Do you ever say, “What can I do about Climate Change?” Welcome to the club! But $1, you can help to change the world and reduce greenhouse gasses. Really!
At a high level, we’d like you to help fund the methodology that will allow mainstream/conventional farmers to receive carbon credit for sequestering atmospheric carbon.
That sounds complicated, but using GitCoin, Blockchain4Ecology is raising money from you and other concerned individuals. The money will go to tying carbon measurement into actual carbon removed from the ground by soil microbes.
Yes. The same soil microbes that feed plants, increase rainfall, improve the quality of food and have the potential to displace chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Your $1 will be matched by a grant, tied to the number of people who donate, as well as the amount, to hire the experts and develop the measurement protocols (the methodology). This will allow anyone using the soil testing methodology, to earn carbon credits for either measuring and reporting the carbon or doing the farming, which was measured.
The measurement systems that exist today are based on ranching, farming multiple types of crops, and other types of holistic farming. We (SymSoil, Blockchain4Ecology and RegenIowa) are enthusiastic supporters of this type of carbon sequestration.
However, this isn’t what most farmers are doing with their farmland. Most farming is single crop, monoculture farming … and those farmers do not currently have a financial incentive to stop using chemical fertilizers. We need to meet them, where they are, and help them rationalize changing to methods that are better for the planet.
With just $1 dollar from each of 10,000 people, we can put a new incentive in place. Those dollars will fund the development of a methodology that will, ultimately, put dollars in the pockets of the farmers who switch from chemical to biological processes (regenerative agriculture) and sequester carbon.
Research by Rodale Institute, Nature Conservatory and the USDA has found soil based carbon sequestration to be extremely effective. A meta-analysis of USDA research into carbon sequestration on Regenerative Agriculture farming vs. Conventional Chemical Fertilizer farming, indicates that if 20 million acres of farmland converted to biological farming, the entire carbon footprint of the United States would be offset.
So, your $1 donation can help create the financial incentives for conventional farmers to switch and help everyone. Better food, more biodiversity in the soil, healthier living for everyone!
I have a vivid childhood memory of a photograph, seen through a View-Master my grandfather gave me. A dark violet sky, with yellow and orange flames on a river. I remember seeing plumes from the pollution burning on that river.
My memory has blended Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969, which many believe was the catalyst for Earth Dayand the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the image I remember.
On June 22, it will be 53 years since the burning river grabbed headlines and crystalised the American environmental movement.
The infamous river fire lasted only 30 minutes. It was extinguished quickly and caused limited damage. Thus, there were no photos because, at the time, nobody cared. Everyone knew the river was polluted and river fires were commonplace.
In fact, there had been many river fires in Cleveland, with significant ones in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948 and 1952. Each caused substantial damage, generated large financial losses and killed people. And yet, in 1969 the Cuyahoga River was not the only river to catch fire during the period as this was commonplace in industrial cities and area.
No Visible Life. Some river! Chocolate brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gasses, it oozes rather than flows.
Time Magazine, “The Cities: The Price of Optimism”
Fortunately, as often happens, a small event becomes both the catalyst and a symbol of needed change.
Six months after the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was profiled in Time magazine with a photo from its 1952 river fire, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency and the the federal government began to oversee pollution regulations.
Additionally, on that Arbor Day in 1970, students across the country held the first Earth Day, and later that same year, National Geographicfeatured the Cuyahoga River as their cover story, Our Ecological Crisis.
As we think about climate change and the challenges ahead, the Cuyahoga River offers some insights into what success can look like.
In 1969, there was no life — not even the sludge worms that typically were found in polluted rivers. The Cuyahoga River was even listed as the 43rd most polluted waterway in America in 1988.
Today, toxin levels have dropped and wildlife has recovered dramatically. Fish swim in the river. Some birds previously listed on the endangered species list, the Peregrine falcons and Bald Eagle, were removed in 1999 and 2007, respectively.
So what will be the river fire that spurs our nation to act now on climate change today?
None of us want climate calamity to move us into action. Scientists give us until 2030 to remove the carbon from the atmosphere, and say we cannot afford to wait.
The View-master image stayed with me, from a time before I could understand the environmental movement. What images will remain with today’s young children? Blue rivers and skies teeming with wildlife and framed in lush green cities?
What will be our catalyst? Knowing that reversing climate change will take time, we must find our own tipping point.
By Elizabeth Pearce, Founder of SymSoil Inc, a California B-Corp. SymSoil is part of RegenIowa, which seeks to move 1 million acres of row crop farming from conventional chemical farming to regenerative agriculture.
If you live in Texas or the Southeast, you probably think this post is about the sand storm that arrived last week from the Sahara.
Merely heavy sand here is Texas and Georgia, the storm cause skies in Southern Europe to turn orange.
If you live in the American Midwest, you probably thought this story was about the sand storm that hit South Dakota about 10 days ago.
On the other hand, if you are in Alberta Canada, you were probably thinking about the sand storm that hit the town of Olds, yesterday, or Taber recently. The weather is becoming more volatile and dangerous – increasing the need to reseed the soil microbe biome – to restore soil health, retain water and build soil structure.
If you haven’t been following recent news from India, I strongly recommend you read this article. A few sentences:
The words “Climate change” are inadequate. The way that we tell the climate change story has led to a sense of apathy and ignorance about the reality of what we face. People read the science, and think that if the temperature rises by one degree, two, three, what’s the big deal?
Who cares? That’s not even a hot day! Wrong. A better way to tell that story is something like this. On average, when the temperature rises one degree, the seasons change by a factor of ten at equatorial regions. One degree, one point five, which is where we are now — the summers are 10° to 15° Celsius (18° to 24° F ) hotter.
Two degrees? Twenty. Three degrees? Thirty. And we’re headed for 3 degrees.
When asked why we (humanity) hasn’t found the political will to adopt strong solutions to reduce greenhouse gasses, I find myself thinking about the human brain, not getting angry with politicos. The true problem is our perceptions … human brains are not wired to understand exponential change. That is the underlying reason politicians haven’t make more progress on climate change.
Our brains are wired to understand physical items, and to assume everything will continue to move forward in the same way it recently has. The past two years have amply demonstrated that the occasional dramatic event happens. We can see them and coping with significant change can be difficult. But we still tend to overlook long-term trends because the human brain looks for stability and linear trends. We simply can’t easily understand or imagine exponential growth.
Take a thought experiment with me:
Consider bacteria – a single, impossible to see without a microscope, bacterium – with the potential to wipe out all pets in the world. This bacterium has no constraints on growth, and splits in two every 60 seconds. A single cell began life at noon and (again, this is a thought experiment) when 1 cup of the bacteria, exists, it will be almost impossible to save any pets in the entire world. And it will take 1 hour to multiply to the point of filling 1 cup.
Ask the average, well-educated person when the cup will be half full, describing the doubling every minute and the full cup at 1:00. Most will say the cup will be half full at 12:30. But the correct answer is 12:59.
At 12:45, the colony of bacteria is so small as to be a faint dust in the cup. To help visualize this, consider coffee grounds in a measuring cup.
At 12:50, there is 1/20 of a teaspoon.
At 1:00, there is a full cup
At 11:03, the coffee can is full
At 1:11, a pickup truck is overflowing
At 1:15, the bacteria colony is the size of a small house
We have a solution – Soil health. RegenIowa is a non-profit focused on helping farmers find a lower cost way to farm, using soil biology and insights into soil science, as an alternative to agrochemicals.
Along the way, the improvement in soil health increases the flavor and nutrient density of food. But just as importantly, it sequesters carbon – pulling carbon (CO2) out of the air and putting it in the ground. We see leaves, but 40% and 70% of the sugars and other carbon chain molecules flow out of the roots and into the soil to feed the microbes that digest the nutrients for plants. The soil microbe biome is very similar to the gut microbe biome.
Working with BRT of Ladera Iowa, which is delivering products to farmers, and SymSoil Inc. which can mass produce soil biology, Regen Iowa is changing farming, fighting weather challenges and improving food – by making farming more profitable.
Be Part of the Solution. Donate to help RegenIowa reach more farmers
In WWII, harvest from victory gardens in private homes were estimated to produce 40% of the country’s fresh fruits and vegetables. So, while the Economist Magazine and other news sources scream about Famine, reduce your stress about the food shortages and plant a garden. If you encourage healthy soil, you also are sequestering carbon and contributing to air quality.
Gardening is part of the American heritage. No one who traveled to the New World in the 1600’s expected to find a grocery store. In WWI and WWII, Victory Gardens became popular as civilians were urged to contribute to the cause by growing vegetables in every flowerpot and patch of land available.
Today, Victory Gardens, renamed Resiliency Gardens, are enjoying yet another resurgence. This started 2 years ago, due to the corona virus pandemic. Gardening is known to reduce stress, the fresh produce is good for your health and growing your own increases your resiliency and self-sufficiency.
If you’re like me and want to reduce your trips to the grocery store, you are probably thinking about planting a Resiliency Garden. You are not alone. On March 28, 2021, the New York Times published Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds, describing seed companies who are overwhelmed with higher than normal orders. Demand has continued into this year.
“Even with a small amount of acreage, homeowners are able to grow large gardens-and these assets can reduce the number of trips to the grocery store and reduce your odds of contracting the COVID-19 virus,” says Tim MacWelch, owner and lead instructor at Advanced Survival Training in Northern Virginia.
Food rationing was a part of life during both world wars, so an estimated 20 million homes participated when the government urged Americans to pitch in by tending home garden plots. It was a combination of labor and transportation shortages, combined with the needs for food by the troops. Empty lots, front lawns, rooftops, and random pots — all were worthy spaces for sowing these wartime seeds.
Again, in World War II, these Victory Gardens produced over 9 million tons of food that was consumed in America.
Even before COVID, home gardens had been making a comeback, thanks to the farm-to-table trend that has people interested in growing their own fresh food. “For a few years now, I’ve been seeing a heightened interest in edible gardens, from regenerative ag farmers, to every day residents to the ever growing permaculture movement. It appeals to people who want to live a net-zero life and eat organically,” says Daniel Garcia of Visalia.
Recent research has found that the key to carbon sequestration is growth of soil microbes, specifically fungal hyphae and abroad biodiversity of bacteria. Some bacteria capture nitrogen out of the air, others cycle other key nutrients for the plants.
For those who are looking to use their garden as a teachable moment, SymSoil recommends ebooks by Matt Powers, The Permaculture Student, for home schooling in the field of permaculture and regenerative farming. There are many versions of the Soil Food Web, which try to capture the soil microbial ecosystem, but Matt Powers’ version remains one of our favorites.
If you are a home gardener, we recommend you learn about composting and living soil. There is increasing evidence that soil microbes, from food grown in biologically healthy soil, is helpful to human health.
A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Health Psychology reported that gardening was more effective at reducing stress than reading a book. Another study that appeared in the Journal of Public Health found that working in a garden for just 30 minutes increased self-esteem and mood. In addition to the nature of the activity, one common soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, produces asubstance that has been found to mirror the effect on neurons that anti-depressants like Prozac provide. The bacterium appears to stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.
If life has become too stressful, consider digging in the dirt and reading Gardening and Food Growing to Reduce Stress and Stress Related Illness. You can use containers, a windowsill and pots, if your space is limited. Even a window, balcony or roof will work. All you really need, beyond potting soil, is a sunny location so the seeds can germinate.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
On the continuum from organic farming to sustainable farming, regenerative e farming is the logical next step. With each crop farmed in a regenerative way, the soil health and fertility improves. Thus, regenerative agriculture is the return to the harmonious and mindful application of natural systems to farming. This approach has proven its ability to dramatically increase the nutritional value of crops, without sacrificing yields, while reducing inputs and associated costs of highly intrusive techniques, healing the damage done by conventional approaches to farming.
SymSoil has products to help farmers improve profitability where ever they are on the continuum. These include products to reseed the complete soil microbe biome, foods for soil microbes, consulting and laboratory testing to assess the biology and shift, with biology, plant nutrient cycling, and soil conditioners.
SymSoil and Permaculture
Permaculture classes are where many regenerative techniques are taught. SymSoil is a provider of goods and services for growers using regenerative agriculture methods. Two of the 4 co-founders of SymSoil, a California B-Corp, have advanced certification in Permaculture Design. They focus on wholistic thinking, and utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. Permaculture has proven its ability to dramatically increase the nutritional value of crops, without sacrificing yields, while reducing inputs and associated costs of highly intrusive techniques, healing the damage done by conventional approaches to farming.
Most of us go about our lives, with behavior relatively unchanged despite the recent uptick in temperatures. Climate change still seems far away, and contemplation of the trends leads most to pessimism, anxiety, and inertia. There is a tendency, by those paying attention to changes in the ice caps, drought, weather volatility, food security or related issues, to shout FIRE to get people moving.
But yellingFIRE creates problems. Speaking for the collective “we”, we want a real response: not more talking heads and education, but an orderly move to effective and meaningful action.
Meaningful action on climate change will follow 2 paths: 1) reducing the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, and 2) sequestering carbon to remove carbon. Since you are on this website, you know our bias: Agriculture offers the best approach to reducing large amounts of atmospheric carbon. It has been estimated that if every farm in America converted to biological farming or regenerative agriculture, 50 times the carbon emissions of the United States would be sequestered annually. (Watch for news about a paper supporting this assertion, to be presented shortly.)
This is worth repeating:
We can sequester 50 times the carbon footprint of the United States while growing food.
That’s a very different message, than Will All Humans be Extinct by 2026?, which is the emotional equivalent of yelling FIRE in a crowded theater. In a fear inducing, worse-case scenario, the polar ice caps melt, as shelf ledges break free and glaciers move at a faster rate.
This rapidly becomes self-reinforcing through the albedo effect, where the white ice reflects the solar energy back off the planet. Truth is, the polar ice mass is shrinking, and at a rate that is too fast for comfort.
Consider Antarctica, which typically get 6 inches of snow per year and is effectively a polar desert. The coastal regions get a bit more, about 8 inches per year, but it will take a century or more to replace ice that has melted in the last few years. (Random factoid: Antarctica is colder than the Arctic region, as much of the continent is over 9,000 ft above sea level, so air temperatures are colder at the South Pole than the North.) Those who call FIRE often focus on rising sea levels due to the reduction of ice caps near the poles.
A bigger concern than rising sea levels, is as larger quantities of cold water drop to the ocean floor and release methane at a rate faster than ocean biology can offset, and the methane triggers more warming than the same volume of carbon dioxide. These methane plumes, from the ocean floor, were first seen in 2012. In 2020, it was estimated that Antarctica contains as much as a quarter of earth’s marine methane.
While these methane releases could become larger at any time, to date they have not created a calamity. This very scary chart, while offering some insights, was created in 2012.
To return to the theater analogy: There is a “fire” in the theater. Stop watching the movie and start moving toward the exits. Now is not the time to panic, there is no need to create a stampede. We’ve all done fire drills, and now is time for an “orderly exit.”
We now know that soil fungi is the key to soil-based carbon sequestration. Fungi are neither plants nor animals, and breathe oxygen like we do. As they grow, their hyphae sequester carbon 2 ways – directly, with carbon-based cell membranes, and those filaments quickly get covered with a bacterial slime, glomalin. The bacteria, glomalin and fungi hold the carbon in the soil, and create the texture that retains water and allows plant roots to grow. The bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with fungi using the glue that is so critical to building soil aggregate.
Bottom line? Each of us can fall into fear, inertia and worry about things that will happen in the future without action. Or we can move forward, with taking actions that will make those catastrophes more unlikely to occur.
SymSoil believes that reseeding the soil microbiome, helping farmers grow more soil fungi, for example, will sequester carbon, reduce farmer costs, improve the drought tolerance of plants and increase the flavor of food.
John Ruan, the former Chairman of the World Food Prize, was committed to bringing forward a Second Green Revolution. Big advances in farming are often attributed to John Deere and the self-cleaning plow, which opened up farming in the Midwest, but the Green Revolution of the 1950’s and 1960’s brought forth high yielding grains, especially dwarf wheat and rice. It was associated with agrochemicals and irrigation, as well as newer methods of cultivation and mechanization. Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He is credited with increasing global food production and saving over a billion people from starvation.
The Next Green Revolution is likely to be biological farming, driving sustainability, sequestering carbon and often known as Regenerative Agriculture or RegenAg.
In preparation for the recent post on the World Food Prize, and its 2022 Laureate, who practically created the intersection between econometric, farm and crop planning and weather modeling, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, I found several interesting comments from the former Chairman of the World Food Prize, John Ruan.
The World Food Prize is now even more vital to inspiring a second Green Revolution that is necessary to prevent the possibility of future food crises. Right now, close to one billion people still suffer from malnutrition, nearly one-sixth of the world population, primarily women and children, infants and the unborn.
It was Norman Borlaug, the original funder of the World Food Prize who talked the need for a Second Green Revolution, in their later years of involvement.
Ruan said, about Norman Borlaug’s work, Exhibiting the virtues he learned growing up, continued almost to the very end of his life, he traveled the world to promote greater attention to, and investment in, rural infrastructure (particularly roads and bridges), agricultural research, and education. Norm believed all these are essential if we are to have the next “Green Revolution,” – the one which will lift the remaining one billion people out of the misery of malnutrition and end pandemic poverty.
I believe the Regenerative Agriculture Movement, that we are now seeing, has begun to advance exponentially, both nationally and globally, is the Second Green Revolution.
Regenerative Ag will be playing a primary role in Climate Change reversal, through soil-based carbon sequestration. Assuming we can act fast enough, and are bold enough, like this year’s World Food Prize Laureate, we can launch the Second Green Revolution. Restoring soil health can not only to help Feed the World, but to help Sustain, and help Regenerate the Health and Future of the World.
Join us! Contact me at MerlinAtBluePlanet “at” gmail.com
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig will receive the 2022 World Food Prize for her seminal contributions to understanding and predicting the impacts of the interaction between climate and food systems. She has spent the last four decades increasing our understanding of climate change and food systems and how they impact food security globally.
An agronomist and climatologist, she has been a leader in the fields of food and climate since 1985, when she published her first journal article on modeling the potential impacts of climate change on wheat-producing regions of North America. She has shaped our current understanding of the tight relationship between food security and climate change. The quantitative data to confirm that severe weather volatility threatens our ability to feed and nourish humanity. This impacts political stability, mitigation and requires strategies both curb climate change and enhance sustainable farming.
Global climate change is the most important challenge that we face as a human race. It is a major impetus to move the planet toward sustainability. But I am not a pessimist
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig
Rosenzweig realized early on that climate change is one of the most significant, pervasive and complex challenges currently facing the planet’s food systems. She became was one of the first scientists to document that climate change was already impacting our food supply. She is best known for AgMiPs, the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, a global, transdisciplinary network of 1,000+ researchers in climate and food systems modeling.
I prefer the the term Biological Farming to Regenerative Agriculture. Biological farming accurately describes what Regen Iowa is doing in the area of Regen Ag. It encourages us to think about the transition from mechanical farming, to chemical farming to the next stage of food production – using biology to meet human needs. Regenerative agriculture is a new term, and despite the buzz associated with regenerative, sustainable, natural – and our conviction that each is good and necessary – I often encounter people who are not exactly sure what it means.
Images associated with RegenAg are a bit like the blind men describing the elephant. In the children’s story, each blind man likened the part of the elephant he could feel, to something more familiar. Since each was touching a different part, there were 5 distinctly different perspectives. RegenAg is the culmination of multiple approaches, each bringing history and context that impacts their interpretation of the meaning of the term.
As the consumer product brand managers start using the term Regenerative Agriculture (or RegenAg), in marketing natural products, the term will increasingly be in the public consciousness. This is positive, as it will increase the conversation around soil health, soil based carbon sequestration, clean water and air and environmental improvement more generally.
RegenAg offers a powerful tool for addressing multiple problems confronting humanity: food security, mitigating climate change, improving nutrient density in food, reducing irrigation needs by agriculture and improving profitability for farmers.
We thing there 5 major perspectives on RegenAg, each that brings validity and value:
The CPG approach, where regenerative agriculture is a marketing label, and cannot be used independently of terms like “organic”. Many who advocate this approach are focused on validation and confirmation that the farmers are making good on their claims of regenerative practices.
Permaculture which is best suited for small farms and homesteading. It focuses on multiple crops, food forests, and looks to nature. The key is thoughtful land management and working with what nature wants … for example, water naturally runs downhill, so some areas will be drier and others have more moisture, so using that insight into choosing what is planted where. This is in opposition to straight lines of a typical orchard, for example.
Ranching using Holistic Management approach. Today, this is probably the most effective and best documented approach to Regenerative Agriculture. Based on Alan Savory’s insights into the natural behavior of animals – how they move, consume grasses and participate in the complete ecology of land. This approach is taught by the Savory Institute. Since Regen Iowa is focused on solutions for row crop farmers in the Midwest, we cheer from the sidelines.
Living Systems Frameworks put forward by the Carol Sanford Institute and the Regenerative Business Alliance. This is one of the most cerebral approaches to Regenerative Agriculture.
Soil Health through Reseeding the Soil Microbiome.
Scientists now know that soil-based carbon sequestration is driven by the existence and growth of fungi. The fungal hyphae are coated in bacterial slime, glomalin, which creates what humans recognize as healthy soil. These hyphae, and the attendant glomalin glue, are the reason no-till farming is effective. Tilling, like chemical fertilizers and fungicides kill fungal hyphae.
We also now know that plant nutrient cycling is managed by the soil microbes, which are “farmed” and fed by the plants. The success of permaculture and regenerative ranching is improving the soil microbial ecosystem. But waiting for the restoration usually takes years. We wouldn’t farm without seeds, and yet the organic, permaculture and holistic approach presume we should wait for nature to restore the ecosystem.
SymSoil’s approach is to reseed these microbes. Find and grow the regionally specific microbes, reseed them and let the plant extrudates feed and grow them in the soil. This approach to regenerative agriculture reduces farmers costs, speeds up soil-based carbon sequestration, thereby mitigating climate change, while increasing flavor and nutrient density of food.
Reseeding the soil microbiome is an approach to RegenAg that draws on inspiration from other lineages and insights from biotechnology, but with a focus on what works for growers – bottom line profits through increased soil health.
This type of Regenerative Agriculture bypasses preconceived ideas and costs associated with organic certification, while helping growers deliver better quality food to consumers with significantly less agrichemicals (decreasing farmer inputs) and improving soil through restoring the soil microbe biome.