Climate Solutions: Regenerating soil — a key strategy

— Randi Baird

A Climate Solutions series would be remiss not talking about the importance of soil: its role as a carbon sink, and how caring for it helps both the planet and our species. Food, agriculture, and land use are 25 percent of carbon emissions.

Underneath the soil there is a whole network of life that if left undisturbed and nourished, can absorb carbon from the atmosphere instead of releasing it. As stated in the book “Drawdown,” “no other mechanism known to humankind is as effective in addressing global warming as capturing carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis.”

“The Green Revolution” — now thought to have been a misguided approach to feeding the many — relies on fertilizers and chemicals to increase crop yields. It degrades soil, making it less productive, more susceptible to drought, insects, weeds, blight, and erosion.

Regenerative agriculture seeks to restore soils: creating an environment that increases fertility, water retention, and the network of organisms under the surface that can absorb carbon and give us more nutritious food. Reducing tillage, keeping the soil covered with cover crops and mulches, keeping living roots in the soil for as much of the year as possible, and using compost to support the soil web are part of this shift. All help retain and absorb carbon.

What can you do? Buy foods that are grown as conscientiously as possible. Ask your farmers what soil practices they are using. Encourage them to learn about regenerative practices.       

An Edey Foundation grant supports this effort. For more information on this topic, visit