Soil Solutions to Climate Problems
Narrated by Michael Pollan. To learn more visit: SoilSolution.org.
A powerful solution to the climate crisis can be found right beneath our feet—in the soil. By harnessing the immense power of photosynthesis, we can convert atmospheric carbon, a problem, into soil carbon, a solution. Emerging science proves that shifting to regenerative forms of agriculture such as agroecology, agroforestry, cover-cropping, holistic grazing and permaculture will allow us to store excess carbon safely in the ground.
Soil is a living miracle. In one handful of soil there are more organisms than there are humans on earth, and we are only beginning to understand this vast network of beings right beneath our feet. We rely on healthy soil for 95% of what we eat, yet we take it for granted. Thousands of years of ploughing, deforestation, and erosion have left our soils in dire shape, and we’re accelerating the loss of this essential resource. But there’s a lot more to the story. When soil is damaged, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and this has had serious consequences for the climate. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is causing the earth to overheat. That excess carbon is also acidifying our oceans, threatening marine life. Meanwhile, there’s not enough carbon where it once was—in the soil. In fact, many of the world’s cultivated soils have lost more than 50% of their original carbon stocks. But there’s actually some good news! We now know how to put carbon back in the soil where it belongs. Plants capture carbon dioxide in their leaves and pump the carbon down through their roots to feed hungry microorganisms living in the soil. Now what had been atmospheric carbon, a problem, becomes soil carbon, a solution. Practices like keeping soil covered with plants, increasing crop diversity, composting, and carefully planned grazing are proven ways to put carbon back into the soil. Carbon-rich soils act like giant sponges, absorbing water during floods and providing it to plants in times of drought. And, adding carbon to soil makes the land much more productive. The French Government recognizes this and is calling on all countries to join them in increasing soil carbon by 0.4% each year. If every nation were to reach this ambitious, but achievable goal, we could store 75% of global annual greenhouse emissions—enough to make a real difference to our planet’s future well-being. Of course, we still need to reduce our fossil fuel emissions, but we don’t need to develop expensive or risky technologies. Instead, what we need is a lot more photosynthesis. Climate change can be overwhelming, yet there is real hope. Healthy soil can be a major sink for carbon, but this fact hasn’t been well-known. Until now, because now we know a soil solution is right beneath our feet.