Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming practices that increase biodiversity in soil organic matter.
Currently, most agricultural practices are devastating to biodiversity. Even organic agriculture, while not as bad, still does more harm than good. Regenerative agriculture is a way to reverse this trend, to actually make a positive impact on the land.
So what does regenerative agriculture actually involve?
Answering this question is actually pretty tricky, because the practices that work best largely depend on the land that’s being worked with, so the variety of different practices border on infinity, a bit more than this video can cover.
However, let’s look at three common forms that regenerative agriculture can take:
The soil is full of organisms which are helpful for plants. Some convert soil nitrogen into a plant-usable form. Some bring water to the plants that would otherwise be out of reach. Others loosen and aerate the soil, increasing water absorption and allowing plant roots to penetrate deeper.
When soil is turned over by a machine, most of these organisms are killed, so the crops must rely on chemical fertilizer which ends up leaching into the water. Central to no-till farming is to NOT DO THAT.
Instead of tilling, plant cover crops whose roots break up the soil. Let the worms aerate the soil and bring down nutrients. Keep the soil covered with an organic mulch which will break down over time, adding more organic matter to the soil.
From the release of methane, to clearing forests for pasture land, cattle raising is known for being very environmentally destructive. But this is not inherent to grazing animals!
If the right practices are put into place, enormous amounts of carbon can be sequestered into the ground, soil can be built, and even desertification can be reversed in a matter of years. Here’s how it works:
The growth of grass tends to start slow, accelerate, and slow down again. This middle area is where it accrues the most biomass the most efficiently. If it’s eaten before it gets to this point, its growth will never speed up.
This is what happens with traditional pastured animals: They eat all the grass, which doesn’t have the chance to grow back fast enough before getting eaten again, and we have overgrazing. This leads to soil erosion, drought, and desertification.
But if the animals are kept in a tightly packed herd, like they used to be in nature, the grass has time to grow before being eaten. All that biomass in the grass is carbon that comes from the air. Not all the grass gets eaten, however. Some of it gets pooped on and trampled, which ends up creating the perfect conditions for new topsoil to be built. This ends up happening incredibly quickly.
This is one of the most complex and location-dependent practices there are. I will therefore be over-generalizing.
It always starts with observing a local forest and the relationships between everything in it–the plants, the animals, the fungi, the landscape, the soil, the water–and then re-creating these relationships in a way that’s just as ecologically resilient, but produces more food.
Food forests are often thought of as comprising seven layers: The root layer, the ground cover layer, the herb layer, the shrub layer, the low tree layer, the high tree layer, and the vine layer. Every one of these layers either produces some sort of food or medicine, or is in some way helpful to the system as a whole. The plants are mostly perennials, and include as many native species as possible.
These three examples of regenerative agriculture, plus all the rest of them, all have something in common: whereas in conventional agriculture you seek to create as many of one thing as possible, in regenerative agriculture you seek to create as many relationships between things as possible. You are one of those things! What sort of relationship with the land do YOU want to foster?
Biodiversity supports our food systems, clean air, and clean water. Local biodiversity is key to protecting these resources in your community. Communities with plentiful and diverse natural areas enjoy a higher quality of life and a healthier environment.
What is local biodiversity
Local biodiversity is a measure of different types of life in an area. Ecosystems like rainforests are known for having very high levels of biodiversity. And deserts tend to have fewer species overall. However, within a desert ecosystem, biodiversity is higher in areas that are undisturbed or contain additional resources. And in the rainforest, areas closer to towns and roads will be less biologically diverse than average.
Measuring biodiversity is difficult, because it includes plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and all the kingdoms of life. To measure biodiversity, scientists use species richness. Species richness is the number of species that are found in an area. Scientists make a list of all the species that have been observed in the study area and count them.
Comparing species richness across ecosystem types doesn’t account for differences in resources. So, scientists will sometimes use a biodiversity index that can be applied across ecosystems.
Examples of local biodiversity
In different parts of the globe, biodiversity looks different. In the deep south, longleaf pine savannas are home to species that can only live in the sandy, sunny forests, like the gopher tortoise.
The Appalachian Mountains have numerous cold mountain streams that provide habitat for trout and hellbenders.
Along the West Coast, redwood forests contain rare birds like the marbled murrelet.
What are the benefits of local and global biodiversity
Global biodiversity is important because many species play a role in natural processes that benefit humans. From clean air and water to the productivity of soil for agriculture, we rely on biological systems to support life on our planet – life that includes us!
When a species goes extinct, its role in the ecosystem is sometimes left empty. In some cases, another species can step in to do the same role, but not in the same way.
As the number of species on Earth drops each year, how much longer can the globe support life? Ecological systems and processes are threatened by every extinction.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biological diversity allows species to work together to increase the productivity of an area. In nature, competition and cooperation are the defining forces. Greater biological diversity increases the opportunities for both competition among similar species and cooperation between species that play different roles.
Greater cultural diversity can make a city more lively and productive. Similarly, greater biological diversity helps to maximize the productivity in an area. This productivity is measured in the form of ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services include things like food, clean water, clean air, flood prevention, recreation opportunities, and resistance to extreme weather events. One of the clearest examples of ecosystem services is the pollination of farm crops by native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
How to protect biodiversity
Unfortunately, Earth has now entered it’s 6th mass extinction event. Meaning we are losing species faster than at any other time in recorded history. Global biodiversity outlook analyses show a major decline. So, how can we protect biodiversity? Conservation groups and events like the convention on biological diversity are working to do just that.
University research findings on the subject show us that traditional knowledge and local communities can inform a multinational strategic plan. As we search for ways to improve the global biodiversity outlook, science and data are the key to a sustainable future.
Why does biodiversity need to be protected?
Species extinctions are happening at an unprecedented rate due to human activity. In many places, local biodiversity trends are not great. And in some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems, like the Amazon Rainforest, human activity is destroying the remaining habitat that species depend on. Species have fewer places to live because land is developed or converted to agricultural uses, like pasture.
In many countries, indigenous peoples are fighting to protect both biological diversity and their way of life. Colonialist attitudes and markets change the use and extraction of biological resources. Competing interests, especially in the Global South, have led to a decrease in cultural diversity and biodiversity change. In addition to species loss, globalization has also introduced non native species. Many local communities are losing traditional knowledge while the sudden biodiversity change makes sustainability more difficult than ever.
According to time series data, the implications of biodiversity change are frightening. The global biodiversity outlook is not good. And the research indicates that as the abundance of species declines, so will the productivity of nature.
What does local biodiversity depend on?
The path forward is clear. To protect global biodiversity, ambitious conservation efforts are needed. Renowned conservationist E.O. Wilson proposed protecting at least half of the planet in his groundbreaking book, Half Earth. And the Aichi targets propose a similar, though less ambitious effort along with economic and political contributions into the future.
What is a protected area?
The definition of a protected areas varies by location. Protection can mean the designation of parks and forests, or the use of specific tools like conservation easements. Ultimately, the right kind of protection is up to local communities. Spatial comparisons show that the local biodiversity outlooks improve in protected areas.
How to boost biological diversity
Protection is not always a viable strategy, because biodiversity may already be degraded on a site, especially in the Global North. Many areas need restoration efforts. University and NGO research has shown a positive response in species richness following restoration efforts.
Creating natural habitat at home
Native ecology is the key to making progress in protecting local biodiversity. Many government agencies and NGOs hope to meet goals like the aichi targets creating a strategic plan. But individual landowners are able to treat their property like protected areas today. Local communities and indigenous peoples are connected to the land. And these groups have a vested interest in protecting nature. Ethical stewardship of the land can provide contributions that go beyond political and economic forces.
Rewilding can have a greater impact on local biodiversity depending on the existing level of development. Rewilding is a way to bring nature into local communities and cities where it has been removed. Establishment of small pockets of nature is simple and cheap. Landowners should plant native plants on their land. Native plants evolved to be perfectly adapted to support the existing local biological diversity.
Parks and protected areas
Much of the history of conservation in North America has been reactionary. The science surrounding species loss is mostly reactionary as well. In the United States, parks account for most public interest in conservation. Every state has a department of parks that provide protection for these recreation areas. Many states also have forestry, wildlife, and environmental agencies.
There seems to be a mismatch between the local demand for natural areas and their abundance. Most recreational natural spaces are in remote, rugged terrain. The accessibility of nature for the average American seems to be far below what is needed.
And any public recreation site that is easy to access for a large populated area tends to be overcrowded. As development increases in the future, access to additional recreational areas is desperately needed. Governments will struggle to acquire and manage additional land. Private landowners need access to resources that help them to protect and manage their land. And not just for recreational opportunities, but also to protect the ecological resources on private land.
Local biodiversity progress
Efforts by conservation groups and government agencies have sometimes been successful at saving individual species from extinction. But the implications of climate change on biological systems have not been tested. And we’ve been unable to slow down the Anthropocene extinction event.
We can’t predict the future. Additional time series data and summary analysis will help science to understand the potential futures of our environment. It has been difficult to predict the effects of climate change, but so far they have been very concerning.
Save local biodiversity now
We cannot wait for definitive science before we act to save our planet. Nor can we hope for a technological answer. Conservation of our remaining biological resources is critical, and restoration can boost depleted local biodiversity. Protected areas need additional funding and support, and every lawn is a potential restoration site.
The average homeowner has opportunities to boost their lawn’s biological value. And individuals can contribute to citizen science efforts to improve landscape-scale analyses by their state or local university. But the cultural pressure for development is immense.
We need to change
Housing, shopping, roads, farms, and warehouses are all in high demand in many places. Our priorities need to change. Market forces cannot continue to control how our land is used. Business as usual is no longer leading us toward progress, but rather toward a global ecological collapse. Nature must be front and center in our communities.
Indigenous peoples have largely been ignored in the conservation and restoration communities. And while many efforts are starting to seek contributions from local communities, both local conservation groups and the global community should look to indigenous peoples in their search for ways to live sustainably.
Climate change is a tricky subject, especially when we start to involve kids. How do we explain it to kids? Is there a moral implication to having kids? What kind of problems will our kids have to face? And what kid-friendly activities can we do to fight climate change?
What is climate change? The kid friendly definition.
Climate change used to be called global warming – it’s the same thing. The whole planet is getting a little hotter every year. And it’s happening so slow you can barely even notice it, but people are starting to. NASA has proven global warming and has a thorough guide for kids.
The reason the name is now climate change is because the warmer temperatures aren’t the main problems that people are noticing. But the warm temperatures are causing other problems in the climate, like
more frequent and worse storms
sea level rise
droughts and famines in parts of the world
Global warming is making the Earth a harder place to live for many animals, including humans, as well as plants and fungi. And the way that climate change is currently going, there is little doubt that it could cause the collapse of our society or even human extinction unless things change very quickly.
Climate anxiety in kids
If you’re an adult, think about growing up in a world that is headed for major problems. You might start to notice the climate mentioned on the news by 5 or 6 years old, and by 9 or 10 you would be learning about climate change in school. Schools have a responsibility to teach about current events, and this is one of the biggest. And as you reach your teenage years, you will start to wonder why we are still on this trajectory. Decades of scientific research have predicted major problems due to climate change. If our parents haven’t been able to fix this, how can we?
For some kids, the threat of climate change becomes a source of anxiety. And this ever-present source of bad news starts to enter every aspect of their daily life. They may see an airplane in the sky and worry about its emissions. Or a thunderstorm reminds them that the weather is more extreme thanks to climate change.
And dissatisfaction with the government is linked to climate anxiety. Kids perceive that governments are failing to act to halt climate change. This combined with anxiety can lead to strong feelings of anger, fear, and sadness.
How to handle climate anxiety
Mental health is easy to ignore, especially with the distraction of social media. And distractions have quickly become much more prevalent in our lives (e.g. the Metaverse). So escapism is also extremely prominent in our culture. But dealing with the climate crisis requires presence in the real world. For some, it may take help from a mental health professional to get to this point.
Reminder for anyone who is feeling climate anxiety: nobody knows what is going to happen. Yes, the predictions are bad. Yes, the politics are next to impossible. And no, the status quo does not want to do much about climate change. But any of that could change next year, or tomorrow. And we have no control and no way of knowing what could happen.
The only thing you can control is your intention. Do you intend to do something about climate change (such as unlawning)? You aren’t obligated to do more than you want to. And you don’t need to worry about the “best” way to fight climate change. But you should find some ways that work for you, and then go do them.
The anti-natal movement
Climate change is closely linked to the global population. The number of humans alive on the planet has been on a very sharp upward trend over the last few hundred years. This boom has been driven almost entirely by readily available energy in the form of fossil fuels. People began to use fossil fuels during the industrial revolution to grow our civilization, farms, economy, and population. But these fuels emitted carbon, and each generation continued to grow its footprint and economy along with its emissions of greenhouse gasses.
Now, the human population is almost 8 billion people, worldwide. And each one has a “carbon footprint.” Some argue that reducing the population is necessary to stop and reverse climate change. And the logical way to reduce the population is to choose to stop having kids.
It’s hard to argue with the logic that decreasing the population would probably decrease carbon emissions. But there are also compelling reasons to have a child, and it is a personal choice. And if you do have children, don’t feel guilty about their carbon footprint. Instead, make sure they understand their relationship with nature and what they need to know about climate change.
The future that kids face thanks to climate change
Climate change-related predictions are now common in disciplines like economics, sociology, and ecology. And few of those predictions are good. Kids today will inherit challenges ranging from the loss of coral reefs to climate refugee housing. And the implications of climate change for jobs and the economy, reliable food systems, and clean air in the future are all disturbing.
If we don’t do anything to slow the rate of climate change, out kids will inherit some of the worst case scenario outcomes. And they will need to adapt to a quickly changing world. It could become common for children to grow up facing personal difficulty like hunger, expensive housing, and water shortages.
Kids should prepare for a life with the impacts of climate change, and we should help them. Preparing for natural disasters is a good way to start. Slowing climate change down is not necessarily within our control. But we can try to support local farmers, protect and restore local wildlife habitat, and insulate or flood-proof our homes. These actions help protect our homes and neighborhoods from some of the predicted effects of climate change.
Kids want to fight climate change
It seems like kids can have boundless energy. And kids love to help with problems. But kids need guidance and help to put that energy into a problem in a way that helps. Parents and teachers can play a vital role in helping kids channel aggressive feelings or anxiety into fighting climate change.
Each generation of our culture seems to become less and less connected to nature. But kids used to grow up playing in the woods. One of the benefits of unlawning is that it creates opportunities to connect with nature close to home.
When kids form a close connection with nature, they are able to share that with others. And they can help other kids who are interested in climate change understand how they can help in their own life.