Tag Archives: Alternatives

Druids Making the Rounds – Carbon cycling is a process

The Sierra Gorda mountain range has been a living laboratory for social, economic and ecological crisis solutions from the very beginning, 25 years ago.   In the last few years, the rural highland producers have gotten profoundly involved in a holistic journey to restore the land and ecosystem services by putting value on land managament practices and introducing Holistic Management, Keyline Design, no or low till, as well as the production and application of bio-fertilizers, active composts and microorganisms with the technical expertise of Bosque Sustentable A.C. (Sustainable Forest Civil Association).

Last year we contacted Peter Donovan, the visionary leader of a grassroots baseline Soil Carbon study across North America. The workshop in the Sierra Gorda Earth Center installations in Jalpan had a major impact on all the participants by speaking plainly about the relationship between water, carbon and soil. Peter began a competition called The Soil Carbon Challenge and took a detour into the heart of Mexico, you can see the report in the Sustainable Forest Facebook page  BSAC logo

“To advance the practice, and engage people in the opportunity, of turning atmospheric carbon into soil organic matter (oxidize less, photosynthesize more).” Soil Carbon Coalition

Carbon Cycling is a Process

Guest blog by Peter Donovan (originally published at soilcarboncoalition.org Tue, 04/05/2011 – 5:06pm)

The current situation over much of the world is this:

1. There is not enough carbon (organic matter) in and on the soil.

2. There is not enough water in the soil.

These two facts mean desertification and food insecurity, as well as a predisposition to both flooding and drought. As the Earth IQ quiz on the right hand side explains, soils hold more carbon and more water than the atmosphere, vegetation, and rivers combined. 3. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere. (Carbon dioxide and methane (CH4) are the second and third most powerful greenhouse gases.) 4. There is too much water in the atmosphere. (Water is the number one greenhouse gas. It precipitates unpredictably.) The first two combine with the second two to form a vicious circle, with reinforcing feedback. The more water and carbon in the atmosphere, the less in the soil, generally. The less the soil is able to hold water and carbon, and grow protective and productive vegetation, the more water and carbon in the atmosphere. Both water and carbon cycles are accelerated. The only exit from the vicious circle is to get more carbon in the soil. Water will follow. If this can occur, the vicious circle turns virtuous (transformational change). The more water and carbon in the soil, the less in the atmosphere, and so on. Technology isn’t well adapted to turning atmospheric carbon into soil carbon. Biology is well adapted, but it’s a process, neither a quick fix nor a programmatic one. This poses a problem for institutions, organizations, markets, and government agencies who may wish to increase soil carbon. But it is an opportunity for land managers of all kinds, particularly those who want to work with biosphere processes such as the carbon cycle, water cycle, and succession, rather than against them. When dealing with biological and social processes, direct action typically results in backlash or unanticipated side effects. What are more powerful are the selective forces we can put in place. If we routinely spray glyphosate, for example, we are selecting for resistant weeds. If we let livestock remain on one pasture all season, we may be selecting for weedy, unpalatable plants and bare ground. If a boss favors employees who tell him what he likes to hear, he selects for words, not actions. Selective forces are powerful allies when dealing with biological and human processes. These selective forces include: Goals. Negative, problem-based goals, or managing against what we don’t want, typically selects for a continuation of the problem. A positive goal, managing for what we want, can be a powerful selective force, particularly when combined with monitoring. Opportunities. Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) wrote that rational argument or proofs seldom change scientific paradigms. What changes them are opportunities to address new questions and new challenges. Reward systems are also selective forces. A very powerful selective force can be the opportunity for consumers, for example, to opt out of a dysfunctional or unsustainable system (e.g. by buying pasture raised meats and milk). An opportunity for farmers and ranchers may be to opt out of an input-output production system that puts them at the mercy of suppliers and commodity markets. Monitoring. This can influence our selection of choices and management strategies. What is working toward our goal, what isn’t? With complex systems that don’t have determined outcomes, such as most of biology and human affairs, monitoring is essential to creativity and innovation. Facilitating shifts in beliefs and behaviors. What we believe, and how we behave, are primary selective forces in everything we do. Education, awareness, and creating a safe environment for people to make shifts are incredibly important, especially as the “us versus them” polarity frequently encountered in human conflicts greatly restricts creativity and keeps us in a frame of managing AGAINST what we do not want. These aren’t separate strategies, but are interdependent. The Soil Carbon Challenge involves all of them. We hope you can get involved.


Reference this video about the Challenge underway in the USA:

Unexplored Ways Exist And It Is Worth a Revolution

Guest Blogger: Pati Ruiz Corzo

The good news of the international validation of Sierra Gorda´s Premium Carbon product filled us with pleasure since we have been working on this for many years and have experienced many frustrations regarding how inaccessible the global mechanisms are for the local contexts, and the arrogance of claiming to alleviate extreme poverty and protect the forests.

Mujeres con reforestaciones en el programa

Women participants in the reforestations for carbon compensations.

Yet, while being developed, the (Kyoto Protocol) designers never looked down to learn about the possibilities of the forest and society who own the land. This is a truth in Sierra Gorda and on a global level, as biodiversity is sheltered on the private lands of very poor communities who ignore  or are unbothered by its presence.

The design of discriminatory rules that are out of reach of the extreme poverty realities in mountain communities widens the gap from modern society, therefore these protocols do not answer the emerging global crisis. The tangle of methodologies and requirements, some of which were so out of focus, provoked us  to laugh and then to fury, looking for a way out of this costly maze.

When finally there was an innovative initiative like the California one, we thought there would be an opportunity, but to our disappointment, its rules were even more complicated, expensive and exclusionary than the rules of the Kyoto Protocol.  In 2010, the Secretary of the California´s EPA

Secretary Adams of CalEPA and Governor Calzada in his headquarters in Queretaro State, October 2010.

visited our carbon providers in the Reserve yet and seem to have continued to not comprehend the reality in the field. Maybe they did not mind not meeting their goals because it seems they made the process even more complicated.  See Earth Island Journal´s account by Jeff Conant.

Of the 685 plots of reforestations that were to obtain validation, only 208

obtained it. The lack of approved methodologies excluded the viability of taking advantage of other urgent opportunities in the field, all of them ready to mitigate global warming and local poverty, but out of the game because of the rules imposed for what seems to be another planet, not ours, and not for conservation and its reality.

With this experience and many frustrations accumulated while trying to find a way to make these protocols flexible, and being a conservation manager and social developer, I saw that several field opportunities were being excluded and I was determined not to let it happen.  I decided to step out of the narrowness of the box, and to break and rebuild the rules in a process that would allow urgent measures to happen now and protect the biocapacity of our planet.

I have always been viewed as a weird animal in the forums and workshops, advocating for a broader concept, both for products and possibilities of stimulating new markets and financing niches. Our ideas have always been ahead of the pack, so much so it provokes mocking and contempt among the MBAs, or investors for coin and academics submerged in ink.

So, today I am even more proud that our idea of making Kyoto touch ground at the local level provides adequate certainty and security and is done according to Sierra Gorda´s communities necessities and contexts. With pleasure I see how the idea of a State Protocol to  compensate emissions continues to progress and is becoming a  serious commitment.

And not only Sierra Gorda Premium Carbon has excellent possibilities on the global market, so do the new Solidary Carbon products which open the doors wider to compensation payments.  On a state level, it opens more opportunities for individual voluntary compensations aqnd shows once more that a lot of unexplored ways exist and it is worth a revolution and risking and finding a new universe of possibilities for the region and for other areas in Mexico.

Article about the validation of Sierra Gorda Premium Carbon (Click) on-line, “Sierra Gorda Brings Small-Scale Farmers into Mainstream Carbon Market With Dual Validation Under VCS and CCB.”