LEGISLATE NOW TO SAVE OUR SOILS
LEGISLATE NOW TO SAVE OUR SOILS
In the fight to tackle climate change it’s easy to overlook the dramatic and powerful effect of the soil beneath our feet. There’s already more carbon locked away in the soil than in the whole of the atmosphere and in all the forests and vegetation covering the earth! But for millennia we’ve been gradually eroding and destroying the soil – releasing carbon back into the atmosphere through our damaging agricultural practices and destruction of forests, wetlands and other natural landscapes.
We’ve already lost at least 25% of our soils to erosion and desert. Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world and unless we change our ways, we may have only 60 harvests left before our soils become so degenerated we cannot grow food to feed the population.
But the power of the soil to regenerate and DRAW DOWN carbon out of the atmosphere is astonishing. As plants grow, they draw carbon dioxide in and release oxygen out through the natural process of photosynthesis. That carbon can be permanently locked into the soil if we adopt the right agricultural practice and stop destroying the natural landscape.
So what do we need to do? Here are the key priorities, wonderfully explained in the film ‘Kiss the Ground’ and through the work of brilliant practitioners like Gabe Brown and others.
1. STOP TILLING THE GROUND. The act of turning soil to the air kills soil life and releases carbon. No-till practices are well understood and can be implemented.
2. GROW PLANTS YEAR-ROUND. By growing diverse cover crops in rotations with cash crops we multiply diversity, increase carbon draw-down, improve soil fertility and avoid water run-off and soil erosion.
3. STOP USING SYNTHETIC FERTILISERS, PESTICIDES, FUNGICIDES, HERBICIDES. These kill soil life and ultimately ruin soil fertility. We need to allow the natural plant and soil processes to work for us.
4. USE ANIMALS SELECTIVELY, following the ancient herding/predator practices of the past to increase soil fertility. Likewise we must stop animal farming in feedlots with grain grown in destroyed Amazonian rainforest.
5. STOP GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES that encourage the exact opposite of the above practices. AND START INCENTIVISING good practice. There is an enormous unrealised value in carbon draw-down and we need to start recognising this properly.
6. SET TARGETS TO ALTER FARMING PRACTICE. Educate and support farmers to change established practice. Multiply the number of carbon agronomists. Incentivise, encourage and demand that anyone who takes responsibility for managing and using land does so with the utmost care and attention to soil health and carbon draw-down.
The added bonus if we adopt these measures is we will increase natural soil fertility for growing food and dramatically improve water retention and therefore flood management.
So let’s make our legislators look at what is happening to our soils, act to bring forward policy and legislate for rapid changes to agricultural and land-use practice. We need this to happen now. It’s not enough to simply limit the increase of atmospheric carbon over the next 30 years - this will still lead inevitably to climate chaos. We must use and care for our soils to actively draw carbon down and return our climate to safety. We know it can be done. It must be done.