by Rachel Parent, Age 19, Toronto, Canada
Rachel Parent is an environmental and safe food activist and speaker from Toronto, Canada. In 2012, she founded Kids Right to Know, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about environmental justice and food safety, challenging kids to claim their right to know what’s in their food, and demanding proper food labeling in Canada. Parent founded and serves as the director for Gen-Earth, and as the Youth Director for both Regeneration International and Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation, both of which educate youth and future generations about environmentally conscious food production and safe food. Below is an example of her activism through writing.
The Solution to Climate Change is Right Beneath Our Feet
by Rachel Parent
An Excerpt from The Solution to Climate Change is Right Beneath Our Feet
Soil degradation now affects over a third of the Earth’s soil. Along with the practices of industrial agriculture, climate change is accelerating the rate of degradation. Our capacity to feed a growing global population will depend greatly on our ability to restore and maintain the world’s soils.
Industrial agriculture is fossil-fuel dependent and relies on intensive chemical-based practices. This model extracts minerals from the soil, depletes carbon and over time leads to soil degradation. It is not only unsustainable and a major contributor to climate change but relies on an array of harmful inputs. For example, nitrogen fertilizer production uses large amounts of natural gas (and some coal) and can account for more than 50 per cent of total energy use in commercial agriculture. Research has indicated that increased fertilizer use over the past 50 years is responsible for a dramatic rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide, which is a major greenhouse gas (GHG).
Regenerative and organic agriculture reduces or completely eradicates the use of such inputs and the release of climate-changing chemicals into the atmosphere. At the same time, a small 4/1000 annual growth rate of the soil carbon stock can have a tangible impact on both climate change and soil quality.
Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. This process is primarily mediated by plants through photosynthesis, with carbon stored in the form of organic carbon. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the basis of soil fertility and is critical to several soil processes. The world’s soils have declined through improper land management that has removed alarming amounts of carbon from soils worldwide.
Imagine what regenerative and organic practices could do for Canada’s agricultural and forest soils in terms of improving soil fertility and boosting agricultural production. It would also support Canada’s commitment to helping limit the global temperature increase to +1.5/2°C. As an agricultural and forestry driven economy, Canada owes it to the world to ‘keep it in the ground’ and reduce its reliance on fossil energy in agriculture.
At this point in time, even if we were to cut out all fossil fuels today, there would still be an excess of CO2 in our atmosphere, and climate change would still be a relevant and concerning issue. While we continue to move towards more renewable and clean energy sources, we have a viable solution to address climate change and absorb excess carbon through our soils.
Restoring degraded agricultural lands and increasing soil carbon can play an important role in addressing food security. Regenerative organic farming can positively impact GHG emissions and can create jobs, improve incomes for farmers and ensure sustainable development.
The Gen-Earth event [a youth oriented educational gathering] promoted these messages and hopefully inspired young people and policy makers to help start the transition to a regenerative economy. The highlight of the event was the three dimensional rolling 4/1000 petition in the form of a large globe which everyone in attendance, from speakers to the audience, had the opportunity to sign, and will soon be delivered to Hon. Minister Catherine McKenna and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Young people are growing up in the shadow of climate change (or as I often call it climate pollution, due to the fact that it is largely caused by human activity) and biodiversity destruction. In the last 25 years, the world has lost a forested area the size of South Africa. In addition, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that globally just 20 cultivated plant species account for 90 per cent of all the plant-based food consumed by humans. Whereas the current industrial model has narrowed the genetic base and makes the entire food system vulnerable to climatic change, regenerative agriculture using agroecological approaches leads to more crop diversity and enhanced food security.
We can no longer tinker at the edges of a fundamentally flawed approach to economic activity, food systems and soil management that relies on fossil energy and disrupts ecosystems. Regenerative and agriculture has the potential to solve our growing climate crisis, bring together communities, create healthy economies and protect the very soil we stand on. The solution is right beneath our feet.