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Agriculture & Climate Change

Over the last 150 years, conventional agriculture has been one of several dominating contributors to climate change through deforestation, pollution, and erosion of vital top soil. In this edition of Food List, we take a bit out of climate change and digest the solutions that could save the future of agriculture and our planet.

Scientists talk about peak oil and peak water, conditions that signal a point where our consumption will outstrip the availability of remaining resources. They could be right, but scare tactics won’t bring about a shift in consciousness. People run from bad news, not toward it. The answer is to build consensus on a foundation of innovative ideas.

Farmers throughout the country are finding out what works to nurture their land. Ranchers are exploring methods of mobstocking and grass farming to contribute to the integrity of their pasture lands. They raise the question: can cows actually save the planet? Ingenious resource regenerating solutions like methane digesters, biochar, and carbon sequestration spread are finding their place on farms, as well. This demonstrates that organic materials and soils, these are our allies underfoot. And farmers may know this better than anyone else. While agriculture is often pooled in with the problems generating climate change, the question arises: can farmers save the planet?

As we come to further understand the complexities of the relationship between agriculture and climate change, we also come to understand that there exists climate-smart agricultural practices. While it involves entertaining unconventional ideas and pursuing climate-friendly practices, the way we produce our food can change the future of our planet. How do you support regenerative, sustainable agriculture? Check out the meat eater’s guide and find inspiration in a sustainable burger recipe!

This week's terms

Climate Change

Since the Industrial Revolution, a range of human activities – including the use of fossil fuels – has led to the increased release of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat trapping gases into the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” has raised temperatures and triggered a change in ​both ​global ​and regional climate patterns.

Peak Oil

The moment in time when the world rate of crude oil production reaches a maximum and begins to decline. The peak will probably be driven by a combination of geological, economic, and political factors. Since oil powers nearly all transportation, and transport is key to trade, if the peak happens soon (before substitutes are found and deployed) the result will almost certainly be sharp economic decline.

Peak Water

The idea that there are ultimate limits to our ability to take and use water from natural systems. For rivers, streams, and many aquifers, humanity is reaching (or passing) those limits now.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the removal, through plant photosynthesis, of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the storage of that carbon as plant biomass and, most importantly, soil organic matter.
The rate at which this process occurs varies among ecosystems, and is subject to influence by human agency. This process has been going on on planet Earth for about 3.5 billion years, with much of the planet’s carbon today sequestered in complex hydrocarbons we call fossil fuels, inorganic carbonates in rock and soils, or in solution in the world’s oceans. 

Methane Digester

Methane from cow waste is a greenhouse gas and one of the largest single forms of air pollution in California. It's literally heating up the planet. A methane digester converts methan waste into a useful fuel to power machinery on a farm, which could reduce energy costs by 90%. 

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