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Pastizales: Evitan el Calentamiento

Por primera vez en miles de años, la concentración de CO2 atmosférico pasó los 400 ppm durante todo un año. Hasta ahora las eras geológicas eran consecuencia de fenómenos naturales, lentos e inmanejables para las criaturas vivientes. Hoy los científicos dan por inaugurado el Antropoceno, la era donde los humanos somos la principal fuerza interviniente. Desde que descubrió el uso del fuego, el hombre fue alterando el paisaje y la vida del planeta, aumentando las emisiones de carbono y destruyendo sus sumideros, como costo asociado al progreso.

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El aumento de los gases en la atmósfera produce efecto invernadero y la temperatura media del planeta aumenta. Las consecuencias son: sequías largas seguidas de tormentas de gran intensidad, lo que aumenta las inundaciones.

Las emisiones son como canillas abiertas echando agua en una bañadera. Es necesario cerrarlas, pero también hay que revisar lo que pasa con el desagüe. El problema no son sólo las emisiones, sino el estado de los sumideros. Se cree que la canilla abierta es el consumo de combustibles para uso domiciliario, transporte e industria.

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New Market Planned to Pay Farmers for Soil Carbon, Water Quality

General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonald’s, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation.

Talks for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium were convened two years ago by the Nobel Research Institute, which has committed over $2 million to the endeavor with additional support from the General Mills Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and McKnight Foundations. The aim of the venture is to develop protocols and a market framework to issue greenhouse gas reduction credits to farmers who adopt conservation practices.

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The market will work in two ways. First, farmers will receive credits for the amount of carbon they sequester in the soil or water quality they improve, giving farmers a new and potentially significant income stream; companies can then buy those credits to meet their climate or water goals.

 

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Forget the Past, Carbon-rich Soil May Be the Ticket to Sustainable Agriculture

TOMALES — Loren Poncia scooped up a handful of dark, damp soil that could change the future of farming.

The nutrient-rich muck was filled with slithery earthworms and thin, white roots sprouting in every direction like lightning bolts.

“This is the carbon farmer’s dream,” he exclaims. “We want to see like 10 worms in a shovel-full.”

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Poncia’s Stemple Creek Ranch might be a model for future farmers with its sustainable agricultural practices to keep carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere. Along with less greenhouse gas emissions, carbon-rich soil means healthier and more productive plants, according to rangeland ecologist Jeff Creque.

Now, farmers like Poncia have the wherewithal to become better stewards of the land with the support of a collaboration of researchers known as the Marin Carbon Project. Ultimately, these researchers want to help slow climate change by introducing new, sustainable standards to American agriculture.

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Soil Becomes Fertile Ground for Climate Action

Soil quality is a growing focus in the sustainability space, and for good reason: Fertile soil naturally stabilizes the climate and ensures resilient supply chains. But a third of the planet’s land is severely degraded, and fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24 billion tons a year, according to a 2017 United Nations-backed study. So, a small but growing group of companies — some directly in agriculture or ranching, others indirectly via sourcing — are investing in healthy soil initiatives.

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Soil, no matter how healthy, may not be the spiciest climate solution. It’s not a giant machine that can suck carbon directly from the air — or is it?

In fact, Earth’s soils contain more than three times more carbon than is stored in the atmosphere, and four times more than the amount in all living plants and animals.

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Work with the Land to Restore Health to All

THERE IS going to be a revolution in farming, and it’s going to happen soon. It has to.

The revolution is called regenerative agriculture, and the winners will be farmers, soil, bees, and everyone who eats.

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The only losers will be the pharmaceutical and petrochemical companies that have taken over our food supply. Their wares (expensive GMO seeds, billions of pounds of pesticides, chemical fertilizers) will not be in demand.

What we are finding out is that 70 years of chemical farming has killed our topsoil and washed it into our waterways, along with a toxic load of chemicals, causing massive red tide in Florida and dead zones at the mouths of our rivers.

The promised increases in yield from Roundup Ready GMO seed have turned out to be short-lived, expensive, and unsustainable.

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Soil Ecologist Challenges Mainstream Thinking on Climate Change

How cropland and pastures are managed is the most effective way to remedy climate change, an approach that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, according to a leading soil ecologist from Australia who speaks around the world on soil health.

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“Water that sits on top of the ground will evaporate. Water vapor, caused by water that evaporates because it hasn’t infiltrated, is the greenhouse gas that has increased to the greatest extent since the Industrial Revolution,” said Christine Jones, while speaking at the No Till on the Plains Conference in Wichita in late January.

“It’s a scientific fact that water vapor accounts for 95 percent of the greenhouse effect, whereas at most 3 percent of the carbon dioxide is a result of burning fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide only makes up .04 percent of the atmosphere anyway,” she continued. “So how can a trace gas be changing the global climate?”

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Regenerative Agriculture Can Make Farmers Stewards of the Land Again

For years, “sustainable” has been the buzzword in conversations about agriculture. If farmers and ranchers could slow or stop further damage to land and water, the thinking went, that was good enough. I thought that way too, until I started writing my new book, “One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture.”

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I grew up on a cattle ranch in western South Dakota and once worked as an agricultural journalist. For me, agriculture is more than a topic – it is who I am. When I began working on my book, I thought I would be writing about sustainability as a response to the environmental damage caused by conventional agriculture – farming that is industrial and heavily reliant on oil and agrochemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers.

 

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Regenerative Agriculture Creates a Sprawling Road Map

Blain Hjertaas of Redvers, Sask., and David Rourke of Minto, Man., were both well-known faces before their panel at the MFGA Regenerative Agriculture Conference in Brandon late last November.

Why it matters: Regenerative agriculture has got lots of time in the headlines, but the movement may look very different for an organic farmer with 3,000 acres of annual crops versus a rancher whose land is mostly pasture.

Both are believers in regenerative agriculture, a movement that, among other things, promises more efficient production, resiliency against drought and flood, and the promise that the farm will not only be sustainable with the environment, but actually help regenerate degraded soil.

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A conversation with either may fall towards topics like soil carbon, organic matter or soil structure and water infiltration.

At the same time, the two operations could not be more different.

For Hjertaas, it’s all about livestock.

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Revisiting a Geography of Hope

To be a farmer, at any point in history, means you grow food. You steward the land—soil, water, air, energy, plants, and animals—and make a living from its increase. It seems simple, at least in purpose, if not in practice: Grow good food. Now, in the twenty-first century, awareness is growing that we depend on farmers for more than food. We need farmers and their farmland to sequester carbon, to buffer against floods, and to provide wildlife habitat. Perhaps less evidently, we also need farms to inspire us with their beauty, to cultivate our respect and awe of the more-than-human, and to light the pathways to a more just and prosperous world.  

This is a lot to ask of farmers, but the scope of climate change and biodiversity loss demands more than isolated solutions such as limiting emissions and protecting forests can accomplish.

KEEP READING ON CENTER FOR HUMANS & NATURE

Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration

“Shrubbiness is such a remarkable adaptive design that one may wonder why more plants have not adopted it.” (H. C. Stutz, 1989)

In light of the newest IPCC and US climate change reports, coupled with reports of the ongoing declines of wild species—birds, insects—you name them, just so long as they aren’t human, I have turned to thinking about shrubs. It is precisely their adaptive characteristics that give shrubs their potential to be powerful players in soil carbon sequestration and ecosystem regeneration in certain parts of the world, such as the Midwest.

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Although alarming, the reports are not surprising to anyone who’s been keeping track. The IPCC report says human global society has 12 years to reduce carbon emissions to 45% below 2010 levels if there is to be any hope of holding overall average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

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