Our preoccupation with carbon emissions has stopped us seeing the big picture
It’s functioning soils that protect our planet
Microbiologist Walter Jehne uses the term carbon sponge to describe the soil’s capacity to absorb and hold rainwater, make nutrients available to plants and support a vast subterranean microbe population. These natural, living systems are what regulate the earth’s atmosphere.
Each year plants draw down huge quantities of carbon from the air through photosynthesis. Much of this carbon is bio-sequestered by fungi into stable soil carbon. When soils are fertile and healthy they maintain lush vegetation across the land surface. It’s the continuous transpiration and evaporation of water from plants that cools the planet.
For the past 50 years the methods used by high-input, industrial agriculture – land clearance, cultivations, and the over-use of chemicals – have degraded the soil carbon sponge across 5 billion hectares of farmland. Soil carbon has been burnt to the atmosphere so the land no longer supports vegetation. The planet-cooling effect of evapo-transpiration no longer functions.
This is the main reason our planet is heating up and we’re being hit by severe climate events. According to Jehne, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide accounts for only 5 per cent of the heat dynamics and climate of planet Earth. No less than 95 per cent are down to evapo-transpiration and hydrological cycles. Industrial agriculture is creating deserts. This is what threatens our future.
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