Cutting emissions isn’t enough, carbon capture is paramount. Carbon isn’t a bad thing – it’s the most common element and is essential to life. Especially, it turns out, to soil life. The stuff we’ve industrialised into dirt has limited ability to keep feeding us with only an estimated 60 harvests left. Our options include:
Regenerative agriculture: Puts it back into the soil where the majority of carbon has been lost, which improves production and profits by using techniques such as no-till, cover crops, animal integration and organics to increase soil carbon, which in turn increases our food security.
Biochar: Turns waste streams, such as rice hulls and sugar cane, into a stable form of activated carbon that increases agricultural productivity and can even lock up soil contaminated by heavy metals. And it traps carbon in a form that can last thousands of years.
Seaweed: It’s an algae that grows 10 times faster than terrestrial plants and we can use it to ocean farm carbon. The oceans have acidified as they buffered us from the overload of atmospheric carbon, but it’s reached its limits. We also have ocean dead-zones, caused by agricultural run-off, which we can farm and bring back to life. There are even possibilities to farm it for biofuel and create a short carbon cycle.
Tree planting: Trees help not just reduce atmospheric carbon but reduce temperatures, stabilise landscapes and water systems. They are crucial to a healthy environment. Where we’ve removed them in our more fragile ecosystems we create deserts. We should not be cutting them down anywhere. Organisations that plant trees responsibly are worth supporting. Perhaps we need a scheme where you pay a charge for every tree cut down, that immediately goes back to preserving or planting more trees.
To read more about the practical ways we can make small changes in our daily life to help the planet, read the full article by Linda Cockburn in our latest issue, which is onsale now in newsagents or visit Organic Gardener.
First published: December 2019