Society & Social Issues > Environment

A Healthy Future Can Be Achieved - BUT it is up to us

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U.S. President Joe Biden recently announced new goals to reduce emissions in response to another report from the United Nations about our ever more dangerous environmental situation. However, current CO2 levels in the atmosphere are already well into the danger zone and reducing emissions will not save the day. The solution – the only real solution – is to pull that carbon out of the atmosphere and get it where it will be put to good use. Where is that? All that excess carbon needs to go underground – in fact it is a vital component for healthy soil.

The excellent news is that to get the carbon into the soil does not require new technology or expensive research and special equipment. In fact, it is a totally natural part of how the system has evolved to optimize the many levels of life on this planet. Who is going to do the work of getting the carbon back in the soil where it has been seriously depleted by industrial agriculture and unmanaged animal grazing? It's a process most of us learned about early in school: photosynthesis. It is photosynthesis working with trillions of little creatures that live and flourish in every square inch of healthy soil that are crucial to restoring and maintaining the balance in our environment. Photosynthesis uses the energy of the sun to draw CO2 out of the air. The CO2 travels through plants and down into the roots. As part of the process, the plant gives off oxygen and produces sugars that travel down through the root structure. These sugars feed those trillions of microorganisms in the "living" soil. For our discussion, the key is that carbon is naturally deposited in the soil by this process – it has been pulled out of the air.

So, what went wrong?

Humans by nature are constantly looking for easier ways to do things.  Easier of course is not always better.  In the effort to grow more food more cheaply agriculture has become very industrialized and more and more dependent on adding manufactured chemical products.  We have a very resilient system that has stayed in balance for centuries.  Today, we are discovering that getting bigger and more specialized has reached the point of seriously diminishing returns.  Heavy duty farm tilling equipment tearing away the natural integrity of the soil along with fertilizers, weed killers and insecticides are killing off the trillions of micro organisms essential to healthy soil.  It is this destruction of soil that has created the non-sustainable place we find ourselves.  Science is now realizing that healthy soil is the most important component of a healthy planet.

While some fear it could be too late, organizations like “Kiss the Ground” have formed with the mission of letting consumers, producers, farmers and ranchers know that there is a solution to the catastrophic path we have been traveling for a few generations.  If this generation can shift course to simply get us “back to nature” we can save the world as we know it.  Not only will it mitigate temperature rise and the effects of drought, healthy soil will restore the nutrient value of our foods.  Plants will once again be able to pull all the nutrients out of the soil instead of needing increasing amounts of chemicals to thrive.  Those trillions of little creatures that live and die in healthy soil regenerate its nutritional value for plants that can then pull a full nutrient load from the soil.  While farmers may have a bit less yield, the nutritional quality of their produce increases and the cost of growing decreases (cost of added chemicals and possible need for more irrigation).

It also turns out that cows are not the problem.  In fact with managed grazing, the cattle can aid the regeneration of soil health.  If cattle are not allowed to “overgraze” an area, adequate ground cover can be maintained and the animal waste products provide a natural fertilizer adding nutrients directly to the soil.  If you are not aware of how by going “back to nature” we can save the world, just go to YouTube and search for “Kiss the Ground” videos.  If we are going to be successful we need a critical mass of people determined to make this happen.

Here’s a great video to start with: https://youtu.be/nvAoZ14cP7Q

The key question you should have now is what can I do? 

Here’s a scenario we can work on that can allows everyone to play a part in the solution to the dangerous situation we are in.

Seek out produce coming from farms practicing regenerative farming and insist on “organic” produce which is free of most hazardous chemicals.  These farms should ideally utilize “no-till” or limited till cultivation, have diversified crop planting, maintain ground cover to help protect surface soil from heat and erosion and encourage diversification of species on the property.  This is the path to healthy fields because healthy crops require a healthy community of organisms under the surface.

Composting to the rescue:  Food waste filling trash dumps is a big culprit in the degradation of the climate caused by emissions.  Everyone can be part of the solution through composting. Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.   Learn more:  Composting At Home | US EPA : https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

Well over half of our farmable land worldwide has been turned into desert or suffers from seriously degraded soil not capable of growing healthy produce without ever increasing amounts of fertilizer and other hazardous chemicals.  Regeneration of healthy soil – full of microorganisms, worms and mycorrhizal fungi – is our best and possibly only real path to restoring the balance and health of the planet.  What’s the best part?  There is NO downside.  Food may be a bit more expensive during the transition to this as a standard of operation but it will have significantly better nutrient value leading to improved health.  We don’t have to wait for new technology.  We don’t have to make painful changes to how we live. 

What’s the next step?

Picture a world where everyone is composting all of their appropriate food waste instead of putting it in the trash – restaurants and supermarkets too.  Like trash collection, food waste or compost is picked up regularly.  Compost centers finish composting process and transport it to areas where soil is being regenerated or to help maintain already healthy soil.  This process can be monetized with land owners purchasing the compost instead of fertilizers and other chemicals for which there will be less need as soil health is regained.

This is the story we should write because it can be the #1 solution for restoring balance and health on a multitude of levels.

Dinesh Kumar

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