Partnering with Nature to Heal the Climate Crisis
By Cybelle Shattuck
Alongside news articles touting new technologies that may “save us” from the climate crisis with big investments for research and implementation, there are quieter stories describing how to work with nature to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Regenerative agriculture is one of the most exciting fields gaining attention for its many benefits to people and planet.
I recently attended an inspiring presentation by Kirsten Clemente, director of the DeLano Farm at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. She has begun using regenerative agriculture practices to improve the soil at the farm. Healthy soil hosts a web of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates (e.g. bugs, worms) that consume organic matter. The soil and plants work together in wonderful ways. Plants photosynthesize carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, combine it with water and use energy from the sun to create carbon sugars that are the building blocks of plant tissue. About 35% of those sugars get pumped into the soil, where they feed other organisms.
This is good for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Plants are efficient at pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and they don’t require lots of mined metals and electricity, like technological carbon sequestration projects. Soil with more carbon in it changes in ways that can help us adapt to the effects of climate change. Increased quantities of organic matter make land better able to absorb water, which reduces flooding during rainy seasons and helps maintain crop production during drought seasons.
133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the world’s soil since the Industrial Revolution, mostly through plowing. Regenerative agriculture farmers are developing practices that rebuild soil health so they can produce nutritious food while also helping to mitigate the climate crisis. Working with nature instead of trying to solve everything with the same faith in technology that got us into this mess—now that seems like a great idea!
Check out the video of Kirsten’s presentation to learn more (her talk begins at about 17:00). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Q87UXu-CQ