We Know How Food Production Needs to Change If Crisis Is to Be Avoided – So Why Isn’t This Happening?

Author: Nina Moeller, Michael Pimbert | Published: March 26, 2018

As the world races toward a projected 9 billion inhabitants, the failings of dominant food systems are impossible to deny. Current food production methods are severely polluting. They are the cause of malnutrition. They are also inequitable, and unjustifiably wasteful. And they are concentrated in the hands of few corporations. Entangled in the multiple crises humanity is facing, establishing global food security is considered a key challenge of our time.

Against the backdrop of climate change, resource shortages and urbanisation, the question of how to ensure adequate food supply for everyone looms rather large. The usual response emphasises intensifying the output of agriculture through the common model of petrochemical, large-scale, one-crop, intensive farming.

But business as usual is no longer an option for food and agriculture. The global agriculture system will have to be radically transformed to avoid further environmental and social problems, as was concluded by a three-year study commissioned by the UN and the World Bank involving more than 400 scientists. This report, as well as subsequent international studies by the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, have convincingly demonstrated that agroecology – farming that imitates natural ecosystems – is the most promising pathway to sustainable food systems on all continents.

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Land Degradation Threatens Human Wellbeing, Major Report Warns

More than 3.2bn people are already affected and the problem will worsen without rapid action, driving migration and conflict

Author: Jonathan Watts | Published: March 26, 2018

Land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date.

The UN-backed report underscores the urgent need for consumers, companies and governments to rein in excessive consumption – particularly of beef – and for farmers to draw back from conversions of forests and wetlands, according to the authors.

With more than 3.2 billion people affected, this is already one of the world’s biggest environmental problems and it will worsen without rapid remedial action, according to Robert Scholes, co-chair of the assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “As the land base decreases and populations rise, this problem will get greater and harder to solve,” he said.

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Community Food & Water and Farm Bill

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Supporting Local Ag Could Fight Climate Change

Author: Kelly Lively | Published: March 21, 2018

Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry, making it a major contributor to the state’s economy. Agriculture also contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly 25 percent according the USDA. Include storage and transportation and agriculture could account for nearly a third.

Agriculture is also directly affected by global warming. Local farmers used to call total fruit crop loss a “once in a lifetime” event. When total loss happened in 2002, a new generation of Michigan farmers chalked it up to be their once-in-a-lifetime event. However, 2012 delivered a second blow when unseasonably warm weather set tree buds that were again killed by a late frost. It doesn’t take much to figure out that two such events in 10 years can no longer be described as “once in a lifetime.” Severe weather has diminished crop yields to varying degrees in subsequent years as well. Extreme weather makes farm life difficult: soggy springs, summer droughts and hailstorms. Climate change increases the likelihood and severity of these events and threatens food system stability.

Thankfully, agriculture can also be a major part of the solution. Eliminating emissions alone won’t get us out of this mess. Sequestering carbon from the atmosphere is also necessary — and healthy soils can capture a lot! Transitioning to regenerative practices needs to be the norm. One effective method is intensive rotational grazing, which builds soil and produces high quality protein from animals humanely raised on pasture, feeding off the sun’s energy. Combine this with no-till farming, cover cropping and proper crop rotation and we move toward carbon neutrality, because healthy soil sequesters carbon. Some models suggest that agricultural lands have the capacity to store as much carbon as the equivalent of annual worldwide GHG emissions, or 36 gigatons. Presently the earth’s farmland only stores 1/1000 of that, or .03 gigatons. Healthy soil has other benefits. It protects against flooding by absorbing more water, which in turn increases drought resistance. By reducing the need for fertilizer and growing disease and insect resistant plants, healthy soil not only produces healthy food, it supports a healthy ecosystem — a win for us all.

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How the Natural Products Industry Is Building a Climate Movement

Author: Erin Callahan | Published: March 23, 2018

What I witnessed at Climate Day 2018 at Expo West two weeks ago filled me with inspiration and hope — two emotions that are not always easy to come by for those of us working on climate change. The natural products industry is building a climate change movement and has no intention of staying quiet about it.

The Climate Collaborative, a project of OSC2 and SFTA launched a year ago at Expo West 2017, in hopes we could bring together 100 companies making proactive, public commitments around key climate issue areas. (GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower emceed the event.)

It’s a year later, and we’ve burned past our original goal — 203 companies have made more than 730 commitments to action — an average of two commitments a day. They’re tackling everything from transitioning to renewable energy to reducing transportation emissions to adopting carbon farming practices to cutting the climate impacts of their packaging to engaging on climate policy, and more.

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International Study Indicates Ways to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

International study indicates ways to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture

Author: Cristina Pinto, University of Coimbra | Published: March 14, 2018

Extreme weather events are going to be more frequent and longer lasting, and farmers will have to adapt, finding new forms of agricultural and agroforestry management

Extreme weather events “are going to be more frequent and longer lasting, and farmers will have to adapt, finding new forms of agricultural and agroforestry management in order to make this sector more resilient to climate change,” says scientist José Paulo Sousa, from the Center for Functional Ecology of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), coordinator of a team of Portuguese researchers participating in the international study ECOSERVE, which is evaluating the effects of climate change on soil biological processes.

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How to Change the Climate Story: Paul Hawken

Want to avoid climate disaster? Abandon the “wussy” language of climate mitigation as well as war metaphors, and develop more positive ways of thinking about the issue, said American environmentalist Paul Hawken at a recent conference in Sydney.

Author: Vaidehi Shah | Published: March 14, 2018

To generate effective, universal action that will solve the problem of climate change, the global community needs to abandon the “wussy” language of climate mitigation and rethink the “negative” sports and war metaphors that are pervasive in discussions about the issue.

This was the advice offered by American environmentalist, author and activist Paul Hawken at the recent Purpose conference in Sydney.

Speaking to a 500-strong audience at Commune in Sydney, Hawken said that the term “climate mitigation”, which is commonly found in government policies, international negotiations in the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, and scientific reports isn’t strong enough.

“When you are heading down the wrong road towards a cliff, the only thing that makes sense is not to slow down and go over the cliff slowly, but to stop and turn around,” said Hawken.

This is why, instead of the prevailing narrative of mitigating climate change, Hawken champions the notion of reversing global warming. Last year, Hawken co-founded the Drawdown Project, which maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most effective, economically viable and scaleable solutions to reverse global warming.

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The Crop of the Future

Harvesting carbon could offer a solution to climate change.

Author: Tharran Gaines | Published: March 9, 2018

Whether you call it global warming or climate change, the emotionally charged topic generally associated with greenhouse gases brings an array of reactions – from genuine concern to belief in a conspiracy. Granted, natural shifts in global temperatures have occurred throughout human history. However, the fact remains that Earth’s average surface temperature has increased 1.3ºF. over the past century and is projected to increase by an additional 3.2ºF. to 7.2ºF. over the 21st century. It is happening at a faster rate than ever before.

Fortunately, U.S. farmers and ranchers are poised to make a difference. In fact, they have already adopted technologies in many instances that are helping to slow greenhouse gas emissions – even if it has been inadvertent – in the quest for reduced soil erosion, lower input costs, or improved water conservation.

Temperature Change is Both Good and Bad

While the global temperature change may seem slight and insignificant, it does pose implications – both good and bad – for farmers and ranchers. According to the EPA, it can lead to a longer growing season in some regions, yet have an adverse effect on crops where summer heat already limits production.

Global warming can also lead to an increase in soil evaporation rates, as well as the chances of severe drought. It’s believed that climate change may encourage a northern migration of weeds and greater disease pressure in crops and livestock, due to warmer winters and earlier springs.

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A Secret Superpower, Right in Your Backyard

Author: Kendra Pierre-Louis | Published: March 6, 2018

As the verdant hills of Wakanda are secretly enriched with the fictional metal vibranium in “Black Panther,” your average backyard also has hidden superpowers: Its soil can absorb and store a significant amount of carbon from the air, unexpectedly making such green spaces an important asset in the battle against climate change.

Backyard soils can lock in more planet-warming carbon emissions than soils found in native grasslands or urban forests like arboretums, according to Carly Ziter, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The results of her research, published Tuesday in the journal Ecological Applications, were something of a surprise, given that those of us who have yards generally don’t think of them as “nature,” or as especially beneficial to the environment. But at least in this case, the things we enjoy for ourselves are also helping the community at large.

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Drought-Stricken Texans Turn to Cows to Save Their Farms

Authors: Ginger Zee, David Miller, Kelly Harold, Olivia Smith, and Andrea Miller | Published: February 6, 2018

How does a cattle farmer from Texas withstand a drought? In the summer of 2011 as oppressive heat and drought hit Texas, grasses were dying and cows were running out of food to eat. To save their cattle, ranchers were forced to truck their cows to fields of healthy grass.

But as several farms were turning to dust, cattle rancher Jon Taggart of Grandview, Texas, continued run his business.

“I’m proud to say that we harvested cattle every week of the year through that entire drought,” he told ABC News.

How did Taggart stay open while other farmers were struggling?

“The reason was because we planted those deep-rooted native grasses that were designed by somebody a lot bigger than us to survive those droughts,” he said.

Taggart has been raising grass-fed and grass-finished beef since 1999 and owns three stores in Texas called Burgundy Pasture Beef.

While most beef that is sold in stores is finished on grain to fatten them up, Taggart and a small but growing number of farmers are feeding their cows grass exclusively for their whole lives.

That makes the grass as important to the farm as the cows themselves.

“We want an extremely diversified plant population: warm season grasses; cool season grasses; grasses that germinate early; grasses that germinate later.”

That diversity of grass has kept Taggart’s soil healthy even as Texas faces droughts. The grasses ability to hold on to water when it rains has helped keep his farm healthy.

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