The inescapable challenge of our time is climate crisis. Regardless of race, gender, income level, nationality, or creed, our lives are being changed by climate. And our lives are changing climate. Those changes are only going to multiply, until our world is profoundly transformed. There are a growing number of voices calling for dramatic changes to how we live, eat, play, work. If there is a silver lining to COVID, it is that it has reduced our carbon footprint for 2020. Al Gore has insisted that we need to reduce our carbon footprint by an additional amount every year going forward! Our lives WILL be very different, one way or another.
One of the voices I listen to most carefully in these discussions is Paul Hawken’s. Paul is an Advisory Board member of the Real Organic Project. He formed and led the Project Drawdown team, bringing together an expert group to map a path forward. He was the main author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. He is currently finishing his followup book, Regeneration, to connect agriculture, forestry, and ocean management to climate crisis. He also connects social change, protecting biodiversity, and biological processes such as nitrogen cycling to the climate.
In the end, we have to see our world differently. We need to stop seeing our world as an assemblage of parts to be owned, used, and tweaked. We need to see our world as an ecosystem that we are part of.
(Paul Hawken speaking.)
Paul Hawken wrote the following in response to an article in Mother Jones. We reprint it with Paul’s permission:
To Mother Jones:
As the creator and founder of Project Drawdown I would like to compliment you on Maddie Oatman’s thoughtful and informed piece on regenerative agriculture. I also want to take exception to the comments made by Jon Foley, who I chose to succeed me. To those who gainsay the potential of carbon sequestration on farmland, it seems odd to try to take down the aspirations of those who see the enormous significance of those practices.
In the west we have farmed “backwards” for centuries, extracting from the soil rather than building it. The soil is a living organism, not a medium. The most complex biological system on earth is a handful of healthy soil and over 90 percent of the billions of organisms in that handful are yet to be identified. We literally know more about the surface of the moon than the surface of the earth.
The first American pioneer in regenerative agricultural science was George Washington Carver of Tuskegee University in Alabama. Like regenerative farmers today, he was trying to create the science of farming “forward”, devising and experimenting with methods to improve soil health, which improves plant health, human health, biodiversity and water retention.
We do not know how much carbon the soil can hold if regenerative practices are engaged over time. Regenerative agriculture is an emergent, booming technology as complex and interactive as a smart phone or the Internet. It has more moving parts than any machine or device, however they are biological “parts”, which is to say they are not parts at all but living elements within a system. Regenerative agriculture is exponentially more intricate than any shiny object, yet actionable by farmers, graziers, and ranchers the world over.
The climate establishment, comprised mostly of male scientists, continues to present itself as the experts on what can and cannot be done in soil and farmlands. This is a result of what I call rectangle learning, the process of staring at a computer screen and reading scientific opinion and literature. Most of the commentary on the potential and limits to regenerative agriculture are voiced by people who have never farmed and couldn’t tell the difference between a row planter and a seed drill.
We need to cease doing what famed environmentalist David Brower decried about the environmental movement, which is to circle our wagons and shoot inwards. There are farmers who are achieving 6, 7, 8 percent and more carbon content in the soil. We might want to study their practices as observational scientists to learn what is possible rather than believing we know the answer sitting at a desk. Thinking you can reduce soil science to physics, as Foley suggests, is what created industrial agriculture in the first place, which is singly the most environmentally destructive practice on earth.
Founder, Project Drawdown
(George Washington Carver, founder of Regenerative Agriculture)
A growing understanding of climate leads me to the conclusion that a healthy climate MUST be based on a healthy agriculture. Carver, King, Howard, Steiner, Berry, Shiva, Coleman and many others have taught us the critical importance of wise farming in order to build healthy bodies and healthy communities. Now we are learning that the same way of tending the land is just as important in maintaining a healthy climate.
That is the work of the Real Organic Project. Please learn more and join us.
“If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.”
-George Washington Carver