Regenerative organic farming and land use can move us back into balance, back to a stable climate. Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy people, healthy climate . . . our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, is directly connected to the soil, biodiversity, and the health and fertility of our food and farming systems.
Without healthy soil, there are no healthy farms. Without healthy farms, there is no healthy food. Without healthy food, there are no healthy people. Without healthy farms, food and people, there are no healthy local economies.
And, as it turns out, without healthy soil, there is no healthy climate.
The world’s best climate scientists warn that even if we miraculously achieve zero emissions tomorrow, on a global scale, it would take about 1,000 years to get back to the magic “safe” number of 350 ppm carbon in the atmosphere.
Organic regenerative agriculture and land use practices, scaled up all over the world, can restore the soil’s natural ability to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil. And by restoring the health of the world’s soils, we will also revitalize local economies, and produce abundant, nutrient-dense food.
IN THE NEWS
Researchers at the Rodale Institute have learned that organic soils trap atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and convert it to carbon, a key component of healthy soil.
In the longest-running study of its kind, the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST) has compared organic and conventional farming side by side since starting in 1981. Important findings have included organic crops’ ability to withstand drought-year stress much better than crops raised on a diet of chemicals.
The recent findings suggest that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers speed up the decay process of organic matter so that it is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide rather than stored in the soil as carbon. Both plants and organic soils, the studies demonstrate, operate as powerful “sinks,” capturing the greenhouse gas considered by many scientists to be largely responsible for global warming.
Demand for cheaper food and lower production costs is turning green fields into industrial sheds to process vast amounts of meat and poultry.
The US has led the world in large-scale farming, pioneering the use of intensive livestock rearing in hog farms, cattle sheds and sheep pens. There are now more than 50,000 facilities in the US classified as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), with another quarter of a million industrial-scale facilities below that threshold.
Emma Slawinski, director of campaigns at Compassion in World Farming, said the problems of mega farms around the world included over-medication, where animals are given antibiotics whether they are needed or not. “Factory-farmed animals are regularly given antibiotics in their feed or water, because of the higher risk of disease when large numbers of animals are kept in these overcrowded conditions. There is strong evidence that this overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming is contributing to antibiotic resistance in human medicine. If animals cannot remain healthy within the conditions in which they are placed, then it is time to take a closer look at our farming systems.”
Pippa Woods, of the Family Farmers’ Association, said: “Local farmers contribute to the economy, the local area, the local communities. In big farms, the profit is shaved off to American companies.”