Updated: Feb 21
Written by: Alice Darling, LMT.
Beginning in the early 1800’s, scientists have been coming forward to present their observations concerning world-wide consequential changes in the environment.
Today, we have many terms to describe and define these changes like greenhouse gas emission, climate change, carbon footprint, and global warming; but what does that really even mean? Furthermore, what does regenerative agriculture have to do with it?
Understanding Climate Change
To put it simply, planet Earth has layers of gas surrounding it. We call that an atmosphere. The gas that makes up the atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen, and 21% oxygen. The other 1% are subsidiary gasses like carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Unlike other planets both in and outside of our solar system, one of the reasons Earth has a special ability to host human life is due to the precise balance of gas. The problem at hand is this: what happens when the innate ratio of the various gases changes? Specifically, we now know that when the amount of carbon dioxide being released from the surface into the atmosphere rises, so does the surface temperature where we live. Believe it or not, although there are many factors that contribute to increased CO2 levels, the focal point of this problem and ironically also its solution, is found right under our feet in the ground we walk on.
Is Carbon Fundamentally Bad for the Planet?
Life-forms on this planet are carbon based. CO2 provides life with biological building blocks. Carbon is us, and it is also naturally supposed to be held in the soil. Due to harmful agriculture processes, that storage ability has been disrupted. Now, CO2 is being released from the soil at an astronomical rate. The solution is to regenerate the ability for soil to capture and retain CO2, otherwise known as bio-sequestering. The main way to do that is shockingly uncomplicated; and that is the cessation of conventional tilling principals in exchange for regenerative no-till farming practices. If this is implemented, we can reverse climate change in approximately 30 years. If this is not executed, the repercussions will be so severe that in 30 years one billion people will be what is known as desertification refugees solely because of the lack of carbon, nutrients, and water in the soil.
In 60 years, there will be no fertile land left in the US effectively turning the country into a dessert, and in 150 years there will be no more farmable land or living soil world-wide. This means that we are at the cusp of either causing or preventing the planet’s 6th mass extinction event of most of the life on the planet; including the human race.
Dirt, Ground, Land… What’s in a name?
Remarkably, dirt and soil are not at all the same thing. Soil can host a variety of living plants, but also can be termed to be living in and of itself. It contains a vast number of microbes housed in pore spheres, holds an electric charge, retains carbon and water, as well as hosts a full spectrum of minerals and other vital nutrients. In the documentary Kiss the Ground, Dr. Kristine Nichols divulges, “In every handful of healthy soil there are more organisms than people who have ever lived on planet earth”. When the microclimate ecosystem is disrupted, the land releases rather than stores water and carbon dioxide, and the soil turns to dust; merely undermined geology that cannot sustain life. This is called accelerated erosion. As a result, the nutrient dense layer known as topsoil has all but disappeared across two-thirds of the planet. However, the good news is that when practices like no-till farming and cover crops are applied, even a 1% increase in organic matter will begin to revive topsoil and sequester 10 tons of carbon per acre.
Long-term Benefits of No-Till
At the University of Wisconsin, researchers have been maintaining a no-till farming plot of land since 1986. The differences between ecosystem-compatible execution and conventional farming are clear.
Some of the pinnacle observations include augmented macro pore interface to accommodate a saturation of microorganisms, thicker topsoil formation, improved root penetration of plants, increased plant growth density, enhanced water percolation, amplified conduction in
cation exchange capacity, and most notably the regeneration of carbon retention. Healthy soil equals healthy water, plants, and animals; which subsequently equals healthy people. When the planet as a whole is healthy, she is capable of sustaining biodiverse life for a very long time to come.
As early as 1000 B.C. humans began to engage in farming practices that were disharmonious with the earth. That decision was the beginning of the soil, the ecosystem, and the atmosphere all enduring chronic stress caused by our species. If we must continue to destroy anything at all, let us destroy the notion that demolition is in our human nature. If we must till, let us till the ego from our mind so that we may begin again as guardians. And if we must erode, let us erode time so that we may see the re-birth of a divine garden on Earth within our #lifetime.