Kids & Company Blog

Changing the World With a Fork

This blog is written by Jessica Hulse Dillon, Director of the Soil & Climate Alliance at Green America.

Did you know that your fork is the solution to the climate crisis?

In order to have a real climate solution we need to do three things:

  1. Drawdown the existing carbon in the air
  2. Stop putting more carbon into the air
  3. Simultaneously reverse the existing damage to our soil and climate while making our soils tougher, or more climate resilient (you do these two things the same ways at the same time).

Now the way we do all of this is through the superpower of plants. And the superpower of plants, which we eat and that the things we eat also eat, is that they breathe in carbon from the air to feed themselves and all of the yummy microbes and bugs living in the soil around them. Then these yummy microbes and bugs pass and nourish the plant as natural fertilizers. So that's how we draw down carbon.

When plants draw down carbon to feed themselves and the soil around them, farmers need to add less stuff to feed their soils and what is growing in them. They are generally referred to as “inputs”, which includes fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Using all of these inputs ruins the whole plants feeding microbes, microbes dying and feeding the soil, soil feeding the plants cycle, which we want to maintain. Using less inputs, both artificial and natural, means we are releasing less carbon because these synthetic products create a TON of carbon in order to be produced and to be moved around so farmers can use them, and for farmers to even apply them. So now we’ve drawn down carbon, and we’ve stopped putting more carbon into the air by using less inputs which disrupt plants using their superpower. 

The third step to reversing the climate crisis is to make our soil more climate resilient by making it healthier, again using the superpower of plants in this case, we are going to superpower the superpower by growing lots of different things either all at the same time or one after another, known as rotational growing. Many Indigenous tribes refer to growing different crops together as the three sisters. Indigenous Peoples around the world grow different crops together to benefit each other, and in the US, that often takes the form of growing corn, squash, and beans together because they each perform a different task. Beans grow deep roots to hold water to be released when plants need it, squash leaves provide ground cover to prevent weeds and soil erosion, and corn provides a tall structure for other plants to grow on while also shading the plants below it. What's cool about growing lots of things together is that it also provides a lot of diverse foods that humans and animals need to eat to be healthy.

So this is how we reverse the climate crisis so that us, and our children, and their children, and children on the other side of the world in 100 years get to have food, and what is often referred to as regenerative agriculture.

Another benefit of healthier soils which we are just starting to learn more about is that they can give us food that has higher nutrient density. You may have heard that food now has less of the vitamins and minerals as it did 20, 30, 50 years ago (fun fact: this decline tracks with the incline of those synthetic inputs I mentioned earlier that add carbon we don't want to the atmosphere). 

We also know that higher quality food means higher quality humans, both in terms of your day-to-day life and also in terms of preventing, or reversing diseases (sort of like how we are preventing and reversing soil and climate damage). Now what is cool about more nutrient dense foods is that you can taste it. Fruits and veggies that taste better have more nutrients, and likely come from healthier soil.

And here is where your fork, and you, comes back into this. Because getting all 960 million domestic agricultural acres to the point where they are nourishing themselves, and the soil, and the creatures traipsing around this planet is easy. All we, as consumers and parents, and people who eat food have to do is to take your forks and demand better quality food. 

And while your holding that fork you are demanding that these companies are growing what they grow, for their products to be in ways that:

  1. Allow plants to use their superpower to draw down carbon to feed themselves
  2. Reduce synthetic inputs which disrupt the natural cycles of plants, microbes, and bugs
  3. Allow multiple types of plants to grow on the same land to strengthen the soil 

Because if we as consumers demand better food with loud enough voices, then companies will have to listen and work to change not only their system but the food system as a whole to benefit our soil, our climate, our food, and all of the people along the way making this system work.

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