Can Organic Farming Reverse Climate Change?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a massive task. But leading agricultural researchers and think tanks are suggesting that the soil alone can do the job.

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In light of recent political decisions to withdraw the nation from global efforts to address climate change, reverting to mother nature may be the simplest way to achieve the goal. The nation’s organic farmers are offering an immediate solution to one of the most pressing and challenging dilemmas facing the global community today.

Regenerative Agriculture
Although some ecological pundits see agriculture as the world’s largest threat to biodiversity and the ecosystem, leading organic experts feel that there are simple solutions. What if we change the way that agriculture is performed so that we can regenerate the soil, the land and the world? Can we reverse the unhealthy trends caused by the “green revolution” and the presence of large-scale industrial agriculture? Can we make changes so that we are no longer relying on fossil fuels which ultimately degrade local farming and biodiversity?

The Rodale Institute, founded with the mission of promoting organic agriculture and credited with the concept of regenerative agriculture defines the solution as a holistic systems-approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well being. The techniques used include the use of cover crops, green mulch and carbon-rich composting as soil fertilizer as well as the use of plants with deep root systems to support a rich soil structure and long-lasting carbon presence in the soil. The main premise is that organically managed soils are capable of converting carbon from greenhouse gases into a food-producing asset in a manner that restores and improves the ability of microorganisms already present in healthy soil, to hold carbon.

Three years ago, Rodale Institute announced the launch of a global campaign to generate public awareness of the soil’s ability to reverse climate change. The campaign called for a global food system change which aims to address climate change through photosynthesis and biology. The Institute asserts that the ability to achieve a 100% annual carbon reduction rests in low-cost, widely-available organic management practices already being employed by many of the world’s organic farmers.

As a result, the Institute issued a white paper entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Solution to Global Warming.” The purpose of the report was to inspire new research, implementation of new policy and an immediate widespread adoption of regenerative agricultural methodologies. Describing the urgent need for the immediate reversal of the damaging trends caused by the use of synthetic chemicals and the industrialization of today’s conventional agriculture, the simple solution proposed rests in creating truly healthy soil. The report concluded that a global transition of the world’s current crop and pasture land to the regenerative model could effectively reduce 100 percent of the carbon emissions now being generated worldwide.

Simi Summer, PhD is an independent researcher, educator and free lance writer. She is a strong proponent of organic consumer education and informed consumer choices.

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