The Best Way to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Air

The following are excerpts from an article in the Huffington Post by Barbra Streisand, who has clearly been doing her homework:

CO2 in the ground, where it naturally occurs, is necessary for fertile soil, and results in healthier and more drought-resistant cropland. We can keep CO2 in the ground through a natural process that traps it in a "carbon sink." That process is organic or "carbon farming."

We all remember learning about photosynthesis in school. Plants manufacture much of their food from sunlight, water and CO2, turning those molecules into food. The CO2 is exchanged with the fungi and bacteria in the soil that need it to make richer soil and, in turn, healthier plants. In doing so, the CO2 is captured in the ground. In this natural ecological barter system, carbon is sequestered, helping plants grow while keeping the soil healthy. Industrial farming literally prevents this underground transaction from happening by releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere.

Organic farms, like the famous Rodale Farming System Trial in Pennsylvania, showed that building up soil carbon has other benefits too. It also acts like a water sponge and helps maintain crop yields when conventionally grown crops are dying of thirst during droughts. Unfortunately, extreme droughts may become the new normal as climate change alters our weather patterns, giving us yet another reason to implement organic farming on a large scale. According to the USDA-funded Marin Carbon Project, the overuse use of insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers also release what is normally sequestered carbon — adding to the problems of climate change.

The good news is that if humans get out of the way, CO2 can be tucked back in the soil to do good, instead of being trapped in the atmosphere doing harm. A U.N. report noted using carbon sinks through natural farming methods could reduce the carbon in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels in just 50 years!

And here's a bonus: we can do this right now. We don't need a technological breakthrough to solve the climate crisis. We are already learning this from farming and grazing system trials across the world — from the U.S. to Costa Rica, Thailand, Egypt, and now China.

If enough farmland and grassland are converted back from industrial to natural farming, we can put huge amounts of carbon back where it belongs, maintain yields in times of drought, eat healthier food and reduce healthcare costs.

So while more research is being done, and should be, we already know enough to say, let's begin the transformation today. What you can do is spread the word. Shop at your local farmer's market and buy organic products when you can. The price should come down as more produce is grown organically. This means more people should be able to buy it, creating a virtuous circle of increased supply to meet increased demand. The sooner we have support for carbon sinks and organic farming, the sooner we can start to seriously combat climate change.

Read the whole article here: One Solution to Climate Change and Growing Healthier Food Is Right Under Our Feet.

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Biodiversity Experiment

Biodiversity has been falling on grasslands around the world. A team of fifty scientists did a five year experiment to discover what could be done about it. Here is one they found (quoting from iScience Times):

The most improvement was observed in plots where large, wild and domestic animals were allowed to graze. These animals included cattle, pronghorn, and elk on North America's Great Plains; wildebeests and impala on Africa's Serengeti; and horses, sheep, and ibex in rural India. Places where only small animals like rabbits, voles, and gophers grazed did not show much improvement.

With these results, the researchers proved that grazing animals improved biodiversity by increasing the amount of light reaching the ground.

Read the whole report on iScience Times here: Grazing Animals May Reverse Man-Made Damage to Grasslands Around the World.

What is Our Least Valued But Most Essential Natural Resource?

"In some regions farming without regard to soil conservation rapidly leads to soil loss," writes David Montgomery in his book, Dirt. "Other regions have quite a supply of fresh dirt to plow through. Few places produce soil fast enough to sustain industrial agriculture over human time scales, let alone over geologic time. Considered globally, we are slowly running out of dirt.

"Should we be shocked that we are skinning our planet? Perhaps, but the evidence is everywhere. We see it in brown streams bleeding off construction sites and in sediment-choked rivers downstream from clear-cut forests. We see it where farmers' tractors detour around gullies, where mountain bikes jump deep ruts carved into dirt roads, and where new suburbs and strip malls pave fertile valleys. The problem is no secret. Soil is our most underappreciated, least valued, and yet essential natural resource."

Read more: Does Dirt Need Saving?

Advantages of Grass-Fed Beef

One of the most direct things you can do to reverse desertification is to buy grass-fed beef. Luckily, this is also good for your health:

Use the Cattle to Build the Soil, Not the Other Way Around

Gary Zimmer, author of The Biological Farmer, says biological farming puts the fun back in farming and at Wilton Park in Australia that statement has been validated. One look at the smile on Henry Sheehan's face would convince anyone that he was having way too much fun. Henry is manager of Wilton Park, where FigTrees Organic Farms produces and markets award winning organic beef. Henry's enthusiasm for the eco-system he nurtures is a pleasure to witness. And be warned, it is contagious. The beauty of this shift in focus is that it increases biodiversity, increases the yield per acre, and increases profit, all while sequestering an ever-growing amount of carbon in the soil and making the land more resilient to drought.

Soil Restoration Can Begin Anywhere

Soil has been depleted, exhausted and eroded throughout history, and has been the ultimate cause of the collapse of almost every civilization that has come before us, as documented in David Montgomery's fascinating book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. But one of the beautiful and hopeful things about this depressing history is that soil restoration can take place anywhere. It can be done one abandoned field at a time.

An example comes from Judith Schwartz's book, Cows Save the Planet And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. The Loess Plateau in China, an area the size of Belgium on the Yellow River, was restored in only ten years. It was an almost barren desert swept frequently with dust storms, and considered by many to be the "most eroded place on earth."

Now the place is a "thriving agricultural region with the poverty rate lowered by half," writes Schwartz. The local farmers "built terraces, reforested sloping land (where a good deal of erosion tends to happen) and shifted to perennial crops that have deeper roots."

Somewhere along the way, the Chinese government figured out that it would cost them less money in the long run to restore the soil than it was already costing them to deal with the constant problems from all the area's topsoil eroding into the river. But of course, when they restored the soil, other problems were naturally solved too, like the poverty level of the inhabitants.

As Montgomery points out, the most fundamental resource of all terrestrial life is soil. Ignore it and we suffer. Take care of it and we all benefit.

Would you like to see large areas of the earth's soil restored? There is something you can do to help make it happen. Read more about it here: How to Stop Two Thirds of the Earth From Turning Into a Desert.

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