Reprinted from www.organicconsumers.org by OrganicConsumers.org
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Regenerate--to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the moral nature; to cause to be born again. (New Webster's Dictionary, 1997)
When a reporter asked him [Mahatma Gandhi] what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied: "I think it would be a good idea."
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 encompass 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?
First, let's look at what Michael Pollan, the U.S.'s most influential writer on food and farming, has to say about the miraculous regenerative power of Mother Nature and enhanced photosynthesis:
Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon--sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon--somewhere between 20 and 40 percent--travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes--the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere--in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant... Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution--and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.
Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air--tons of it per acre when grasslands [or cropland] are properly managed" that process at the same time adds to the land's fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us...
This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its "root-shoot ratio," sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes--digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up... For thousands of years we grew food by depleting soil carbon and, in the last hundred or so, the carbon in fossil fuel as well. But now we know how to grow even more food while at the same time returning carbon and fertility and water to the soil .
A 2015 article in the Guardian summarizes some of the most important practices of regenerative agriculture:
Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, re-mineralizes soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff."
If you want to understand the basic science and biology of how regenerative agriculture can draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere over the next 25 years and store it in our soils and forests (in combination with a 100-percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions) to not only mitigate, but actually reverse global warming, read this article by one of North America's leading organic farmers, Jack Kittridge.
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