The Carbon Farming Solution

Maddy Harland | Friday, 29th July 2016
A must read book for anyone seeking serious solutions, not only for carbon sequestration, but for poverty in the South, health and the loss of biodiversity all over the world.
Author: Eric Toensmeier
Publisher: Chelsea Green
Publication year: 2016
RRP: £51.50

Industrial agriculture is one of the processes that spews carbon and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Carbon farming, a collective term for regenerative forms of agriculture that build soil and biomass and sequester carbon in both, has been largely overlooked by policy makers as a means of carbon capture. Yet as Eric Toensmeier explains, “...silvopasture and other pastures with woody plants sequester up to three times as much carbon as ordinary pastures...” We therefore have one part of the solution to climate change under our noses. It is capable of restoring degraded landscapes, increasing biodiversity, providing medicines, cosmetics, animal fodder, developing new industries and feeding us too. Carbon farming can lift the Global South out of the cycles of poverty, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics. Its potential for carbon sequestration could play a vital role in halting the further rises in greenhouse gases and investment in the Global South is an obvious strategy.

Toensmeier walks the reader through an introductory chapter on the basic science of climate change (accessible and powerfully succinct) and gives comparisons between agricultural production systems. Then follows practical, detailed examples of annual cropping systems, livestock systems and perennial cropping systems. Part 3 covers perennial staple crops and Part 4, perennial industrial crops. There are 700 plant species profiled that have a role to play in reversing land degradation and climate change. Last is a road map for implementation that presents a three-point plan to scale up carbon farming, support farmers and farming organisations to make the transition, finance carbon farming, remove national and international policy barriers, and strategic next steps.

Permaculturists have long suspected the potential role of perennial crops in climate change mitigation and now Toensmeier has painstakingly presented the research to prove it. A thesis in carbon farming, it is also engagingly written and illustrated with full colour photographs. The book is designed to help the lay reader pull out informa-tion in digestible pieces. Toensmeier’s scientific vigour, encyclopedic knowledge and broad understanding of culture (e.g. understanding how important it is to value traditional and indigenous knowledge) as well as agriculture makes this book one of the most exciting developments in the permaculture / agroecology movement to date. This is a must read book for anyone seeking serious solutions, not only for carbon sequestration, but for poverty in the South, health and the loss of biodiversity all over the world.

Maddy Harland is editor and co-founder of PM

Maddy is facilitating 'Empowering Women with Permaculture' with Looby Macnamara on 4-7th August 2016. Come and live on the land at this beautiful permaculture centre and build resilience and wisdom with a wonderful group of women. For more information: www.permaculture.co.uk/events/empowering-women-permaculture

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