually our land became exhausted from it. Soil diseases like nematode and fusarium developed and affected the productivity of our tomatoes.

The third reason is to avoid debt to seed suppliers, chemical companies and synthetic fertilizer companies. If I kept working the same “conventional” way, I would always be indebted. The fourth reason is that I wanted to change the way I market my produce. I wanted to sell directly to families, directly to the “consumer,” so that I could benefit from the real advantages of growing organic food. I wanted to find and maintain customers who seek healthy food and care about what they eat. When farmers sell to wholesale markets, there are intermediaries who don’t care how the produce is grown in the field. They only care about the quantity and look of the produce. Their only goal is making money. There is no interaction between farmers and consumers. Farmers sell their produce at low prices while the consumer buys it at a high price because the same produce passed through the hands of three to four middlemen before it reaches the consumer.

RI: Hybrid seeds were introduced in your region in the 1980s, what impact have they had on farmers in your region?

AB: Before hybrid seeds were introduced to Moroccan farmers, farmers were saving their own seeds and traded them with each other. For example when we save seeds from heirloom tomatoes we give some to our neighbor farmers and they give us green beans, squash, carrots, onion seeds, so no one ever purchased seeds during that time. But when hybrid seeds came and some farmers purchased them, because of the high yield they gave and the uniform size and color and look they have, their popularity and demand increased. Eventually all farmers were growing hybrid seeds and lost the seeds that had been passed down to them by generations of farmers. Years later more hybrid seeds were invented to resist diseases as such TMV whitefly, fusarium, verticillium wilt and nematodes. These seeds were introduced here by some well known international seed companies as such Royal Sluis, Vilmorin, Deruiter Seed, Syngenta. This caused the price of seeds to rise and the price has kept rising, and now tomato seeds are more expensive than gold here in Morocco.

RI: Really, more expensive than gold?

AB: Yes 1kg of tomato hybrid seeds is expensive than 1kg of gold here in Morocco.

RI: What other challenges do you and other farmers in your region face?

AB: The first challenge is drought, desertification and big agriculture which have depleted the underground water table. In the early 1960s my father was pumping water from a well 8 meters deep and today we pump water from a well 120 meters deep. Secondly, due to climate change, the majority of the year the climate is now warm and dry, which creates the perfect environment for harmful insects to breed quickly. Tuta absoluta, whitefly and another virus that appeared this year called New Delhi which attacks cucurbitaceae are some examples.

The emergence of these pests has forced big farmers to grow crops that are susceptible to these viruses in isolated greenhouses. Small farmers simply cannot afford to build these types of greenhouses, so they’ve shifted to growing easy greens as such lettuce, beets. So small farmers have flooded the market with the same produce because they have no alternatives.

Another challenge is that the land is tired because farmers are not rotating their crops and they’re using harmful chemicals to kill soil diseases. Finally, both small and big farmers have such high debt, every year we hear that some farmer has to sell his property.

I am a farmer by choice. My soul gets inspired when I touch the soil and water and when I plant seeds and watch them grow.

RI: What tools are you using in response to these challenges and to build your farm’s resiliency in the face of climate change and extreme weather?

AB: I am a farmer by choice. My soul gets inspired when I touch the soil and water and when I plant seeds and watch them grow. Today it is more difficult to grow things than it was years ago. Since 1998 I’ve felt that there is something abnormal occurring in farming systems. Farming needs more care and attention and requires more planning than it used to.  In order to sustain myself as a farmer I had to change the way I farm and the way I market my produce. Now I grow different types of vegetables, herbs and greens in a rotational program. This builds soil fertility and protects against soil diseases. Growing biodiverse crops makes my farm more resilient in the face of extreme weather or pests. My farm was less resilient when we only grew one type of crop. For example wet weather can cause white powdery mildew on squash but not on onions, radishes, tomatoes and green beans.

I also make compost from my garden waste and aged manure and mix it in the soil to build fertility. I obtained heirloom seeds and now save my own seeds that I save for the next season. I don’t have to buy expensive hybrid seeds anymore.

I focus on controlling illness in plants when it first begins, because it’s easier to control than to treat. For pest control I use chili solution to burn cutworms as they hatch from the moth eggs, I spray ashes on cucurbitaceae leaves to reduce the development of white powdery mildew, I practice what is called intensive gardening so to get good quantity of food in a limited area of land. This also saves me land and reduces weeding. And for plants that need partial sunlight, I grow them beside tall plants to give them shade in the afternoon. This year I started to look for customers in the city of Agadir to buy my produce so I can keep improving my farming.

RI: What advice do you have to other farmers seeking to increase their farm’s resiliency?

AB: The best advice I have for farmers is to open their minds and be open to changing their practices. I shared my ideas with some young farmers here but I’ve found they’re afraid of new ideas. They’re stuck in their ways.

abdellahYou know, farmers are close to nature and in nature everything teaches you lessons, but unfortunately not everyone learns. A real farmer who loves his land and finds joy in working it, a farmer who creates life and food that nourishes both body and soul, a farmer whose heart is firm no matter what challenges they face, this farmer will find a way.

Farmland is farmer potential. A farmer should handle his/her land with care. Farmers should run away from anything which labeled wear a muzzle, gloves, or glass before using it. Farmers should stay away from banks that offer to provide loans. Farmers should practice rotational growing. Farmers should revise their marketing strategy to create a better and honorable ways to market their produce.

RI: Tell us about your vision for the future of your farm?

AB: My vision for the future of my farm has great promise. I am very pleased with the results I have achieved after many years of hard work, but what looks unclear to me is the future of our farm because our land is shared between our relatives. I farm on my father’s share of land. The neighboring land I rent will expire in 2018. I don’t know if my landlord will extend it… Anyways let’s be optimists. A farmer should always be an optimist or he won’t be a farmer anymore.

RI: The Lima Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) states “agriculture is a key sector to achieve both food security and the 2 degree target,” how do you feel Morocco fits into this context?

14875250_1422664627761161_2103620316_nAB: Without a doubt agriculture is the key to achieving food security, but we must practice an agriculture that regenerates natural resources, water and soil fertility.

In Morocco there are only two regions that feed the entire country. These two regions even supply Europe, Russia, USA, Canada and China with citrus and other vegetables. Due to the compaction of the soil by big agriculture in these regions,, water tables have depleted by almost in half of one region. Here, where I live, soils are also degrading. Without heavy use of synthetic fertilizers, farmers can’t get the yields they need in order to keep up with growing input costs.

There is an abundance of water and lush land in the north of the country but people there made the choice decades ago to immigrate to Europe and to the big cities in Morocco instead of working on the land. Now it is hard to convince young people there to become farmers. Farming is not an easy job especially if you are small farmer.

RI: How can consumers help to support the growth of regenerative agriculture in North Africa?

AB: In order to encourage farmers to grow healthy food in a regenerative way, consumers must buy products from farmers at a price that will allow them to farm that way. Local farmers need that support so they can keep their land and keep working their land instead of selling it to move to overcrowded cities.

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Contact Abdellah:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AbdellahFarmer
Email: green_moroccan@yahoo.fr
Location: Agadir, Morocco

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Alexandra Groome is Campaign & Events Coordinator for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.

Griffin Klement is the Organic Consumers Association Latin American Project Director.

Historic International Monsanto Tribunal Begins in The Hague

Opening Press Conference, People’s Assembly Mark First of Three-Day Event to Expose Monsanto’s Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2016

Contact:
U.S.: Katherine Paul, 
katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090Netherlands: Tjerk Dalhuisen,, tjerk@monsanto-tribunal.org, +31614699126
Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, 
ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, (55) 6257 7901  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The organizers of the International Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly addressed international journalists today at an opening press conference preceding today’s People’s Assembly and the October 15-16 Tribunal.

“If global governments and courts won’t rein in Monsanto and hold it accountable for its crimes, the people will,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association and member of the Tribunal organizing committee. “Monsanto’s toxic products, toxic commodities and toxic monocultures are destroying human health and our soils, without which life on Earth is unsustainable.”

“A patent of life and on seeds is a crime against farmers who are trapped in debt for costly patented seed,” said Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya and member of the Tribunal organizing committee. “It is also a crime against nature. The claim that by adding a gene Monsanto is ‘making’ life violates the self-organizing, self-renewing capacity of seed. The crime is further aggravated by destroying biodiversity, and spreading genetic pollution through the introduction of GMOs.”

The People’s Assembly will conclude on October 16, World Food Day, with a global citizens pledge to transition to a healthy and regenerative, and socially and economically just and democratic global food and farming system.

The Monsanto Tribunal, supported by more than 1000 organizations worldwide, is an international civil society initiative to examine Monsanto’s accountability for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice. The People’s Assembly provides opportunity for social movements to rally and plan for an alternative future.

Organizing groups behind the Monsanto Tribunal include the Organic Consumers Association, Navdanya, IFOAM Organics International, the Biovision Foundation and Regeneration International.

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is 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. 

Free People from ‘Dictatorship’ of the 0.01%

“The only way to counter globalisation—just a plot of land in some central place, keep it covered in grass, let there be a single tree, even a wild tree.”

This is how dear friend and eminent writer Mahasweta Devi, who passed away on July 28, at the age of 90, quietly laid out her imagination for freedom in our times of corporate globalisation in one of her last talks.

Our freedoms, she reminds us, are with grass and trees, with wildness and self-organisation (swaraj), when the dominant economic systems would tear down every tree and round up the last blade of grass.

From the days we jointly wrote about the madness of covering our beautiful biodiverse Hindustan with monocultures of eucalyptus plantations, which were creating green deserts, to the work we did together on the impact of globalisation on women, Mahaswetadi remained the voice of the earth, of the marginalised and criminalised communities.

She could see with her poetic imagination how globalisation, based on free trade agreements (FTAs), written by and for corporations, was taking away the freedoms of people and all beings. “Free trade” is not just about how we trade. It is about how we live and whether we live. It is about how we think and whether we think. In the last two decades, our economies, our production and consumption patterns, our chances of survival and the emergence of a very small group of parasitic billionaires, have all been shaped by the rules of deregulation in the WTO agreements.

“Free trade” is not just about how we trade. It is about how we live and whether we live. It is about how we think and whether we think.

In 1994, in Marrakesh, Morocco, we signed the GATT agreements which led to the creation of WTO in 1995. The WTO agreements are written by corporations for corporations, to expand their control on resources, production, markets and trade, establish monopolies and destroy both economic and political democracy.

Monsanto wrote the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of WTO — which is an attempt to claim seeds as Monsanto’s invention, and own seeds as “intellectual property” through patents. It has only one aim — to own and control seed and make super-profits through the collection of royalties. We have seen the consequences of this illegitimate corporate-defined “property” right in India; with extortion of “royalties” for genetically modified (GMO) seeds leading to high seed prices.

KEEP READING ON COMMON DREAMS

Re-thinking the Water Crisis: With a Little Creativity, We Can Meet Our Water Needs

The human brain is 95 percent water. Water makes up more than two-thirds of human body weight. Seventy-one percent of Earth’s surface is covered with water. Yet only 2.5 percent of Earth’s water is freshwater, of which only a small proportion is actually available to meet the needs of humans and animals. (Some of it is locked up in glaciers and ice, for example).

Water is life. We are at its mercy, vulnerable to its scarcity.

If you believe the headlines, we’re running out of water: “New NASA Data Show How the World Is Running out of Water,” Washington Post, 2016; “Water Crisis in Brazil: Why the Largest City in the Americas Is Drying out,” Humanosphere, 2015;  “Brazil’s Olympics Water Crisis Is a Constant Reality for Locals,” The Weekly Magazine, 2016; “Indian Water Crisis Shuts Down Multiple Power Plants,” POWER Magazine, 2016; “Hurricane Drought Hits a New Record,” Scientific American, 2016.

But how can that be? When the amount of water on the planet today is the same as it’s always been?

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association,  talked to Vermont-based journalist Judith D. Schwartz about her new book, “Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World,” which introduces unlikely, revolutionary and simple solutions to inspire a re-framing of the way we think about, and are challenged, by water.

“All of the news that we hear about water these days seems to be bad news,” said Schwartz said. “We hear about droughts and wildfires (caused by parched landscapes), and depleted groundwater resources. The sense we get from what we hear is that this is all inevitable.”

But water scarcity and crisis aren’t inevitable, according to Schwartz.

“What I’d like to bring to the conversation is that this isn’t a case of bad environmental karma, brought on by we’ve been doing to the planet. This is the result of distorted water cycles. And once we understand that, there is much that we can do to restore the water cycle, not only on a very small local basis but also on large landscapes. Most of it does turn on the extent to which we are able to mimic natural processes.”

In her book, Schwartz provides examples of how people are already managing water by mimicking nature. For example, a couple harvests dew in the Texas desert to meet their needs, and those of their many guests. Farmers in rural Zimbabwe and Mexico are greening desertified land through Holistic Planned Grazing, an approach to livestock management that mimics natural systems. Their efforts have successfully restored the water cycle and local biodiversity, and allowed rural villagers to get off international food aid.

Another approach to managing water, one that has been gaining international traction since the COP21 Paris Climate Summit, involves revitalizing soils. One-third of our excess atmospheric CO2 can be attributed to huge losses of carbon in the soil, primarily due to destructive agriculture and land use practices such as deforestation, soil-tillage and leaving soil bare.

By disrupting the carbon cycle, we’ve also disrupted the water cycle, according to Schwartz. This is because carbon is essential to keeping water in the ground.

The failure to retain water has, in turn, altered climate dynamics. According to Australian soil microbiologist Walter Jehne, more than 90 percent of our climate is driven by hydrological processes. History is littered with cautionary tales of communities and even civilizations—the Mayans, Pacific Islanders, peoples of the Fertile Crescent—who depleted their soil or chopped down forests, only to suffer from floods and drought. The moral of the story: Carbon-rich soil and the plants it sustains help manage the water cycle, and the water cycle drives weather and climate.

Can we actually avert both a climate crisis and a water crisis by, at least in part, paying more attention to how we manage water?

Yes, says Schwartz. Farmers worldwide are choosing to work with the carbon cycle. If regenerative agriculture and land-use practices are adopted by farmers worldwide, we’ll eventually restore carbon to the soil, and also restore the Earth’s natural water cycles. Even better, in the process, we’ll provide abundant and nutritious food, and increase biodiversity on the land, and in our diets.

“Every 1-percent increase in soil carbon represents an additional 20,000 gallons per acre that the land can hold,” says Schwartz. That’s the size of a 28’ above ground swimming pool—and that’s a lot of water.

“If we planted trees at a sufficiently large scale it would improve climate. Even planting on a local scale can improve groundwater recharge,” ecologist Douglas Sheil says in “Water in Plain Sight.” Why not focus on growing carbon in the soil and re-vegetating our landscapes?

RI asked Schwartz what is stopping us from scaling solutions like this on a global level. “What stops us is imagination,” Schwartz said. “It’s because most of us, in particular people who make decisions, and the policymakers, are disconnected from the natural processes that govern the flow of water.”

So, what can each of us do? Beyond shifting our attention to what’s possible and appreciating how lush our landscapes can be, Schwartz says, “a very important thing is what food you buy, what clothing you buy and learning more about the practices that are generating the food and fiber that we use in our lives.”

Water in Plain Sight is a reminder that “every acre of land on the planet offers a choice, toward enhancement and health and complexity, or toward degradation. Like animals managed well, we can act upon the land in a positive way.”

Why is water vapor the most significant greenhouse gas? Why is the Syrian migration crisis a result of mismanagement of the land? Watch the video interview to learn more.

Water in Plain Sight- 9781250069917-1

Buy “Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World.”

Check out Judith D Schwartz’s first book, “Cows Save the Planet.”

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Article written by Alexandra Groome, Campaign & Events Coordinator for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.

26 Regeneration Initiatives in Latin America

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In May (2016), over 50 people from across Mexico participated in a Regrarians training session in Sierra Gorda de Querétaro, México. The 10-day training session was led by Darren Doherty, a fifth-generation Bendigo region farmer, developer, author and trainer. Doherty has been involved in the design and development of nearly 2000 projects across six continents, in close to 50 countries.

I was fortunate to represent Regeneration International (RI) in this training session, which focused on practical methods for regenerating, restoring, rehabilitating, rekindling and rebooting landscapes.

The meeting brought together a diverse group of people, including permaculture practitioners who produce food in urban Mexico City,  ranchers working with cattle to restore vast expanses of desertified land in Chihuahua, consultants using keyline design as well as gabions, trincheras and berms to regenerate watersheds and small-scale farmers employing permaculture principles.

The key take away? Regenerative agriculture requires a combination of small-scale and large-scale solutions encompassing  a wide variety of practices and approaches. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. But all regenerative land use and agriculture solutions have one thing in common: They are geared toward restoring soil health and improving land in ways that ultimately lead to to productive landscapes and healthy communities and economies.

Following the training session, we compiled this list of 26 regeneration initiatives in Latin America.

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Alexandra Groome is Campaign & Events Coordinator for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.

Chickens Can Save the Planet, too: An Interview with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin

If you’re familiar  with the groundbreaking book “Cows Can Save the Planet,” you understand the role cattle can play in restoring the world’s soils and reversing the impacts of climate change.

But did you know that chickens, when raised in regenerative agroforestry-based systems, are proving to be key players in the regenerative revolution, too—especially when it comes to empowering the world’s 500 million small farmers?

In order to meet the world’s growing demand for chicken and eggs, the poultry industry has mercilessly worked to cut costs and increase supply. They’ve succeeded, but only at the expense of farmers, consumers, chickens and the environment. The current factory farm model of poultry production is unstable, toxic and heavily reliant on antibiotics, feed subsidies and abusive labor practices.

Luckily one man has dedicated his life to designing an alternative to toxic factory farms that can not only exceed current and future demand for healthy and humanely produced chicken and eggs, but also empower small farmers and restore  rural communities, local ecologies and our food system.

Regeneration International recently talked chickens and regeneration with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin who, as Chief-Strategy Officer of the Main Street Project, is developing a poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system and leads a team that is changing how small farmers are producing food around the world.

Raised in the rainforests of Guatemala during the country’s brutal 36-year civil war, Reginaldo and his family remained well fed due to his father’s deep understanding of forest food systems. Surrounded by poverty and malnutrition, Reginaldo discovered that the key to agricultural abundance and true food security is regenerative agriculture. Determined to put his understanding of regenerative agriculture to use, he went on to study at what was then the top agriculture school  in Latin America, the Central National School of Agriculture (ENCA). It was here that  he learned to apply the systems thinking that has made conventional agriculture models so widespread and replicable to the regenerative agriculture model.

Today, Reginaldo is leading the team, the strategies, and designing the processes to take the Main Street Project’s poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system to large-scale. Having spent the past seven years perfecting the system with Latino migrant farmers in Northfield Minnesota, Reginaldo and his team at the Main Street Project are in the process of adapting and expanding their model for farmers in other U.S. States, Mexico and Guatemala.

Interview with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin

(Watch the full interview above or on RI’s Youtube Channel)

RI: How did you first got involved with regenerative agriculture?

Haslett-Marroquin: I really came into this as a kid. I grew up in the rainforest with my brothers and sisters. When we started our farming system in the rainforest we did what everybody else did—you cut down the forest, you burn it and plant corn, black beans, soy beans and squash and all that. We only did it once, that I remember, before my dad said we are not going to make it, this is going to degenerate the ability of the soil to feed us. So we created a whole new system amidst everyone doing the opposite. And that is how I as a kid I became very interested in the biodynamics of these new ways of producing food, and later on, professionally learn about how much more efficient the regenerative systems our family developed were. That’s really where my beginnings were.

The [regenerative poultry] system that I am working on came as a result of trying to adapt to the current challenges that we are facing with climate change, with poverty, especially this almost unbelievable point we have gotten to with food security, even though almost every community in the world has the capacity to be food secure. Why have we not done like what we did growing up? We were poor, yes. But we were never food insecure. And now we have these massive institutions talking about food insecurity as the purpose for being while really food insecurity has continued to increase. That’s really what got me thinking. Is there a more strategic and simple way of thinking about it? And so poultry is an entry point that deals with those things head on and allows us to do larger-scale deployment of small farming systems and do them using the principles that I learned as a kid.

RI: So why poultry, is this something that was integrated into your family’s agricultural system in Guatemala?

Haslett-Marroquin: Yes and if you look at the whole world there is hardly any place on earth or a farmer on earth that doesn’t have some sort of familiarity with some kind of bird. Whether it’s pheasants, turkey, or chickens and even pigeons in Vietnam for example. Birds are the one type of livestock that unites  us globally. So if we are going to create a global movement that actually addresses some of these fundamental issues, and we are going to do it from the standpoint of regenerative agriculture—meaning socially, economically, and ecologically regenerative, highly scientific—we have to start with one thing that is common to most of the world. And that’s what chickens do.

RI: How does this system regenerate local economies and societies? What effect does it have on the supply chain?

Haslett-Marroquin: Let’s put it this way. The purpose of this is to produce a new system from which we can reengineer the way we grow and distribute food. And the way we supply those value chains and supply chains so that we can transform the kind of food consumers can have access to and transform the way farmers interact  with each other.

Conventional systems are engineered to be extractive—extractive of the labor of people, extractive of the natural resources of the soil, extractive of fossil resources—to be able to make it, in their words, more efficient in terms of productivity.

The economic regeneration of a system depends on the ripple effect of all of the economic transactions so that extraction does not happen. Rather than extraction, there is flow and balance of resources.

Ecologically, it is actually a matter of design. If we are going to design efficient systems, we have to work with the ecology. By restoring and regenerating the ecology this is how we achieve the economic returns that we seek. By organizing the economic returns so that they flow in a balanced way, we keep them from getting extracted from the families that need them to sustain and regenerate and continue to regenerate the system over time.

As you do those two things, the economic and the ecological, and achieve high levels of energy transformation efficiency, you also create  the social interactions which allow it to regenerate the ability of people to be with each other and learn more about how to live together. That is what is degenerating, our ability to understand who we are within the larger context of the world and food.

RI: Why does the world need this model?

Haslett-Marroquin: As you think of what conventional agriculture has delivered us, we see a lot of health problems on the consumer side. As a consumer, I don’t want to continue to purchase these cheap foods that are making all of us sick. Food-related diseases are huge and there is no need for it, because we can develop a new system.

We always start with the question “what if?” In this case, what if we don’t even need cheap food? What if the idea of cheap food is so misunderstood that it is more expensive at the end of the day because of the consequences of consuming it? What if what we really need is a reconnection between the consumers and farmers so that we can reengineer how food actually happens from the farm to the table, and how that energy gets reintegrated back into the system?

Just like consumers, farmers are suffering from lack of opportunity, ownership and control, access to resources, new technologies, because all of the ownership and control of the current food system is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful multinational corporations. So consumers need these systems because we need healthy food, accessible to everyone. And farmers, small farmers especially—over 70 percent  of the food in the world is producer by small farmers with under 5 hectares of land—this allows us to bring them back into the equation at a larger scale with more power, greater ownership and control, and to connect them more directly back to consumers. We need to regenerate the social connectedness between producers and consumers so that we can rebuild that trust and confidence that was lost as we gave up the ownership and control.

RI: How does the regenerative poultry project synchronize with the intentions of the 4p1000 initiative. And what opportunities does the initiative bring for Main Street Project and more broadly in Mexico and Latin America?

Haslett-Marroquin: Here’s how we connect this opportunity. 4p1000 is an ecological imperative. The idea of bringing back 4 for every 1000 particles of CO2 from the air into permanent storage and doing that on the basis of soil restoration is critical. But really that shouldn’t be the end goal. The end goal should be beyond that. When you think of just bringing that carbon back, think about why it was out there in the first place. Because there was irresponsible management of our soils. If we just bring it back because we built an economic opportunity for corporations to bring carbon back into the soil, we’ve lost again. Because the minute we stop paying those corporations to come up with solutions to problems they created in the first place, we are back to square one.

What our model  does is bring ownership and control of the 4p1000 initiative to communities. That is how we are going to win in the long term. That’s what is going to make it permanent and regenerative and sustainable and all of those things that we keep saying we want from this initiative.

Of the millions of farmers in Mexico who own less than 5 hectares [of land], if we took 5 for every 1000 for example, we could deploy enough production to supply 100 percent  of the eggs that Mexico consumes right now, totalling around 15,700 production units mimicking the one we have in San Miguel de Allende (Granjas Regenerativas). This allows us not only to restore soil and deliver on the 4p1000 initiative, but also allows us to do it on the basis of community engagement, rather than making it another business opportunity for the carbon traders. This is where we bring it to earth, so to speak, back to the soil.

RI: So you’re putting the power back in the hands of the small farmers.

Haslett-Marroquin: That would be the idea. If we don’t do that, we are really not going to change the way things are. What created the problem in the first place is greed, lack of interest and respect for nature. The folks who did that, the corporations who are responsible for that, it is not in their DNA to do otherwise. To think that somehow they are going to solve this problem is really naive. We have to do it on the basis of re-distribution of the ownership and control of the end result.

I believe in this case what we have done, is we’ve created a  very nice enterprise opportunity and design for small farmers, a way for them to get into this business in alignment with regenerative principles, and at the same time meet  all of the standards of the 4p1000 initiative.

I am happy that Mexico signed the 4p1000 agreement. This gives us a moral imperative. It gives an argument to be made for the fact that now Mexico has to deliver. It is not legally binding. Obviously these are voluntary commitments, but it does create the environment under which we can start this conversation about how do we change for real.

***

Alexandra Groome is Campaign & Events Coordinator for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.

Griffin Klement is the Organic Consumers Association Latin American Project Director.

The Carbon Underground: Reversing Global Warming

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“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels [398 ppm.] to at most 350 ppm ” ~ Dr. James Hansen

Reversing Global Warming

Since Dr. James Hansen, a leading climatologist, warned in 2008 that we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts-per-million (ppm) in order to preserve life on Earth, little has been done to get us there.

It’s getting late. If we’re going to preserve a livable Earth, we the global grassroots, must do more than mitigate global warming.

We must reverse it.

How?

Hint number one: not by politely asking out-of-control corporations and politicians to please stop destroying the planet.

Hint number two: not by pinning our hopes for survival and climate stability on hi-tech, unproven and dangerous, “solutions” such as genetic engineering, geoengineering, or carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants.

Hint number three: not by naively believing that soon (or soon enough) ordinary consumers all over the planet will spontaneously abandon their cars, air travel, air conditioning, central heating, and fossil fuel-based diets and lifestyles just in time to prevent atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from moving past the tipping point of 450 ppm or more of CO2 to the catastrophic point of no return.

We can reverse climate change by sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2 using the “tools” we already have at hand: regenerative, organic farming, ranching and land use. And we can make this world-changing transition by mobilizing a vast green corps of farmers, ranchers, gardeners, consumers, climate activists and conservationists to begin the monumental task of moving the Carbon Behemoth safely back underground.

As thousands of farmers, ranchers, and researchers worldwide are demonstrating, by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and black soot, and qualitatively ramping up plant photosynthesis (i.e. the capacity of plants, trees, and grasses to move CO2 from the atmosphere through their roots into the soil) on billions of acres of farm land, range land, and forest, we can sequester enough CO2 to restabilize the climate.

Moving the Carbon Underground

We’re talking about mobilizing the global grassroots, not as passive observers, but as active participants, producers and conscious consumers, implementing and promoting on a mass scale, tried and true, low-tech, beneficial practices that naturally sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon in the soil.

These traditional, regenerative practices include no till organic farming, planned rotational grazing (carbon ranching), composting of organic wastes, the use of cover crops, planting trees, and preserving and restoring forests, wetlands, riparian zones, grasslands, peat bogs, and biodiversity.

As Courtney White, author of the recent book, Grass, Soil, Hope, puts it:

” If land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high.

“Globally… soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that’s stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.”

The noted food writer, Michael Pollan, in his introduction to White’s book, explains the basic concepts of plant photosynthesis and the benefits of regenerative agriculture:

“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: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. 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 are properly managed, according to White-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.”

Wake Up Before It’s Too Late

If you are unfamiliar with the enormous impact of industrial food and farming and non-sustainable forest practices on global warming (chemical and energy-intensive, GMO, industrial food and farming practices generate 35 percent of global greenhouse gas pollution, while deforestation, often agriculture-driven, generates another 20 percent) and the concept of natural carbon sequestration through regenerative land use, please take a look at the comprehensive 2013 scientific study called “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” published by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

And if you need a strong dose of good news, to counteract the typical gloom and doom message around the climate crisis, please read the 2014 Rodale Institute study on regenerative organic practices. See also: http://thecarbonunderground.org.

Given that hundreds of billions of tons of carbon originally sequestered in agricultural soils are now blanketing the atmosphere and cooking the planet, our life-or-death task is to move this massive “legacy load” of CO2 (now 50 ppm of CO2, likely to be 100 ppm in 20 years, past the danger zone) back underground, as soon as possible. This Great Sequestration will buy us the time we need to reduce fossil fuel use by 80-90 percent or more and reverse global warming.

Taking Down Factory Farms and Industrial Agriculture

Of course moving several hundred gigatons of CO2 back underground and reversing global warming will not be easy. Getting back to 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere will require nothing less than a global food and farming revolution: shutting down factory farms, boycotting genetically engineered foods, including factory-farmed meat and animal products, and putting billions of intensively confined farm animals back on the land, grazing, where they belong.

Restabilizing the climate means putting an end to gigantic GMO soybean and palm oil plantations and industrial timber operations. It means preserving tropical forests, and planting and nurturing hundreds of billions of native trees in deforested urban and rural areas.

Reversing global warming means putting an end to the energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, genetically engineered industrial food and farming system that is not only destroying public health, torturing animals, polluting the water, overgrazing pastures and rangelands, driving family farmers off the land, and destroying biodiversity, as well as pumping billions of tons of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot into the air.

Reversing climate change also means stopping industrial agriculture from continuing to dump billions of pounds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the already heavily tilled, compacted, and eroded land-practices that destroy  the Earth’s natural ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon. These unsustainable farming, ranching, and land use practices, according to a leading world expert, Dr. Rattan Lal, have already caused the release of 25-70 percent (hundreds of billions of tons) of all the carbon originally sequestered in agricultural soils.

As a consequence of this decarbonization and destruction of the Earth’s topsoils, almost a quarter of all arable land on the planet is fallow. But as Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University has recently shown in a scientific study for Sandia Labs, by implementing regenerative organic practices, “The rates of biomass production we are currently observing in this system have the capability to capture enough CO2 (50 tons of CO2/acre) to offset all anthropogenic CO2 emissions on less than 11 percent of world cropland. Over twice this amount of land is fallow at any time worldwide.” ( The Soil Will Save Us, Kristin Ohlsen p. 233)

As the well respected author Kristin Ohlson commented to Dr. Johnson in a telephone conversation about this staggering assertion: “Aren’t you afraid to say this? Aren’t you afraid that saying that will let the oil and gas companies off the hook? As well as people burning down forests and all the rest of us with big carbon footprints? Aren’t you afraid?”

Ohlson continued: “I thought I could feel a wary shrug over the phone.”

Dr. Johnson then replied:  “I don’t see anything on the horizon that touches the effectiveness of this approach  We’re not going to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions anytime soon, because we depend too much on oil and gas, and the rest of the world wants our lifestyle. The whole idea is to get something that works right now, the world over, to make a significant impact on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.” ( The Soil Will Save Us, pp. 233-34.)

If industrial agriculture and GMOs are marginalized through mandatory labeling, marketplace pressure and public policy change, if fossil fuel consumption in all sectors is steadily reduced, and regenerative organic practices are put into action globally, with a focus on the 22 percent of the planet’s soils which are degraded and currently fallow, we will be able to sequester 100 percent of current, annual (35 gigatons) carbon dioxide emissions.

Small Farmers Can Cool the Planet

The world’s two and a half billion small and indigenous farmers and rural villagers currently manage to produce 70 percent of the world’s food on 25 percent of the world’s land. These so-called “subsistence farmers,” who have always struggled to survive, now find that climate change, the steady expansion of GMOs and industrial agriculture, and so-called “Free Trade” agreements, are making their farming and survival much more difficult. But these same small farmers, ranchers, pastoralists and forest dwellers, because they have, in most cases, retained traditional knowledge and practices, including seed saving and animal grazing, are open to adopting even more powerful regenerative organic practices. And of course these regenerative, climate-friendly, low-tech land-management techniques will also increase yields, reduce rural poverty, conserve water, improve soil health, and prevent erosion. Study after study has shown that small agro-ecological farms significantly out-produce industrial farms-while sequestering carbon.

The solution to climate change, desertification and world hunger is literally in the hands of the world’s two-and-a-half billion family farmers-but only if those farmers are supported by conscious consumers and activists, driving public policy, marketplace, and land-use reform on a global scale. This won’t happen unless we focus on economic justice and land-use reform. Investments and public funds, local to international, must be shifted from greenhouse gas-polluting factory farms and chemical-drenched genetically engineered crops to regenerative organic farming techniques that benefit small-scale and sustainable farmers, as well as consumers.

Land grabs and “free trade” agreements orchestrated by industrialized nations and multinational corporations must be stopped.

The Point of No Return

The U.S. and global climate movement desperately needs a more sophisticated (and international) strategy beyond just pressuring politicians, corporations, banksters, and the White House into shutting down coal plants, fracking and the tar sands pipeline. What we need is a holistic Zero Emissions/Maximum Sequestration strategy that can galvanize a grassroots army of hundreds of millions of small farmers and conscious consumers, not only in the U.S., but globally.

Although millions of misinformed and/or befuddled Americans remain in denial, a critical mass of the body politic is beginning to understand that global warming and climate chaos pose a serious threat to human survival. What they are lacking, however, is a coherent and empowering understanding of what is actually causing global warming, as well as a practical roadmap of how we-individually, collectively and globally-move away from the dangerous precipice where we find ourselves.

The only remaining significant disagreement among informed climate researchers centers on how long we can survive the still-rising 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere (485 ppm if we include other GHGs such as methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs and black soot). Current consensus seems to be 15-25 years before we reach a “point of no return” whereby climate change morphs into irreversible climate catastrophe.

Faulty Solutions. Flawed Strategy. The U.S.-based climate action movement, led by 350.org, has done an excellent job of protesting against the coal, oil and gas industries. This high-profile movement has also popularized the notion that fossil fuel consumption must be drastically slashed (by 80-90 percent) and replaced by renewable forms of energy, and that individuals and institutions must divest from the fossil fuel industry, making sure that 75 percent of fossil fuels reserves are left in the ground.

But strategic components of 350.org’s roadmap for change are seriously flawed.

First of all, 350.org’s reliance on over-simplified official statistics (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–IGCC) on what is causing excess GHG emissions in the atmosphere (i.e. utilities, industry, transportation, and housing) fails to take into account the fact that our industrial food and farming system (production, transportation, processing, waste, and land use), including its impact on deforestation and the soil’s ability to naturally sequester CO2, are the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our climate dysfunctionality is in large part a function of how we farm and eat. Yet the most prominent voices in the climate movement continue to downplay, or ignore entirely, this fact.

Even the most optimistic climate activists admit that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will likely reach 450 ppm in the next several decades before leveling off. Unfortunately the climate movement up until now has offered no real strategy for how we can get from 450 ppm or more to the safe level of 350 ppm.

Even if the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, the EU, and other nations stop all emissions sometime in the next 20 years, we will still have dangerous levels (450 ppm or more of CO2 and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere-levels that will gradually melt the polar icecaps, burn up the Amazon, spawn disastrous storms, floods, and droughts, and destroy agricultural productivity.

This is not just a basic error in analysis and a failure of imagination. It’s a “doom-and-gloom” formula that leaves us with little or no hope.

We, the members of the regenerative organics movement, invite you to educate yourself about the good news of regenerative organics and natural carbon sequestration. Please join and help us unite the climate movement, the organic movement, the animal rights, family farmer, and conservation movements into a mighty force for transformation and regeneration.

Join us and noted author Vandana Shiva under the banner of “Cook Organic, not the Planet,” at the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, or at one of the many local actions on that day, and at forthcoming U.S. and international gatherings.

The hour is late. But we still have time to turn things around by stopping the Carbon Criminals and Earth Destroyers and moving as quickly as possible toward a regenerative farming, ranching, and land use system capable of reversing global warming.

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Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.   

How Factory Farming Contributes to Global Warming

A growing number of organic consumers, natural health advocates and climate hawks are taking a more comprehensive look at the fundamental causes of global warming. And its led them to this sobering conclusion: our modern energy-, chemical- and genetically modified organism (GMO)-intensive industrial food and farming systems are the major cause of man-made global warming.

How did they reach this conclusion? First, by taking a more inclusive look at the scientific data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—not just carbon dioxide (CO2), but also methane and nitrous oxide. Next, by doing a full accounting of the fossil fuel consumption and emissions of the entire industrial food and farming cycle, including inputs, equipment, production, processing, distribution, heating, cooling and waste. And finally, by factoring in the indirect impacts of contemporary agriculture, which include deforestation and wetlands destruction.

When you add it all up, the picture is clear—contemporary agriculture is burning up our planet. And factory farms or, in industry lingo, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), play a key role in this impending disaster.

The science behind global warming is complex. Without question, coal plants, tar sands and natural gas fracking have contributed heavily to GHG pollution, the major cause of global warming. We must unite to shut down these industries. Similarly, consumer overconsumption of fossil fuels represents another big piece of the climate-crisis equation. We absolutely must rethink, retrofit and/or redesign our gas-guzzling cars and our energy-inefficient buildings, if we want to reduce fossil fuel use by 90 percent over the next few decades.

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