Why Indigenous Authority is Important to You

Photo: Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook

What if one country, with massive economic control and a police force, invaded a land, installed its own government, and then arrested the representatives of the true government when they protested the plans of the country that colonized them. Imagine the Canadian outrage.

Why, then, is there no outrage when Canada does this to Indigenous Peoples?

In fact, the outrage is directed against those who try to pursue self-determination for their nation and people. Could it be that well-cultivated and widespread prejudice interferes with the moral capacity of the general population?

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, pictured here in 2018. Photo: Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook

It must be said: Indigenous authority over their lands is important—important to all Canadians, important to you. Today, it is estimated that over a quarter of the world’s usable land, including the Amazon, is under Indigenous authority, governance and stewardship.  Though often ignored or unrecognized by colonial governments, this oversight has kept the land safe and productive for centuries. If the planet is to be saved from catastrophe, the authority of the People of the Land, the Indigenous Peoples, must be recognized and affirmed by the nations of this world.

In the Arctic, Indigenous authority is hindered in many ways, even when the territorial governments are largely run by Indigenous Peoples themselves. The full authority of traditional forms of oversight and stewardship have been minimized by the way outside governments, extractive industries and broader economic authorities and interests still determine the overall workings related to the land’s integrity and well-being.

If the collapse of our ecosystems is to be avoided, the strength of Indigenous authority must be returned. The moral framework is now the survival framework for our planet. There is no healthy future for our planet without the full recognition of Indigenous rights.

I will repeat it.

There is no healthy future for our planet without the full recognition of Indigenous rights.

Watch The Talk – Asking the Right Questions About Climate Change

This week, we’re launching a video that we hope will help extend the conversation on the climate crisis and climate solutions to audiences and communities that aren’t already thinking about them.

It captures the 18 minutes I spent onstage at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre last fall, delivering a TEDx talk on how to build wider public demand and buy-in for faster, deeper carbon cuts. The audience reaction that night was far beyond anything I could have imagined. So now, we’re trying to get the talk out as far and wide as possible. (And we’d really appreciate your help.)

One of the catalysts for the talk was a comment by sustainability specialist and IPCC author Jim Skea, during a media event for the organization’s landmark 1.5°C pathways report in October 2018. “We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5°C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” he said. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will.”

Asking the Right Questions

That statement got me thinking about the breadth of public demand it’ll take to make the political will for climate solutions unstoppable. Which in turn led me to a series of “what-if” questions that I get into in the talk, and on our landing page for the video. (See below)

Here are a few more.

What if the only way to get the action and momentum we need, in the time still available to us to rapidly reduce carbon reductions, is to connect with voters and citizens who aren’t already inside the climate change “bubble”?

What if that means finding common ground with people who see results like fewer smog days, less traffic congestion, more productive farm soils, or more free time with friends and family as things worth fighting for, and the carbon reductions they inadvertently produce as the co-benefit?

What if the surest way to build public buy-in is to start with the many, many aspects of the transition off carbon that are about opportunity and gain, not loss and pain?

And if that’s right, what if the fastest way forward is to slow down a bit, start out by listening to the worries and priorities those audiences already woke up with this morning, then figure out together how solving for climate change helps them get the things they already need and want, faster and better?

Climate Action is Hard Work

It doesn’t replace or diminish the hard work or the tough issues we write about on The Mix, on which many of our readers take the lead every day—like speeding up the shift to 100% renewable energy, phasing out fossil subsidies, bringing about a managed decline in oil and gas, and holding fossils to account for funding climate denial and knowingly pitching a product that is rapidly frying the planet.

But there’s some evidence that once people have made a personal commitment to climate action, they’re more likely to expect that much and more from governments, businesses, and institutions. And that the best action step they can take is to work with others to change systems that drive the carbon emissions we can’t control in our own lives. If that’s right, we’re hoping the TEDx talk points to a way to drive better dialogue and wider participation in those issues and campaigns. We’ll be promoting the talk extensively over the next couple of weeks. (As you’ll see on our landing page, we’re even hoping it’ll help us raise funds for more original reporting on The Mix.)

So please—take a few minutes to watch the talk. Consider leaving a comment on TED’s YouTube channel. And please share the link as widely as you can across your own networks.


December 9, 2019

What the Second World War was to our ancestors, Climate Change is to our lifetime. We can win this battle, as long as we don’t give in to climate despair and convince ourselves that it’s already lost. The solutions are within our grasp, but they depend on political will that will only be driven by much wider public demand for actions that cut carbon, create many millions of jobs, and build stronger, healthier, more resilient communities. (text from YouTube video description)

More “What If” questions found on landing page of video:

What if the solutions to the climate crisis are already practical, affordable, and ready for prime time?

What if we already know how to drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and create tens of millions of jobs along the way?

What if political will is the last box to check to get climate change under control, but sustaining that will depends on far wider public demand for climate solutions?

What if the first step in building that public buy-in is to stop arguing about the climate crisis and start co-operating on climate solutions?

What if the only way we’re guaranteed to lose this battle of our lifetimes is if we convince ourselves it’s already lost?

And what if the urgent but polarized conversation we’re already having about climate change is slowing down the actions we need to take, at just the moment when we need those actions to speed up?

SOURCE

Big Oil has a do-or-die decade ahead because of climate change

The 2020s are poised to be to energy firms what the 2010s were to utilities—disruptive

As revolutionary slogans go, it hardly had the resonance of ¡No pasarán! But when Repsol, a Spanish oil company, said in December it would reduce the net carbon footprint of everything it produces to zero within 30 years, it marked the most powerful pledge so far by a big oil firm to cast off some of the vestiges of a fossil past in favour of a windy and sunny future.

Many will scoff. Oil companies are, after all, widely regarded as the villains of the climate crisis. Repsol is a relatively puny producer; its vow may simply be a gambit to woo investors keen on “sustainability”. Yet it deserves a pat on the back. Without the oil industry’s balance-sheets and project-management skills, it is hard to imagine the world building anything like enough wind farms, solar parks and other forms of clean energy to stop catastrophic global warming. The question is no longer “whether” Big Oil has a big role to play in averting the climate crisis. It is “when”.

Ask oil executives about timing, though, and most hum and haw. They face a dilemma. Though the world needs them to throw their weight behind clean energy, their oil-and-gas businesses have traditionally generated higher returns. Yet forecasting returns is complex—and becoming more so. As well as project risk, it involves assessing the attitude of investors, governments and consumers towards climate uncertainties. To cynics, all the climate-friendly noises amount to little in practice, since few people are ready to make carbon-cutting sacrifices that would force oil firms’ hand. But noises are sometimes followed by action. Should they be this time, the 2020s may be do-or-die for the oil industry.

In energy, a lot can happen in ten years. The 2010s saw oil markets transformed by American shale. In Europe renewable energy prompted something almost as wrenching for a different sort of energy firm—utilities. Faced with an existential threat from wind and solar, fossil-fuel power producers such as Germany’s e.on and rwe tore themselves apart, redesigned their businesses, and emerged cleaner and stronger. Southern European firms like Spain’s Iberdrola and Italy’s Enel took renewables worldwide. Last year total shareholder returns from the reinvigorated European utilities left the oil-and-gas industry in the dust.

Big Oil looks like the European utilities of a decade ago: potentially in for a seismic shock, and in denial. Some giants, like ExxonMobil and Chevron in America, continue to bet most heavily on oil, believing demand for petrol will remain strong for the foreseeable future. Others, among them Europe’s supermajors, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and bp, increasingly favour natural gas, and see low-carbon (though not necessarily zero-carbon) power generation as a way to prop up their business model as more cars and other things begin to run on electricity.

A few dabble in renewable energy, especially in Europe. But of a whopping $80bn or so of capital expenditure by Europe’s seven biggest listed energy firms last year, only 7.4%—less than $1bn each on average—went to clean energy. In order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement to keep global warming below 2°C, the ratio of dirty energy to the clean sort will need to be turned upside down. On January 14th ubs, a bank, calculated that capital spending on renewable energy, power grids and batteries will need to rise globally to $1.2trn a year on average from now until 2050, more than double the $500bn spent each year on oil and gas. To help fund that, it reckons that oil-and-gas companies will need to divert $10trn of investments away from fossil fuels over the same period.

That sounds unthinkable. For now, oil executives show no appetite for such a radical change of direction. If anything, they are working their oil-and-gas assets harder, to skim the profits and hand them to shareholders while they still can. Oil, they say, generates double-digit returns on capital employed. Clean energy, mere single digits.

They may be overstating the case. First, as the Boston Consulting Group points out, no big industry performed worse for shareholders in the second half of the 2010s than oil and gas. Second, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (oies), a think-tank, says climate-concerned investors are already pushing up oil companies’ cost of capital for long-term projects, crimping returns. Third, with their vast balance-sheets, and skill in building and managing complex endeavours over decades, they could dramatically scale up offshore wind and similar businesses, bolstering profitability.

Furthermore, Big Oil has ways to make other high-risk, high-reward bets on clean energy. One is through venture capital. The oies calculates that of 200 recent investments by the oil majors, 70 have been in clean-energy ventures, such as electric-vehicle charging networks. They have generally been small for now. But bp reportedly plans to build five $1bn-plus “unicorns” over the next five years with an aim of providing more energy with lower emissions. Another way is to back research and development in potentially groundbreaking technologies such as high-altitude wind energy, whose generating efficiency promises equally lofty profits.

BlackRock and the black stuff

Even as the majors diversify, supplying oil and gas will be the bedrock of their business for decades. Larry Fink, boss of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, acknowledged this in a letter to global chief executives on January 14th, even as he predicted that climate change would cause a significant shift in capital toward sustainable investing (see article).

Yet excuses for prevarication are growing thinner. As Peter Parry of Bain, a consultancy, puts it, it has become “something of a myth” that oil is a high-return industry. As national climate commitments grow more stringent, governments may go on the warpath. ubs argues that it may be necessary for governments to “ban” the $10trn of oil-and-gas investments to reach net zero emissions by 2050. It is not only Repsol that feels which way the breeze is blowing. It need not be an ill wind.

 

DAVOS 2020: Trump vs. Thunberg: The climate crisis could dominate Davos

Image result for trump vs thunberg

London (CNN Business)US President Donald Trump and environmental activist Greta Thunberg are getting top billing at Davos this year as the conference for global elites turns its attention to the climate crisis and sustainability.

The World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting begins Monday, drawing 3,000 of the world’s richest and most powerful people to a picturesque skiing village in the Swiss mountains.
Trump will deliver what the organizers describe as a special address on Tuesday, offering his brand of populism to attendees who represent governments, companies, central banks and transnational organizations.
Two hours later, Thunberg — Time Magazine’s Person of the Year — will open a debate on how to avert a “climate apocalypse.”
The headliners have clashed on social media and may steer clear of each other in Davos. But attendees won’t be able to avoid climate change given the theme of the meeting is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” The World Economic Forum (WEF) is asking all companies present to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Among the highlights: Britain’s Prince Charles will deliver a special address Wednesday on “how to save the planet.”
Trump, who is aggressively rolling back environmental protections and pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, may well be challenged over his view on climate change.

Who attends, and how?

About 3,000 of the people who flock to Davos are official conference participants.
Tickets are invite-only and very pricey for businesses. Membership of the WEF costs anywhere from $60,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there’s an additional fee of around $27,000 to get into the conference.
Davos also plays host to thousands of journalists, security personnel, corporate support staffers, as well as businesspeople and chancers, many of whom never step foot in the official conference rooms.
Some instead spend the week attending parallel discussions, panels, corporate events and parties. Many take advantage of the fact that so many elites are gathered in one place by jamming their schedules full of meetings.

What do they do all week?

The official conference schedule is filled with dozens of speeches, debates, performances and events. This year, many are focused on the issue of sustainability.
“People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them, and our efforts to keep global warming limited to 1.5°C are falling dangerously short,” WEF founder Klaus Schwab said in a statement.
“With the world at such a critical crossroads, this year we must develop a ‘Davos Manifesto 2020’ to reimagine the purpose and scorecards for companies and governments,” he added.
Beyond the headliners, attendees can choose to attend panels featuring US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO David Solomon.
Also roaming the hallways and attending exclusive dinners are hundreds of high level executives and political figures such as Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff.
The roster of attendees often reflects the global political and business mood. MORE

Extinction Rebellion Takes Aim at Fashion

XR says it is the fastest growing direct action climate movement in history. And it has the fashion business in its sights.

Extinction Rebellion protesters carrying a casket during the mock funeral for fashion last month.Credit: Alexander Coggin for The New York Times

LONDON — Last month, on the final day of London Fashion Week, hundreds of black-clad demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square to embark on what they called “a funeral march for fashion.”

Gathering behind a band and giant painted coffin, they slowly processed en masse down the Strand, shutting down traffic on the busy thoroughfare as they chanted and handed out leaflets, leaving gridlock and chaos in their wake.

It was just the latest in a series of efforts designed by Extinction Rebellion, or XR, to disrupt the most visible British fashion event of the year. First, protesters covered in fake blood performed a die-in and demanded fashion week be canceled on opening day. Then, outside the Victoria Beckham show, activists had lined up, brandishing posters emblazoned with statements like “R.I.P. LFW 1983-2019” and “Fashion = Ecocide.”

Sustainability is at the forefront of the fashion conversation today in a way it has never been before, and the emergence of XR — which 18 months ago consisted of just 10 people in Britain and has since swelled to millions of followers across 72 countries — has stoked the increasingly heated discussion.

Extinction Rebellion activists with BoycottFashion posters outside of the Victoria Beckham show during London Fashion Week.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

Although the movement targets numerous industries and governments worldwide, a recent focus on fashion has been particularly high profile.

Extinction Rebellion, which held demonstrations outside the Manhattan headquarters of The New York Times earlier this year demanding the newspaper increase its focus on climate change, has a distinctive hourglass logo, viral social media campaigns and creatively packaged demands for drastic action. It calls itself the fastest-growing climate and ecology direct action movement in history.

Come Monday, the most ambitious protest effort by the group yet will get underway, with tens of thousands of protesters planning to bring roads around Westminster to gridlock; there will also be a sit-in at London City Airport. This is the beginning of two weeks of environmental demonstrations that will also include repair stations where people can bring their old or damaged clothes.

So how does it all work?

Extinction Rebellion, which originally grew out of the activist group Rising Up! and relies solely on crowdfunding and donations, has three key goals: that governments are transparent about the impact of climate change; that they reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025; and that governments worldwide create citizens’ assemblies to set climate priorities.

Posters at the demonstration outside the Victoria Beckham show.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

The group has been deliberately conceived as a self-organizing, non-hierarchical holacracy. There is no single leader or group steering its strategy, tactics and goals. Instead, it is a loose alliance of 150 groups across Britain alone, with volunteers organized into working subgroups, and support teams and responsibilities distributed among chapters.

Meetings and planning sessions tend to take place in online forums and on messaging apps, with meetings offline used for training and creating a sense of community.

Extinction Rebellion is not the first modern protest movement to organize in such a way (there are parallels in particular with the Occupy movement), though the setup can foster a general sense of confusion and disarray.

Volunteers cheerfully describe planning meetings as “pretty crazy and disorganized.” A news conference last week ahead of the latest mass protests involved a fair amount of shouting and technical difficulties, and at London Fashion Week, certain planned protests failed to materialize. With the exception of the funeral march, turnouts were generally lower than anticipated.

Indeed, the success, and confusion, around the XR approach to fashion — a sector responsible for about 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations — is fairly representative of the state of the group at large.

From left: Bel Jacobs, Sara Arnold and Alice Wilby, who are the coordinators of the BoycottFashion movement and part of Extinction Rebellion.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

“It’s always somewhat chaotic and messy, but I suppose that’s part of the beauty of Extinction Rebellion,” said Sara Arnold, a coordinator of Boycott Fashion, an XR subgroup that has made headlines by urging people to buy no new clothes for a year. “You learn to just run with it and hope for the best.”

MORE

 

 

New EU Commission structure shows seriousness on climate action


Ursula von der Leyen, seen here as Germany’s defence minister on Feb. 13, 2019. Photo by NATO/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A week before the United Nations Climate Summit began, a new leader took the helm of the European Commission with the goal of promoting strong climate action.

“I want the European Green Deal to become Europe’s hallmark,” EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said on Sept. 10.

One of her first acts in office was to appoint her second-in-command with overseeing Europe’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by mid-century.

“At the heart of it is our commitment to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent,” she said at the time.

Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans was nominated Sept. 10 to present the “European Green Deal” over the first 100 days of the new EU Commission’s mandate, which begins Nov. 1, while also serving as climate-action commissioner.

Frans Timmermans

@TimmermansEU

“We are one people, one race – the human race – living on one planet. Let’s be bold and let it be known that is in fact enlightened patriotism”

View image on Twitter

Officials have said that might be difficult, but some say the new role Timmermans is about to take may help facilitate this change.

Leyen has changed the structure of the EU Commission in constructive ways, former EU Commissioner László Andor told National Observer in a Sept. 21 interview at the United for Climate Justice conference organized by the Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS) on the fringe of the United Nations General Assembly.

The new structure involves three executive vice-presidents, one of whom is Timmermans, who will be in charge of “everything about sustainability.”

Previously, these responsibilities were “scattered, and not necessarily well co-ordinated,” Andor said.

For example, before Timmermans’ appointment, the EU Commission had a climate-and-energy commissioner, which was a problem because “very often, energy wins and climate is subordinated,” Andor said.

“Now, the point is that climate policy is going to be concentrated at a very high level,” he added. “And this will be more effective than the previous arrangement. To start, I’m sure there will be continued pressure.”

Laszlo
Former EU Commissioner László Andors makes opening remarks at the United for Climate Justice conference in New York on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo Supplied

Bodies like the European Investment Bank have been able to cohesively shift the focus of investment into renewable energy and sustainable services in line with ambitious goals, while also developing partnerships with the private sector and other government. That is now what the EU Commission is trying to do under Leyen, Andor said, making the changes worth watching.

“If the European Union wants to remain relevant in the eyes of this part of the electorate, it has to be serious. And this is a method of credibility for international partnerships and actions at the global level,” said Andor, who is FEPS secretary general.

Andor believes Timmermans’ very focused role will allow the EU Commission to build international partnerships and dialogue with civil societies and other actors in the fields of social and climate innovation. MORE

 

Tiny changes might seem insignificant. But they are how we save the planet

Greta Thunberg and her Extinction Rebellion peers remind us that activism is not just about lobbying for change, but doing it ourselves


 ‘Small changes can transform societies’: a young climate striker with a tiny placard reading ‘Use less paper’ in London on 20 September 2019. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

There is a celebrated line in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, his bestselling study of ecocide and sudden social implosion. Referring to the “self-inflicted environmental damage” on Easter Island by deforestation, Diamond asked: “What did the Easter islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?”

While there has been much academic controversy about the accuracy of his shorthand for what happened on Easter Island, what remains, however, is a powerful and affecting metaphor, one ever more resonant in the midst of the escalating global climate emergency.

The question “What on earth are we thinking?” is, today, no longer an experiment in supposition. We can see the shape of the calamity and measure our responses and the hypocrisies and contradictions inherent in them. Confronted by a climate emergency on a vast scale, and with the widespread failure of our political leaders, we continue to behave as if someone else – anyone else – will solve the problem, rather than tackling it ourselves.

So we worry. And we continue to consume. And sometimes we consume as a way of escaping the worry of consuming – even as we struggle to step back and see the wider, and blindingly obvious, picture.

It is a cycle that has placed a well-founded sense of anxiety about humankind’s future, perhaps not experienced so viscerally since the depths of the cold war and the fear of nuclear annihilation, against a profound sense of powerlessness. Solutions can seem beyond our reach as individuals and, if solvable at all, are in the hands of governments.

There are, then, deep and pressing reasons to be desperately worried. But there are also reasons for optimism. Alongside a wider democratic crisis, last week’s climate strike – and the wider Extinction Rebellion represented by figures such as the teenage climate campaigner Greta Thunberg – exists as a potent reminder that activism is not simply about lobbying the seats of power but about our power. As individuals, we can shape the culture, societies and politics we live in and drive them towards better results. 

While it is easy to be cynical about the impact of protest in an age of populism, where politicians seem determined to find ways to become ever less accountable, the global reach and scale of last week’s strike suggest a shifting of public opinion. Where once events such as Climate Camp could attract a few thousands, mainly committed activists, the climate strike has attracted vast numbers across the world, many of them protesting for the first time. If we need leaders such as Thunberg, it is as a reminder of the importance not only of organised action but of what we can and should do for ourselves….

Some reject the notion that individual action – recycling or changing how much meat we eat or how we travel – is a sufficient response to the sheer scale of the problem confronting the planet. But this misses a key point about how we live our lives. In the heat of political debate, we forget sometimes the importance of individual acts. What we put in our breakfast bowl, small issue as it is, became – for me at least – something that made me think about the sustainability and provenance of what I ate when a friend pointed out that huge amounts of water are used to produce my once favourite almond milk.  MORE

Sustainability101 and Why Our Economic System Utterly Fails to Address It

One hundred foxes and one hundred rabbits live on an island. What’s the price of a rabbit as the species decline?


Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

What is sustainability? And why do we need it?

These questions are the most basic, yet rarely discussed in traditional textbooks. So let’s explore them with a simple thought experiment.

One hundred foxes and one hundred rabbits live on an island. The foxes eat the rabbits. Can the lives of both species be sustainable?

You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that if the foxes eat the rabbits too quickly, more quickly than they can reproduce themselves, then we have a problem. The rabbits will become extinct, and then the foxes will have nothing to eat and will also become extinct. This is an example of a ecosystem that is not sustainable.

To be sure, other ecological outcomes are possible, depending on how many foxes vs. how many rabbits there are, and how fast each species can reproduce. Typically there are only a few foxes and many rabbits, but with 100 foxes the supply of rabbits surely won’t last more than a few meals.

Now to add an important twist to this story, let’s ask another basic question. What is the price of a rabbit as their population declines?

Economics, at least the kind traditionally taught in school, talks about price as a function of demand and supply. In this case, we would have an ever-increasing demand for rabbits and a declining supply.

In theory, the price of a rabbit should go up as the rabbit population declines, right?

Unfortunately, the law of the jungle is that it is a free-for-all game. The foxes simply outrun the rabbits. And both of them go extinct as a result. OUCH!?!


With this basic knowledge, we may ask how sustainable is the ecosystem that currently supports our way of life? The bad news is that almost everywhere we look today, there are danger signs.

Imagine the ocean without fish. Only less than 1% of the global ocean is protected right now, and business as usual means that in 50 years there will be no commercial fishing, because the fish will simply be gone. Just like the rabbits in our story.

Even worse, the things that our very life depends on such as clean air or safe water are in danger. 9 out of 10 people worldwide are already breathing polluted air.

Southern California, a place famous for its temperate weather, suffered the longest streak of bad air in 2018: a 87-day-in-a-row summer without a single day of clean air. We’re talking about lung-damaging gas in smog that triggers asthma and other respiratory illnesses so bad that children can’t play outside.

It is clear that our ecosystem are being stressed to unsustainable limits.

…While free market ideologies are certainly not shy of claiming the credit for the growth in our society, paradoxically it is precisely the same economic machinery that is leading us astray and accelerating our own ecological destruction. MORE

For a Sustainable Climate and Food System, Regenerative Agriculture Is the Key

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that agriculture is responsible for 37% of greenhouse gas emissions. There’s hope—and a solution.

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Agriculture is perfectly poised to play a major role in the solution to the climate crisis. By helping young farmers gain access to land, everyone can help play a role. Illustration by Jon Adams, courtesy of The Perennial Farming Initiative

All of us are familiar with conventional agriculture: the miles upon miles of farmland growing only one crop, the destructive tillage that wafts soil and its stored carbon into the air and into our waterways; the use of hundreds of chemicals including pesticides like chlorpyrifos that have been found to cause brain damage in children; the confined facilities that are both cruel to animals and make their impact on the Earth an assault rather than a gift.

I first started writing about [regenerative agriculture] farmers back in 2011, when there were more amazing anecdotes than studies, but that has changed. Entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren published a study with his former student Claire LaCanne in 2018. The study followed 10 cornfields per farm on 20 farms over two growing seasons, half of which were regenerative and half conventional. The study tracked soil carbon, insect pests, corn yield, and profits.

The results give the imprimatur of science to the successes regenerative farmers have reported for years. Lundgren and LaCanne found that there were more pests in the conventional cornfields that were treated with insecticides and/or used GMO seeds than in the pesticide-free regenerative fields, presumably because the cover crops attracted battalions of predator insects that decimated crop pests—and because there were no insecticides to kill off those beneficials.

And while the regenerative farms used older, lower-yielding corn varieties without fertilizer and had lower yields, their overall profits were 78% higher than the conventional farmers’. Partly, this was because the regenerative farmers’ costs were so much lower, with no cash outlays for costly insecticides and GMO seeds. They also “stacked enterprises” and had two or more sources of income on the same acre—in this case, they grazed their cattle on corn residue after harvest and got a premium price for pastured beef. What was the primary factor correlating with farm profitability? The amount of carbon and organic matter in the farmers’ fields, not their yields.

The venerable soil scientist Rattan Lal was one of the first people to connect the loss of soil carbon caused by destructive farming to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In a 2018 interview with Soil4Climate, Lal said that he and his colleagues estimated that regenerating landscapes—farms, forests, coastlands, and so on—could restore up to 150 gigatons (a gigaton equals 1 billion tons) of carbon to the world’s soil in 80 years. All the extra vegetation grown to put that carbon in the soil would store 150–160 gigatons more, resulting in a terrestrial biosphere holding an additional 330 gigatons of carbon, equal to a drawdown of 150 to 160 parts per million of CO2 from the atmosphere. “We should encourage the policy makers that this process of restoring degraded soils and ecosystems is a win, win, win option,” Lal says. “It’s a bridge to the future.”

Several of the Democratic presidential hopefuls have added agriculture to their climate platforms—most notably Rep. Tim Ryan, who proposes policies to support regenerative agriculture and soil carbon sequestration. Just this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren added to her climate platform a sweeping plan to overhaul agricultural policy, while Sen. Cory Booker announced he would propose the Climate Stewardship Act to the Senate in September; both would pay farmers for conservation practices.

And farmers of the future are ready to take it on.

“Agriculture is perfectly poised to play a major role in the solution to the climate crisis,” says Bilal Sarwari, membership and communications manager of the National Young Farmers Coalition. “By helping young farmers gain access to land, everyone can help play a role.” MORE

RELATED:

ANCIENT AMAZONIAN SOCIETIES MANAGED THE FOREST INTENSIVELY BUT SUSTAINABLY — HERE’S WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM
With New Perennial Grain, a Step Forward for Eco-Friendly Agriculture
Restoring soil can help address climate change

Hope for the Haisla: Managing wealth instead of poverty

Reconciliation is the most important challenge facing Canadians. It’s important to understand the many challenges facing First Nations trying to reconcile development and environmental sustainability.


Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, shown here in Kitamaat Village, B.C. on March 9, 2019, has endured threats over her support for Coastal GasLink’s natural gas project. Photo by Brandi Morin

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith has been called a “traitor” and faced threats on social media, warned not to go anywhere alone at a recent First Nation sporting event.

Smith says she comes from “a long, long line of strong female leaders” in the matriarchal Haisla Nation and has the support of her community against threats, most from outside of Kitamaat Village, B.C. in the Pacific Northwest. The promise of a brighter future keeps her going. She’s never been prouder to be a Haisla Nation member.

The attacks stem from the Haisla Nation signing mutual benefit agreements in 2018 with LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink. Coastal GasLink is the name of the pipeline project that would feed natural gas to an LNG Canada facility, within Haisla territory, where it would be liquefied and shipped overseas. It’s a partnership that will provide extensive economic benefits to the tiny coastal tribe of 1,800 with 800 living on reserve.

The Haisla are working with the companies to build a processing plant of their own called Cedar LNG.

The Haisla aren’t worried about the potential threats to the water, marine life or other environmental effects like many opponents of the project. Smith said they’ve done their due diligence. Following years of negotiations and 86 meetings with Coastal Gas Link, the Haisla decided to get on board. Twenty First Nations have signed project agreements with Coastal GasLink. MORE