“When Will Allen is asked to name the most beautiful part of his Vermont farm, he doesn’t talk about the verdant, rolling hills or easy access to the Connecticut River. Though the space is a picturesque postcard of the agrarian idyll, Allen points down, to the dirt. ‘This precious resource not only grows food,” he says, “but is one of the best methods we have for sequestering carbon.’” ~ Michael Pollan, American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Soil is vital to all life on earth. In addition to being the resource that grows our food, soil is also home to a quarter of the world’s biodiversity. In fact, did you know that one tablespoon of healthy soil can contain more living organisms than there are people on the planet?
But soil does more than just feed the world. As John Roulac, Founder + CEO of today’s partner, Nutiva explains, it is part of the “carbon triad” – the three main carbon sinks of our planet. While we hear a lot about the atmosphere and oceans storing carbon, the important role of soil is often overlooked and taken for granted. Read his article on EcoWatch here.
When thinking about climate change, water pollution, food security, biodiversity loss and more, soil is one of the key components of the interconnectedness of these global problems. Soil has the ability to store more than three times the amount of carbon than is in the atmosphere; meaning carbon sequestration through sustainable agriculture could be the key to combating climate change.
Unfortunately, industrial agriculture threatens the health of our soils. Mono cropping, chemical fertilizers, pesticide and herbicide applications, deforestation, urbanization, and the expansion of cropland and cities degrade soil’s ability to store carbon. Conventional agricultural practices rely on toxic inputs, which reduce soil nutrients over time and leave large croplands useless. And with over 40% of the earth’s land already cleared for agriculture, we simply can’t afford to expand this way any more.
The way we interact with and cultivate land matters. Carbon farming is a regenerative agricultural practice that removes CO2 from the atmosphere and converts it into organic matter in the soil. Sequestering carbon in the soil expands its water-holding capacity, creating healthier, more drought-resistant lands for our farmers. It also keeps carbon from falling into our oceans, which causes ocean acidification and harms precious marine ecosystems.
“Soil is a life-sustaining natural resource that often goes unnoticed,” said Anthony O’Geen, soil specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis. “But soil is fundamental for production of food, animal feed, fuel and natural fiber as well as performing many critical ecosystem functions, like filtering water, cycling nutrients and maintaining biodiversity.” As John Roulac, tells us, the solution to our global food and environmental crisis is literally under our feet soil.
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Sustainable agricultural techniques are key to maintaining healthy soil. Today, GMO’s dominate the market, 90% of which are Roundup Ready, meaning they are genetically engineered to tolerate and be sprayed with glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The World Health Organization determined that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen,” with potentially harmful impacts on human and environmental health. When crops are poisoned, so is the soil, depleting its nutrients and releasing carbon, a major cause of climate change globally.
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An important step in keeping soil healthy is putting the proper nutrients back into the ground, synthetic fertilizer is not the answer. You learned during the Food challenge that one third of all food produced globally is wasted, ending up in landfill where it’s unable to break down, emitting a significant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Composting is an essential solution to diverting food waste from landfills so it can be used to revitalize soil and return carbon dioxide back into the ground.
Composting is a practice that each of us can undertake in a number of different ways.
Food waste is a global issue. Today we want you to start doing your part to minimize the negative impacts of food waste.
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