Reducing agricultural carbon emissions will be good for the planet and our stomachs

“If the Green New Deal takes an appropriately broad approach, it has the potential to massively improve environmental sustainability and social equity in farming. “

From soil microbes to factory farming, the Green New Deal could radically improve our food system

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Marché aux Fleurs, Nice, France

For any group activity to be successful—whether it’s a school field-trip or a country’s entire economy—people must be well fed. Our health and well-being depend on quality food, which is why food security is so closely linked to success and prosperity, on both a local and national scale. But as world populations grow, agriculture has become heavily industrialized. This has led to amazing food availability, but has also hurt the environment—impacting not only local water and land resources, but also contributing to the global climate crisis.

The Green New Deal has gained widespread public support and, unlike previous attempts at climate change legislation, it takes a holistic view of industry in society, including the need for good jobs. But agriculture alone will be a tough industry to tackle.

In conversations about agricultural emissions, the elephant in the room is a cow. Emissions from cattle farms make up around 40 percent of agricultural methane pollution. A recent study suggests that to forestall climate catastrophe, global production and consumption of red meat will need to be cut by about 50 percent. The Canadian government recently released a Food Guide that encourages people to eat less meat, and it’s true that a big swing in consumer preferences would indirectly cause changes in how we farm. But the Green New Deal could target farmers directly with initiatives intended to change agricultural practices, shifting from raising meat to growing crops.

That said, even crop-growing farms have many and varied sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Microbial respiration in soil naturally produces CO2 and nitrous gases—but when plants grow, they take up carbon dioxide from the air and nitrogen from the soil, balancing the cycle. When farmers convert land from forest to farm, biodiversity among animals, plants, and microbes is lost, and this normal processes of biomass recycling get interrupted. When ground is left bare between crops, or turned over during tilling, soil erodes. This limits the land’s ability to hold water, and releases further greenhouse gases.

But there are alternative land management practices, like no-till farming, that may help reduce these kinds of emissions. (Although there is still some controversy regarding the effect of no-till on carbon emissions, there is at least strong evidence that it’s good for soil and therefore good for farmers).

Although still short on policy details, advocates of the Green New Deal suggest that it should focus on the use of ‘green’ approaches in agriculture. As others have noted, this should include abolishing the factory farming of animals and encouraging investment in more efficient infrastructure that improves land and water footprints. For example, financial incentives could help encourage a mixed crop-livestock model, where a single farm both rears animals and grows crops. Manure from the animals can be used to fertilize the fields, and plant waste from the harvest can be used for animal bedding and bioenergy generation. If the animals are also given feed produced on-site, there’s a built-in cycling of biological material (and the carbon it contains), and very little need to import organic or synthetic fertilizers onto the farm. This idea of “circular agriculture” eventually improves the quality of the manure the animals produce, and therefore the soil fertility as well. Legislation in the Green New Deal could help promote this kind of farming by establishing legal limits on chemical fertilizer, either by acre of farmland, or by the amount of crops produced. MORE

Ecocide, Impunity And Polly Higgins

Polly Higgins drew the stark link between corporate actions and the extensive destruction of ecosystems in the drive for profit that discounts the people and the planet.

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Stroud, Scotland, Polly Higgins home

Sunday, April 21, 2019, is a day that would pass in history as one of a thoroughly needless and mindless bloodletting. On that day, marauding violent men snuffed the life out of 17 citizens in Yar Center, near Sherere Community in Kankara local government area of Katsina State, Nigeria. In Sri Lanka, multiple attacks in churches and hotels took the life of more than 300 persons in an unconscionable visitation of hate on innocent individuals. Various reasons have been hazarded as being the root cause of the murders, including revenge for attacks elsewhere and the sheer spread of terror. The truth is that murder cannot be justified and must be condemned.

Sadly, these crimes were committed at a time when the world was marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The mayhem in churches in Sri Lanka illustrated the depth of depravity that humans can sink to.

Image result for polly higgins While shock and consternation gripped communities in diverse places, a key voice for sanity in our relationship with nature, ourselves and other species quietly slipped away. From reports, we read that she passed on peacefully. We are talking of Polly Higgins who passed on at the age of 50.

Higgins passed on in the evening of Easter Sunday, a day marked by the inconceivable mass murders in churches and hotels of Sri Lanka as well as atrocious killings in Nigeria and continued violence elsewhere. She stood out as a shining light demanding the recognition of ecocide as a crime in the class of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crimes of aggression. She was in the forefront of the campaign for the addition of ecocide among these crimes against peace which are all listed in Article 5(1) of the Rome Statute.

Ecocide is defined as “the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.”

I was privileged to meet Higgins in the GAIA Embassy as we fondly call the home of Liz Hosken in London. She wrote three books on ecocide, including one titled Eradicating Ecocide. Higgins actively spoke on UN platforms and to governments, reminding them that this crime was indeed on the draft of the Rome Statute up to 1999 when it was dropped at the insistence of a handful of nations.

She drew the stark link between corporate actions and the extensive destruction of ecosystems in the drive for profit that discounts the people and the planet. Her clear illustrations of the massive ecological destruction around us as ecocide quickly captured my attention. It is certain that the objective observation of the ongoing or prospective crimes around the exploitation of Mother Earth will show that this is one crime that must be recognised today and not delayed any further. Crimes of this magnitude are going on around the world, benefiting powerful entities such as transnational corporations and the politicians that do their beck-and-call. MORE

Extinction Rebellion: London Stock Exchange blocked by climate activists

 

 “This is our last chance to do anything about the global climate and ecological emergency. Our last chance to save the world as we know it. Now or never, we need to be radical. We need to rise up. And we need to rebel. This is a book of truth and action.” Excerpt from This Is Not a Drill

Climate activists blockaded the London Stock Exchange by gluing themselves across the entrances.

DemonstratorsPolice said Fleet Street would remain closed for about three hours after it was blocked by activists. REUTERS

Protesters from Extinction Rebellion attached themselves to walls and to each other at the financial centre in the City of London.

A group also climbed on to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train at Canary Wharf and held up banners.

Protesters at both locations were later removed, but police warned of disruption throughout the day.

Elsewhere in the City, temporary road blocks have been set up by activists at Bank and Southwark Bridge.

Nine protesters also glued themselves together in a chain outside the Treasury, preventing people from the entering the Westminster building. MORE

RELATED:

Extinction Rebellion rushes activists’ handbook This Is Not a Drill into print

Former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas are among the contributors to a forthcoming handbook about how to become an Extinction Rebellion activist, which will feature instructions on everything from organising roadblocks to dealing with arrest.

Why protesters should be wary of ‘12 years to climate breakdown’ rhetoric

“Climate change is not so much an emergency as a festering injustice. Your ancestors did not end slavery by declaring an emergency and dreaming up artificial boundaries on “tolerable” slave numbers. They called it out for what it was: a spectacularly profitable industry, the basis of much prosperity at the time, founded on a fundamental injustice. It’s time to do the same on climate change.”

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…The problem is, as soon as scientists speak out against environmental slogans, our words are seized upon by a dwindling band of the usual suspects to dismiss the entire issue. So if I were addressing teenagers on strike, or young people involved in Extinction Rebellion and other groups, or indeed anyone who genuinely wants to understand what is going on, here’s what I’d say.

My biggest concern is with the much-touted line that “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have 12 years” before triggering an irreversible slide into climate chaos. Slogan writers are vague on whether they mean climate chaos will happen after 12 years, or if we have 12 years to avert it. But both are misleading.

As the relevant lead author of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, I spent several days last October, literally under a spotlight, explaining to delegates of the world’s governments what we could, and could not, say about how close we are to that level of warming.

Using the World Meteorological Organisation’s definition of global average surface temperature, and the late 19th century to represent its pre-industrial level (yes, all these definitions matter), we just passed 1°C and are warming at more than 0.2°C per decade, which would take us to 1.5°C around 2040.

That said, these are only best estimates. We might already be at 1.2°C, and warming at 0.25°C per decade – well within the range of uncertainty. That would indeed get us to 1.5°C by 2030: 12 years from 2018. But an additional quarter of a degree of warming, more-or-less what has happened since the 1990s, is not going to feel like Armageddon to the vast majority of today’s striking teenagers (the striving taxpayers of 2030). And what will they think then?

What about the other interpretation of the IPCC’s 12 years: that we have 12 years to act? What our report said was, in scenarios with a one-in-two to two-in-three chance of keeping global warming below 1.5°C, emissions are reduced to around half their present level by 2030. That doesn’t mean we have 12 years to act: it means we have to act now, and even if we do, success is not guaranteed. MORE

It’s time for nations to unite around an International Green New Deal

“The International Green New Deal changes the frame. Rather than pleading for restraint, it sets out a positive-sum vision of international investment, in which the gains from joining in outweigh those to going it alone.”

Several countries have proposed their own versions of a Green New Deal, but climate change knows no borders. We need a global response

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The stakes of the international Green New Deal are not merely environmental.’ Photograph: Craig Easton/Getty Images/Cultura RF

In times of crisis and catastrophe, children are often forced to grow up quickly. We are now witnessing this premature call to action on a planetary scale. As the adults in government accelerate their consumption of fossil fuels, children are leading the campaign against our species’ looming extinction. Our survival now depends on the prospects for a global movement to follow their lead and demand an International Green New Deal.

Several countries have proposed their own versions of a Green New Deal. Here in Europe, DiEM25 and our European Spring coalition are campaigning under the banner of a detailed Green New Deal agenda. In the UK, a new campaign is pushing similar legislation with MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis. And in the US, dogged activists in the Sunrise Movement are working with representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to push their proposal to the front of the political agenda.

Unfortunately, climate change knows no borders. The US may be the second-largest polluter in the world, but it makes up less than 15% of global greenhouse emissions. Leading by example is simply not enough.

Instead, we need an International Green New Deal: a pragmatic plan to raise $8tn – 5% of global GDP – each year, coordinate its investment in the transition to renewable energy and commit to providing climate protections on the basis of countries’ needs, rather than their means.

Call it the Organization for Emergency Environmental Cooperation – the namesake of the original OEEC 75 years ago. While many US activists find inspiration in a “second world war-style mobilization”, the International Green New Deal is better modeled by the Marshall plan that followed it. With financial assistance from the US government, 16 countries formed the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), dedicated to rebuilding the infrastructure of a devastated continent and coordinating its supply of energy.

But if the original OEEC entrenched an extractive capitalism at Europe’s core –protecting the steel and coal cartel – the new organization for an International Green New Deal can empower communities around the world in a single transformational project.

Confronting the climate crisis will require more than keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The transnational scope of this mobilization is crucial for three main reasons. MORE

RELATED:

Economist Mariana Mazzucato explains how rethinking industrial policy could be key to tackling climate change.

Wilson-Raybould slams feds for ‘incremental’ progress on Indigenous rights recognition

 

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Former justice minister Jody Wilson-RaybouldOTTAWA — Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is slamming the federal government she was once a part of for making only “incremental” progress on the Indigenous justice file and their promise to “decolonialize” Canadian laws and policies.

“My fear and disappointment is that despite sounding the alarm, providing the advice, pushing and challenging, sharing perspectives of lived Indigenous experience… the federal government has fallen back once again into a pattern of trying to ‘manage the problem’ with Indigenous peoples and make incremental shifts rather than transforming the status quo,” Wilson-Raybould said during a keynote address on Wednesday at the First Nations Provincial Justice Forum in Vancouver. They were invited by the B.C.-based First Nations Justice Council.

She appeared alongside fellow newly-Independent MP Jane Philpott to deliver a joint address called: “From denial to recognition: the challenges of Indigenous justice in Canada.”

“Since I spoke to the leadership of British Columbia this past November, there have been a few developments, things have changed a bit,” Wilson-Raybould said early in her remarks, to laughter. “Perhaps not fully unexpected but certainly an eventful time,” she continued, appearing to reference the months-long controversy surrounding her allegations that she faced a sustained effort from senior government officials to attempt to pressure her to interfere in a criminal case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould framed her comments as her reflections and insights from her nearly three years as Canada’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, presented with the aim of informing these Indigenous leaders’ ongoing efforts to change the current justice system.

She said that she had “no illusion” about the reality of the system she was taking the helm of, but said that over the course of her time in cabinet she fought to challenge the way things had been done. MORE