Can “Regenerative Farming” Save Us From Global Catastrophe

GR:  Here’s an optimistic article that explains how to save the future of farming and control climate change. However, it requires that we act in the next five to ten years. The article calls for an overhaul of current farming practices and a return to the old ways before artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and corporate factory farms.

The need to return to sustainable methods is not in doubt. According to the United Nations, topsoil erosion caused by current farming and land-use methods will bring an end to most farming by 2070. However, switching back to the old ways would be difficult now that corporations control our governments. And even if it was possible, everyone needs to raise their eyes to the future where the human population reaches eleven billion and no amount of regeneration can save our natural ecosystems, wildlife, or civilization.

What can we do? In addition to fixing our farming methods, we need to reverse population growth, allocate half the Earth for nature, eradicate invasive species, stop generating greenhouse gases, clean up our polluted environment, recycle, stop eating meat, and get at least one hour of exercise every day. But no hurry, we have five to ten years to get ‘er done.

Despite my sardonicism, the article below is worth reading.

“A growing corps of organic, climate, environmental, social justice and peace activists are promoting a new world-changing paradigm that can potentially save us from global catastrophe. The name of this new paradigm and movement is regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land use.

“Regenerative agriculture and land use incorporates the traditional and indigenous best practices of organic farming, animal husbandry and environmental conservation. Regeneration puts a central focus on improving soil health and fertility (recarbonizing the soil), increasing biodiversity, and qualitatively enhancing forest health, animal welfare, food nutrition and rural (especially small farmer) prosperity.

“The basic menu for a regeneration revolution is to unite the world’s 3 billion rural farmers, ranchers and herders with several billion health, environmental and justice-minded consumers to overturn “business as usual” and embark on a global campaign of cooperation, solidarity and regeneration.

“According to food activist Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”So how can regenerative agriculture do all these things: increase soil fertility; maximize crop yields; draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soils, plants and trees to re-stabilize the climate and restore normal rainfall; increase soil water retention; make food more nutritious; reduce rural poverty; and begin to pacify the world’s hotspots of violence?” –Ken Roseboro (Continue reading: Beyond Organic: How Regenerative Farming Can Save Us From Global Catastrophe.)

Desertification and China’s Great Green Wall

“Unlike the Great Wall of China, a 5,000-mile fortification dating back to the 7th century BC that separates northern China from the Mongolian steppe, the Great Green Wall of China-otherwise known as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program-is the biggest tree planting project on the planet. Its goal is to create a 2,800-mile long green belt to hold back the quickly expanding Gobi Desert and sequester millions of tons of carbon dioxide in the process. If all goes according to plan, the completion of the Green Wall by 2050 will increase forest cover across China from five to 15 percent overall.

“The Chinese government first conceived of the Green Wall project in the late 1970s to combat desertification along the country’s vast northwest rim. Soon thereafter, China’s top legislative body passed a resolution requiring every citizen over the age of 11 to plant at least three Poplar, Eucalyptus, Larch and other saplings every year to reinforce official reforestation efforts.

“But despite progress-according to the United Nations’ most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment, China increased its overall forest cover by 11,500 square miles (an area the size of Massachusetts) between 2000 and 2010, with ordinary citizens alone planting upwards of 60 billion trees-the situation is only getting worse. Analysts think China loses just as many square miles of grasslands and farms to desertification every year, so reforestation has proven to be an uphill battle. The encroaching Gobi has swallowed up entire villages and small cities and continues to cause air pollution problems in Beijing and elsewhere while racking up some $50 billion a year in economic losses. And tens of millions of environmental refugees are looking for new homes in other parts of China and beyond in what makes America’s Dust Bowl of the 1930s look trivial in comparison.”  Source: www.healthnewsdigest.com

GR:  A little reading in this article and its references quickly reveals that despite China’s massive commitment to reforestation, desertification is increasing.  Part of the problem is that the land-use practices that led to vegetation loss and soil instability are continuing.  Another part of the problem is that Chinese planners are making the same mistakes made in the U. S. and in other arid regions where managers used nonnative plants to replace depleted natives.

Many of you will be nodding and thinking that whenever land-use managers focus on Human benefits, they lose sight of the need for complete ecosystem health. They focus on potential benefits from foreign species that appear to be suited to growth on degraded lands.  Their goal is to continue profitable logging, livestock grazing, and water diversion.  Therefore, the desert grows.

 

Thanks to Professor Willem Van Cotthem for his efforts to provide a single Internet source for work on desertification (https://desertification.wordpress.com).

Desertification and Biodiversity

The link between land degradation and desertification has been made abundantly clear in studies conducted in Africa and Australia. A loss of natural vegetation, a loss in soil organic matter and a loss of soil stability contribute greatly to the process. These processes are often interlinked. Vegetation encourages soil stability by providing cover, the binding action of roots, providing root exudates and by the contribution of its biomass to the soil. A loss of vegetation results in a corresponding loss of soil organic matter and stability.

Soil organic matter and soil stability are often linked. A soil that becomes depauperate in its content of organic matter looses the glue that holds soil particles together and becomes easily erodible. The more a soil erodes the more difficult it becomes for the soil microorganisms to glue the particles together. The process is analogous to a spider’s web in the wind. A whole web can withstand the pressure. If one of the threads that anchor it is broken the spider can repair it, but if the rate of damage is slowly increased, there will come a time when the spider cannot repair the damage and the web will be destroyed by the wind.

Every environment has a threshold beyond which damage cannot be repaired by the natural system. In arid and semi arid environments this threshold is very low.”  –Source: groundviews.org

GR:  Naturalists have been concerned about desertification for more than a century.  Though the term has not been in the news very much in recent years, the process has continued wherever people have conducted marginal farming, excessive livestock grazing, watershed deforestation, and other improper land-use practices.  Recently, the term has been showing up more often, and I think we will soon begin to see it regularly seated beside biodiversity as one of the great concerns of this century.

Beetle vs. Bird: Expert Panel Weighs in on Biocontrol of Invasive Tamarisk Trees

Anna Sher Simon:  “Tamarisk was introduced to the Western U.S. from Eurasia in the late 1800s, and over the next 50 years it was widely planted as a fast-growing, drought-resistant ornamental and riverbank stabilizer.  However, the negative impacts of the tree were increasingly evident, leading to the passage of a national bill to address the issue.”  Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

GR:  Tamarisk became invasive, replacing native plants, and sucking up lots of water that people wanted.  It also became home to an endangered bird species.  An introduced beetle effectively kills the tree, but also eliminates the endangered bird’s habitat.  What to do.

Land managers conclude:  “Our primary task, therefore, is to promote desirable replacement vegetation whenever and wherever we can, taking advantage of the opportunity the beetles create and mitigating any unintended effects. The panelists’ report, expected this spring, is a first step in that direction.”

WELL DUH. Why weren’t restoration and unintended effects considered in the first place?  In many similar instances of “land-use management,” the U.  S. Bureau of Land Management, and most other public land-management agencies, fail to plan ahead.  They praise “adaptive management,” and then do not collect the necessary information.  They just don’t look before they leap, and they don’t look back to see why their shoes stink.