14/08/2021

The life that comes

2 min

The new IPCC report confirms the seriousness of the climate crisis and clearly points out humanity's responsibility. And, although on this second point it is not wrong, the generalisation is not only tendentious, but also makes it very difficult to approach with a proper diagnosis and treatment. It is not "humanity" that is responsible, it is the practice of an industrial way of life in the framework of a specific economy, the capitalist one. Let me explain.

The climate crisis is nothing more than an imbalance of the total carbon stored on this planet. We have more and more carbon in the form of gas in the atmosphere, CO₂, and we have less and less stable carbon underground. Part of this situation has to do with the burning of buried, fossil carbon (oil) to industrialise society. Another significant part has been the substitution of a farming agriculture by an industrial agriculture.

In addition to oil, the industrialisation of agriculture has been connected to the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Applications that, while they have temporarily increased the productivity of the fields, have also eliminated the immense microbial life of soil (they say that in a teaspoon of healthy soil we find more microbes than all the human beings that inhabit the planet), which is fundamental to maintain the carbon that plants inhale during photosynthesis sequestered. According to scientific literature, between 25% and 40% of the current excess CO₂ in the atmosphere comes from this destruction of good fertile soil.

Aware of this, a couple of months ago CREAF presented the results of a three-year experience of "deindustrialisation" of some lands where, without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or heavy machinery, they have recovered the life of the land by practicing organic farming. They have shown that regeneration is possible and that this living land stores thirty times more atmospheric carbon than dead or conventional land. They calculate that if all the agricultural and pasture land in Catalonia were to make this same regenerative transition, the total annual emissions from the country's agricultural sector, which are many, would be compensated for. If we extrapolate this to the global level, there are entities such as Soil Food that claim that with this revitalisation of the soil microbiota we could reverse climate change in fifteen years. Others, which are more cautious, such as the Grain Foundation, speak of fifty years, which is more or less the same amount of time that industrial agriculture has taken to impoverish the earth of life and carbon.

So, do we have a scientifically sound proposal that we are not considering? Can a specific technological change revert a situation as serious as the current one? No, absolutely not. We have to stop believing in magic wands. The proposal to sequester carbon is feasible to the extent that it is understood that it is part of a journey, voluntary or involuntary, eventful but stimulating, towards a post-industrial civilisation. A ruralised one.

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