This Climate Solution Could Cool the Planet and Feed the World
While the world focused on a deal to reduce emissions, another international initiative was quietly signed at the Paris climate conference, highlighting a critical but little known climate solution: soil.
In the first few days of COP21, in a standing-room-only crowd of 300+ delegates, French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll championed the signing of a visionary initiative to increase the organic carbon level of agricultural soils by 0.4 percent each year.
@FrankRijsberman presenting the interest of 4/1000 initiative for adaptation to #climatechange https://t.co/shYgJgBPhK— François Houllier (@François Houllier)1448964961.0
According to the signatories from more than 25 countries—including France, Australia, Mexico, Germany and Japan—and hundreds of food, agriculture and research organizations, regenerative agricultural practices that store excess carbon in the soil have the potential to cool the planet and feed the world.
The 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, consists of a voluntary action plan under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), backed up by an ambitious research program. It aims to show that food security and combating climate change are complementary. It also positions our farmers as the pioneering climate heroes of our generation.
The French 4/1000 Initiative is the most direct plan for reversing #climagtechange! https://t.co/Vn5eILhvjy #COP21 https://t.co/IzSrkABaS0— Organic Consumers (@Organic Consumers)1450116045.0
“The conclusion is simple,” said Le Foll in a statement at COP21. “If we can store the equivalent of 4 per 1000 (tons of carbon) in farmland soils, we are capable of storing all man-made emissions on the planet today.”
“This is the most exciting news to come out of COP21,” said Andre Leu, president of IFOAM—Organics International. “By launching this initiative, the French government has validated the work of scientists, farmers and ranchers who have demonstrated the power of organic regenerative agriculture to restore the soil’s natural ability to draw down and sequester carbon.”
While soil was not on the official agenda at the climate conference in Paris, the representatives from an informal coalition of soil organizations brought the topic to the masses at a number of panels and side events, and from the Eiffel Tower itself.
“We’re spreading the ‘aha’ moment of our lifetime,” says Ryland Engelhart, chief inspiration officer behind the Los Angeles vegan restaurants Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre and co-Founder of California nonprofit Kiss The Ground. “Healthy soil is a solution right under our feet.” Kiss The Ground’s short film, The Soil Story, which explains how soil can balance the climate, was depicted in lights during the Paris climate summit.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reports that even a small increase in carbon in our agricultural soils (notably grasslands, pastures and forest soils), is “crucial to contribute to achieving the long-term objective of limiting the global temperature increase to +2°C (+3.6°F).”
“Balancing the carbon cycle through regenerative agriculture practices is a viable and affordable solution to climate change,” according to Finian Makepeace, policy director of Kiss The Ground. “The way we grow our food can restore ecology and create abundant food sources, if we work with nature instead of against it.”
“Climate change, quite simply, cannot be halted without fixing agriculture,” shares Michael Pollan, food journalist and Berkley professor, in his recent Washington Post op-ed. “Regenerative farming would also increase the fertility of the land, making it more productive and better able to absorb and hold water, a critical function especially in times of climate-related floods and droughts. Carbon-rich fields require less synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and generate more productive crops, cutting farmer expenses.”
The Center for Food Safety explains the simple farming techniques being used today, such as crop diversity, rotation, composting and cover crops, which are key components in adding carbon to the land to make it more productive. “Covered fields keep carbon, nitrogen and other vital nutrients in soil, resulting in far more photosynthesis than bare fields, increasing carbon sequestration, and lowering the overall carbon footprint of farming,” the organization said.
While the recently signed UNFCCC Paris agreement for emissions reduction is a huge and important step, it’s only half of the solution. Even if we stopped all greenhouse emissions today, per the latest statement from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is irreversible “except in the case of a large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period.”
That is, there is no way to reverse CO2 increases that are already locked in unless we also draw down atmospheric carbon.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross agrees. “Healthy soils are critical not only for global food production but also for sustainability in a changing climate.”
While the U.S. was notably absent from the room, the State of California is working on pioneering initiatives, adding agriculture to its climate change goals and with the launch of Gov. Brown’s Healthy Soils Initiative.
2015 is also the UN International Year of Soils.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
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Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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