Food production and distribution is a major contributor to climate change. Globally, 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the way we grow, process, distribute and consume food. An additional 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation largely driven by the clearing of forests for agricultural land. And with a growing world population to feed, it is very likely that these emission levels will increase further. It seems that we canít win. After all, we have to grow food to survive. But if the very act of growing food is harming us, then what else can we do?
In traditional agriculture and gardening, soil is cultivated, tilled or dug as a way of preparing the ground for crops. When this happens, the carbon in the soil oxidizes and is released into the atmosphere, contributing further to climate change. This leaves the soil depleted of essential nutrients, so fertilizers are used to increase the productivity and the whole cycle is repeated year after year: more tilling, more oxidization of the carbon, more greenhouse gasses, less fertility and more fertilizer. Eventually the basic soil structure is lost and the soil becomes unstable, unable to pass on nutrients, unable to hold water and unable to store carbon. It is no longer soil, but a dead, toxic substance used to grow food in. Most agricultural soils are very low in carbon. Carbon can be increased by a range of changed farm practices, including switching from ploughing to no-till cropping, and retaining crop stubble. But most of us arenít farmers, so the problem seems to be out of our hands, and out of our control.
There is, however, a way to grow food on a smaller scale that protects the soil, combats climate change and is so easy that virtually anyone can do it. Itís called Food4Wealth. When you create a Food4Wealth plot you are creating an edible carbon sink in your very own backyard. This carbon sink will take harmful greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and store them in the soil and plants. The carbon is used by the plants. In fact, itís the basic building block of life. Itís ironic that the same stuff that is so harmful when in high levels in the atmosphere, is so critical for basic survival. The carbon, now in a safe form, will be passed from our home-grown vegetables and into our bodies as fresh, healthy, organic food.
How to Create an Edible Carbon Sink in your Backyard
There are two key ingredients in creating a good carbon sink. Firstly, there needs to be a fairly dense coverage of plants most of the time. And secondly, the soil must be protected so that oxidization of the carbon doesnít occur.
With a Food4Wealth plot, you soil is never bare. This is achieved by having a diverse range of plants, all mixed up together, just like you would see in a natural ecosystem. If a particular plant is removed for human consumption, it only leaves a small gap, unlike a traditional vegetable garden where whole areas can be cleared at a time. These small gaps are easily managed. Just cover them with a generous surface layer of compost and plant a seedling directly into that layer. It will soon fill the gap and your garden will be full again.
As an individual, you can create an edible carbon sink in your own backyard simply by following the Food4Wealth method. This means that you wonít be so dependent on eating food that is grown in a way that pumps more carbon into the atmosphere. Your Food4Wealth plot will literally suck harmful greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and turn them into fresh, healthy organic food.
So, not only will the planet be healthier, but so will you.
by Jonathan White B.App.Sci. Assoc. Dip.App. Sci.