Positive Actions, Large and Small

I’ve written recently about ways in which gardeners could work toward reducing the impacts of climate change. For example, they could avoid uses of synthetic chemicals, cover the surface of soil with garden plants, mulch or cover crops, minimize tilling, and, most recently, avoid uses of gas-powered leaf blowers and other garden tools.

These practices, which generally align with organic gardening methods, could have beneficial, if small, effects on sequestering atmospheric carbon, cleaning up the atmosphere, improving soil health, retaining moisture, and other factors.

Such initiatives are important in slowing and eventually reversing the current disruption of nature’s carbon cycle: industrial-age agricultural methods have been causing about 40% of the climate change phenomenon, according to some reports.

We need those in commercial agriculture to pursue the large-scale work in these areas.

It is gratifying to know that California is providing leadership in this connection. A recent example, is the legislation to direct the Environmental Farming Science Advisory Panel to “provide incentives, including loans, grants, research, technical assistance, or educational materials and outreach, to farmers whose practices promote the well-being of ecosystems, air quality, and wildlife and their habitat, and reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions or increase carbon storage in agricultural soils and woody biomass, or both.”

The legislation (Senate Bill 357) also would fund these new incentives by drawing from a $2 billion fund already received from existing sources of greenhouse gasses (GHGs), as part of a “cap and-trade” strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This fund also supports other programs.

California Senate’s Agriculture and Environmental Quality Committees have approved this bill, and it seems poised for adoption by the full legislature, which returns in January from the current legislative recess.

Numerous agricultural and environmental organizations and land trusts are supporting this bill and similar actions. Supporting groups include the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and California Climate and Agriculture Network (CALCAN; http://calclimateag.org/.)

An important turning point for California’s leadership in this area was the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which the state has since updated and complemented with a legislative actions and executive orders.

California’s encouraging work in the climate change arena continues in the midst of other significant and urgent challenges: drought, wild fires, water supplies, transportation systems and others.

Returning to our primary focus on gardens and gardeners, we note that these statewide programs provide research, inspiration and practical demonstrations that we can as individual actors, draw upon in adopting ecologically sound practices. We enjoy our gardens more when we know we are managing them responsibly.

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