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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.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.