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Creating a Carbon-based Local Economy

How can local economies value carbon farming practices in finished consumer goodsFibershed represents a 160-member producer community, spanning from the Oregon border to San Luis Obispo and from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra foothills, that is managing working landscapes strategically to sequester carbon. Burgess gave this talk, transcribed and edited below, as part of the Bioneers Carbon Farming Series.

Photo credit: Pexels

How do basic human needs – food, fuel, flora, fiber – get met within an economically and ecologically strategic geography?

There are 25 million hectares of rangelands in California and a key question is whether we can manage them to help lower Earth’s temperature. Most rangeland systems have very low amounts of carbon. California has lost around 40% of its carbon in its rangelands due to the loss of perennials. These soils are in a massive carbon debt.

Fibershed is organizing place-based economies around carbon.

 

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How Can Soil Quality Slow Global Warming?

A new study from the University of Berkeley in California has found that improving soil quality could make a substantial contribution to slowing down global warming. What’s more, the practices needed to make this scenario a reality are already widely-practiced around the world and involve little technological or financial investment to implement.

Photo credit: Pixabay

The authors of the paper found that if simple initiatives like planting cover plants, sowing legumes and optimising grazing terrain were introduced on a worldwide scale, they could reduce global warming by as much as a quarter of a degree Celsius. If the controversial additive biochar was factored in, the reductions could amount to as much as half a degree. However, none of the above will have any meaningful impact without attendant reductions in carbon emissions

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‘Agroforestry’ May Be New Weapon in Climate Change Fight

Author: Jeff Mulhollem | Published: February 9, 2018

Agroforestry could play an important role in mitigating climate change because it sequesters more atmospheric carbon in plant parts and soil than conventional farming, report researchers.

An agricultural system that combines trees with crops and livestock on the same plot of land, agroforestry is especially popular in developing countries because it allows small shareholder farmers—who have little land available to them—to maximize their resources. They can plant vegetable and grain crops around trees that produce fruit, nuts, and wood for cooking fires, and the trees provide shade for animals that provide milk and meat.

The researchers analyzed data from 53 published studies around the world that tracked changes in soil organic carbon after land conversion from forest to crop cultivation and pasture-grassland to agroforestry. While forests sequester about 25 percent more carbon than any other land use, agroforestry, on average, stores markedly more carbon than agriculture.

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Can Carbon Farming Help Save the Outback?

In Western Australia, pastoral lease reform raises hopes for people and their land

Authors: Pepe Clarke & David Mackenzie | Published: June 18, 2018

In the Outback of Western Australia, pastoral leaseholders have for years faced a tough choice: Graze livestock in an unsustainable and land-damaging way, or go easy on the land while sliding toward financial hardship.

That’s because the Western Australia pastoral lease system, which covers one-third of the state and an area bigger than Texas, historically restricted leaseholders to grazing livestock as their primary business, even though degraded land has rendered grazing unprofitable in many areas. As a result, a growing number of Western Australians have chosen a third option—leaving the region—just at a time when the Outback needs more occupants, not fewer, to prevent the spread of feral animals, noxious weeds, and uncontrolled wildfires.

In an effort to reverse that trend and help repair the landscape, the Western Australian government in April began allowing a new line of business—carbon farming—on lands once reserved for grazing. Carbon farming, which essentially means working the land in a way that maximizes the amount of carbon dioxide stored in the native vegetation and soil, is a way for landowners to gain carbon credits that they can then sell to companies seeking to offset their emissions.

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This ‘Carbon Removal Marketplace’ Will Make Buying Offsets Easier

As companies like Lyft start to invest to make up for their carbon footprints, the world of offset buying needs more transparency and accountability.

Author: Adele Peters | Published: June 14, 2018

On his small family farm in Petaluma, California, Don Gilardi hopes to begin spreading compost over his pastures next year as a way to fight climate change. The technique helps plants pull more carbon from the air and store it in the soil. The farm will also use other “carbon farming” methods, like planting trees on pastures and managed grazing. In doing so, it could sequester an average of 295 metric tons of CO2 a year, more than the emissions of driving a Toyota Camry a million miles. In 20 years, the farm could sequester 32 times as much carbon.

A new “carbon removal marketplace” hopes to make it easier for consumers and businesses to directly support farmers who, like Gilardi, want to shift to climate-friendly practices. It will also later connect consumers to other types of carbon offsets, such as those from tree-planting projects. Called Nori, the new platform, which will launch by the end of the year, will use blockchain to streamline the process of buying and selling offsets.

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Carbon Farmers Work to Clean Up the World’s Mess

Author: Dana J. Graef | Published: June 14, 2018

It was a bright afternoon in March of 2011 when I met Pedro (a pseudonym) on his organic farm in the mountains of Costa Rica, north of San José. I was there to do research on changing agricultural practices in the country. As we walked around his land, he showed me his greenhouses where lettuce, potatoes, and peppers grew. The warm air smelled earthy and sweet.

Outside, there were curving rows of carrots planted in the dark earth. He pulled some out and, after washing off clumps of dirt that were clinging to the roots, handed them to me to taste. They were different colors, and each had its own flavor—the yellow was sweeter than the white.

There was a slight breeze. The rolling landscape was vibrant and green. And there was carbon in the ground. Pedro knew it was there, and he was talking about it because of climate change.

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Carbon Farming Works. Can It Scale up in Time to Make a Difference?

The knowledge and tools to sequester carbon on farmland have blossomed rapidly in California; now farmers and ranchers just need funding to make it happen.

Author: Twilight Greenaway | Published: June 12, 2018

Lani Estill is serious about wool. And not just in a knitting-people-sweaters kind of way. Estill and her husband John own thousands of sweeping acres in the northwest corner of California, where they graze cattle and Rambouillet sheep, a cousin of the Merino with exceptionally soft, elastic wool.

“Ninety percent of our income from the sheep herd comes from the lamb we sell,” says Estill. But the wool, “it’s where my passion is.”

Wool, an often-overlooked agricultural commodity, has also opened a number of unexpected doors for Bare Ranch, the land Estill and her family call home. In fact, their small yarn and wool business has allowed Lani and John to begin “carbon farming,” or considering how and where their land can pull more carbon from the atmosphere and put it into the soil in an effort to mitigate climate change. And in a rural part of the state where talk of climate change can cause many a raised eyebrow, such a shift is pretty remarkable.

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Carbon Farming Coming to Santa Barbara

Author: Tanner Walker | Published: May 29, 2018

Carbon ranching is coming to Santa Barbara, but farmers aren’t growing carbon — they’re putting it back into the ground. With the help of compost and cattle, native grasses can sequester organic carbon, enriching the soil and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

For example, a single acre of grazed grasslands in Santa Barbara can remove the equivalent of 3.9 tons of CO2 each year by using a compost application plan outlined by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

According to the Community Environmental Council of Santa Barbara, 270,000 acres in the county are suitable for compost application. Even if only 15 percent of the available land received a single dusting of compost, their analysis “shows that the increased sequestration could offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions from the county’s agricultural sector.”

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Carbon Farming Isn’t Worth It for Farmers. Two Blockchain Companies Want to Change That

Can the tech that powers cryptocurrency spark a regenerative ag revolution?

Author: Jessica McKenzie | Published: June 4, 2018

When the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed at the end of 2017, analysts crunched the numbers and concluded that the cryptocurrency was set to consume the entire global energy supply by the end of 2020. “Mining” Bitcoin involves solving increasingly complex mathematical equations that secure the network in exchange for newly-minted cryptocurrency—which incidentally requires lots of energy. Huge server farms have popped up around the world for the express purpose of generating the virtual cash, from China to upstate New York, where one town put a moratorium on new commercial cryptocurrency mining operations to protect “the City’s natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources.”

But in spite of Bitcoin’s eco-unfriendly reputation, some organizations propose using blockchain, the technology that makes the cryptocurrency possible, to power a regenerative agricultural revolution. The ultimate goal is to reverse the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere until atmospheric levels fall to a degree that scientists agree will stabilize the climate.

Regenerative agriculture describes a range of farming practices that prioritize soil health and biodiversity over short-term gains that can be derived from tilling and weeding, heavy pesticide use, or artificial fertilizers. Advocates of regenerative agriculture have long argued that holistic land management is better for the farmer and for the earth, but the movement has recently gotten a boost from interest in one of its other benefits: carbon sequestration.

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Healthy, ‘Climate-Beneficial’ Soil Is the Next Supply Chain Frontier

Armed with millions of dollars and a new understanding of sustainable agriculture, Sallie Calhoun is activating a new frontline in the fight against climate change: regenerative soil.

Author: Risa Blumlien | Published: April 20, 2018

Investor and carbon farmer Sallie Calhoun is on a mission: to change our relationship to the earth beneath our feet. After selling her tech company in 2001, she quickly became the proud owner of 7,600 acres of California grassland called Paicines Ranch — plus enough money to leverage some serious change. Now, along with impact investing guru Esther Park, she co-manages a soil-health portfolio called Cienega Capital with $20 million deployed to-date, and has recently co-founded the No Regrets Initiative to build momentum toward climate-beneficial communities. Why is Calhoun so committed to turning dollars into dirt? We sat down with her to learn more and find out.

Why is regenerative soil important?

In a closed environment (like our planet), matter is neither created nor destroyed. So as atmospheric carbon steadily increases (in December 2017, it passed 410 parts per million for the first time in millions of years), carbon levels must steadily decrease somewhere else — and that somewhere else is our global soils. To reverse climate change, carbon in the atmosphere must return to the soil, a process that green, photosynthesizing plants are already perfectly designed to execute.

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