In confronting Climate Change, ending agribusiness to Grow Organic is even more important than transitioning from fossil fuels.
Solving global warming was never going to be easy, but it would be a heck of a lot easier if we cast off the deadly grip of agribusiness – and started farming for the future
Global warming? Panic over. Fly guilt-free where you like as often as you like. Splash out on that 7 litre Mercedes you’ve always secretly wanted. The global warming crisis could be over. There’s an easy solution that’s been staring us in the face for decades.
The make or break climate conference, COP21, is happening in Paris in December. There will be a lot of haggling, a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of moaning. India and China will fight to keep their coal-fired power stations. Exxon and their Saudi pals will continue to fund scientists who deny climate change. Brazil will fight to protect their right to chop down the Amazon rain forest. Let them have their way … for the time being.
There needn’t be any pain. The negotiations in Paris could be a doddle.
We can continue to burn fossil fuels, using our abundant and cheap reserves of coal and natural gas to generate electricity. We can save liquid fuels for airplanes and ships. We must still go for wind and solar and geothermal, but in a less panicky way.
So how do we do it?
The answer lies in the soil
Farming is responsible for 30% of excess greenhouse gas emissions. But farming could cancel out 100% of our annual excess greenhouse gas emissions. It’s already happening right now, but on less than 2% of the world’s farmland, the organic land.
Carbon dioxide is killing us all. Organic farming sucks carbon dioxide out of the air and converts it into rich soil that will feed us forever. Sounds like a pretty good deal. Of course going organic means we’d have to eat food that tastes better, not get sick from pesticides in our food, enjoy cleaner water and more biodiversity – but that’s a small price to pay for having a habitable planet.
This is the UN International Year of Soils 2015. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that on current trends we have 60 years before the soil runs out.
An organic solution to the greenhouse problem
On August 31 2015, global food giant General Mills announced an investment of $100 million to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent. This will include sourcing products from an additional 250,000 acres of organic production.
Jerry Lynch, the company’s chief sustainability officer pointed out that organic agriculture promotes soil that helps farms better endure droughts, heavy rains and pests, while pulling more carbon from the air and putting it into the ground in the process.
A 34 year trial at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania growing field scale crops shows that organic farming can sequester 1 tonne of carbon per hectare, year after year. The Rodale trial figures show that if regenerative principles were applied globally to arable farming and pasture we could offset all of the annual increase in greenhouse gas.
Change is afoot
The Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance brings together Government, industry and NGOs to advance new solutions to food production that protect soil from further degradation by increasing carbon-rich soil organic matter.
The French National Institute for Agronomical Research states that:
if we adapted farming practices to boost organic matter in soils by 0.4% a year it would compensate for all global greenhouse gas emissions. France’s Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll recently commented: “We could store the equivalent of anthropogenic carbon gas produced by humanity today. Storing carbon in the soil is organic matter in the soil, organic matter is fertilizing the soil.
The benefits of soil organic matter as a carbon sink can be further enhanced by the use of biochar – finely ground charcoal used as a soil improver. (That’s what I do at Carbon Gold). Biochar has a centuries-long residence time in soil, so it acts as a long term carbon sink for carbonised biomass such as rice husks and forestry thinnings which would otherwise decompose or be burned and produce more carbon dioxide. And it accelerates the buildup of organic matter in soil.
So it’s not just me. The Rodale Institute, the UN’s FAO, General Mills and the French government all agree: grow organic, save the planet. Agriculture can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
The COP21 climate conference is in Paris in December. Every participating country will make INDC commitments (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to reduce emissions. All they have to do is convert agriculture to organic and they can surpass those commitments with ease.
Solving global warming was never going to be easy, but it would be a heck of a lot easier if we cast off the deadly grip of agribusiness and started farming for the future.
Craig Sams is a pioneering Macrobioticist, a former Chairman of the Soil Association, and co-founder of Green & Black’s Chocolate.
This is not your usual story of going to the jungle to try Ayahuasca.
Instead, I was bringing a Hopi elder to meet with the ancient Q’ero People.
Few people realize that the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona have clans that are descendants of tribes from the northernmost to southernmost tips of the Americas (and quite possibly beyond that). The Q’ero are believed to be descendants of the Inca, who fled high into the Andes where they successfully hid from outsiders until recent decades. Kenosis Spirit Keepers had created the cultural exchange program, and Don Americo Yabar was playing a central role in translating between cultural leaders. I was brought along by Carla Woody to help document and assist my Hopi friend, Harold Joseph.
The giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman
Our first destination after reaching Cusco was the giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman, the historical capital of the Inca. An architectural marvel and modern day mystery, the walls are made of impossibly large stones that are beveled and stacked perfectly without mortar. Upon entering the site, my Hopi friend who had never been there before pointed and said, “We must go there and find a snake carving to make an offering before we explore the site.” He said that the structure was built to correspond to the tallest mountain and is oriented the same way they oriented the Hopi Villages on the Mesas. To my surprise he walked us directly to a a giant snake that had been built into the wall that fit his description where we made an offering of Hopi Corn.
Sacred sites and ceremony
Days later we had our first meeting with the Q’ero and Don Americo Yabar outside of Cusco. From here we all traveled together to sacred sites for ceremony and stories around the fire. I particularly enjoyed tagging along with Don Americo who is playful and poetic in his words, mannerisms and way of life. Being with him in nature reminded me of being a child, where the landscape surrounding us was alive and filled with stories.
Above: Harold Joseph (left), and Don Americo Yabar
Standing by a river he told me how the Inca had so much energy. He said that they never drew their energy from their own internal battery, instead they drew it from the stars, the land, all of the universe. He demonstrated, with eyes closed and palms open towards the raging white-water of the river:
“Breathe this power in through every pour in your body, through the palms of your hands, and the breath that enters your lungs. That is the power of the Inca, the power of the Andes.”
To this day I use this practice and feel that I have increased my ability to absorb energies from the land. Give it a try at a power spot near you. In our modern society based on individualism, we have cut ourself off from the greater source of life that surrounds us.
Chucuito fertility shrine
Another profound experience was visiting the ancient Chucuito fertility shrine with giant stone penises. I had seen the overtly sexual Inca carvings and artwork at gift shops along my travels and thought they were humorously perverse. Yabar looked at us as we stood in the shrine and said:
You’re bodies are very angry… 500 years of being told by the church that your natural urge for pleasure, connection, and procreation is sinful. Inca knew that there is no spiritual knowledge without first having a clear connection to nature and sexuality.
Standing behind us at the shrine was a church with a steeple that had penises on the top instead of a cross. Some say that the site is a hoax put there for tourists but the Inca were clearly uninhibited about sexuality.
Q’ero and Hopi Spirit Keepers Share Traditions
We are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we believe, and the stories our culture tells us. Undoubtedly the Church, commercialism, and colonialism have influenced our thinking and our culture even if we are not actively religious. What would our society look like if we were taught to connect with the energies of nature, if pleasure and connection were considered sacred instead of sinful? Well I guess that sounds pretty ‘Pagan’ and I’m okay with that…
Is Custodianship a possible way forward in creating reconciliation between settlers and indigenous people?
The colonisation of indigenous lands worldwide has created many conflicts and frustrations about the use and abuse of traditional lands. The consequences of this have also been that much traditional knowledge for the management and maintenance of lands has been ignored, or dismissed. On the other side of the equation, many settlers are suffering from a sense of disconnection and increasing unease at the dominant culture’s treatment of both the land they inhabit, as well as the original inhabitants. Is a sense of shared custodianship potentially a way forward?
Jarmbi Githabul is a Ngarakwal / Githabul man living in the Byron Bay area of New South Wales. A community activist, traditional ceremonialist and land custodian, he is one of the founders of the R.E.A.C.H. project ‘Radical Empowerment of Australia’s Cultural Heart’. One of the principle goals of R.E.A.C.H. and its Rise Up Wise Up program is ‘to awaken the birth right role of Custodianship in all indigenous peoples, connecting them to Source and Country, recognising ceremony and connection, standing tall and proud in heritage and honouring our ancestors, to create a better, abundant world for all.’
What is your perspective on how custodianship works in the R.E.A.C.H. Model?
‘In the Reach ‘business model’ – I suppose it is, we bring in the understanding of custodianship as not just being board members to a company but being responsible for everything that company does; being responsible for everything your people do; for everything that comes out of your tribe. That’s how it works for us in the real world. When you’re responsible for something you take care of it. We’re responsible for our country even. Like the elders say in Uluru, if you fall off that mountain they feel bad, because their country is them, and they’re responsible; as if they did it themselves. As if it doesn’t matter that someone was silly and made an error in judgement and hurt themselves. The fact is that someone died on their country.
Then you should be responsible for your own actions, but not responsible to the point where it gets handed onto a government or a legal system to sort out your matters. It’s up to you. It’s too easy to lay blame or pass the buck. In today’s society there’s always someone else who can fix it up, there’s insurance companies that can patch up your accidents or whatever, you don’t have to take it personally. Anything that you do you can lay it down to the corporate structure and don’t have any personal hardship out of it.’
The real law of the land is that you are responsible for yourself and when you are recognised as being someone that is responsible it means something.
Jarmbi looking towards Uluru
What do you think about the role of custodianship in creating some reconciliation between the settlers of Australia and the Original Peoples?
‘We have that understanding that the Spirit of the Earth is being born into our youth, into everybody’s youth, everybody here today. Everyone who’s born in this country inherently comes with a bit of that spirit. The only thing I feel that gets in the way of them making something of it, or taking responsibility for it, is that they’re not supported to think that way. They’re supported to dig it up, to put it quite bluntly. They’re not supported to think of it as something that we should be taking care of. It basically comes down to people seeing indigenous people and the understandings and wisdom, and connection to spirit is not just something they go and watch a little show on – ‘someone’s playing a didgeridoo, let’s go and have a look’, like a little bit of entertainment.
Our culture is the key to the future; without it – everything is going to shit. It’s going right along the track that it’s going and everybody that stops and looks can tell it’s going to shit. But we’re sitting here, we’re waiting for people to come and talk. People like the climate council, (when) the government booted the climate council, the climate council shoulda went straight to the indigenous elders and said ‘right, let’s start linking up’. Let’s put the wisdom behind the science and we’ll start showing the world exactly what’s going on. There’s all the stories, all the star lore and all that sort of stuff that comes into the climate and everything to do with everything. We engender all parts of life.’
That sort of understanding needs to come in. Let’s have a look underneath our feet for the answers. There’s plenty of answers there, it’s all there. We’ve just gotta look. People have got to be supported to look.
A Welcome to Country ceremony at Limmen National Park in Western Australia
What is the relationship between sovereignty and custodianship?
‘As sovereign beings we know our connection to the Earth. We know that we are custodians because we are born of the mother and the father. So we know. We know where we are, we know where we stand, we know our responsibility here and we also know our responsibility to each other. So for custodianship to be fully recognised your sovereignty does need to be recognised as well.
Where were you born, you were born in that area, that’s where you’re a custodian from. Where’s your bloodline, where’s your heritage? All of that comes in to making you who you are. There you go, you’re recognised, we receive you. Are you a respectful person, can we have a look? Yes, we see what you do. You do good things, you don’t talk bad about people. If you have an issue with someone you go straight up to them. There’s no need to run anyone down or do anything stupid because you know yourself, you know what you’re about. There’s no need to lash out, no craziness. You’re responsible for yourself and everything around you.
People get that from an understanding of sovereignty, that you are that. When we had our initiation stages, it was recognising that you are a sovereign spirit. That you are respectful, you are someone who looks after their own affairs. We can proudly send you out into the world to go walk-about and know that you can carry our name and you’re not going to dirty our name up. When you walk through someone else’s country you’re not going to do something stupid. You’re not going to do something stupid, you’re not going to steal their women. Or if you do you’re going to take responsibility, you’re not going to lie about. That’s the thing, you stand there and you say ‘yeah I did it, I mucked up – I’m gonna get boondy, I’m gonna get speared in the leg, yeah’. Take responsibility.
If someone’s thinking about custodianship for the first time, what would do you say to them. What’s the first step that you need to take?’
Who are you, or what are you? Sovereign spirit, born between a mother and father. put here on this place to learn and to take care of it as you go through. So taking care of this Earth, sacred sites. You know, doing the ceremonies that it takes in order to put back in. It’s just the basic stuff.
‘Connect in. Figure out who you are first and then walk it. Walk as you, and other people who walk as themselves and have respect in themselves will find it easy to respect you. Otherwise, if people who are giving you respect don’t respect themselves, it’s not true respect. Because true respect can only be given by someone who is respectful.’
You can find out more about R.E.A.C.H. and Jarmbi’s work at their website: R.E.A.C.H.
Cetologists observe, document, and decipher evidence that points to a profound intelligence dwelling in the oceans. It is an intelligence that predates our own evolution as intelligent primates by millions of years. – Paul Watson
I had a profound experience while kayaking in Hawaii this past winter with friends. We were visited by a whale and there is no doubt that this majestic being was coherent, aware of us, and enjoying our company as much as we were enjoying his. We put our snorkeling masks on and jumped in and could easily see the whale gently make eye contact with each of us. With one thrust of his tail he could have left in an instant but he stayed with us for over an hour. A mammal with a brain bigger than ours and complex migration songs that change every year, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of thoughts could be going through his mind. The recent piece by Dawn Agnos on UPLIFT about a conversation with a horse shows that emotional intelligence and empathy are a language that many animals understand. It was only recently that terms like emotional intelligence emerged and it is interesting to consider that there are many different kinds of intelligence. Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd makes a good argument in a recent Facebook post that perhaps humans concept of intelligence is anthropocentric and lacking in breadth.
Watson starts early in his essay with the bold assertion that, “Biological science is provoking us to shatter our image of human superiority.” Though indigenous wisdom has always considered humans a part of the circle of life rather than above it, that sentiment has almost been completely destroyed by generations of colonial indoctrination. The very roots of colonial indoctrination not only conclude that humans are superior to all other life forms, it also considers some humans as superior to others. Social Darwinism, a myth, was an effort to use science to validate the behavior of employing superior weaponry to oppress other humans. Though we owe much respect to western science we must also understand the cultural and religious backdrop from which this discipline emerged. We must also be willing to explore the assumptions within science if we are to evolve it.
Rupert Sheldrake attempted to do this during a TED Talk entitled, The Science Delusion and his presentations was banned. This is not to say that Sheldrake is right and all of science is wrong, that is too simplistic. It is merely an opportunity to open a dialogue about assumptions within science that the scientific community may or may not be willing to consider. I mention it in the context of considering the humble notion that humans may not posses the highest form of intelligence on the planet. If for no other reason than amusement, just open your mind and consider…
Mammals like us, who have been on the planet a whole lot longer than us, who also have larger brains than us, is interesting to reflect on. We humans pride ourselves on technology, on creating tools, gadgets and machines. Of course it is easy to consider that intelligence is based on technology. Then there is the idea of emotional intelligence which acknowledges a form of intelligence which is internal, can not be easily measured empirically but plays a major role in the success of an individual. Intuition, compassion, empathy are usually considered feelings, but these are skills, non-physical tools that we can use to ascend the social ladder. Meditation could also be considered a non-physical tool that changes our biology, reduces stress and opens the mind. We may be at the very beginning of understanding that tools do not need to be physical or easily measurable by traditional science in order to be valuable.
We willingly accept the idea of intelligence in a life-form only if the intelligence displayed is on the same evolutionary wavelength as our own. Technology automatically indicates intelligence. An absence of technology translates into an absence of intelligence.
Dolphins and whales do not display intelligence in a fashion recognizable to this conditioned perception of what intelligence is, and thus for the most part, we are blind to a broader definition of what intelligence can be.
Evolution molds our projection of intelligence. Humans evolved as tool-makers, obsessed with danger and group aggression. This makes it very difficult for us to comprehend intelligent non-manipulative beings whose evolutionary history featured ample food supplies and an absence of fear from external dangers. – Paul Watson
Again it is important to recognize how this attitude has not only been applied to animals, but also to indigenous people historically. How we define intelligence is restricted to our definition of intelligence. Are we willing to broaden our definition of intelligence?
Intelligence can also be measured by the ability to live within the bounds of the laws of ecology — to live in harmony with one’s own ecology and to recognize the limitations placed on each species by the needs of an ecosystem. Is the species that dwells peacefully within its habitat with respect for the rights of other species the one that is inferior? Or is it the species that wages a holy war against its habitat, destroying all species that irritate it? What can be said of a species that reproduces beyond the ability of its habitat to support it? What do we make of a species that destroys the diversity that sustains the ecosystem that nourishes it? How is a species to be judged that fouls its water and poisons its own food? On the other hand, how is a species that has lived harmoniously within the boundaries of its ecology to be judged? – Paul Watson
Watson gets very in-depth and cites the research which compares cranial capacity, and brain complexity between humans and sea mammals. At the very least this information is humbling. Paul Watson has given us a lot to think about, but probably the greatest gift in his essay can be summarized by this quote:
It’s not enough to understand the natural world, the point is to defend and preserve it. – Edward Abbey
Watson is not merely a philosopher, he puts his words and beliefs into action. For 35 years, Captain Paul Watson has been at the helm of the world’s most active marine non-profit organization – the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I highly recommend reading the entire essay which is available here.
To even consider that we are not superior to other species is delightfully humbling. It can restore a child-like sense of awe for life which also inspires a desire to preserve our environment. Our tools are wonderful, our science is also wonderful, but it should be used to celebrate and elevate all of life. We must consider that the unconscious, disrespectful use of our tools and science can create unimaginable destruction for ourselves and other species. A healthy future includes humans who are aware of this and who live within the bounds of their ecosystem. We have the ability to create worlds or destroy ourselves. How do you want to live your life?
The plan to build a Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea
has resulted in a worldwide protest movement and a very interesting hashtag
At first glance, the notion of colonialism having anything to do with astronomy or science seems far fetched, but as you peel back the layers, the story becomes quite interesting. Science, as a method of inquiry and discovery is most potent when it isn’t influenced by politics, yet it has benefitted greatly from the moral injustices of colonialism towards indigenous communities over the centuries. Today indigenous perspectives are often excluded from the scientific discussion, but we have an unprecedented opportunity to heal this history and elevate the conversation to benefit all of humanity.
By claiming “survival of the fittest” or “might makes right” Social Darwinism, is an example of how science has been inappropriately used to justify the colonial power dynamic. The concept has very little to do with Darwin, it ignores the research that values cooperation as a component of evolution, and it conveniently implies supremacy and domination of one species or culture over another. This perspective permeates our economics, politics, foreign policy, and has unfortunately permeated science as well. Many indigenous perspectives sees things differently, as inter-connected in a larger web or circle, and do not view life-forms or cultures in a hierarchy.
This difference in world-view is at the heart of many struggles on the planet and is especially apparent in Hawaii where scientists are proposing to place a 30-meter telescope on top of the watershed which is the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea. Background here. This week on social media voices in the scientific community spoke up about the ethical issues surrounding the telescope. Though Hawaiians hold Mauna Kea as their sacred and ancestral site, they are also voicing concern over their watershed and fragile habitat on this island eco-system. Any holistic scientific inquiry would value the top of a watershed for the health of all life-forms including humans, yet this argument has barely been heard in what is being viewed as a clash between culture and science.
When science gains by oppressing the Sacred, then Science becomes The predator of moral balance.. it is critical that our collective lesson teaches aloha pono: respect my boundary, as i respect yours. We have an obligation to build science on dignity, respect of each other first. That being the standard, please, please see what is sacred to us is not sacred to this project. Kapu Aloha , Do not take what is not yours Sacred. Science, and industry, and government are feeling the violation of disrespecting. I am sorry that is happening to you. Please forgive me should you understand it might be a failure of mine. Thank you for respecting me . WE lOVE YOU, NOW, BEFORE AND AFTER THIS CONFLICT!. We see you bigger than your moral immaturity. I See We Hawaiians Challenged to meet the intellectual and moral imbalance prevailing. Were all going to the mountain, just from the No Risk Side. Aloha pono! Love prevails all trauma . Peace first, not after you take. -Harry Uhane Jim
I created the image of the telescope on Mt. Rushmore above to illustrate a perspective that many westerners are too quick to ignore. What if your water source, your sacred site was the chosen spot for this telescope? Mt Rushmore itself (without a telescope on it) is symbolic in that it is a sacred place to the Sioux Tribe. To have the faces of the white foreigners who invaded their land and killed their ancestors on that mountain shows the insensitivity and disrespect of colonial attitudes towards indigenous people that most westerners fail to notice. It is no surprise that Lakota Chief Arvol Lookinghorse has expressed solidarity with Hawaiians in their fight to protect their sacred mountain.
Wherever you stand on this issue we can all celebrate that this conversation is becoming part of the public discourse across cultures. Mutual respect and open dialogue between opposing viewpoints is the only way to heal and grow our understanding of each other. We live in a time when every voice matters. We must continue to embrace and include all perspectives if we want to heal the traumatic history we all inherited and create a better future.
What if there was an organic clothing line that fed meals to the needy while supporting the local economy?
Look no further! Fed By Threads flourished from a simple idea to start an apparel line for a dance studio into a blossoming social entrepreneurship project that is feeding 1000′s of meals to hungry Americans. Founded by Alok Appadurai and Jade Beall Fed by Threads is an exemplary model of conscious business with a focus on art and community. Locally-sourced organic cotton and production, a healthy message, body-positive appeal and 12 meals delivered with the purchase of each garment is enough to make anyone reconsider the predominant business model.
Alok formerly ran clean energy companies focusing on waste-to-energy and has been keenly interested in social entrepreneurship projects like Tom’s Shoes which eventually became the inspiration for Fed By Threads. While hosting weekly African Drum and Dance Workshops with Jade, the two are well-rooted in the importance of community, celebration, and culture. It’s no surprise that this business would sprout up in Tucson, a city filled with diverse cultural influences in the mystical Sonoran Desert.
Jade is best known for her photography. Having appeared on Good Morning America for her Beautiful Body Project and book, The Bodies of Mothers, she understands the need for body-positive clothing as well as community-positive business. Her work focuses on supporting women to see their authentic beauty, without airbrushing or other tools to hide behind.
By supporting small producers of clothing from around the country, they are keeping jobs in the local economy and supporting sustainable agriculture. This “farm to garment” approach is mindful of the toxic effects of traditional textiles, and refuses to outsource labor to third world sweat-shops. By adding the socially responsible practice of donating a percentage of each sale to feed those in need, they are revisiting the power of commerce for social responsibility. When business owners think critically and creatively about the life-cycle of their products, they are able to assert radical changes in the market.
Supporting businesses like this, and telling your friends about this kind of model can challenge larger retailers to up their game. What if Walmart, or Target adopted a similar model? Capitalism has been under fire for it’s contribution to environmental degradation, and economic disparity. Does it need to be this way? Fed by Threads says, “no, there is a better way!”
They are now offering a service to other organizations and businesses who may want to get in on the action. By offering custom printed t-shirts, anyone can support sustainable garment production and help to feed people in need. Being able to include this in the description of your product is a great selling point especially if you are trying to target people who are committed to making a positive difference in the world.
This is only one particular business model, there are many out there. If you know of others that you love, please share below. Let’s elevate this conversation about socially-conscious businesses that promote and support sustainable practices so that the larger companies take note. There are many creative solutions to our current problems, all it takes is a conscious decision to do things differently. It’s time to feed the body, mind, and spirit with a little inspiration and a lot of love.