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Daily News Blog

27
Nov

Tackling Climate Crisis with Elimination of Toxic Pesticides and Fertilizers, Webinar Nov. 29—What Is Practical Now

(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2022) On Tuesday, November 29 (at 1:00-2:30pmEST), two preeminent researchers will present their research and worldwide collaborative work to fully characterize the effects of the climate crisis and the viable solutions associated with land management. The Forum headliners are (i) Rachel Bezner Kerr, PhD, Cornell University professor just back from COP 27 [27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] and co-author of the definitive United Nations (UN) report on climate and food production and (ii) Andrew Smith, PhD, chief operating officer of the Rodale Institute and coauthor of several landmark reports on soil biology and carbon sequestration, including the just released Farming Systems Trial—40-Year Report. With livability of the planet on the brink, the speakers at the upcoming Forum make the case to immediately reverse the increase of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane to stop the changes on the horizon that destroy life—from floods, fires, and associated climate-induced hazards to food production.

The good news, according to the scientists, is that there are solutions available now in the agricultural and land management sectors that can reverse the threat if dramatic changes are made. Dr. Bezner Kerr, professor in the Department of Global Development, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and coordinating lead author of the Food, Fibre and other Ecosystem Products chapter in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, said, “The world can prevent severe impacts on people and on nature, but there is a brief and rapidly closing window to act.” As the forward to the report states, “The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” The Food Chapter of the report outlines the devastating threats to specific crops and society, including disproportionate impacts on people of color, low income people and countries, and gender inequity if changes are made now. The report speaks to the need for a holistic response to challenges associated with individual problematic inputs, including synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, that are as a whole systemically devastating.

Dr. Smith’s work at the Rodale Institute, along with a team of scientists, has defined a path forward. Since the chemicalization of agriculture after World War II, the conventional wisdom has been that pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are necessary to feed the world—that any harm associated with their production, use, and disposal are offset by the benefits that they bring worldwide. The now existential crisis associated with the climate emergency and the disproportionate harm to lower income people and countries most immediately, causing land displacement and food insecurity, has clarified the need to focus on resiliency. As the IPCC report states, “[T]he term [resilency] describes not just the ability to maintain essential function, identity and structure, but also the capacity for transformation.”

In his 2020 report Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution, Dr. Smith writes: “Based on peer-reviewed research and the seasoned observations of agronomists working around the world, this white paper confidently declares that global adoption of regenerative practices across both grasslands and arable acreage could sequester more than 100% of current anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and that stable soil carbon can be built quickly enough to result in a rapid drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide. We now know enough to have real hope, and with this hope comes the responsibility to journey down a new path.” The report attributes 30 percent of carbon emissions to the food system, including fertilizer manufacturing, processing, transportation, refrigeration and waste disposal. When including nonagricultural lands, such as playing fields and parks, managed with pesticides and synthetics fertilizers, the number grows substantially. The solution requires land management systems that only utilize natural forms of fertilizer, such as compost, and the elimination of synthetic chemicals.

The report continues: “Large-scale conventional, industrial farming is locked in a system that needs more than the farmer’s will to shift. It’s a system built on high capital expenses, proprietary inputs, seeds purposefully designed to work only in tightly controlled chemical regimes, and on scales reliant not on eyeballs and acres, but by satellites geolocating across miles. The great capital expenses involved produce low-priced commodity crops. The only way these systems work is through externalization of costs and sheer scale coupled with support from government agricultural policies and entrenched interests of large agribusiness corporations.”

The Farm Systems Trial report concludes, “An economic analysis shows that organic systems are more profitable for farmers than conventional agriculture is.” Of all the ecosystem-based farming and land management systems, organic is the only one that is governed by a clear definition and requirements for compliance with standards. Under the Organic Foods Production Act (in the U.S. and similar statutes worldwide), those selling products as organic are required to adhere to a legal definition of soil management practices, a list of allowed and prohibited substances, and a certification and inspection system that establishes compliance with the defined organic standards.

Nevertheless, the IPCC report points to ecological systems that include a social component, recognizing the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation and climate stress on the low income, people of color, and women worldwide: “Ecosystem-based approaches, agroecology and other nature-based solutions in agriculture and fisheries have the potential to strengthen resilience to climate change with multiple co-benefits (high confidence); trade-offs and benefits vary with socioecological context. Options such as ecosystem approaches to fisheries, agricultural diversification, agroforestry and other ecological practices support long-term productivity and ecosystem services such as pest control, soil health, pollination and buffering of temperature extremes (high confidence), but potential and trade-offs vary by socioeconomic context, ecosystem zone, species combinations and institutional support (medium confidence). Ecosystem-based approaches support food security, nutrition and livelihoods when inclusive equitable governance processes are used (high confidence).”

In terms of the viability of transformational change, IPCC continues, “The drivers of transformation are multidimensional, involving social, cultural, economic, environmental, technical and political processes. The combination of these creates the potential for abrupt and systemic change, the stability of entrenched and interlocked power structures, and the importance of individual beliefs and behaviours.”

Plan to attend the 2022 National Forum SeriesHealth, Biodiversity, and Climate: A Path for a Livable FutureRegistration is open for the November 29th climate session. All previous sessions are available through the webpage on this link. 

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources. Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution, Farming Systems Trial—40-Year Report

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