Walter in Whangarei
Walter Jehne will be in Whangarei 2 March. We will welcome him to Tai Tokerau at Te Puna o te Mātauranga at NorthTec and then enjoy his challenging message. For more information see the flyer here and register here.
And if you do nothing else today, please listen to this podcast to get the gist of Walter’s message.
Carbon dioxide is only responsible for 4% of global heat dynamics, while the hydrological cycle (meaning, the way water moves between the atmosphere the ocean and the land) controls 95% of the heating or cooling of the planet.
This is Walter Jehne’s key message. In other words, our efforts to limit atmospheric CO2 give us a minimal leverage to effect cooling, compared to working on the water cycle. A focus of regenerative agriculture is the focus on building soil to sequester carbon. The good news is that Walter Jehne identifies the soil as fundamental to the hydrological cycle. He exhorts us to build the soil sponge. For soil to be a sponge, it has to have plenty of carbon.
While carbon is a building material for the soil sponge, fungi and other micro-organisms are the builders. In this video Walter explains the dynamic between plants and the soil biome. Note that he states that there are 25,000 kms of fungal hyphae in a cubic metre of healthy soil.
And soil organic matter can store up to five times it weight in water.
Healthy soil readily infiltrates and stores water, hydrating the landscape and supporting plant growth. Plant transpiration is a vital link in the hydrological cycle. Every gram of water takes 590 calories of heat from the earth’s surface into the atmosphere. A good sized tree can transpire 100 litres of water a day. According to this Guardian article, this provides “three times the cooling power of an air-conditioning system in a five-star hotel room”.
The good news
Unfortunately we have reduced this global cooling capacity through deforestation, desertification, and wasteful industrial agricultural practices, but the good news is that we can reverse this decline and have a significant cooling impact on the climate. The even better news is that anybody with access to soil can play their part, only limited by their available resources. Farmers can diversify pastures and focus on soil health, vegetable and grain growers can innovate more and cultivate less, and city dwellers can create green space in unexpected places (perhaps rooftops). And we can all plant more trees.
Some great examples of rehydrating ecosystems
This Ted Talk by Willie Smits is over 10 years old now. It is a great example of regenerating landscapes with proven impact on the climate.
Here is an update of one initiative emerging from Willie Smit’s work.
Here is Alan Savory showing some of the results he has achieved using ruminants for revegetation.
John Liu reports on restoring China’s loess plateau. And a shout out to English born Richard St Barbe Baker, the Man of the Trees, who spent his middle years in New Zealand and planted many trees in China.
Progress on the Great Green Wall is discussed in this Al Jazeera programme. This follows on from the great pioneering work by Wangari Maathi.
Here is Peter Andrews showing how Australian farmers can regenerate the landscape.
This article by John Liu asks if the Sinai Peninsula can be re-vegetated.
Gabe Brown exhorts us to grow something and tells how regenerative farming pays.
If you have another example, please share in the comments below.