One Solution to Climate Change and Growing Healthier Food Is Right Under Our Feet

By Barbra Streisand.

Imagine if we could quickly reduce the threat of climate change and grow healthier crops at the same time, without the sacrifice the coal and oil industry tells us are inevitable! Turns out we can, and the solution is literally right under our feet.

As we know now, too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is disastrous for our planet. CO2 traps heat and results in the ice caps melting, more extreme weather, sea levels rising and a variety of consequences that will disrupt life as we know it.

Much of the CO2 in the atmosphere (as much as 30 percent) is leaked by industrial farming. Climate scientists tell us there should be no more than 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere and we are already at 400 ppm. What does this mean? We are racing against the carbon clock to combat climate change.

However... CO2 in the ground, where it naturally occurs, is in fact necessary for fertile soil, and results in healthier and more drought-resistant cropland. We can keep CO2 in the ground through a natural process that traps it in a "carbon sink." That process is organic or "carbon farming."

We all remember learning about photosynthesis in school. Plants manufacture much of their food from sunlight, water and CO2, turning those molecules into food. The CO2 is exchanged with the fungi and bacteria in the soil that need it to make richer soil and, in turn, healthier plants. In doing so, the CO2 is captured in the ground. In this natural ecological barter system, carbon is sequestered, helping plants grow while keeping the soil healthy. Industrial farming literally prevents this underground transaction from happening by releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere.

Organic farms, like the famous Rodale Farming System Trial in Pennsylvania, showed that building up soil carbon has other benefits too. It also acts like a water sponge and helps maintain crop yields when conventionally grown crops are dying of thirst during droughts. Unfortunately, extreme droughts may become the new normal as climate change alters our weather patterns, giving us yet another reason to implement organic farming on a large scale. According to the USDA-funded Marin Carbon Project, the overuse use of insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers also release what is normally sequestered carbon -- adding to the problems of climate change.

The good news is that if humans get out of the way, CO2 can be tucked back in the soil to do good, instead of being trapped in the atmosphere doing harm. A U.N. report noted using carbon sinks through natural farming methods could reduce the carbon in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels in just 50 years!

The critics say we need industrial agriculture to feed the growing population of the world. We're told that we cannot go back to natural, regenerative, organic farming as the way we grow our food. In short, this isn't true.

The world has less of a food problem, than a food distribution problem, and studies show that yields are comparable between the two methods when done to scale. The United Nations Environment Program points out that "in the United States 30 percent of all food... is thrown away each year [and] about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water."

Propping soil up with increasing use of chemicals will lead to soil that can no longer produce as plants become immune to them. The ingestion of chemicals from pesticides and the introduction of GMOs from industrial farming both cause havoc to the natural ecosystem, and have uncertain and understudied health effects for us. Industrial farming is itself not viable for our future.

The scientific journal, Nature, sums up the benefits of carbon sinks. Organic farming and sustainable land management improve "soil structure and reduce erosion, leading to improved water quality in groundwater and surface waters, and ultimately to increased food security and decreased negative impacts to ecosystems."

And here's a bonus: we can do this right now. We don't need a technological breakthrough to solve the climate crisis. We are already learning this from farming and grazing system trials across the world -- from the U.S. to Costa Rica, Thailand, Egypt, and now China.

If enough farmland and grassland are converted back from industrial to natural farming, we can put huge amounts of carbon back where it belongs, maintain yields in times of drought, eat healthier food and reduce healthcare costs.

So while more research is being done, and should be, we already know enough to say, let's begin the transformation today. What you can do is spread the word. Shop at your local farmer's market and buy organic products when you can. The price should come down as more produce is grown organically. This means more people should be able to buy it, creating a virtuous circle of increased supply to meet increased demand. The sooner we have support for carbon sinks and organic farming, the sooner we can start to seriously combat climate change.

Comments for this Statement

Ever think about how much water runs down your sink or shower? Who say's that water has to go to the sewer? Why not switch to organic soaps that are biodegradable? I have a double sink. One part has the garbage disposal on it. That goes to the sewer. The other side of the sink vents out to my yard to water my lawn. I bought a natural dish washing soap from Costco. It has been so successful, that I'll be changing the showers in my home to vent out to my fruit trees in the backyard. IT IS LEGAL. You can vent water out to your yard it must be covered by 2-3 inches of mulch over the end of the pipe.

I am also planting succulents (aloes, aeoniums, agaves, crassulas, echeverias) in the front of the house in planter made of railroad ties. Sound familiar? My little hommage...what can i say I really like the design.

If anyone has any spare cuttings or pups of succulents. Could you please send them to my address?

My address is Platoboys books
PO Box 56
Lucerne, CA
95458

I would so be grateful

Mrs. Streisand,
I'm from Argentina, I love so much your songs, you have a beautiful voice and a unique way of singing that a arrives to my heart. I like to sing your songs and since I was a little girl I've dreamed about be a singer, the problem for me is that I don't know how to start. When the people hears me they said that I have a beautiful and strong voice. Over the years I've tried to study for be a singer but where I live there isn't good teachers. recently I've readed that you never studied for be a singer ,so ,what do you recommend me to do?

Thank you so much

Lucia

As an organic consumer I'm all about organic and sustainable farming methods. Wouldn't this also help assist in the depletion of CO2 as it what plant life ingests? In other words it would be a self-perpetuating cycle to continue to rid of overages of CO2? Not to mention rendering jobs to those who are no longer on the stats of the unemployed...?
Still when we look at the percentages of the highest offenders of CO2 we see that it is electricity and transportation (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html). I have to stop and wonder how many of us are willing to curb our consumer usage in these areas. Particularly with Americans being the highest on the offenders list in these areas, how really concerned are we with hearing the news that we are projected to continue to trip the light fantastic, no pun intended? Enough to enact true change, I'm a little antithetical to my usual optimistic persona on this issue.

Goodness, so much information - where to begin? Foremost, I'm in agreement with your insights on our environmental dire straights and that solutions are within reach. Our abundant gifts of soil and water have been exploited by greed for so many years, yet the abusers continue as if it had never happened. The Great Dust Bowl is treated as an historical era, but greed continues to render soil impotent and slave to the winds. Food-based corporations are systematically handed unlimited water usage, thus continuing the critical lowering of our water tables.
Everyday, literally every single day, the scientific proof regarding our compromised planet is laid at our feet but is kicked aside because we, as individuals don't want our expendable lifestyle inconvenienced. Most certainly the corporations that can generate optimal dollars by demanding and gaining special incentives will not budge to change their dismissive approach to our environmental crises. I much appreciate that you continue to raise your eloquent voice as a means for change.

Excellent article... Thanks very much for encouraging your fans and fellow artists to buy organically grown farm products. The crisis of excess carbon and chemicals affecting the environment and our livelihoods is real. Although I'm still learning, I'm committed to doing better and encouraging others to do the same. Anything that man pumps into the atmosphere, sprays on plants, or dumps into woods and creeks is a detrimental anomaly to what nature and God intended. It's my hope that people will observe what's going on around them, come to their senses, and take corrective actions. Shopping at the local farmers market or organic grocery is a good start.