“Go Organic!” You’ve heard the upbeat slogan for years—usually with a ukulele and some whistling in the background—and you’re a big fan. Organic food is delicious, good for you, and good for the environment. Three thumbs up, right?
Well, it turns out that organic farming is about a lot more than pesticide-free agriculture and non-GMO veggies.
Organic farming might just be the best way to combat and even reverse the negative effects of global warming. 100% of the negative effects. And, what’s more exciting is that it’s possible right now.
The results of an extensive 26-year long independent study from the non-profit organization, The Rodale Institute, claims that:
We could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture. These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect.
In short, organic agriculture can not just reduce the impact of global warming—it can help reverse it. There’s hope for the planet yet.
How Does it Work?
Isn’t global warming caused by cars and oil? What does farming have to do with rising global temperature levels?
How can something as simple “organic management practices” solve something as massive and intractable as global warming?
The Greenhouse Effect
The focus of the study is carbon dioxide—a common greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen, aren’t “bad” things; they occur naturally, and the Earth would be a cold, horrible place without them. The problem is that we have a build-up of these gasses in our atmosphere trapping way too much solar heat.
People tend to focus on carbon (dioxide) emissions as the leading cause of global warming, and it’s easy to see why. When you burn fossil fuels—or any organic matter—you release the carbon that has been “sequestered” (trapped) in that material back into the atmosphere. When we burn millions of gallons of oil and million of tons of coal, we release thousands of years of carbon into the atmosphere all at once. It’s not awesome.
More carbon equals more greenhouse effect and higher temperatures, which is bad. But what are we doing to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere? Not just reduce introducing new carbon into the air, but removing the existing carbon? What is our “carbon fixation” solution?
That’s where organic farming comes in.
The Carbon Cycle
Focusing all our environmental efforts on reducing emissions is like trying to lose weight by going on a strict diet, while you sit on the couch all day. Sure, you’ll see some results, but nothing like the combined effort of a great fitness routine and healthy eating habits. What’s more, you’re still going to need to keep eating. You can’t just stop consuming calories.
Carbon emissions are only half of the global warming problem, and as it turns out, emissions might be the less important half.
If carbon is released into the atmosphere, it can also be trapped. Plants do it, animals do it, heck you’re doing it right now while you read this. However, the biggest carbon sink on the planet is right below your feet—soil.
The Power of Soil
Soil isn’t just dirt and rocks. The ground we grow our food in is a complicated, delicate, and amazing ecosystem rich with minerals, microorganisms, and all manner of life. Every foot of healthy soil contains billions of bacteria that are the forgotten key to reducing carbon levels globally. How? By letting them do their thing.
Bacteria in the soil breaks down and converts organic matter into cellular material—they use carbon to make more of themselves. This bacteria along with plants also cycles nitrogen in and out of plant life, creating healthy plants for us to eat.
The great thing that happens when those plants and microorganisms make more of themselves, is that each cell uses carbon as a building block, trapping the carbon deep down in the ground—a.k.a. far away from the atmosphere. The life cycle of soil is very much a literal carbon recycling factory—and before the invention of modern farming practices, it was pretty great at keeping all that extra carbon out of the atmosphere.
The use of harmful full spectrum chemical sprays and pesticides destroys soils’ ability to harbor this vital microscopic life and rich diversity that accounts for so much of the carbon mitigating power we desperately need. Also, the conversion to heavy cattle farming and excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer have actually turned farms into a greenhouse contributors instead of carbon sinks.
Current agricultural practices actually account for up to 20% of greenhouse emissions as of 2014. Something has to change.
An Affordable Answer
Organic farming practices encourage the soil to become the efficient carbon sink it naturally is. It doesn’t require new technology or scientific breakthroughs. According to the Rodale study, the following organic farming practices are all that we need to start regenerating the powerful carbon sinking properties of natural soil:
- Crop rotation
- Cover Crops
It really is that simple. The best part of focusing on carbon sinks instead of just carbon emissions is that the solutions are easy to implement, inexpensive and already here today. Even better, if implemented globally, current organic farming practices could mitigate 100% of current global emissions.
All of the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions, gone in a few years.
What Can You Do to Fight Global Warming?
“That all sounds great, but I’m not a farmer,” you say. And you’re right. Odds are you aren’t going to start composting and rotating your potato crops anytime soon. And that’s ok, because your role in helping organic farming solve global warming is simple, cheap, and delicious:
Support organic farming by eating organically grown food.
That’s all you have to do to contribute to global carbon reduction. Seriously.
Eat organic, buy organic, and spread the word about how good organic food is for not just your body, peace of mind, and taste buds, but also how vitally important it is for the future of our planet.
Organic farming practices are the key to balancing the harmful effects of carbon emissions. Buy delicious organic food today, and fight global warming with every delectable bite.