Opting Out of the Corporate System New Zealand-Style

Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future

Directed by Jordan Osmond and Antoinette Wilson (2018)

Film Review

This documentary features activists from around New Zealand who have inspired their communities to begin making the necessary changes for a sustainable future. I know several of them personally and found it really gratifying to see their decades of effort (for many of them) acknowledged.

Among activists featured are Helen Dew and Phil and Sharon Stephens from Living Economies.* All three were instrumental in starting local currencies, time banks and savings pools in their own and other communities.

In the film, Helen speaks about the link between our debt-based economic system and environmental degradation. Sharon, in turn, speaks about the need for all of us to downsize our lifestyles rather than depending on resource depleting solar and wind technology to save us. Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University, Joy speaks about the urgent need to transform our food system away from monoculture cropping and the heavily reliance on fossil fuels that supports it.

Also featured are

  • Action Ecology founder Shane Ward
  • Te Mahi Kai, a school that uses Time Bank volunteers to teach children to grow and prepare their own foods
  • The Baywater Repair Cafe – where volunteers help community members repair bicycles, appliances, furniture and clothing instead of discarding and replacing them)
  • the Magarara Station (which practices and teaches regenerative farming) and various other organic and permaculture-based farms and Community Support Agrculture (CSA) schemes**
  • Leo Murray founder of Why Waste (which helps families and business with waste reduction projects. Replanting New Zealand (one of NZ’s many native tree replanting projects),

Non-Kiwi economist Charles Eisenstein introduces the film by explaining that collapse of our current economic system is inevitable, as it depends on infinite growth, which is impossible with finite natural resources. Given our economic system’s dependence on continuous growth, it will collapse once the wealthy elite has exhausted all the natural resources that can obtain easily and cheaply. According to Eisenstein, nearly all of us have a deep longing for another system that involves a greater connection to nature and to one another in community. It’s simply a matter of finding ways to act on those feelings.


*Living Economies is a NZ charitable trust, whose purpose is to educate and support Kiwis in finding alternatives to our current corporate-based economic system. See https://livingeconomies.nz/about/our-work

**Community Supported Agriculture is a system in which a farm is supported by local consumers who purchase prepaid shares in the farm’s output which they receive periodically throughout the growing season

The full film can be viewed on the Māori TV website for one more week: Living the Change

 

 

 

Regenerative Agriculture: Saving the Planet While Restoring Topsoil and Growing Healthier Food

The Need to Grow

Directed by Rob Herring and Ryan Wirick (2019)

Film Review

This documentary focuses on the Earth’s dwindling supply of topsoil for growing food crops. According to filmmakers, decades of unsustainable agriculture practices have left humankind with only 60 years of farmable soil.

Although most environmentalists agree that modern-day agriculture is the most environmentally destructive process on the planet, the process of soil destruction began around 10,000 years ago when human beings first tilling (plowing) soil they use to grow food. Recent studies show that one tablespoon of healthy topsoil contains one billion microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, etc) are essential to plant health. In nature, all plants and organisms live in complex networks that are destroyed when soil is cultivated.

Because most industrial farming occurs in “dead” soil (where these organisms have been killed), farmers must apply massive amounts of chemical fertilizer and pesticide and produce food containing significantly nutrients than crops grown in healthy topsoil. Decades of research reveal that organic farming produces not only produces more nutritious food, but equal or greater yields (measured in calories per acre). Organic farming also consumes 40% less energy, while producing 35% lower carbon emissions.

Most of the film focuses on pioneers in the field of regenerative agriculture, a process dedicated to restoring soil health through “no-till” farming. The high point of the film features a computer programmer who designed a waste disposal system that uses solar energy to convert waste woody biomass into biochar, electricity, and heat to warm greenhouses and algae-producing aquaculture tanks.*

I was also intrigued to learn about the 7-year-old who obtained 45,000 signatures on a petition asking the Girl Scouts of America to discontinue their sales of GMO-containing cookies – and the abominable way she was treated when she visited their New York office to deliver her petition.


*When organic farmers apply the biochar/algae combination to soil, it speeds up topsoil production. Soil experts estimate it accomplishes in 4-5 years what normally takes 400-500 years.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a public library membership. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

 

Regenerative Agriculture vs Veganism: Is the UN Missing the Boat?

Interesting article about the rapidly growing regenerative agriculture movement. An increasing body of research indicates that proper pasture management sequesters carbon (in soil) far more rapidly than either tree planting, transitioning to plant-based diets and crops or carbon sequestration technology. Regenerative grazing, in which grass is grazed to within a foot of the ground but not completely down to the ground, is one of the simplest and most effective regenerative agriculture techniques. It’s not meat that’s destroying our planet, but the way meat is produced under industrial agriculture. Someone needs to tell the UN (and the corporate media).

 

This year’s Acres U.S.A. Conference features numerous speakers, who can show how we can reverse the disruptive effects climate change by adopting best practice regenerative production systems. These systems will also make our farms and ranches more productive and resilient to the current erratic climate disruption that we are all facing.

[…]

The Solution Is Under Our Feet!

In order to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2, agricultural systems would have to sequester 2.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 17.85 Gt of CO2 per year needs to be sequestered from the atmosphere and stored in the soil as soil organic carbon (SOC).

Stopping the increase in (green house gasses) GHGs and then reducing them must be the first priority, and this should be non-negotiable. Moving to renewable energy and energy efficiency will not be enough to stop the planet from warming over the next hundred years and going into damaging climate change. The amount of 405 ppm is past the level needed to meet the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to +1.5/2°C (2.7/3.6° F). The levels need to be well below 350 ppm. The excess CO2 must be sequestered from the atmosphere to stop damaging climate change.

Soils are the greatest carbon sink after the oceans. There is a wide variability in the estimates of the amount of carbon stored in the soils globally. According to Professor Rattan Lal, there are over 2,700 gigatons (Gt) of carbon stored in soils. The soil holds more carbon than the atmosphere (848 Gt) and biomass (575 Gt) combined. There is already an excess of carbon in the oceans that is starting cause a range of problems. We cannot put any more CO2 in the atmosphere or the oceans. Soils are the logical sink for carbon.

Most agricultural systems lose soil carbon with estimates that agricultural soils have lost 50-70 percent of their original SOC pool, and the depletion is exacerbated by further soil degradation and desertification. Agricultural systems that recycle organic matter and use crop rotations can increase the levels of SOC. This is achieved through techniques such as longer rotations, ground covers, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost, organic mulches, biochar, perennials, agro-forestry, agroecological biodiversity and livestock on pasture using sustainable grazing systems such as holistic grazing. These systems are starting to come under the heading of “regenerative agriculture” because they regenerate SOC.

Regenerative Agriculture Potential

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), is a process developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, that uses compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. BEAM has achieved very high levels of sequestration. According to Johnson et al., “… a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost-effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” These results have since been replicated in other trials.

Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year. (38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year – close enough)

If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 184 Gt of CO2/yr.

Regenerative Grazing

The Savory Institute, Gabe Brown and many others have been scaling up holistic management systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Nearly 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence is showing that correctly managed pastures can build up SOC faster than many other agricultural systems and that it is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by Machmuller et al. 2015: “In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95 percent and 34 percent, respectively.”

To explain the significance of these figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ ha/yr.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.5 gt CO2 per year.

Conclusion

Just transitioning 10-20 percent of agricultural production to best practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate. Regenerative agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution. The widespread adoption of these systems should be made the highest priority by farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, industry and climate change organizations.

André Leu is international director of Regeneration International. He is a longtime farmer in Australia and past president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. He is the author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides and Poisoning Our Children, published by Acres U.S.A.

Other good links about regenerative grazing:

Mother Earth News

New Zealand Herald

Alternatives to Industrial Farming

Unbroken Ground: Revolutions Start at the Bottom

Directed by Chris Malloy (2016)

Film Review

Unbroken Ground is about three revolutionary innovations in food production (regenerative agriculture, regenerating grazing and restorative fishing) aimed at increasing long term food security by working with natural processes.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is aimed at restoring and preserving topsoil by moving away from corporate monoculture of annual plants. The goal is to support farmers in raising a diversity of perennial staple crops.

At present annual grains (mainly wheat) comprise 70% of the global diet. Plowing topsoil under every year rapidly degrades soil fertility by killing the delicate microorganisms plants depend on for basic nutrients. Dedicating fields to a single monoculture annual hasten this process, necessitating the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and toxic herbicides and pesticides.

The filmmakers visit a group of scientists attempting to develop a perennial variety of wheat by cross breeding it with perennial grasses.

Regenerative grazing

The regenerative grazing movement is restoring the American Great Plains by reintroducing buffalo, the indigenous animals who co-evolved with the native grasses that grow there. Buffalo are 100% grass fed but unlike beef cattle, they don’t kill the grass by eating it down to ground level.

Studies show the animals also significantly increase CO2 sequestration (capture and storage – see The Soil Solution to Climate Change) in areas where they have been introduced.

Restorative Fishing

Restorative fishing uses ancient Native American fishing techniques to enable fishermen to catch their target fish and release non-targeted species back to the ocean unharmed. The process involves creating an artificial reef with nets and plastic strips. The false reef fools the fish into swimming more shallowly, enabling easy capture without harming their gills.