Episode 286. The Once & Future World

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 7th of February 2022.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

As this pod enters its seventh year, I can see some patterns from the last six.

The big one is the continued decline in honeybee populations and mass deaths following spraying events. I’ve added a photo to the show notes on the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/episode286/ showing which foods would drop from the supply chain, as we say these days, if our pollinators went missing. “Went missing”, if we killed them off through our own inability to respond to reality. 

And the bee question is a microcosm of our planet.

Over the past six years I’ve reported on the last 60 harvests, the ten years to fix the CO2 issue and a growing number of responses to these and other matters.

Plastic continues to accumulate and bioaccumulate in the environment. Leaking estrogen mimicking compounds into every niche on the planet except, perhaps, the ones around undersea volcanic vents where the extremophiles, really hard species, find their life cycles. A couple of Bill Mollison quotes have surfaced repeatedly. In the plastic pollution case it’s this one: “Waste is just a resource in the wrong place”. We could use this approach with tailings dams at mine sites, manure lagoons at CAFOs, (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) better described as prison factory farms, most manufactured food, or as Michael Pollan better describes these things: Food like substances. Our bodies are not the places for these “wastes”. In the last six years, shale oil has boomed and busted and boomed again. Wildfires have ripped through Canada, Siberia, the US, South Africa and here in Australia. A massive fire in the south west of Western Australia is being brought under control at present with the help of a cold change and maybe some rain too. I thought things were crook in 2016 when I started this pod. I’m convinced they are much worse now and in that, surprisingly, comes hope.

The other Bill Mollison quote that’s appeared with regularity is roughly, that only 10% need to move from consumption to production and there will be enough for all. Now Bill was talking about food production but it is a good starting point for energy too. Here in Australia we blew past 10% of homes having solar panels almost before I started the pod. We’re now at 30+% and continuing to grow. This is happening across the globe. Even in, so called, wet and rainy Dublin solar panel usage is growing. Despite the depressing outcomes from the COP26 in Glasgow, people are voting with their dollars. Even if China, India and our one seat majority conservative government and their “we’ll do anything for the coal miner’s votes” attitude, things are changing. In Australia, the federated states system has given us a “backdoor” way of getting things done. At the state level, real targets are in place, plans to achieve them and results and data coming in to support their plans.

Back in 2017 the mercurial Elon Musk added a battery to the Southern Australian grid, in less than 100 days from handshake to functioning has stabilized the grid and shown how renewables and storage are a cost effective alternative to coal or even gas fired electricity generation.

All this before we hit the big change that started 30 to 50 years ago and is now the overnight success de jour. I’m talking about regenerative agriculture. No till, cover crop driven arable farming has been through most of its birthing pains. It is an established, effective way to grow soil for the planet and food for us. The missing bit was animal agriculture. CAFOs, as you must be sick of hearing me say, are an abomination. Cruel to the confined animals and destructive to the humans who have to work in these places. Regenerative grazing, biomimicry at its best, combined with no-till row crop production will feed the world, chemically free. 

The other elephant in the room is, of course, the pandemic. This is still showing us the cracks within the world economy all the way from the extreme macro perspective to the household level. We have, despite the deaths, the illness and the suffering, been relatively lucky. SARs CoV2 doesn’t have the mortality rates of bubonic plague nor smallpox nor ebola. We have been given a warning shot across our bows. The next pandemic and there will be one as surely as there will be another drought, may be an existential threat to our ways of living. But we have been given time to fix the less resilient parts of our lives. The first lesson, the obvious first lesson is to shorten supply lines. Whether this means growing your food at home or as part of a community garden or on an allotment or any other way you can think of, then I firmly believe now is the time to no-dig. Even if, as seems really unlikely, it is another 100 years until the next pandemic, you’ll be eating so much better, reducing fuel usage and be learning a little bit more about your part of the world.

In my part of the world, getting ready for next Spring/Summer’s blue corn crop has begun. The best laid plans of mice and men, do sometimes come good. Despite the tear gassing event I discussed last week, where I’d mixed cayenne pepper with buckwheat seeds in an attempt to keep it safe from birds, I’d spotted large numbers of birds apparently consuming said buckwheat. So yesterday as I walked the area I’d broadcast I discovered seedlings growing away nicely. All at the two leaf stage and looking healthy. There is a pessimism permeating food production that seems to grow with the area under cultivation. A 10,000 year history of things going wrong occasionally despite the fact that most attempts actually resulted in food may be to blame. I suspect the consequences of crop failure were so dire, these events tended to stick in the mind.

I may have to toss some more seed out but I was probably going to do that anyway. So, the buckwheat is underway. I’ve even managed to source within Tasmania, a mix of white clovers. Importing some types of seeds into Tassie can be tricky with our biosecurity. I’m happy to have tight biosecurity arrangements but they do make for longer planning periods.

The clovers will grow under and then replace the buckwheat as we head into Autumn and Winter. Come corn planting time, I’ll make a 20cm cut into the clover on 100cm centers. As the corn grows it shades out the clover which releases nitrogen as it dies off. Once the corn is harvested the clover bounces back until next year. A short sequence rotation is to add more buckwheat between corn harvest and clover bounce back. The buckwheat makes phosphorus bioavailable to plants and it seems from the reading I’ve done, clovers benefit from this element during the establishment and grow back periods. Clover, white clover in this case, is a perennial legume. It is, therefore, sequestering nitrogen from the atmosphere whilst ever it is growing and releasing the said nitrogen into the soil whenever it dies back. Maybe the need to rotate crops can be alleviated with this system. Constantly covered soil does not leak CO2 in large amounts so hopefully I am doing my bit where I can with what I have.

I’m looking forward to, at least, the next six years with you all. If you know anyone who you think would benefit from hearing the show, please let them know, I really appreciate the word being spread. I have a “Buy a Coffee” link in the show notes and at the website if you’d like to support the show.

And you know the drill. If you need help there’s the free ebook at the World Organic News website and the No Dig gardening course is there too. Links in the show notes.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




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