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The Carbon Farming Solution read-along discussion - Introduction

 
Burra Maluca
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image courtesy amazon.com

The CARBON FARMING SOLUTION - A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security

by Eric Toesmeier

Introduction

To set the scene for the discussion of both the introduction and to the rest of the Carbon Farming Solution book, I'd like to present this quote.

"Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, even if it were practiced on every square meter of farmland. But it does belong at the center of our transformation as a civilization. Along with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, carbon farming offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope. Along the way it can help address food insecurity, injustice, environmental degradation, and some of the core problems with the global food system. In the pages to come we'll explore the promise and pitfalls of this timely climate change solution."

For this discussion, the emphasis is to be on how we can use the information from the book to mitigate climate change and rising levels of CO2. Any discussion of climate change itself, and especially whether or not it is real, or a good or bad thing, is cider press material, and not to be discussed here. We're looking for solutions, not debate about whether or not there is a problem. I'd like the discussion to be positive, helping people to make appropriate decisions, encouraging any step in the right direction.
 
R Ranson
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The introduction to this book has been a nice, gentle way to get in the mood and understand what carbon farming is and why it's important.

My favourite part is the little box at the end called "Defining Carbon Farming". He begins, "There are several, sometimes conflicting, definitions of carbon farming..."

To me, this is probably the most crucial point. Quite often, we use the same words as each other, but have different meanings. This at best creates confusion, and at worse, creates conflict.

A few pages later, in Part One (which I'll talk about when we get there), I encountered a few terms that I thought I knew, but in this context, they seem to mean something else. I go to google and find a whole range of meanings (some contradictory). I was hoping somewhere in this book I could find a glossary of what these. Couldn't find one, so I started our very own, fill in the blank glossary. Feel free to add to it as you discover new or confusing terms.

Before Toensmeier came to visit this forum, I thought carbon farming was a purely financial, almost fictitious activity. I pay you not to cut down those trees you weren't going to cut down anyway, and I can keep on polluting to my hearts content - completely meaningless to me. I've now learned that carbon farming is so much more applicable. It's about actually growing things, and doing it in a way that helps reduce carbon in the air and the health of the soil. That's something I can get behind.

Another thing I learned from the introduction is that tropical areas sequester carbon faster than temperate areas. Today, I discovered a map of carbon in the atmosphere here.



I don't have time to get my head around the details of this yet, but it seems to me, at a glance, that there is a lot of carbon in the northern temperate zone. Less atmospheric carbon near the poles. I didn't see if this is where atmosphere carbon is produced, or where said carbon is hanging out afterwards (ie, locus of concentration). It could be that the weather patterns have pushed the carbon into this areas. It could be this is where the most is produced, and the carbon tends to hang out near it's origin. It could be that the tropical zone has gathered more carbon than the temperate, therefore, less atmospheric carbon, or it could be lots of other reasons for this pattern. But an interesting corrilation.
 
Neil Layton
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Ah. You have misconstrued your map, R.

That is a map of fossil fuel fluxes, or where CO2 is being emitted.

Observe how the hot spots correspond to major, usually overdeveloped world, cities, mostly in the northern hemisphere, and around major shipping and airline routes.

Note also the hot spots in China and India, where they are still heavily reliant on coal, and the shipping lanes heading for Europe (through the Suez canal) and North America, where many of the consumer goods, especially from China, end up.

Atmospheric CO2 is fairly well mixed, although with sufficient variation that there are many monitoring stations around the world: these are then averaged to give the mean level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Some remote sensors, such as the one at Mauna Loa in Hawaii are considered better gauges than others. You can keep an eye on global CO2 levels here: https://www.co2.earth/

Pre-industrial levels of CO2 were around 280 parts per million. 350ppm is generally considered the upper end of the safe range: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf. We are on course for 450ppm or worse.

 
Neil Layton
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I misconstrued what posts were supposed to go where, so there are some on this thread that shouldn't be. http://www.permies.com/t/55829//Read-Carbon-Farming-Solution-Eric

Mea culpa. Apologies.
 
R Ranson
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Neil Layton wrote:Ah. You have misconstrued your map, R.

That is a map of fossil fuel fluxes, or where CO2 is being emitted.

Observe how the hot spots correspond to major, usually overdeveloped world, cities, mostly in the northern hemisphere, and around major shipping and airline routes.

Note also the hot spots in China and India, where they are still heavily reliant on coal, and the shipping lanes heading for Europe (through the Suez canal) and North America, where many of the consumer goods, especially from China, end up.

Atmospheric CO2 is fairly well mixed, although with sufficient variation that there are many monitoring stations around the world: these are then averaged to give the mean level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Some remote sensors, such as the one at Mauna Loa in Hawaii are considered better gauges than others. You can keep an eye on global CO2 levels here: https://www.co2.earth/

Pre-industrial levels of CO2 were around 280 parts per million. 350ppm is generally considered the upper end of the safe range: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf. We are on course for 450ppm or worse.



Oh, you're right. I hadn't had a chance to really look at it yet.

I wonder what's producing carbon up in the arctic? There seems to be some spots north of Greenland.

 
Neil Layton
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R Ranson wrote:

I wonder what's producing carbon up in the arctic? There seems to be some spots north of Greenland.



This is educated guesswork, but I'm going for melting methane clathrates.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/arctic-ocean-releasing-significant-amounts-of-methane/

This is potentially scary stuff, and exemplifies why we need to sort out the global warming problem as a matter of urgency, and need to be doing everything we can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis
 
Amber Samandulugu
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This is a read-along discussion, as I understand. So I will just follow and make a few comments. I've written about and researched the subject extensively. There are factors in play that have a lot to do with social change, developing interests, legal framework, poverty, and definition of the healthiest way to restore the earth's forest versus making the earth a giant food plantation. If you get the funding: PLEASE DO IT. The developing world follows the money and right now we CANNOT drink the water, and the lumber is being cut and sold to meet the needs of the developed world without being replanted in climate critical areas that surround the world's largest deserts.
The issue has a lot to do with land tenure, who owns the tree, who guards the tree, and who really cares when people are hungry.
So please... be a carbon farmer. If you have any questions, some of the world's top carbon fund managers are in my circle: please ask. My company has put together an extensive carbon farming plan for Africa, but there is no funding for the developing world. (Except for a few GMO interested researchers, me, and maybe Jeff Lawton: who really knows the Sahara can be reforested?) Personally, I love the Venus Project for this plan...that is the idealist in me. Practically, people love the personal satisfaction of the addiction of capitalism: carbon farming appeals to that type of human nature and makes capitalism a little more socially responsible for tapping the economic value of carbon trapped energy.
 
A J Heeren
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My understanding of "carbon farming" is negligible, but I am a bit familiar (mostly from reading) with many of the practices Toensmeier will discuss in the book like perennial cropping systems and agroforestry. One solution thats worth mentioning here is the dedicated work of Mike Hands who has created an alternative to the slash and burn farming practice in the tropics called inga alley cropping. The documentary, "Up in Smoke", takes you on his journey with the people that adopt this practice in Honduras (http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/53386/Up-in-Smoke).

The different practices showcased in the example of Las Cañadas all produce a variety of externalities and without even considering carbon sequestration in the assessment of such benefits there is progress on so many levels. Much appreciation to Eric Toensmeier for the details, data and potentiality it appears his books has in store for us.
 
R Ranson
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There is a box near the end of the introduction where Toensmeier basically asks, what is carbon farming?

I thought it very interesting the idea that carbon farming can be many things, but to be scaleable it must also produce an income.

We have a small, family farm. It's basically subsistence living, with a small pension to pay the necessities. As much as I would enjoy having more money, I'm really crap at selling things. I hate the whole interaction with people. Plants are far more sensible creatures. I'm pretty much self-taught, learned from family lore, and history books. I'm not up on modern theory of farming and environmental science, so a lot of this book is going to be new to me. What I hope to get from this book are practical solutions that I can apply on my little farm. I like to experiment. If I can find carbon farming techniques that work, then I can showcase them to other farmers and perhaps inspire others. I'm also hoping that having more carbon matter in the soil, means that there would be less need for human inputs like irrigation. I don't know how to transform that into an income. Every time I've tried, I found it was far less effort to live without the income than deal with the people.

Can I be a successful carbon farmer without the economic aspect of it?

hope to find inspiration for what carbon farming I can do on my farm. If I can do it, and it works, then we can use this to inspire others. Change has to start somewhere, so maybe I can be a part of that.
 
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