One of the great, most politicized debates of our time is whether or not the Earth’s climate is changing. Many have claimed scientific consensus that the planet is warming, while many, including scientists still remain skeptical. The corollary question of “What do we do if it is changing?” has unleashed a whole host of government regulations and controls.
The truth is, the whole debate is completely irrelevant. How can a topic that has potential to so greatly affect the lives of all the people on this planet be irrelevant? There are two reasons.
First, the ecological damage the planet has sustained through soil erosion and poor agricultural practices is so severe that we are in extraordinary danger, regardless of the climate change issue. In addition our “improvement” efforts over the last century or so, have caused dangerous climate change at the local level. The straightening of the Mississippi River for example has left us with a devastating flooding problem. Soil erosion, however, should remain our top priority. Monoculture based, chemical intensive, industrial agriculture is destroying our soil at a ridiculous rate. One report I saw recently said we are now losing 200 tons of soil per acre on acreage turned over to the 5 main food crops traded on the stock market, soy, wheat, maize, rice, and potatoes. This is totally unsustainable, and has resulted in a situation where maintaining our current production requires more energy, chemical, and water input each year. Sooner or later this loss of soil is going to result in a catastrophic failure of our agricultural system, when it does we will see massive food shortages. In a period of extreme global famine, I don’t think there will be tremendous concern whether the earth warms or cools.
The second issue is where the good news begins to come in. The key point is that the solution to our soil loss problem will also reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere that is blamed for climate change. When we return to healthy food production processes, through careful application of the design principles of permaculture, and a restoration to normal, local food production systems, we can begin rebuilding soil, but we also begin returning carbon back into the soil. According to Joel Salatin, a move to perennial based, high efficiency grazing, if done only in the United States would sequester all of the carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, in as few as 10 years. This methodology also builds soil at a faster rate than the environment can normally do on its own. In addition, permaculture systems can produce vastly more nutritious food per acre than industrial systems, allowing us to reduce the distance food travels to the table, and allowing us to return a lot of the acreage of forests we destroyed for farm land back to sustainable forestry.
This fix is a total package. It not only heals the land in the micro space, but it also meets human need in a way that fixes the larger issues facing our planet, assuming climate change is real.
The news gets better! This is not a large scale solution that requires massive government regulation and the loss of liberty, instead this a solution that can be carried out by individuals and communities at the smallest scales imaginable. Only as more and more small scale answers are found will the large scale problems be repaired.