As many people know, the state of California has burned with some 7,600 fires this year. Many of these were large and leveled entire towns, leaving thousands of people homeless. California’s recent largest recorded fire ever was the Mendocino Fire. The fires have cost about 2.975 billion dollars in rebuilding and fire suppression costs.
I live in California. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a blanket of smoke covering the landscape outside my window. Later, when I went outside, I could hardly breathe through the fumes, which made my throat burn. I was supposed to have a soccer game at noon. It was canceled due to the air quality. My school was scheduled to have a volleyball game against a school in Paradise, a town razed by flames just a week ago. That was canceled. I began to wonder why there were so many fires. I didn’t have to look far for the answer.
Climate change, or global warming, has become a growing concern for the world these past couple of decades. Severe weather patterns, large fires, flooding, erosion, and droughts are only some of the disasters that are becoming more and more common.
The question is, what causes climate change? Global warming is the effect of an imbalance of where carbon is stored on the Earth. When too much of that carbon is put up in the atmosphere, it creates a barrier that prevents heat radiated by the sun from escaping Earth. When this happens, our planet slowly begins to heat up, changing the weather and leading to a great increase of the natural disasters we have been experiencing. An increase that, for example, leaves hundreds of thousands of people homeless within a matter of weeks.
However, carbon is not our enemy. In fact, carbon is what makes up every living thing on Earth! The problem is the imbalance. Around 500 million years ago, plants began to creep out of the ocean and onto dry land. There, they started to pull carbon out of the air and turn it into sugar through photosynthesis. This created a shift of carbon into the soil and out of the atmosphere, so Earth became more inhabitable. Soon though, humans came along and figured out how to burn carbon for energy. This began to transfer more and more carbon from the ground back into the air, which started this imbalance that is the root cause of climate change.
The plants that once were able to pull enough carbon from the atmosphere can no longer do so to the extent needed. This is because our agricultural system is disrupting the balance. Through photosynthesis, the plants turn the carbon into sugar and pump it into the soil, feeding millions of tiny microorganisms. In turn, the microorganisms make nutrients and minerals more available to the plants, which make the plants healthier. When we put chemicals such as weed killer and pesticides on the plants, it kills those microorganisms. Tilling the soil also disrupts the microorganisms as they work, which makes it harder for them to help the plants flourish. Not only this, but deforestation greatly decreases the amount of plants pulling carbon out of the air.
The effect of this system of agriculture is the imbalance of carbon on Earth. And the effect of the imbalance is climate change. In addition to this, the ocean has absorbed a lot of the carbon in the air, which is resulting in a slow acidification of ocean waters. This is greatly accelerating a mass extinction of ocean life.
The solution to global warming, therefore, is closer than most of us may realize. In fact, the solution is right under our feet. Literally.
In order to reverse climate change, humanity has to strongly reconsider their agricultural system and stop relying so much on carbon or fossil fuels to create energy. In other words, we would start using regenerative practices in agriculture, instead of sustainable practices. If we stopped using chemicals to protect our crops from bugs and weeds, and didn’t till the soil, we would be helping the microorganisms make the plants healthier, as they wouldn’t be disrupted in their work. Another aspect of regenerative agriculture is to plan the regular grazing of cattle. Their dung would apply a constant layer of compost, with more microorganisms in it. Planting trees and crops to cover unplanted areas would greatly increase the amount of plants pulling carbon from the air. The soil would be able to hold a lot more water, preventing major droughts and soaking up much water that might cause a flood. Damp plants and soil also would help prevent the large-scale fires we have been experiencing.
All of these regenerative practices combined would make the soil healthier. The healthier the soil, the healthier the plants. The healthier the plants, the more carbon they can pull from the atmosphere to reverse climate change. Not only that, but humans eat the plants, and the healthier the food, the healthier the human! It all contributes to an amazing cycle, returning the balance that will keep the planet healthy.
The smoke yesterday morning was still here today. And it will be tomorrow. Climate change, for me, is no longer something I just read about in a book. It is something I am living every day. But the truth is, we can reverse it. The solution is right underneath us. We just have to grasp it and put it into motion.
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