More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture (RA) represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature. RA offers a world-changing paradigm that can positively impact many of today’s environmental and public health problems. Climate disruption, diminishing water supplies, polluted air, soil and water, rising obesity, malnutrition and chronic disease, food insecurity amid food waste—can all be traced back to modern food production.
Currently, the US government spends $500 billion dollars of our tax money a year subsidizing 50 million industrial farmers who pollute the soil and the environment with chemicals to produce cheap commodities (corn, soy, wheat, rice, cotton) for processed food and factory-farmed meat and animal products. Meanwhile, 700 million small family farms and herders, comprising the three billion people who produce 70 percent of the world’s food on just 25 percent of the world’s acreage, struggle to make ends meet. The US government also subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $5.3 trillion dollars a year, while spending more than $3 trillion dollars annually on weapons, mainly to prop up this system.
This system of industrial farming and land use is also “mining” and decarbonizing the soil, destroying our forests, and releasing 44-57 percent of all climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot) into an already supersaturated atmosphere, while at the same time undermining our health with commoditized, overly-processed food.
As an alternative, regenerative agriculture offers an array of practices that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Regenerative farming has the potential to draw down a critical mass of carbon (200-250 billion tons) from the atmosphere over the next 25 years and store it in our soils and living plants, where it increases food production and food quality (nutritional density), while it also reduces soil erosion, re-mineralizes soil, and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff and re-stabilizes the climate.
The basic menu for a regeneration revolution is to unite the world’s three billion rural farmers, ranchers and herders with several billion health, environmental and justice-minded consumers to overturn “business as usual” and embark on a global campaign of cooperation, solidarity and regeneration. According to food activist Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.”
Source: Ronnie Cummins, “Regeneration: The Next Stage of Organic Food and Farming—and Civilization,” Organic Consumers Association, May 28, 2017, www.organicconsumers.org/essays/regeneration-next-stage-organic-food-and-farming%E2%80%94and-civilization.
Student Researcher: Amber Yang (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)