Can Regenerative Agriculture Save Our Planet?

Maureen Frost

Our carbon cycle has been forced out of balance with the help of human activity, bringing about an increase of CO2 in our atmosphere, causing our planet to warm. This climate change is usually attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, creating green house gasses that trap heat within our atmosphere. But missing from most mainstream conversation is industrial agriculture, a crucial contributor to our elevated CO2 atmospheric levels.

According to John W. Roulac, founder and CEO of Nutiva, “Industrial agriculture contributes more to climate change than Chevron, Exxon, and the entire transportation industry combined.” He explains in EcoWatch that industrial agriculture through the use of chemicals and other non sustaining practices accounts for 20-30% of all greenhouse gas. The good news is, the solution can be found in the problem if the farming industry goes back to its roots and adapts regenerative agricultural practices.

How does industrial agriculture contribute to climate change?
According to The Carbon Underground, our soil can no longer draw down carbon from the atmosphere due to deep tilling, monocropping, and the use of chemicals to fertilize crops. Roulac states that, “Industrial agriculture not only contaminates our oceans with pesticide and nitrogen-fertilizer runoff, leading to massive dead zones; it is stripping our soils of carbon, which ends up in the oceans and creates acidification. At the current trajectory, in just a few decades there won’t be much left alive in our oceans as the phytoplankton dies—all because of how we grow our food.” Soil quality is so universally bad that the UN estimates that there is only 60 years of topsoil left for farming.

What is regenerative agriculture?
Farming wasn’t always this way. Before the industrial era, our soil was filled with nutrients and able to retain water and produce hardy crops. The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative and The Carbon Underground together define regenerative agriculture as the “farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.” Regenerative practices include the use of cover crops, crop rotation, composting, grazing practices, and the use of animal manure. Regenerative agriculture also uses no or minimum tillage and no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer.

Why does it matter?
Regenerative agriculture allows for carbon sequestration, which draws carbon into the earth, rebalancing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, thus cooling the planet and oceans. According to Dr. Rattan LAL, an Ohio State Soil Scientist, “A mere two percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.” Not only is regenerative agriculture good for our planet and crucial for climate change reversal, it offers more nutrient-rich food than what’s mass produced using chemicals from Monsanto, Dupont, and others.

How can you contribute?
EcoWatch advises that choosing organic food that’s been produced following regenerative agricultural methods is best. Other strategies include cutting down on meat intake, avoiding food that’s highly processed, and opting for food from pasture-based farms are all substantial ways to use your purchase power.

Which companies practice regenerative agriculture?
Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva, Mercola, Ben & Jerry’s, Thrive Market, and many more support regenerative agriculture. For a full list from The Carbon Underground, visit: thecarbonunderground.org/definition.

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