7 Nov 2010

CO2: soils are a big part of the answer

On November 10-12, takes place, The Carbon Ranch: Using Food and Stewardship to Build Soil and Fight Climate Change, in New Mexico. I did get an invite - possibly because of previous blogs about soils (see here and here) - but I am not in a position to go even if I could set aside the carbon, costs and time.....

Photo: Randwick Woods

However this is one issue that I feel very strongly about - indeed have tried to encourage our MP Neil Carmichael to read Graham Harvey's "The Carbon Fields". His assistant says he was getting it for him....we'll see.

The carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has risen to 390 parts per million (ppm) – 40 ppm above what many scientists consider the level necessary to keep the climate stable for human life. And as we know it is rising at 2 ppm per year, far faster than at any time in the Earth’s climate history. This conference is about highlighting one of the best possibilities of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere that can start is plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon storage activities – such as growing more grass.

Here's what the conference says: "The potential for CO2 storage in soils is three times greater than the atmosphere. And since two-thirds of the Earth’s ice-free landmass is covered with grasslands and rangelands, the potential impact on the climate could be huge. NASA’s Dr. James Hansen postulates that 50 ppm of CO2 could be pulled down and stored in the soil over the next fifty years—by employing the low technology of green plants, which transform atmospheric carbon into soil organic compounds that provide numerous benefits for humans and ecosystems alike. Many of the tools in the land management ‘toolbox’ for increased soil carbon storage have been tried and tested by practitioners, agencies and landowners over the past decade or two. Individually, these strategies have been demonstrated to be both practical and profitable. The time has come to bundle these together into one economic and ecological whole, which we call a carbon ranch. The goal of a carbon ranch is to reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things. These include local food production, improved ecosystem services, restored wildlife habitat, rural economic development, and the strengthening of cultural traditions – especially among young people."

In another email I received "Conserving and Rebuilding Soils" by Lester Brown - see here. This looks at how our soils have been eroded over the years and the need to ban the clearcutting of forests - but seems to only mention carbon sequestering as an afterthought - although acknowledging them as "powerful tools in the effort to fight global warming."

I read Graham Harvey book, "The Carbon Fields", a while back and think I even mentioned on this blog how important I see it....here is what is said about the book: "A simple and elegant solution to some of the world's most pressing problems – rising food prices, increased carbon emissions and the health crisis. The answer is here for us now if we're bold enough to take it. No breakthroughs are required, no "fad" diets. There's no need to throw away the car keys or give up real butter and juicy steaks. So why haven't we been told about this great natural gift? Award-winning author Graham Harvey investigates the murky world of food and farming and reveals how global corporations have hijacked Britain's most basic source of life and health."

Here is another comment: "Down the ages human beings have produced some of their finest foods from animals kept on herb-rich pasture. Sadly we've now taken many of our food animals off pasture. By abandoning grassland we have damaged our planet, our animals and our own health."

See Harvey's book here or get it at Stroud Bookshop like I did. It is a great read that gives real hope. I was going to write lots more but have ended up using others quotes as I have run out of time today - will no doubt return to this topic soon.


between-the-lines said...

Thanks for the info on the Quivira Coalition, Philip. Very hopeful stuff.

Carbon Farmers in Oz have just held their conference too.



We can work harmoniously with our environment and fellow species, if we humans will learn to be just a little bit more humble.

Have you come across the Satoyama Initiative as well? They have some inspiring case studies:



"Advancing socio-ecological production landscapes for the benefit of biodiversity and human well-being"

Philip Booth said...

Very useful links above - thanks