Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 9th of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Well folks, we are one week away from the RegenEarth Online Conference 2019: Living Soils – Backyard Regen.

A little background should be helpful. After years of publishing this podcast, I had great hopes during our last federal election for some movement on the Climate situation. The vaguely left side was and still is stuck in the renewables are the answer paradigm. Not bad but only half the story, as we all know. The more right of centre parties pretty much ignored the climate policy area. The right won the election. Continue reading “Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!”

Episode 181. The IPCC Report, Farming & Food

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 12th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week we begin with a piece from the ABC News site: IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

Quote:

We must urgently revolutionise what we eat, how we grow it and the way we use land if the world is to combat dangerous climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published on Thursday.

Transforming to clean energy, clean transport and industry alone will not cut global emissions enough to avoid dangerous warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report authors warn.

End quote.

It’s almost as if decarbonising the air isn’t going to be enough. Who’d have thunk it?

Anyway the point is we need to change our food production systems. CAFOs over production of vegetables to meet supermarket contracts and the discarding of perfectly good foodstuffs because they look a bit funny have all got to stop. As a footnote to that last point, one of our local supermarkets was selling “mis-shapened” carrots last month. There has been talk in the local press about the waste involved in tossing these out. I was interested. My thinking was that if they were not “standard” the supermarket would be offering these carrots at a considerable discount to encourage the average shopper to change their behaviours. Imagine my surprise when I checked the per kilo price of these “iffy” carrots with the standards located on the other side of the Fruit and Veg section. They were more expensive. So clearly the management could say we offered the non standard carrots and nobody bought them. We are only supplying what our customers want. 

And this is the sort of double think nonsense we are up against and the IPCC report is suggesting we need to change. 

The kicker from the IPCC report is the need to change food production methods to ensure we don’t hit the 2 degree rise in global temperatures which would trigger the release of methane trapped in the permafrost. If that happens the climate consequences for agriculture are catastrophic. More droughts, unpredictable, out of season frosts, desertification, huge flooding events and so on.

Quote:

Improving land management, reforestation, and soil regeneration are essential steps in reducing emissions from the land sector, according to report co-author Annette Cowie from the University of New England.

“We really do need to take drastic action urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Cowie said.

“When we plant trees, when we do sustainable land management practices that build organic land and soil, we actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and we store it in the land.”

Emissions from the global food system, including peripheral activities like packaging and transport, are estimated to comprise between 21 per cent and 37 per cent of the world’s human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

“About a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation,” the authors state.

End Quote

I’ve mentioned the soil losses and continued degradation of the world’s soils in previous episodes. I think we can all see that’s not sustainable and that we need to start regenerating what we have before it’s gone. Starting now is easier than trying to roll back the Sahara, but we need to do that too. In a previous episode I discussed the Great Green Wall of Africa. There’s a link in the show notes if you’d like to read more. 

One of the issues with current agricultural production is, like the rest of industrialised society, is the dependence on oil. Overcoming the supermarket issues above could be done with much shorter supply lines. Local growing, less food miles and so on. Our second piece this week from the site The Conversation: IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil. Supports this idea and links soil degradation to the ecology of farming.

Quote:

How is it possible that soils have become so degraded? Don’t we need well functioning soils to produce food? The truth is, the modern farming system is based around oil, not soil.

For most of our history, humans could only produce as much food as the local ecological and soil conditions could support. Every time a crop was taken from the fields, nutrients were removed, making the soil less fertile. To cope, some societies developed complex and sustainable systems in which nutrients were returned to the soil in the form of organic waste. Using the local environment and labour to maintain soils in a good state was the key to survival.

Modern farming, in contrast, has been shaped by the power of fossil fuels. The problem of limited soil fertility was overcome through fertilisation, mainly with synthetic nitrogen, which is made using natural gas or coal.

End Quote

Those complex and sustainable systems referred to in the quote link to book I’ve recommended previously: Farmers of Forty Centuries. It covers the trip of a missionary through Japan, Korea and parts of China at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Well worth a read and a link in the show notes.

The point being made in the quote is the overreliance on fossil fuels. If we think about animal agriculture as it’s practiced in the US and increasingly elsewhere, we think of CAFOs. Both as feedlots and enormous 1000+  cow plus dairies. Feed is grown with artificial fertilisers, harvested with diesel powered machinery, trucked in diesel powered vehicles and fed to animals. Waste is then trucked away or kept onsite in huge manure lagoons and then spread by diesel powered tractors. The food, milk is shipped to factories on vehicles and then distributed to consumers through warehouses and so on. For meat the beasts are trucked to slaughterhouses, and then through the supply chain, all powered by fossil fuels. Not only is this bad for the climate, the soil and the beasts, it produces, bland, homogenised food for humans. The prices of these foods are kept low for the consumer because the environmental and health costs aren’t included in the price. 

And it’s not just industrial ag  that’s got issues. I’ve mentioned before the 100 acre organic farm I visited last year. On some days there must have been at least 9 tractors going full time for days on end. Ploughing, re-ploughing, moving compost, and a variety of other things which made little sense. Busy rather than productive seemed to be the mantra. Anyway, I’m sure a huge systems overhaul is needed to remove the tractors and the hand weeding of triple ploughed vegetable beds. The solution there is probably in the problem. Don’t plough, direct seed/transplant and mulch and the diesel disappears. 

Cutting silage and hay needed for paddocks that are too wet in winter is another area needing attention. Maybe lighter breeds capable of living outdoors all year but that doesn’t remove the need for motive power for grain harvests. I can’t see the world using scythes and rakes. I’m sure there’s a solution I just haven’t seen nor heard of one.

Certainly we can all do our bit and improve our own lives in the process by growing some of our veggies at home. Even if we just start with an herb garden to season our diets, we’d be making a small difference. 

The UN, the IPCC, commonsense and an unbiased look around will lead us to the same conclusions: Shorter supply lines, fresher food and getting off the fossil fuel addiction are all important. I’m fairly sure we can decarbonise the air, solar PV, wind, wave and geothermal options are all getting cheaper and hydrogen as a stop gap or even major slice of the energy mix will sort this. Especially when combined with price signals. 

The re-carbonise the soil part is, relatively, straight forward. More soil carbon from biochar to compost to vermicompost to cover crops and green manures and then we can toss in the animal manures. I wonder why this hasn’t happened yet?

I’ll just let that sit there…

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Of course if you’d like to join the movement to recarbonise the soil or you know some who is, our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen would be a great place to start, in my humble opinion. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences from our presenters over three night’s, all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

https://amp.abc.net.au/article/11391180

Great Green Wall of Africa

IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil

https://theconversation.com/amp/ipccs-land-report-shows-the-problem-with-farming-based-around-oil-not-soil-121643

Farmers of Forty Centuries

168. The Revolution Takes Shape!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 13th of May 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

As you may recall I finished last week’s episode in a bit of a frustrated funk. We know we have to do, we have the techniques to do it but our political classes are still fighting battles from 15 years ago.

So this past week has been one of deep contemplation, discussion with peers and a moment of satori, a moment of enlightened clarity.
Let me explain. Looking at the “big” things that have changed parts of society in this millennium I came to a conclusion. Single use plastic bags from supermarkets being banned, incandescent bulbs being withdrawn from sale and the wonders of separating household waste for collection all have a few things in common.
They are virtuous. They do not make our lives easier and they make very little difference to GHG accumulations. That those plastic bags are called single use is a misnomer to begin with. We always used ours for more than just bringing home shopping. As we know by now plastic can be made from renewable sources that are biodegradable but we have to have the virtuous effects to make change worth while, apparently. Most people I have observed have just replaced thin, single use plastic bags with heavy duty plastic bags. I’ve also observed that many people still use these as they used to use the “single use” bags. So that the organisations pushing for the change can feel warm and fuzzy but the “on the ground” effects are negligible.
With the loss of incandescent bulbs we have lost a simple way to keep chicks warm in a brooder but that’s not a big market segment, I’ll concede. What we do have is lighting that’s inferior to what went before and a huge increase in the consumption of mercury and it’s release when these things are not disposed of “properly”.
It also turns out that much of the separated household waste ends up in the same tip or dump if that’s your word where you live. Clearly this is a resource going to waste. Waste in the Bill Mollison sense of a resource in the wrong place.
But what to do?
Our federal election next Saturday does not provide much hope. The left of centre parties are stuck in the decarbonise the air part of this show’s tagline but no one I could find was thinking about the soil.
Google searches revealed a few things. There is plenty of info, organisation and advocacy for regenerative techniques for agriculture. A plus in my mind. There is very little on how these things can be brought to bare on the greatest consumers of water, glyphosate, pesticides and fungicides: the suburban and urban regions of the world. And to make matters worse some 68% of humanity will be living in these areas by 2050 according to a UN report, link in the show notes.
At about the same time my other favourite Bill Mollison quote kept tapping on the inside of my skull:
Quote:
The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.
End Quote.
And other more annoying quote of who’s origin I have no idea also joined in:
Quote:
Be the change you want to see.”
End Quote.
So to that end, wheels were set in motion, ideas were brainstormed and any other metaphor you care to insert here. I have joined with my co-host from the Permaculture Plus podcast to create an online seminar/conference set for the 16th to the 21st of September. These will run annually but the inaugural event Living Soils 2019 will be focusing on permaculture zones one and two (Link in the show notes) and how we can create regenerative gardens.
We are contacting specialists to present at the event. Biodynamics, biochar, permaculture and if any of my obviously good looking and deeply thoughtful listeners have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them. email me at redocean112@gmail.com. There is a link in the show notes.
We are in the planning stage so more will be revealed as we lock things in. The effect changing ten percent of suburbia from consumption to production in a regenerative form is mind blowing. In the same way suburbia has become a renewable engine of massive proportions with the falling price of PV cells, I’m sure we can turn this same part of the land surface of the earth into a carbon sink powerhouse.
From window boxes to McMansions to smallholders and even huge agricultural affairs, people live in dwellings and this is where we need to start. From every front and back door we can roll out the regen revolution.
And unlike the virtuous ideas, this actually makes our lives and the climate situation better and you end up with food. Food that doesn’t need to be purchased from elsewhere. This actually saves you money, reduces food kilometerage, mileage if you’re on the old money, and is still a benefit for the biosphere.
So next week I’ll return to use usual form of the podcast with news from around the world but I’ll also add a “What’s Happening” section for the Living Soils 2019 online conference or whatever we end up calling it.
And on that no longer frustrated but actually hopeful note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
The podcasting checklists are still available over at Jon Moore Podcasting Services
Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS
email: redocean112@gmail.com
PODCASTING CHECKLISTS CLICK HERE
Transcript HERE
Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.
WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here
Permaculture Plus
http://permacultureplus.com.au/
Topical Talks
 
permaculture zones one and two
UN: 68 percent of world population will live in urban areas by 2050
https://m.phys.org/news/2018-05-percent-world-population-urban-areas.html