Steven Apfelbaum, founder of Applied Ecological Services (AES), has developed land-use solutions to help farmers, companies, landowners, and communities around the world. In a recent article, he called for developing a National Carbon Reserve. AES communications consultant, Maxine Mitchell, writes about balancing ecological issues with cost considerations, “From transforming dismal landfills and dusty iron mines into pristine preserves and prairies, Steve continues to show how ecosystem services result in healthy wild, rural, and urban landscapes while boosting the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.”
Part of Apfelbaum’s original Huffington Post article follows (emphasis marks provided here):
“The Gulf of Mexico is sick, but, in fact, it’s been ill for a long time, and it needs a bigger fix. Now is the time to look at the broader picture, which includes water, soil, energy and climate—more broadly, the health of our nation’s natural resources.
“Before the spill, there was a dead zone in the Gulf that has reached the size of the state of Massachusetts.
“The problems are well understood: years of poor planning for public and private land use; degraded habitat and agricultural tillage of farm fields that contributes to soil erosion and greenhouse gases; excessive dependence on industrial fertilizers on farmlands; dams clogged with sediment that never reaches the Gulf to sustain its wetlands.
“The solutions are clear as well. We need a healthy land ethic that focuses on regrowing soil and replenishing clean water in ways that are more efficient and less costly.
“Fortunately, farmers can improve their soil and increase its carbon content through such techniques as “no-till” farming, in which farm-seeding equipment inserts seeds into small cuts in the earth. Traditional tillage farming, or plowing, on the other hand, releases carbon into the atmosphere. No-till agriculture can cut costs in as little as two years and can even increase crop yields by up to 10 percent. It leaves leftover plant matter on the land, building the soil, and that added healthy soil acts as a sponge to lessen water runoff and prevents nutrients from entering rivers and lakes (which is what creates dead zones).
“Responsible ecological conservation and restoration of non-farmland is crucial as well. Replanting native grasslands and restoring drained wetlands, forests, and savannas can also reduce water runoff and erosion of soils, and conserve and store carbon.
“From 2000 to 2005, 53 percent of existing GHG emissions were mitigated and stored in the surface soils and vegetation of our planet at no cost to us. This is one of the wonderful things that the right plants planted in the right location and way do for a living.
“The National Carbon Reserve would combine the best of American ecological and conservation thought and practice with classic public-private market values and incentives, creating a model of carbon management tied to land protection and restoration and more productive agricultural management. “The Reserve’s system of land-use planning to improve soil and water and to manage carbon would start mitigating GHG emissions quickly, while our economic, financial and policy systems move toward more sustainable energy sources. Progress on many of the issues raised here is being made at the local, state and federal levels and should be encouraged, but a national program remains critical.
“This plan would, in the long term, help heal the Gulf, the Mississippi, and our other rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Ultimately, it could mitigate climate change—healing earth, water and sky.”