What do Elon Musk, a bunch of famous YouTube personalities and some dirt farmers in Arkansas have in common? They are all using the power of nature to help sequester carbon from the atmosphere back into plants and soil where it belongs.
In this week’s top 5 happy Eco News stories we read about a farmer who, after 4 generations, was considering selling the family farm in Arkansas. It was just too expensive to run and make a profit. The farm was using industrial farming practices – meaning high intervention in the form of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. The soil was being continually assaulted by tilling and as a result losing much of its ability to hold nutrients.
The cost of all this spraying and tilling was making it impossible to make any profits. Just as he was about to make the decision to sell the 9,000 acre farm, farmer Adam Chappell discovered a YouTube video where he saw a farmer using traditional methods of cover crops and low intervention to create a natural way of managing the soil, nutrients and pests. The farm is now more profitable than ever and instead of being a net emitter, it now sequesters carbon. Agriculture has played a major role in the climate crisis—about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from land use and agriculture combined—but farmers are uniquely situated to be part of the solution. Their plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and deposit it in the soil through their roots. Regenerative farming practices like no-till cultivation, cover crops, and crop rotation keep the carbon in the soil, where it builds over time. In turn, carbon-rich organic matter feeds healthy plants and provides higher nutritional value for food crops.
A similar story is heard from farmer Joel Selatin of Polyface Farms. Joel’s father bought their farm’s land for cheap after years of soil depletion and chemical intervention had made it all but unusable. A man with common sense and long-term vision, he bucked convention and did things in a low impact, holistic way – more in line with what would have been done on small family farms everywhere up until the second world war. Now, generations later, the farm earns more money per acre using regenerative farming practices than neighboring farms using conventional methods. Due to healthy soil and a closed loop, it is better for the planet too.
The YouTube connection continues with #TeamTrees, a youtube hashtag that encourages people to plant trees to help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While there are many technologies currently being developed to sequester carbon, many scientists agree that if we could collectively plant 1 trillion trees (while drawing down carbon emissions), we would be able to remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to stay below the 1.5C temperature increase threshold. The hashtag was started by YouTube star MrBeast to celebrate his 20 millionth subscriber. Instead of simply throwing a big party to celebrate, his subscribers challenged him to plant 20 million trees in an effort to help combat climate change. The hashtag took off and working with Arbor Day Foundation they have enlisted the help of other YouTube stars and famous entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey who have pledged cash to help the project.
In other top happy eco news stories, carbon sequestration using trees continues with an ancient food tree being grown in Brazil to encourage family farms to stay out of the industrial agricultural system. The recent Swiss federal elections saw a huge gain for parties supporting green initiatives, and a sustainable, circular economy is achievable but will require significant effort (it’s worth it).
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