By, Talia Schmitt.
Have you heard of a Carbon Sink? Not the type of sink that you use to brush your teeth or wash your hands. This sink is much larger than the one in your house, and takes in the carbon emissions from the atmosphere. One of the largest sinks we have is right under our feet–literally. Healthy soil has the potential to absorb all the CO2 in the atmosphere if treated correctly. Can you imagine? A way to suck carbon dioxide out of the air that does not involve major technological advances and relies instead on tools and methods that our great grandparents used as a matter of course.
In late April, the Rodale Institute published a white paper report stating that “we could sequester (obtain & retain CO2) MORE than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions” through regenerative organic agriculture. Studies done in Iran and Egypt found that the use of regenerative organic agriculture on all current cropland could sequester 40% of annual CO2 emissions. On top of that, by using this model on global pastureland, we could sequester an additional 71% of CO2 emissions.Even half of this would make significant change. Finally, a real life solution to turn back the carbon clock!
So what is this “regenerative organic agriculture?” It is quite simple. It is the type of agriculture that relies on “old-school” organic practices instead of pesticides and fertilizers. In particular this model emphasizes the use of cover crops, residue mulching, crop rotation and composting and then allows nature to “regenerate when disturbed.” By using these organic methods, we are allowing nature to heal itself.
Currently our food system is contributing to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture, by itself, is responsible for 10% of emissions. Rather than acting as the positive influence for the climate that it could be, our overreliance on an industrial farming system model has led to deterioration of topsoil from the increased usage of synthetic fertilizers, monoculture and mass farming.
The good news is our food system doesn’t need to be part of the problem. On the contrary, this study shows that our food system can be a crucial and indispensable part of the solution. In addition to the carbon sequestration benefits, in more extreme weather conditions such as those associated with climate change, organically grown crops are more resilient and out-competed conventional yields by 28-34%.
What does that leave us with? Hope. That 4-letter word that keeps us going. As an individual, you can join the movement and start by growing food in your backyard. If you’re in an urban setting, don’t let that stop you. Check out all the cool things happening with urban farming. And don’t forget that every time you go to the grocery store, you are voting with your dollars. So choose local, sustainable, Non-GMO & organic. If these options are not already available, why not ask the store manager and demand change?
Talia Schmitt is a rising freshman at The College of William & Mary. This past year, she pursed her passion of environmental education though her gap year in Grenoble, France and the San Francisco Bay Area. In efforts to spread environmental awareness and education, Talia has worked with numerous groups including Environment California, NatureBridge, The San Francisco Green Film Festival, Teens Turning Green’s Conscious Kitchen and The DC Environmental Film Festival. She has also co-founded an after-school program, ESLI, to educate elementary school students on the environment. This coming summer, Talia is excited to study Climate Change in the Arctic through the organization Students On Ice. To see what Talia is up to, you can check out her blog at taliaecoblog.blogspot.com.