The Power of Food: Create a Thriving Ecosystem in Your Backyard


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Mackinzee Macho | February 26, 2021

Mackinzee Macho is an undergraduate student and Senior Program Manager in Human and Ecological Systems Transformations for the Foresight Lab. The Foresight Lab is a think-tank that shifts culture toward social, economic, and ecological well-being through consulting. This series, “The Power of Food,” will explore topics like carbon sequestration and regenerative farming.

In just under two months, spring seedlings can be planted outdoors. Now is the time to begin planning what you want to plant in your garden. Vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits can be used to create a thriving garden, but the real opportunity is to use regenerative gardening practices to promote healthy soil and nutritious plants. 

Carbon gardening maximizes your soil’s sequestration and carbon storage potential through regenerative and sustainable agricultural management practices. These practices include using natural fertilizer and integrated pest management. Carbon gardening is better for plants, soil, and surrounding ecosystems since it promotes a healthier soil environment. In contrast, synthetic chemicals from inorganic fertilizers and pesticides can leach into nearby waterways, burn your plants, and damage the soil ecosystems that are crucial to plant health. The choices are between positive methods that build health and vibrancy, or degenerative practices that cause harm.

The relationship between soil, microbes, and plants – all under ideal conditions – sequester carbon. When soil is healthy and soil organic carbon levels are high, it has the structure to capture carbon, enhance water retention capacity, and build higher fertility rates. Soil organic carbon is determined by the growth and death of plant roots along with the transfer of carbon-rich nutrients from plant roots to soil microbes. The plants supply fungi with carbon-rich sugars which allows the fungi to produce integral nutrients for plant health and growth. As organic matter increases – which includes microbes, plant roots, and stocks – carbon is stored within them. You can reverse the effects of climate change, harvest delicious food, and feel good about boosting the health of your soil, and your family.

Using compost and native weeds to attract pest-consuming insects maintain soil health. These practices restore and regenerate soil, sequester carbon, and increase your yield. Soil that is full of microbes and soil organic matter improves its wellbeing and the food it produces. Healthy soil creates healthy people and a healthy environment. When we nourish our soil, we nourish ourselves and the environment.  

The Power of Food: We Can Reverse the Climate Emergency by Working Together


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Mackinzee Macho | February 12, 2021

Mackinzee Macho is an undergraduate student and Senior Program Manager in Human and Ecological Systems Transformations for the Foresight Lab. The Foresight Lab is a think-tank that shifts culture toward social, economic, and ecological well-being through consulting. This series, The Power of Food, will explore topics like carbon sequestration and regenerative farming.

Collective action can alter the course of history. The climate emergency is intimidating, but together we can change our behavior to reverse it. The science is clear: the Earth’s average temperature is rising at rates our modern civilization has never seen before. Extreme weather events are occurring more often and with greater intensity, climate change will only become worse with the degradation of our ecosystem from the continual release of greenhouse gases. It took us decades to get into this situation, but we do not need decades to dig ourselves out.  

Recently, President Biden signed multiple executive orders that accelerate action in the face of the climate emergency. Rejoining the Paris climate accord, increasing offshore wind usage, and ending reliance on fossil fuels are key, but imagine the impact if each of us added our individual local actions to the effort.

Collective action and a call for sustainability will further combat the emergency. We can harness the potential of our soils to sequester carbon. Sequestration pumps carbon out of our atmosphere into the ground along with improving soil and plant health. Citizens can sequester carbon by gardening and composting. Growing one’s own food is healthier for our soil, the Earth, and ourselves. Placing our food and other compostable waste into piles reduces waste in the landfill and improves soil and plant health when applied. These simple steps when performed collectively can offset emissions and reduce climate change impacts.

Choosing greener energy, regeneratively grown foods, and responsibly sourced materials creates a market for them. Citizens must urge producers, vendors, farmers, and more to evolve into regenerative and sustainable practices. If we are driven by hope in the face of what seems impossible, nothing can stop us.

Experts weigh in on carbon sequestration in soil at COP 21


Hans ? presents at a conference focused on agriculture and soil health on Thursday, Deceember 10, 2015 as part of COP 21 in Paris France. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Hans Herren presents at a conference focused on agriculture and soil health on Thursday, December 10, 2015 as part of COP 21 in Paris France. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | December 10, 2015

PARIS – Experts from around the world weighed in on the importance of carbon sequestration and other sustainable agricultural practices during a conference Thursday morning.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 “the International Year of Soil” which was the focus of the “Agroeology and Soil Solutions” conference in the Green Zone at COP 21. The event featured a four-person panel with each participant having expertise in a different aspect of agriculture or soil science. Before the panel gave their individual presentations, the approximately 50 attendees were shown a four-minute documentary produced by the Center for Food Safety and narrated by food journalist Michael Pollan.

“In one handful of soil there are more organisms than there are humans on earth and we are only beginning to understand the vast network of beings right beneath our feet,” Pollan said in the film’s opening scene.

The short film discussed the impact of over-farming and other unsustainable practices that remove carbon from the soil and release it into the atmosphere, contributing to rising temperatures and other effects of climate change.

Hans Herren – President and CEO of the Washington D.C.-based Millennium Institute – was the first panelist to present. Herren holds a PhD in Biological Control from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland and part of his presentation focused on the science behind carbon sequestration as he emphasized the need for dietary changes to improve soil health.

“If you don’t change the diet farmers can’t change the way they produce. People’s behavior in terms of diet is essential,” he said.

Kristine Nichols – Chief Scientist for the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute – was next to take the podium as she focused on research her center had done on a farm in Ohio. Nichols – who holds a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Maryland – said the carbon problem can actually be part of the solution.

“Really what we’ve got is a carbon problem and the problem is that we don’t have carbon in our soil.”

Nichols also addressed the negative effects of synthetic fertilizer and ways in which agriculture has become less efficient over the past half century.

“It takes more synthetic nitrogen fertilizer now to grow a ton of grain than it used to take in 1960,” she said. “Our systems are becoming far more inefficient because we’re not utilizing the biology.”

Nichols concluded her presentation with an interactive demonstration of the ability of different soils to retain water, showing that healthy soil can more easily retain moisture and filter excess liquid down to groundwater. Water retention not only helps soils to be more healthy but it also mitigates erosion and nutrient run off, both of which are concerns for farmers in Iowa.

The last of the panelists to speak was Precious Phiri, founder of the Zimbabwe-based EarthWisdom Consulting Co. Phiri focused on ways that grasslands, waterways, and livelihoods can be improved for African farmers and ranchers through better livestock management practices.

“We depend on livestock to get back our grasslands,” she said, adding “Overgrazing is an issue of time and not numbers.”

Phiri pointed out several examples in her homeland where proper grazing and agricultural techniques led to more permanent vegetation and waterways in the arid region.

The event concluded with a short question and answer session. During this time Nichols addressed the need for good research and the dissemination of information as well as strong policy that can lead to improved conditions.

“We needs to provide consistent and good information to people,” she said, adding “It is policies on the departmental level that would be beneficial.”