The soil as a Carbon trap

One of the problems encountered by teachers and academics is how to communicate clearly on topics that require a specific vocabuluary because of their complexity. Trying to explain the difference between carbon, organic carbon, organic substances, and carbon dioxide requires communicative gifts that are rare among soil researchers.

It’s better to rely on those whose job is communication, including science journalists.

Below we summarise two articles that we think can help lead to clearer understanding of what the 4per1000 Initiative continues to bring to the attention of the media and politicians and an ever more concrete way.

The first article was published in the Guardian Weekly, a British newspaper that often focuses on environmental matters. In September 2016, “Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet” by Jason Hickel gives a thorough account of the subject of the absorption, accumulation and storage of carbon in the soil. He also points out that clean energy will not save us from climatic and environmental degradation and that we can only hope to succeed through a new economic system. Everything is based, however, on the ability of the soils and oceans to remain active as carbon sinks. Unfortunatley both are under constant attack and increasingly degraded, especially the soils, even if they hold 4 times more carbon than trees and plants. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive ploughing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades. As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous plumes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation.

In short, this is exactly what the 4per100 Initiative is proposing.

If Hickel’s article sets out the situation clearly, the one by Amy Crawford in the March 2018 edition of Nature Conservancy Magazine shows us what to do and how to intervene to protect the soil. Using concrete examples from farming, she identifies and illustrates 5 simple surface farming practices to nourish the land and restore its fertility to the benefit of all of us:

1) Keep the soil covered; 2) Add dead matter that can decompose; 3) Facilitate the work of life’s recyclers; 4) Strengthen the potential synergies between the soil’s living actors; 5) Think about maintaining the soil and its fertility.

This too, very simply, reflects the various experiences collected by the 4per100 Initiative.

5 points soil