Zero Footprint
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Zero Footprint
We absolutely can reduce the ecological footprint of humanity all the way down to zero!
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SOIL CARBON COWBOYS

Meet Allen Williams, Gabe Brown and Neil Dennis - heroes and innovators! These ranchers now know how to regenerate their soils while making their animals healthier and their operations more profitable. They are turning ON their soils, enabling rainwater to sink into the earth rather than run off. And these turned ON soils retain that water, so the ranches are much more resilient in drought. It's an amazing story that has just begun.

Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

This is about raising cattle in a way that grasslands have coevolved to depend upon, except with bison instead.  While we don't really need to eat much meat, what little we do eat should be raised in a way that contributes to the environment rather than takes away from it.  It seems clear we can actually improve our grassland soils while sequestering more carbon, by working with nature rather than fighting it.  

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Michael Pollan on Agriculture’s Role in Fighting Climate Change

Michael Pollan on Agriculture’s Role in Fighting Climate Change | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

Now, instead of just exposing the faults of the industrial agricultural system, Pollan is suggesting radical new ways to make agriculture work for both people and the planet.

 

With the right kind of technology, Pollan believes that eating meat can actually be good for the planet. That’s right: Raising livestock, if done properly, can reduce global warming.

 

“Depending on how you farm, your farm is either sequestering or releasing carbon,” says Pollan. Currently, the vast majority of farms, in the United States and around the world, are releasing carbon—mainly through fertilizer and fossil fuel applications but also by plowing before planting. “As soon as you plow, you’re releasing carbon,” Pollan says, because exposing soil allows the carbon stored there to escape into the atmosphere.

 

... even if annual emissions of greenhouse gases drop to zero, global temperatures will keep rising and climate impacts keep intensifying for decades to come, thanks to the inertia of the climate system. The only way to possibly reduce impacts in the years ahead is to address what is fundamentally driving them: the 400 ppm of CO2 currently in the atmosphere.

 

“When you have a grassland, the plants living there convert the sun’s energy into leaf and root in roughly equal amounts. When the ruminant [e.g., a cow] comes along and grazes that grassland, it trims the height of the grass from, say, 3 feet tall to 3 inches tall. The plant responds to this change by seeking a new equilibrium: it kills off an amount of root mass equal to the amount of leaf and stem lost to grazing. The [discarded] root mass is then set upon by the nematodes, earthworms and other underground organisms, and they turn the carbon in the roots into soil. This is how all of the soil on earth has been created: from the bottom up, not the top down.”

 

The upshot, both for global climate policy and individual dietary choices, is that meat eating carries a big carbon footprint only when the meat comes from industrial agriculture. “If you’re eating grassland meat,” Pollan says, “your carbon footprint is light and possibly even negative.”

 

Pollan calls this approach “open source carbon sequestration.” He emphasizes that more research is needed to understand how best to apply it, but he is bullish on the prospects. Using photosynthesis and reformed grazing practices to extract atmospheric carbon and store it underground “gets us out of one of the worst aspects of environmental thinking—the zero sum idea that we can’t feed ourselves and save the planet at the same time,” says Pollan. “It also raises our spirits about the challenges ahead, which is not a small thing.”

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Healing the Planet Through Photosynthesis and Carbon Sequestration

Healing the Planet Through Photosynthesis and Carbon Sequestration | Zero Footprint | Scoop.it

If we implement wise geoengineering, even eating meat could help tackle the backlog of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.

 

With the right kind of technology, Pollan believes that eating meat can actually be good for the planet. That’s right: Raising livestock, if done properly, can reduce global warming. That’s just one element of a paradigm shift that Pollan and other experts, including Dennis Garrity, the former director general of the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hans Herren of the Millennium Institute in Washington, D.C., are promoting. They believe that new agricultural methods wouldn’t just reduce the volume of heat-trapping gases emitted by our civilization — they would also, and more importantly, draw down the total amount of those gases that are already in the atmosphere.


"Depending on how you farm, your farm is either sequestering or releasing carbon," says Pollan. Currently, the vast majority of farms, in the United States and around the world, are releasing carbon — mainly through fertilizer and fossil fuel applications but also by plowing before planting. "As soon as you plow, you’re releasing carbon," Pollan says, because exposing soil allows the carbon stored there to escape into the atmosphere.

 

One method of avoiding carbon release is no-till farming: Instead of plowing, a tractor inserts seeds into the ground with a small drill, leaving the earth basically undisturbed. But in addition to minimizing the release of carbon, a reformed agriculture system could also sequester carbon, extracting it from the atmosphere and storing it — especially in soil but also in plants — so it can’t contribute to global warming.

 

According to Pollan, photosynthesis is "the best geoengineering method we have."


"When you have a grassland, the plants living there convert the sun’s energy into leaf and root in roughly equal amounts. When the ruminant (e.g., a cow) … grazes that grassland, it trims the height of the grass from, say, 3 feet tall to 3 inches tall. The plant responds to this change by seeking a new equilibrium: it kills off an amount of root mass equal to the amount of leaf and stem lost to grazing. The (discarded) root mass is then set upon by the nematodes, earthworms and other underground organisms, and they turn the carbon in the roots into soil. This is how all of the soil on earth has been created: from the bottom up, not the top down."

 

The upshot, both for global climate policy and individual dietary choices, is that meat eating carries a big carbon footprint only when the meat comes from industrial agriculture. "If you’re eating grassland meat," Pollan says, "your carbon footprint is light and possibly even negative."

Daniel LaLiberte's insight:

How much meat might a meat eater eat if a meat eater might eat meat?

 

In other words, if we can raise livestock in a way that is actually good for the grasslands by more effectively sequestering carbon in the soil, we still need to figure out how much livestock we can consume that way?  We need to recycle our human waste back into the land as well.

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