The climate emergency is finally gaining the attention of the US (and global) media and body politic, as well as a growing number of US politicians, activists, and even farmers.
This great revival has come just in time, given the record high temperatures, severe weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are fast becoming the norm. Global scientists have abandoned their usual caution. They are warning us now that we must reduce global emissions, by drastically reducing 45%, over the next decade. If we don’t, we will pass the point of no return, defined as reaching 450 parts per million or more of CO2 in the atmosphere – sometimes between 2030 and 2050, in which case the climate crisis will turn into a climate catastrophe. That’s when melting polar ice and arctic permafrost will trigger a catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, starvation and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it. know.
To avoid such an outcome, most people now understand that we must quickly switch to renewable forms of energy and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s much less widely accepted that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job on their own.
Alongside the broad political and economic campaign to move to 100% (or almost 100%) of renewable energy as soon as possible, we must end the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and agricultural system and start removing and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “heritage » CO2 from the atmosphere, using enhanced photosynthesis from regenerative agriculture, reforestation and land restoration.
“Regenerative agriculture refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by replenishing soil organic matter and restoring biodiversity to degraded soils. This results in both a reduction in carbon and an improvement in the infiltration and storage of water in soils.
Regenerative practices include:
• Reduction or elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals
• Use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost and animal manure
• Integrate animals with perennials and annuals to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm
• Grazing and grazing of animals on grass, and more specifically the use of a multi-paddock planned rotation system
• Raise animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat
If food, agriculture and regenerative land use – which essentially means taking the next step of organic farming, open-air livestock grazing and ecosystem restoration – are just as essential to our survival than going beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is going beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly processed junk food to regenerate soils and forests and extract enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate attracts so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?
Our collective ignorance on this crucial subject may have something to do with the fact that we were never taught these things in school, or even in college, and until recently there was very little discussion about regeneration in mass media, or even alternative media.
But there’s another reason why regeneration as a climate solution isn’t getting its due in Congress or the media: Powerful food, agriculture and forestry corporations, and their incumbent politicians, don’t want admit that their current is degenerating, destabilizing the climate, ““profit at all costs” production practices and commercial priorities threaten our very survival.
And government agencies are there, helping agribusiness and Big Food companies bury the evidence that the energy- and chemical-intensive agricultural and industrial food production practices of these industries contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) repeatedly state that industrial agriculture is responsible for only a single 9% of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, greenhouse gases (GHGs) “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.
After hearing that 9% figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and agriculture is not such a big factor in global warming, especially when compared to transportation, energy production electricity, manufacturing, and heating and cooling our buildings.
What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical and food companies conveniently hide from the public is that there is no way to separate “American agriculture” of our “food system as a whole. Their miscalculations (i.e. hiding food and agricultural emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) are nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the massive use of fossil fuels and the emissions currently released by our hugely wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate destabilizing (and globalized) food system.
The USDA and EPA figure of nine percent is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power America’s tractors and farm equipment, and to make the billions of pounds of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on the land agricultural?
What about the ethanol industry that devours 40 percent of our production of chemically and energy-intensive GMO maize? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry encourages farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile land. Considering the whole process, producing corn for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.
What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from factory farms and GMO, monoculture factory grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?
What about methane emissions from fracking wells that produce the natural gas used in prodigious amounts to make the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmland – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates dead zones ocean waves while releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more harmful than even CO2) in our already supersaturated atmosphere?
What about the 15 – 20percentage of global fossil fuel emissions from the processing, packaging (most often in non-recycled plastic), refrigeration and transportation of our highly processed food and agricultural products (mostly junk food) on average1 ,500miles before they reach the consumer?
What about the huge amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and destruction of ecosystems in the international supply chain allowing big box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell good food imported market, in many cases? “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished American consumers?
What about the huge emissions from US landfills where wasted food (30 − 50 % of our total production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?
A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from food, agriculture, and land use in the United States and globally is 44 – 57percent, not the9percent, as suggested by the EPA and USDA.
We’ll never reach net zero emissions in the United States by now.2030as the Green New Deal calls it, without a profound change – in fact a revolution – in our food, farming and land use practices.