One of humanity’s greatest failings is our constant search for “miracles” as a substitute for rolling up our sleeves and getting on with the hard work of problem solving. In the face of a looming energy crunch, for example, we have invested heavily in nuclear fusion – a technology that has been 20 years away for the last 60 years! Similarly, faced with a need to cut carbon emissions we pump money into carbon capture and storage – or even less plausibly into Amber Rudd’s insane dash for gas.
The likelihood is, of course, that none of these miracle cures will ever get off the drawing board. By the time we realise this, we will regret all of the less headline grabbing things that we could have done; like building windfarms and tidal lagoons to generate energy, and equipping every home in the land with insulation and with solar pv and solar thermal systems in order to save energy.
It is in this light that we should look to shift agriculture away from the current practices that destroy environments and create climate change in favour of practices that restore environments and help lock up carbon in the soil. As the Carbon Farmers of Australia explain:
“Carbon Farming is simply farming in a way that reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions or captures and holds carbon in vegetation and soils. It is managing land, water, plants and animals to meet the Triple Challenge of Landscape Restoration, Climate Change and Food Security. It seeks to reduce emissions in its production processes, while increasing production and sequestering carbon in the landscape.”
Eric Toensmeier an author and lecturer at Yale University explains that Carbon Farming is not a single thing, but rather a mix of agricultural practices that can be used both to benefit the environment and help feed a growing population:
“If widely implemented, these practices have the capacity to sequester hundreds of billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere in the coming decades. Unlike high-tech geoengineering strategies, these practices can also feed people, build more fertile soils and contribute to ecosystem health.”
Toensmeier believes that carbon farming practices could be developed throughout the world as a sustainable alternative to our current unsustainable fossil-fuel based industrial agriculture. However, until now there has been little coordinated effort to disseminate them. Toensmeier ’s book, The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security, begins to address this by providing a comprehensive repository of ideas and knowledge that can be drawn upon by farmers across the globe. And while carbon farming practices are going to take time to adopt, and while those deploying them will be on a learning curve, in the end they are a much more realistic proposition than the mirage of carbon capture and storage.