GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES
Reporting on ‘Carbon’ after a week in the ACT – March 2014
Where to, Australia?
Reporting on Carbon after a week in the ACT
By Chris Henggeler, Kachana Pastoral Company, March 2014
(The empirical evidence of what is stated below has been around for thousands of years. Modern science only began picking it up in the twentieth century. Some of the actual science to substantiate what is stated below only became accessible to the general public towards the beginning of this century.)
Follow the energy…
Although ‘business as usual’ would lead modern civilisations into the middle of the “perfect storm” so eloquently described by
Allan Savory in his 2013 TED-presentation, there is much we can do.
“We have all the money in the world, but we are running out of time.” A. Savory
Part II Following the energy
Sunshine drives the weather.
Temperature differentials off land and sea dictate air-flow and weather patterns.
Sunshine is also the fuel that drives biology.
Photosynthesis provides the energy for just about all life-forms.
Plants deliver food to micro-organisms in the soil.
Animals above the ground help themselves to plants.
Biological processes blended with physical processes produce climate.
When the outcome of one or more of the processes changes, then climate changes.
Photosynthesis is the key to climate; it is also a key to life.
WHAT IS IN IT FOR US?
- The production of oxygen and the purification of air
- The purification and the availability of abundant clean water
- The growth of healthy food with high nutrient-density
Less photosynthesis leads directly to less health, less life, less wealth.
Part III The good news
The evidence is out there that effective positive change on the scale required may still be within reach. Realistic and commercially feasible options of how to achieve this are limited. At operational levels there seem to be only three:
- The introduction of sound pastoral practices to watersheds and catchment areas that are currently not being managed or that have been abandoned for commercial or political reasons.
(Key Indicator à water quality and water-security)
- The support of regenerative farming practices in country that is currently under management for primary production.
(Key Indicator à increasing soil-carbon)
- Escalating promotion of farmers’ markets, more informed food-choice (e.g. www.Chakula.com), new models of urban development and urban farming in line with the concept “waste = food”
(Key Indicator à health and wellbeing)
All three options are about introducing and/or enhancing eco-system function on land surfaces. All three are within Australia’s “circle of influence”.
Viewed from an ecological perspective, we do what it takes to:
- Increase our annual intake of solar energy into the natural systems
- Increase the effectiveness of our rainfall
- Enhance the cycling and recycling of minerals, water and captured energy
- Enhance biodiversity and the natural productivity of our landscapes
Collectively this enhancement of eco-system function begins to stabilise micro-climate and produces a biologically driven buffering effect on weather-events
Building hope, resilience and opportunity into our landscapes!
Part IV Were we are now
WHAT IS HAPPENING (on land)
- Photosynthetic activity is in decline
- More bare ground is exposed to sun and wind each year
- After sun-set increasingly more hot air rises off land surface
- Weather patterns are being destabilised
- Wild, weird, unprecedented and unpredictable weather-events are on the increase
- There are also more predictable events like:
- Melting ice
- Rising sea-levels
- Human From land to city
- From the coast to higher land
- Out of Africa
- Away from danger-zones
- Disrupted animal migrations
- Disrupted bird migrations
(We call this human-induced process DESERTIFICATION)
WHAT COULD HAPPEN
With sound landscape-management, we can initiate desirable trends.
- New and evolving pastoral practices are the key to addressing the vast areas that no longer support conventional human economic activity.
- New and evolving synergistic production-models of farming offer a bright future for existing agriculture. Joel Salatin shows us a way: http://vimeo.com/81468461
- New models of urban development based on principles observed in the natural world offer a way forward to modern life-styles. WASTE = FOOD http://vimeo.com/3237777
Photosynthetic activity would increase and we would begin reversing a whole host of undesirable trends.
(We call this human-induced process REGENERATIVE LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT)
We are at a crossroads. We can choose the way.
Part V Conclusion
Nature runs on sunshine.
Sunshine drives the weather.
Sunshine drives eco-system function.
Together these two determine climate.
By putting our own house in order first, Australians have the capacity to sustain the level of population needed to justify the levels of infrastructure that we modern humans aspire.
This would also enable us to export a working knowledge of how to live within the means of one’s environments.
(We dare not forget about the challenges of rebuilding of ocean-biodiversity or the curbing of exponential population-growth, but for the moment these two issues remain outside of our immediate influence.)
Nature runs on sunshine.
Humans are consumers.
It is how we consume this century that will dictate the future of humankind.
With each dollar we spend on drink, food and entertainment we cast a vote.
If you are old enough to spend, you are old enough to vote!
She’s alive, she’s beautiful… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeXdv-uPaw
From what I saw in Canberra it seems:
- We have more than enough evidence
- We have enough case studies (= ‘proof of concept’)
- There is enough up-to-date science
- There is a sufficient diversity of expertise
- There have been enough conferences
- There is enough money out there (also people wishing to financially support “the right thing”)
- We have many good and willing innovators
- It is time to connects the dots so that we get to see effective action escalating at landscape levels
It seems the challenge for each of us is to better understand the political “lay of the land” and work on strategies in order to initiate more action at landscape levels.
Each of us needs to identify where we might be most effective.
THANK YOU, Michael & Louisa and Team for organising the Carbon Farming Conference.
Exciting times? Yes.
Interesting times? Yes.
In Northern Australia I believe the horse has bolted. BUT I believe we can still rein him in.
While the sun still shines and while rain still drops out of the sky many strengths & opportunities exist, but also some threats & weaknesses.
One threat I observed whilst in Canberra was potentially conflicting messages (to the public):
Whilst soil-carbon (stable carbon-sinks) has to be the most appropriate key performance indicator for better outcomes for landscapes close to our well-populated centres, this could be distracting from the (in the long-term) more critical issue of national water-security.
In the vast majority of our under-populated and under-managed rangelands, does not the importance of water-quality and water-security (flood and drought-proofing) have to supersede sustainable nutrient-production and –export?
For this to happen we primarily require labile carbon-sinks: Vegetation, mulch and critical masses of managed herbivores.
John Dunnicliff’s model (albeit driven by a production focus) promises to do this on country with cattle-potential. Increasing soil-carbon will be a follow-on result.
(Think of the mobile carbon tied up in an extra 60,000 head of cattle moving through a landscape, think of the increased amount of carbon that has to cycle for this to even be possible, think of the carbon-component of the groundcover [mulch & dung] produced and distributed daily if these animals are managed accordingly. These sort of results can be achieved and measured within months.)
But what about landscapes that are unattractive to the pastoral industry, inaccessible upper-river rainfall-catchment areas, remote recharge areas for aquifers and human water-supplies?
If we focus on primarily rewarding soil-carbon and increased productivity do we risk winning the battles and losing the war?