threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Revoke legislation which obligates maximising economic recovery of UK oil & gas: petition to government

The UK Infrastructure Act 2015 makes it a legal obligation to “maximise economic recovery of UK petroleum” – committing this and future governments to maximise emissions from UK fossil fuels.

At the same time, they have legal obligations to minimise them: essential because of the climate crisis.


The Infrastructure Act was passed in 2015. 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/41/enacted

The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008.
It is legally-binding national legislation to address climate change. UK also signed the Paris Agreement.

More on UK legal duties on climate change:
https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/the-legal-landscape/

Prof. James Hansen on the planetary emergency:
https://planb.earth/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Hansen-letter-to-general-public.pdf

Both Acts appear to contradict one another and the Infrastructure Act operates against the need to be reducing (or stopping altogether) the use of fossil fuels.

Please read all the links and the letter above and sign the petition.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/259116

At 10,000 signatures…

At 10,000 signatures, the UK government will respond to the petition

At 100,000 signatures…

At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament



 


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Forest Green Rovers football club goes green

This story is from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/d66ba036-763a-11e9-be7d-6d846537acab?accessToken=zwAAAWrvAwJokdPWa6A2djoR6dO-fW2EZTesqw.MEUCIDcuKj_Zv-m_cQyY3cchi6pdngx7mG2VVnl0685tqNrQAiEAvhOM4ThGqbRuLj8yAFIF2M6BTgAqsVPOkDKMwewIIRQ&sharetype=gift?token=1bc4775c-e348-4f02-9c36-4c6172949925

Above the leafy Gloucestershire town of Nailsworth, is a football stadium: “The New Lawn”. It has solar panels on the stands, electric charging points in the car park, and a green Union Jack flag outside the ground. This is the home of Forest Green Rovers, the first football club certified by the United Nations as carbon neutral.

The team, in League Two, the fourth tier of English professional football, plays on an organic pitch in a stadium powered by renewable energy. And fans eat from an all-vegan menu. Dale Vince, the club’s chairman, is the founder of green energy company, Ecotricity, based in nearby Stroud, Gloucestershire. It is a business that has turned him into a multi-millionaire.

He acquired the 130-year-old football club in 2010, when it was on brink of bankruptcy, and began transforming it along environmental principles. Forest Green Rovers’ green credentials have created a unique selling point that has gained the attention of businesses. The club made half of its nearly £5m in revenues last year through sponsorship from like-minded companies, such as Quorn, the makers of vegan food, and Grundon, a waste management and recycling group.

Vince said: “Businesses are trying to get with the new agenda. They see the need to green themselves up, to green their products up, because they see that’s what people want.”  This agenda has transformed Forest Green Rovers into one of the best resourced clubs in League Two. Its cash has allowed it to fund a team representing a town with a population of 5,000 — the smallest place to host an English professional league team — that can punch far above its weight. According to the consultancy Deloitte, League Two clubs on average make £3.8m in revenue, far less than Forest Green Rovers, meaning rival teams have less to spend on players. However, this month, the club lost to Tranmere Rovers in the end-of-season playoffs, missing out on being promoted to League One for another year.

forestgreenrovers

Still, Mr Vince’s ambition is for Forest Green Rovers to steadily rise up the divisions and reach the Championship, the tier below the Premier League. As part of plans to achieve that goal, the club will learn in the coming weeks if it has received planning permission for a new 5,000-seater stadium made entirely from timber. “Wood is the most sustainable material that you can build with and concrete is possibly the least,” said Mr Vince. “It will be the lowest carbon footprint stadium anywhere in the world, probably since the Romans invented concrete.”

In the meantime, the club wants to set a green example for others to follow. Mr Vince has been advising the English Football League, and Uefa, European football’s governing body, to develop sustainability plans for clubs based on the innovations brought to Forest Green Rovers in recent years. These include renewable energy for football facilities. About 20 per cent of The New Lawn’s power is supplied by the solar panels installed on its stands, with the remainder coming from other renewable sources, such as wind power. The club’s groundsman uses an automatic, solar-powered electric lawnmower which each day cuts a pitch fed with Scottish seaweed rather than artificial fertilisers. Drains under the turf gather rainwater which is then reused around the grounds.

Mr Vince faced initial outcry from fans after he removed red meat from the club’s match-day stalls but said supporters have come to appreciate its vegan menu, which has also attracted a new breed of fans. One favourite is the Q-Pie, a Quorn and leek pastry with soya béchamel white sauce. The club chef’s latest creation is a vegan sausage roll, which Mr Vince insists is far superior to the version recently introduced by Greggs, the high street bakery.

From next season, the club will further add to its environmental credentials with a plan to “carbon offset” every fan’s travel to the ground by slightly increasing ticket prices and using the additional money to fund projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “Everything we’ve done is really easy to do,” said Mr Vince. “Put solar panels on your roof . . . take meat and dairy out of menus, even just occasionally, it’s not hard to do. Organic pitches, low-energy lightbulbs, banning single-use plastics . . . everything we’ve done here is scalable.”



 


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Soil organic matter and its role in climate change mitigation

This is a paper published in July 2018 by Mark Measures:

https://info925698.wixsite.com/mark-measures/single-post/2018/07/20/Soil-Organic-Matter-and-its-role-in-climate-change-mitigation

Further down this page is other, more recent work from India showing similar conclusion. But first, here is a direct copy, with acknowledgements, from Mark Measures’ website:

“Soil organic matter (SOM) is the focus of much attention in both organic farming and conventional circles; conventional arable farmers have finally woken up to the fact that SOM is important and that poor rotations and lack of organic matter inputs might be something to do with their poor soil structure and static or declining yields. Organic farmers have always believed that SOM is important, not just for soil structure but also for mineralisation, which results in nitrogen release, needed for crop growth and they have in the back of their minds the idea that SOM has something to do with pest and disease control. More recently it has been realised that SOM plays an important part in overall soil biological activity and nutrient release. The potential for carbon sequestration and for the soil to function as a carbon sink has led some to think that SOM can play an important and major role in reducing green house gases and addressing climate change.

Many organic farming practices will contribute organic matter to the soil; grass clover leys, use of farmyard manure, compost, green waste, cover crops and green manures will all contribute to SOM. The extent to which these inputs will result in a net sequestration of carbon is dependant on how they are processed in the soil, the level of nitrogen input and C:N ratio, on the initial SOM levels, on cultivations, soil type and climate. The evidence for long-term on-going carbon sequestration from organic farming is not clear-cut and categorical statements that organic farming will have a significant impact on green house gasses and climate change should be treated with caution.

The fate of organic matter, or carbon, added to the soil is particularly dependant on its form; fresh manure and slurry will contribute little to the build-up of SOM, but it will supply readily decomposable material that will provide nutrients to the plants. Compost, on the other hand will provide a more stable form of organic matter, which will contribute to SOM build up. Mineralisation is the oxidation of the chemical compounds in organic matter by the soil microorganisms, in the process releasing nutrients, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur in a form available for plant uptake, together with the release of carbon dioxide. This process of mineralisation is brought about by cultivations and aeration and is absolutely central and fundamental to providing the nutrients for organic crop production.

Humus is an important component of SOM and of compost. Humus is relatively stable and is primarily the result of fungal decomposition of lignin and has many roles in the soil including water holding, soil structure and nutrient retention.

Farms that use well-made composted manure or green waste will tend to build SOM, while fresh or once turned FYM and green manures will not result in the same build up of SOM. They will of course be tremendously important for providing nutrients in a plant available form, either directly or indirectly as a result of biological breakdown. Multiple cultivations, whether that is ploughing or repeated use of cultivators will tend to deplete organic matter as it encourages mineralisation.

Soil type will have a major impact on SOM accumulation potential; dry, light sandy soils will tend to be difficult to build SOM and such soil in an arable rotation will often have naturally low levels of 1.5 – 2.5%, unless they have evolved under acidic conditions in which case levels of 6 – 10% may be found. Clay loam soils in the UK will typically have SOM in the range of 3 – 4.5%. Clay soils will tend to have higher SOM than other soil types.

Finally we need to recognise that the SOM accumulation reaches some equilibrium. Depending on the soil type, management practices, organic inputs, rotation and the cultivations used the accumulation of SOM will tail off at some point; it is not realistic to expect to be able to increase SOM from say 4% to 10% under normal farming practices, an equilibrium will be reached before that.

Does organic farming increase SOM?

The evidence from farm experience in the UK is limited because there has been very little thorough and reliable monitoring; inconsistent sampling methods and field locations, changes in analytical methods and infrequent sampling are all a problem. Experience from the arable organic farms that I have worked with is that sometimes, but not always, SOM levels initially increase following conversion to organic farming from continuous non-organic arable cropping; an example from Holme Lacy College shows an increase from 2.7 to 3.1% over 10 years, and average of 0.04% SOM per year. Experience elsewhere is that subsequently increases are small.

Replicated research over long periods of time is a more reliable indication. The 40-year-old DOK trial at FiBL (Switzerland) compares conventional, organic and biodynamic systems.

Table 1. DOK-trial soil carbon

The results after 35 years, Table 1. show that SOM levels have declined slightly in all four treatments. The conventional and the organic treatments are not significantly different, however it would be expected that if the conventional had followed a continuous cropping  rotation that this would have resulted in a greater decline and that the difference between the organic and the conventional would be expected to be greater. The biodynamic treatment resulted in a small but significantly higher level of SOM than the conventional or the organic; this may be a result of the use of well-composted manure rather than the fresh manure in the organic.

Interestingly there is a significant difference in the soil microbial biomass between some treatments, Table 2., Showing that Organic (O2) and Biodynamic (D2) has greater biomass than Conventional both with manure (M) and without manure (N).

Table 2. FiBL DOK-trial Microbial Biomass

The Aarhus University (Denmark) farming systems trial was set up in 1997  on 3 sites, the one at Foulum continues to run. A replicated trial compares organic using both green manure and manure with a continuous cropping non-organic rotation. While there are significantly higher levels of carbon inputs to the soil under organic management and there is indication that a one-year green manure with residues returned does increase SOM, overall the conclusion is “not able to detect consistent differences in measured Soil Organic Carbon between systems”.

The Rodale Farming Systems Trial (USA) has been running since 1981, it is a replicated trial comparing an organic manure system with an organic legume system with a conventional continuous arable cropping system.  Table 3. The SOM levels in both the organic systems increased from 3.5% to approximately 4.25% in the first 20 years (0.37%/year) thereafter stabilising or in the case of the organic legume system subsequently declining to approximately 3.9%. The conventional has shown some recent decline to approximately 3.3%. In the absence of trial data and peer-reviewed papers it is not possible to know the statistical significance of these results.

Table 3. Rodale SOM levels

The Scotland Rural College  (SRUC) organic systems trial was set up in 1991 following a period of conventional ley arable farming. The results, Table 4.  show over a period of 20 years that organic ley-arable under a rotation of 50% ley, 50% arable maintains SOM, but that under the prevailing conditions SOM did not increase, even during the conversion period. This reflects the previous cropping regime and the fact that these are inherently high SOM soils, in the order of 8%. The stockless organic rotation introduced 8 years ago indicates a slight decline in SOM, but which may not be significant.

Table  4-.Tulloch rotational train, SRUC Aberdeen Soil Organic Matter

The conclusion of the review of available evidence undertaken by Organic Research Centre in 2011 is that:

  1. Organic cropping systems have considerable potential for increasing soil carbon, through the incorporation of fertility building grass-clover leys and use of livestock manures within diverse crop rotations, when compared with specialist (e.g.: monoculture) cropping systems;

  2. The exact amount of carbon that can be sequestered through organic management of cropping systems is still uncertain, due to the disparity in assessment methods, and farming/land-use systems;

  3. The difference between the wide range of organic and conventional farm types is not yet clear, partly because of the current difficulty in defining these systems and their individual characteristics;

  4. Organic management of grassland is unlikely to increase soil carbon levels over those from conventional management, but the reliance on legumes and biological instead of industrial nitrogen fixation will still have a positive impact on climate change mitigation through reduced fossil energy use and related carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions

The ratio of Clay to SOM is considered important by some of authorities (Agroscope and Aarhus University) and it may be a more important measure of the need and potential to increase SOM levels than SOM% per se.

Claims that the practice of Mob Grazing results in substantial increase in organic in the order of a change from 3 to 5% over 3 or 4 years have not been substantiated under UK conditions.

The use of very high levels e.g. 50 tonnes/ha/year of imported manure, compost or green waste will undoubtedly result in SOM increase over time, up to a point, but that is not typical of organic farming.

The studies that I have seen have focused on arable systems, the situation with permanent pastures is very different, and soils under permanent pasture generally have higher SOM and will have developed an equilibrium. This higher level may be due to both the lack of cultivations and the use of manures and fertilisers as well as forage residues. In my experience there is very little difference in SOM levels between conventional and organic management of permanent pastures.

Conclusions

Based on the evidence of the three farming systems trials visited under the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2017/18, the results of the SRUC trials, my personal experience and the review of research by Organic Research Centre I draw the following conclusions.

  1. SOM is important for soil physical, biological and nutrient reasons and mineralisation of SOM is particularly important in organic farming.

  2.  The following practises will all tend to increase SOM: Grass clover leys, farmyard manure, compost rather than fresh manure, green waste, over-winter cover crops and annual green manures.

  3. The following will tend to decrease SOM: cultivations, continuous cropping, nitrogen supply.

  4. Given that organic arable farming involves many of the beneficial practises identified above, there is likely to be some advantage to organic farming during conversion from conventional,  continuous cropping conventional farming, particularly where longer leys are involved.

  5. There is no evidence that organic arable farming offers potential for on-going, long term sequestration of carbon in the soil. The indications are that increased SOM levels of between 0 and 0.4% per year may be possible during the first 10 – 20 years of organic conversion, but that this depends on the initial SOM levels, soil type and management practices.  Thereafter increases are unlikely.

  6. SOM is likely to be higher under some established organic arable rotations than under conventional rotations, but this is not necessarily so and will depend on various management practices, particularly the length of the ley and use of compost.

  7. 65% of organic farms in the UK are permanent pasture, not in an arable rotation. These farms are unlikely to show a significant difference between conventional farms.

  8. Organic arable farming has higher levels of soil microbial biomass compared to conventional. Organic farmers wanting to improve crop productivity should focus on improving the quality and biological activity of their soils rather than merely focusing on total SOM.

  9. Given the wide range of results from arable system comparisons and the fact that the majority of organic farming in the UK is permanent grassland claims that organic farming will contribute significantly to climate change mitigation through carbon sinks should be avoided.

  10. Climate change mitigation is one the principle challenges of our time and needs to be addressed by a radical change in the food and farming system as a whole, including food distribution and with a particular focus on drastic reduction in use of fossil fuels. Organic food and farming systems offer the best agricultural system to do that. Soil carbon sinks play a supporting role.”

Mark Measures July 2018

References

FiBL Dossier No 1. August 2000 Organic Farming enhances soil fertility and biodiversity (online) https://shop.fibl.org/CHde/1090-doc.html?ref=1

Fliessbach A. 2017 Okologi-Kongres Denmark Comparison of organic and no-organic farming systems in the DOK trial (online) https://okologi-kongres.dk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/G2-Fliessbach_DOK_Kolding2017.pdf

Hu T., Sorensen P., Olesen J E. Soil 2018 Carbon varies between different organic and conventional management schemes in arable agriculture. European Journal of Agronomy 94 (2018) 79-88 (online) http://orgprints.org/32999/7/1-s2.0-S1161030118300108-main.pdf

Moyer J. 2008 Farming System Trial A 34 Year Old Living Laboratory https://ostafjells.nlr.no/media/ring/1209/Jordkarbon/Norway%2035%20years%20of%20FST.PDF

 Smith L., Padel S., Pearce B. 2011 Organic Centre Wales Soil Carbon Sequestration and Organic Farming: an overview of current evidence. http://www.organicresearchcentre.com/manage/authincludes/article_uploads/Organic%20farming%20soil%20carbon_6.0.pdf

B.R. Taylor, D. Younie, S. Matheson, M. Coutts, C. Mayer, C. A. Watson and R. L. Walker 2006 Output and sustainability of organic ley/arable crop rotations at two sites in northern Scotland

C. A. Watson & J. A. Baddeley & A. C. Edwards & R. M. Rees & R. L. Walker & C. F. E. Topp 2011 Influence of ley duration on the yield and quality of the subsequent cereal crop (spring oats) in an organically managed long-term crop rotation experiment



Towards a Global Organic Future

Devinder Sharma, in The Tribune (May 1, 2019) stressed the paramount importance of working towards a sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.

 A few months earlier – to set the scene – Kiran Pandey and Rajit Sengupta had recorded that India is home to 30% of the total organic producers in the world, according to the World of Organic Agriculture 2018 report, but most are struggling due to poor policy measures, rising input costs and limited market (a study by ASSOCHAM and Ernst & Young). 

Sharma points out that, at a time when global temperatures are soaring, the latest study by a French think tank – Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) – has shown that agro-ecological farming alone has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 47% and thereby keep global temperature rise below 2degrees.

Continueshttps://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/towards-a-global-organic-future-devinder-sharma/



80% of the world’s food is produced by small farmers – the rest comes from industrial farms

“Don’t industrial farms produce most of the world’s food?” A reader drew attention to this question posed by Fiona Harvey in the Guardian.

Her answer: “No. There are more than 570m farms worldwide; more than 90% are run by an individual or family and rely primarily on family labour. They produce about 80% of the world’s food”. (Below, small farmers in America.)

Continues: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/80-of-the-worlds-food-is-produced-by-small-farmers-the-rest-comes-from-industrial-farm



Please also see the website on vermecology by Rob B. which looks at the role of earthworms for organic farming:

https://vermecology.wordpress.com/

Rob has also commented on this website, as follows:

Hello Christine, Appreciate the work you are doing and the word you are spreading. My take, as one of a dying breed of soil ecologists, is to promote organic farming/permaculture and to focus on earthworms as monitors/mediators. We have know that these problems would bite for over a century (Sir Albert Howard/Lady Eve Balfour). Personally I started research in 1980 and for the longest time thought I was talking to myself. My latest paper had 3,000 hits in a month, so there is now some interest in the critical loss of earthworms and the need for healthy soil restoration.

http://www.mdpi.com/2571-8789/2/2/33

Unfortunately it does not yet translate into proper funding nor policy change. Cheers, Rob B



 

And today (8th Aug 19), I received a forwarded email from Devinder Sharma, from India, entitled:

“Protect the soil the way we protect tigers”

Here is the rest of his posting:

“The alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time now. Reports after reports warning of a continuing degradation of India’s soils – the foundation of assiduously built food security and more importantly the healthy well-being of the country — have been conveniently swept under the carpet.

Added to this monumental blunder of allowing the wilful devastation of land resources in the name of economic growth lies the threat awaiting in the form of climate change. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) — the global body which governs the international agricultural research centres — has conclusively established that agriculture, livestock and deforestation together account for 41% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Intensive cropping patterns, unbalanced nutrient application, injudicious use of pesticides and mining of groundwater has turned the soils sick. What is not being understood is that a sick soil cannot produce a healthy generation.

In August 2016, a report of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), estimated that nearly 30% of the country’s land – more than 4 times the size of UK – is faced with desertification. That desertification continues to prevail in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan and in some parts of Haryana was quite well-known but the fact that desertification had encroached on more than 50% of the land in states like Jharkhand, Gujarat, Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan is more worrying. Even the hilly states of Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and other states of northeast India as well as Orissa are now fast getting into a desertification spiral.

This report comes two years after the 5th National Report on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in 2014 had warned of nearly 45% of country’s total land, 146.82 million hectares of the total 329 million hectares, suffering from various degrees of land degradation, including water erosion (93.68 million hectares), wind erosion (9.48 million hectares), waterlogging (14.30 million hectares), salinity or alkalinity (5.94 million hectares), soil acidity and other complex reasons . . .

Studies point to some 5.3 billion tonnes of soil getting eroded every year, much of it from water and wind erosion. Of this, 29% was permanently lost to the sea, 10% was deposited in reservoirs, reducing their storage capacity and 61% got shifted from one place to another. While this results in tremendous loss in productive capacity of soil, it also helps in expanding the area under deserts. The more the green cover is lost to deforestation and urbanisation, the more is the barren land exposed to soil erosion. In Haryana, for instance, accompanied by strong winds shifting of sand dunes have often resulted in cultivated lands being encroached upon.

The priorities of successive governments have been in complete contrast to what has been spelled out in the numerous environment documents since the 1st Plan

Beginning with the 1st Five Year Plan, the thrust has been on ‘land rehabilitation’ thereby showing that the planners were seized of the crisis that was expected to build up in the years to come. Numerous Ministries and departments, including the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Water Resources; Ministry of Rural Development had framed a number of policies wherein the effort was to contain soil degradation . . . (but) over the years the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has been on the forefront of bringing in policy directives that actually have undermined the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of land resources. Recent changes introduced silently by the environment ministry, tribal affairs ministry and the mines ministry to redefine forests in a bid to bypass the forest and environment clearances required for mining companies, needing several thousand hectares of mineable area, is one such example . . .

If the soil is unhealthy, you may be sure your food is also unhealthy

It has often been said that you are what you eat. And what you eat depends on how healthy and nutritious the soil is. After all the plants derive their nutrition from the soil, and if the soils are unhealthy be sure your food too is unhealthy. Ask any farmer the difference between an organically-rich healthy soil and a chemically farmed soil, and he will tell you how enriching it is to work with nature. Healthy soil not only supports biodiversity – more bees, more earthworms, more birds – restricts run-off and erosion, and is also is also a storehouse for soil nutrients and carbon.

Soils are predominantly rich in three major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. In addition, it also provides 16 micro-nutrients, including iron, molybedenum, calcium and zinc. But because of intensive farming practices, like having a continuous cropping pattern of wheat and rice, interspersed with potato and vegetables, like we see in Punjab, the organic content in the soils have been exhausted. In Punjab and for that matter in other Green Revolution areas, the organic matter in the soil has almost come down to 0.1 %. This means farmers are left with no option but to apply more of chemical fertilizers to produce the same harvest they used to produce five years back.

Excessive use of chemical fertilizers, especially nitrogen in the form of urea fertilizer has led to nutrient imbalance in the soils

Moreover, the effective uptake of nitrogen by plants from the urea that is applied does not exceed 30%. Rest of the chemically applied nitrogen seeps underground causing contamination of groundwater. The problem got compounded with agricultural universities recommending more application of chemical fertilizers as the way forward to meet the nutrient deficiency arising from intensive farming. At no stage did the universities and the extension officials of the State Department of Agriculture advise farmers to take up integrated farming practices that include the application of organic manures and green compost in adequate proportions.

Continuous application of chemical fertilizers along with mechanized farming has compacted the soils. In many places, a solid layer has been formed almost a foot below the surface thereby restricting the spread of plant roots. Organic cultivation practices on the other hand turn the soil porous, which allows for an enabling environment for soil microbes. One indicator of a healthy soil is the percentage of earthworms visible in the soil. The more the number of earthworms, the healthier is the soil.

A soil health card for every farmer

The thrust on making available a soil health card for every farmer suffers from the same deficiency in approach. It is designed primarily to ensure that farmers apply balanced doses of chemical fertilizers. I would have preferred a soil health card that measures the organic content in the soils and accordingly makes suggestion on how to improve the strength and structure of soils. At a time when chemical fertilizers, especially nitrogen fertilizers, have been found to be acerbating greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate changes, the emphasis should be on reducing its application.

I have always advocated subsidizing organic manure, bio-pesticides and working out a separate price policy for organic produce which incentivizes organic farming

It is important to understand the political economy that promotes chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It has been generally accepted that fertiliser subsidy is fertilizers and pesticides. It has been generally accepted that fertiliser subsidy is the major determinant of land degradation. Although there have been efforts to reduce subsidies on chemical fertilizers, especially phosphorous and potash, but still due to political reasons and lobbying by farmers groups, it has not been possible to cut down subsidies on fertilizers in a desirable manner. This makes organic farming systems unattractive to farmers. Numerous studies, both nationally and at the international levels, have conclusively shown that business as usual is not the right approach. To provide healthy food, protect environment and ensure proper soil management, the time is ripe to radically overhaul the crop cultivation practices. An international study – backed by World Bank and United Nations and involving more than 400 scientists globally – called IAASTD in short – has shown that crop production by non-chemical practices goes up steadily and is the only sustainable path ahead.

Studies have shown that 1% reduction in fertilizer subsidy reduces land degradation by 3%.

This is a startling analysis and should be driving the national agricultural policies, including the research priorities. While population density and poverty ratio, the coefficients of both are statistically significant, are normally also thought to be responsible for land degradation, a study done by Mythili Gurumurthy (2015) show that these two variables cannot be held as reasons for land degradation. The results of poverty ratio-land degradation link also corroborate the results of other studies that poor are victims rather than cause of land degradation.

Feeding the soils with organic manure, and laying out a well-working drainage system, which increases water use efficiency are required to protect soil erosion as well as to maintain soil fertility. But more importantly, policy makers have to understand that rebuilding the soil health is a precursor to meeting the food requirements for a growing population in the future, and at the same time a healthy soil is a determinant for a healthy population.

Take the case of China. Hit by a significant drop in food production this year in the wake of rapid urbanization, it has now vowed to protect arable lands. China aims to retain at least 124.33 million hectares of arable land in 2020, with no less than 53.3 million hectares of high-quality farmlands, news agency Reuters reported. In India, nearly 45 % of the cultivable land is faced with degradation and the country has still to wake up to the looming threat.

“Farmland should be protected the way we protect pandas,” stated a spokesperson for the Chinese government. India too should launch a nation-wide programme to save and protect soils the way it protects tigers.”


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The transition to a sustainable world: a call on scientists etc to work together

Transition Lab calls on scientists, engineers, data experts and volunteers of all ages to work together to address climate change and ecological collapse.

labimage

Transition Lab was created to give people the opportunity to address climate change and ecological collapse in the absence of adequate national or international government policy. With modern communication technology they will organise millions of volunteers to support the important work that must begin immediately.

Their job is to scale the response to this challenge, and support the organisations already on the front lines with much needed expertise.

Mission:

To create a voluntary project on the scale of CERN or the International Space Station

Transition Lab’s core mission is to place a range of people – willing scientists, engineers, highly skilled people and volunteers – directly with projects seeking to mitigate climate change, ecosystem collapse and climate change adaptation. We hope that highly trained experts will take paid or unpaid leave, take a sabbatical, take up fellowships or simply show up to help address this urgent crisis.

This work can happen independently with our own planned projects or with existing NGOs projects, corporations, local authorities, communities or any organisation that has declared a climate emergency. Our first task is to create models of how a major transition of energy, transportation and natural system management might significantly improve with large scale volunteer support.

Plans

Phase 1: Immediate objectives

•  Find technology partnerships to implement the placement/fellowship system.

•  Lobby Universities UK to declare climate emergency and support academics willing to join Transition Lab.

•  Form core working groups (ecological restoration, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, renewable energy scaling, electric transport scaling, economic transition).

Build models for how our plans might impact current efforts.



Further details are on the Transition Lab website:

Contact details for those wishing to be involved or to receive a newsletter:

Mr Richard Dent: Project director, communications strategy
richard@transitionlab.earth

Dr Alison Green: Academic outreach, curriculum development
alison@transitionlab.earth



 


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Mothers Rise Up actions

Families march for action on climate change

The Mothers Rise Up march in central London was co-ordinated with events across the UK and in other countries

Hundreds of families were led on a march by a group of 11-year-olds yesterday to demand urgent action on climate change.

Representing the supposed 11-year window to act on the climate emergency, the 11 youngsters were accompanied by three giant prams containing globes, two painted like the Earth and another painted brown as if scorched.

The Mothers Rise Up march went from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, with speakers including the television presenter Konnie Huq, the comedian Shappi Khorsandi and the activist Farhana Yamin. Similar marches took place across the country and in Cyprus, the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic and Australia.

Elliott Powell, one of the youngsters leading the march, told the crowd he did not believe that he had a future.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, of Lewisham, south London, whose daughter Ella, nine, died of an asthma attack in 2013, told the crowds: “If you deal with air pollution it means you will also deal with climate change. Everyone here needs to be bothered about the impact of air pollution. My daughter died a very, very horrible death. If you live near a main road you should be angry.”



Extinction Rebellion also held a bike ride through central Birmingham recently to call for action on climate change.  Several children and whole families joined the ride.

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UK Committee on Climate Change says we need to curb airline emissions

There has been much concern over the Government’s plans to expand Heathrow airport, by adding another runway.  The concern is not just being expressed by people living locally to the airport but also those who want the UK to reduce its carbon emissions.

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British Airways plane coming in to land over houses near Heathrow Airport

A piece in this week’s New Scientist” by Adam Vaughan sets out some of the actions the UK needs to take if it is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A bar chart in his article shows that aviation in the UK emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector (31.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), with agriculture coming second.

See: New Scientist No. 3229, 11th May 2019.

The advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendations have also been commented on by the BBC on their website.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48233548

They also focus on aviation and the planned Heathrow airport expansion. A senior civil servant has said that ministers may have to review their aviation strategy.  And other environmental groups have said that the decision on Heathrow expansion should be brought back to Parliament.

It is a crucial time for flying, with policy on aviation right up to 2050 currently out for consultation.

When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. But the CCC recently raised the bar of ambition in recommending that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050. That will mean compensating for any greenhouse gases by either capturing the CO2 and storing it, or planting more trees.

Under the previous 80% scenario, aviation had a privileged position. Its expansion would be counter-balanced by additional CO2 cuts in other sectors, like industry.

The CCC makes it clear this is not an option any more in a zero-carbon Britain.



 


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New UN report states that 1,000 species are at risk of extinction

A UN Report launched in Paris yesterday (6th May 2019) is the result of 3 years of study of species across the world.  It concludes that up to 1,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction and that things are happening faster than we realised.

UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

Other notable findings of the Report include:

  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591-595) – a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

The Report also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others. It highlights the importance of, among others, adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.

Also identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.

The Chair of the panel launching the report, Sir Robert Watson is quoted as saying, “The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. “We have lost time. We must act now.”

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Sir Bob Watson, Chair of IPBES

David Obura, one of the main authors on the report and a global authority on corals, said: “We tried to document how far in trouble we are and to focus people’s minds, but also to say it is not too late if we put a huge amount into transformational behavioural change. This is fundamental to humanity. We are not just talking about nice species out there; this is our life-support system.”

Three-quarters of all land has been turned into farm fields, covered by concrete, swallowed up by dam reservoirs or otherwise significantly altered. Two-thirds of the marine environment has also been changed by fish farms, shipping routes, sub-sea mines and other projects. Three-quarters of rivers and lakes are used for crop or livestock cultivation. As a result, more than 500,000 species have insufficient habitats for long-term survival. Many are on course to disappear within decades.

Further information can be found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/23/destruction-of-nature-as-dangerous-as-climate-change-scientists-warn



Since 1992, the world’s urban area has doubled – largely at the expense of tropical forests, wetlands and grasslands – a process that is decoupling our consumption habits from the means of production, and severing our understanding of our dependency on the natural world.

“There are people that really understand the linkage, although they don’t live it,” says Sebsebe Demissew, professor of plant systematics and biodiversity at Addis Ababa university. He has spent decades collecting and documenting plants across Africa, often working with indigenous and traditional peoples.

“But there are other people that don’t even think that nature’s contribution to people is so important, because sometimes if you are in town what you are really concerned about is what bread or something would cost, rather than its effect on a poor farmer.”

Prof. Sebsebe Demissew, of Addis Ababa University



 

In short, what is happening can be described by the subtitle of my book “Human Activity and the destruction of the planet.”

Is it too late to reverse the trend? Many of my colleagues in the climate action movement fear it is too late, though others are hopeful that we can turn the corner. But it needs a global realisation of the significance of climate change and loss of biodiversity.



Alan Simpson, a previous Labour MP and now advisor to the Labour party on environmental issues, has written the following in the Morning Star:

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/climate-jesus-versus-pharisees

It is entitled “Climate Jesus versus the Pharisees”, with the sub-heading:

We need to stop building more runways, motorways, or shopping malls and replant forests, green our cities and give pollinators places to feed, breed and shelter in.

Alan Simpson

Alan Simpson

“As political parties dust themselves down after the drubbing of local government elections, the good news is that all the answers are to be found in bigger, rather than smaller, issues.  Climate, not Brexit, is the key.

We live in revolutionary times. And we have our children to thank for still filling them with hope rather than despair.

The unthinkable is happening. Parliament, public institutions and the press are waking to the fact that climate change can only be constrained by systems change. This recognition is still in its infancy, but it is already unstoppable.

I recently came across an early version of what will have to be every (credible) party’s next election manifesto. Pasted up on a wall was a simple drawing of an elephant, with the words “climate change” on its back. It summed up what all future political choices revolve around: climate change is the elephant in the room.

Labour can pride itself for having introduced the world’s first Climate Change Act, and for passing the first “climate emergency declaration,” but we shouldn’t pretend that Parliament wasn’t “bounced” into doing so.

Since the 2017 general election, there have been ample opportunities for MPs to show real political leadership on the climate crisis. They never did. Instead, Parliament has preferred to play Trivial Pursuit with Brexit absurdities.

Social movements had to step into the vacuum; addressing the big picture issues politicians had been choosing to ignore. They, and they alone, have been the ones insisting that existential threat to human existence forms the centrepiece of political debate. Across the planet, this has been a debate shaped from outside parliaments, not inside.

We now know how much we owe to our children for doing so. But while the kids may have written the script, they weren’t alone. “One Planet” documentaries helped. So too did insightful journalism, climate physicists and church leaders. With the latest protests taking place over Easter it was really helpful for church leaders to have pointed out that, though protesters were undoubtedly breaking the law, Christ too had entered Jerusalem knowing he would face prosecution. Ultimately, however, it was the creative irreverence of Extinction Rebellion (XR) that has turned this into a movement that cannot be stopped.

In place of derision, Greta Thunberg is no longer the lonely child outside an indifferent parliament. Without vanity, she trailed an uncompromising challenge to every adult Establishment on the planet. The abuse she received from parts of the press that continue to be at the heart of the problem merely accelerated the growth of the movement.

Britain’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) would not have had the political space to bring forward their own “pull your finger out” report without the occupations that brought London streets to a halt. Nor would they have been listened to. The latest UN report on species extinctions now gets treated as evidence, not argument.
Politicians of all shades queue up, calling for a programme to deliver the CCC rescue plan.

Few grasp the upheavals involved (or that, in itself, this will still not be enough). Over 60 per cent of what the CCC calls for involves behaviour change; all of which is doable. What they duck is that you won’t get behaviour change without systems change.

The gap between Extinction Rebellion and the CCC may be one defined by climate physics, but it can only be delivered through transformative politics. This is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been calling for. For the party as a whole, though, this invitation is where the problems begin.

Internal battle-lines are already being drawn. How can Labour deliver climate stability if large parts of the party are still locked into airport expansions, fossil fuel subsidies, expanding road programmes and the illusion of a new era of global free-trade deals?
Physics tells us there are no “slow track’ survival options left.

Labour traditionalists insist they need longer timescales than the one (decisive) decade in which the science calls for transformation.
Those pushing for faster change already face criticisms of “trying to play Climate Jesus.”

What their critics fail to see is that the imagery puts slow-track traditionalists into the role of Pharisees; defenders of an order that is about to implode.

The Tories have made themselves almost irrelevant to this conversation. Conservative supporters no longer even look to their party for bigger answers. It is a party in free-fall disarray. Bless. But cross-party Brexit negotiations risk dragging Labour down too.

Theresa May should be left to sink on her own. The last thing Labour needs is a to be part of a suicide pact.

A better starting point lies somewhere between Extinction Rebellion and the CCC. To join in, Labour may need to tear up whatever has been its draft manifesto for the next election, replacing it with a new “climate emergency” one.

Tomorrow’s political stability will revolve around societal mobilisation and ecosystems repair. This requires a new economics that can live within contracting carbon budgets, give fresh life to abandoned localities (as key drivers in tomorrow’s sustainable, low-carbon economics) and offer an antidote to today’s obsessive, self-destroying consumerism.

Conventional pledges to fairness, inclusivity and rebooting an industrial economy don’t automatically answer this existential threat. Suggestions that Labour might do so by expanding production, consumption and world trade would be ridiculed by XR, scientists and schools climate strikers alike. In the ballot box, it would be a disaster. We all need a different script.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was right in telling Radio 4 that the British economy must be “put on a war footing to tackle climate change.” This “footing” must begin with reversing the damage we’re currently doing. The latest UN report, Nature’s Dangerous Decline, details the risk of 1 million species — not types of plants, animals, birds or insects, but whole species — facing extinction within the coming decades.

The answer isn’t to go building more runways, motorways or shopping malls. What we need is to replant forests, green our cities, and give pollinators places to feed, breed and shelter in. And for the public, we need a national programme to green the nation’s habitat too; delivering warm homes that also produce more energy than they consume.

I don’t care if this gets denounced as “loaves and fishes” idealism. It’s what the science (and the kids) know is our only choice. Today’s Pharisees can protest as much as they like that “the system” needs more time — to cleanse the air, restore the seas and heal the soils.

But time is the one thing they no longer have.

Outside the parliamentary temple, a growing social movement understands that we can either save “the system” or save society, but not both. Like Corbyn and McDonnell, this movement calls out for transformative change. Anyone’s manifesto that offers less will not be seen as Old Testament, just old hat.

 

It’s what the science (and the kids) know is our only choice. Today’s Pharisees can protest as much as they like that “the system” needs more time — to cleanse the air, restore the seas and heal the soils.

But time is the one thing they no longer have.

Outside the parliamentary temple, a growing social movement understands that we can either save “the system” or save society, but not both. Like Corbyn and McDonnell, this movement calls out for transformative change. Anyone’s manifesto that offers less will not be seen as Old Testament, just old hat.”



And another article, published by phys.org, highlights the importance of plant species, and their loss, on human needs:

https://phys.org/news/2019-06-species-extinctionand-danger-poses-life.html

Up to 1 million species may go extinct due to human activity according to a recent report, some within decades. We all know the mammals in trouble—polar bears, giant pandas and snow leopards—but how many of us could name an endangered plant? A 2019 report assessed 28,000 plant species and concluded that about half of them were threatened with extinction.

 

Lost connections

Our lack of appreciation for plants is a fairly recent thing. Our history tells a very different story. The dawn of farming around 12,000 years ago was when people became obsessed with growing plants for food, changing the way we live and our planet forever. Starting with domesticating cereals such as barley, rice and wheat, humanity’s increasing population and sedentary communities depended on their ability to farm, leading to entire civilizations focused on agriculture.

Industrialisation and the more recent “green revolution” in agriculture led to incredible increases in cereal production and farming efficiency, allowing more people to live in cities rather than work on farms. Our agricultural success is a major reason why, for the first time in our history, most humans no longer farm, leaving people free to ignore our complete dependence on plants.

Tragically, our talent for farming has come at a huge cost to biodiversity. Right now, half of the habitable land on earth is used for agriculture, a major reason behind our current extinction crisis.

Should we care about losing the diversity of , as long as we are producing enough food? Absolutely. Plants are the major food producers in most ecosystems, providing nourishment and shelter to microbes, fungi, insects and animal species which themselves play key roles in ecosystems.

While some creatures eat one type of plant—such as the bamboo-dependent giant panda—micro-organisms which live in the soil and make land fertile by recycling plant nutrients, perform better the more different plant species there are growing. Plant diversity also improves how much carbon is pulled from the atmosphere and stored in the soil – vital for mitigating climate change.

Our health is also intimately connected with plant diversity. Just under half of all prescription medicines come directly from plants or by remaking plant chemicals. We’ve screened only a fraction of species for potential medicines—we don’t know how many useful plant chemicals and genes remain to be discovered. Even the most overlooked plants can be enormously important.

You might be surprised to learn that the species most studied to understand how plants work is a genus of tiny weeds called Arabidopsis. Most people have never heard of them and couldn’t identify them, even though they regularly pull them from their garden. By studying Arabidopsis, scientists learned how plants know when to flower, which is being used to improve our understanding of flowering in vegetable crops—key to improving their yield. They also learned how Arabidopsis defends itself from pathogens, which could be used to make crops resistant to disease.

We can cultivate an appreciation of plants and their importance by improving access to parks, botanic gardens and forests, as well as including plant biology throughout the science curriculum in schools. But we also need to ensure there is a future for the thousands of threatened with extinction. We need to produce more food on less land, so that natural habitats can thrive.

Plants could contribute even more to society’s needs in the future. Technologies already exist for making fuels and plastic from the agricultural waste of straw, grain husks and potato peel. These alternatives sadly won’t compete with cheap oil until we pay the full cost of our current lifestyles with a carbon tax. To avoid mass extinctions, we need transformative change in our politics, economics and technology to preserve and sustainably use the incredible natural resources that Earth provides.

A painless first step towards making this change is something you could do every day: our one minute cure for plant blindness. If we stop, think and appreciate how enrich our lives, we will learn to respect our agricultural heritage and natural habitats and better manage the trade-offs between them.