Garrett on Soil Carbon...

What is the #1 Heat Trapping Greenhouse Gas?

Water vapor. Beautiful, simple water vapor. And how do we pull this vapor back to Earth where it is desperately needed? Put carbon in the soil. Put carbon in the soil and the water will follow. The carbon and water cycles are inextricably linked and together represent one of the greatest opportunities of our time to manage for the planet we want instead of against the one we don’t.

These are the thoughts filling my mind this winter, particularly after I was lucky enough to engage with Peter Donovan, founder of Soil Carbon Coalition, and participate in his Soil Carbon Workshop here in Ithaca. And as I write here I borrow many of the concepts Peter shared with us in order to share them with you all and to learn their lessons more deeply. Thanks Peter.

The main thrust of Peter’s work is to help us realize Life (capital L) as the most powerful and creative planetary force. The Biosphere (capital B), representing the sum of this Life, does 8-10x the Work of all human industrial activity combined. And this is real work, as in Work = Force x Distance. But the Biosphere, and its myriad of microscopic living organisms, doesn’t work in flashy or loud ways. It works slowly and quietly and most of the time it can’t even be seen. But it is relentless and powerful beyond knowing. And herein lies the opportunity. 

When asked if our atmosphere is one that is moving toward or away from equilibrium, the most common response, considering our rapidly changing climate, is away from. But thinking of the atmospheres of less dynamic planets, Mars or Venus with their vast atmospheric pools of CO2, one realizes that Earth’s atmosphere, powered by photosynthesis, has been one that is boldly out of equilibrium and has huge flows of energy, creating complexity and diversity at every turn. But as we rapidly destroy soil carbon our atmosphere is moving toward equilibrium and becoming a flatter, vaster, less dynamic pool of CO2. And this is not good for the most powerful and creative force on Earth, Life. Yet, by observing and interacting with the Biosphere and facilitating its immense capacity for Work, we can lever a giant boulder into these enormous flows of energy and begin to manage for the planet we all want and need.

Melissa and I both have come from the mentality we see as common to environmentalism, which is essentially to ‘wreck the world slower’. To lighten our impact, to do less harm. But over the years, as we’ve begun to interact positively with the carbon cycle and build, water holding, fertility enhancing soil organic matter we have changed our minds. We now want to increase our impact. Not just do less harm (although this is needed), but to do real physical good. And through our farm’s efforts and the efforts of those who support us we are beginning to see results. It’s an honor to work with you all in this way.

I look forward to discussing these real, physical, soil carbon building efforts in the future.