we will be there!
The Quivera Coalition's 9th Annual Conference.
November 10-12th, 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"The Carbon Ranch: Fighting Climate Change through Food and Stewardship"
Climate change is the most pressing issue confronting humanity. It is also a tremendous opportunity. Right now, the only possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is through plant photosynthesis and other land-based carbon sequestration activities. Strategies include: enriching soil carbon, farming with perennials, employing climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands, and producing local food. Over the past decade, many of these strategies have been demonstrated to be both practical and profitable. A carbon ranch bundles them into an economic whole with the aim of creating climate-friendly landscapes that are both healthy ecologically and the source of healthy food. In this conference we will explore this exciting new frontier and learn from `carbon pioneers' from around the world.
Background: A United Nations report released in 2006 titled "Livestock's Long Shadow" identified the livestock industry as a significant contributor to climate change. The report determined "that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport." This was due to: chemical fertilizer production, deforestation for pasture, cultivation of feed crops (corn), feed transport, animal production (fermentation and methane and nitrous oxide emissions) and the transportation of animal products. The report estimates that livestock contributes to about 9% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, but 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.
Author Michael Pollan put the problem this way: "We transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases."
The answer, Pollan says, is to "resolarize" the American economy - which means weaning Americans off their heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put them back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. "If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized," Pollan writes, "surely it is food."
We believe cattle production, done on grass at a local scale in combination with conservation practices that improve land health and sequester carbon, can be "solarized" relatively easily. The key is to make it economic, and thus replicable.
The Carbon Ranch Model: Our three-part model combines ecological and economic goals:
1) Progressive Cattle Management: Over the past twenty years, a suite of innovative management methods have been developed worldwide that employ livestock as conservation agents, including noxious weed eradication, "herd effect," planned grazing strategies, and low-stress livestock handling (collectively we call it `The New Ranch'). Increased land health leads to increased grass cover which leads to increased carbon sequestration.
2) Local Grassfed Beef: Animals raised on grass, processed nearby and consumed in a local community, have a small carbon footprint compared to commodity livestock production (there is some debate in the literature about the trade-off of `food miles' and increased methane production that results when cows eat grass). Grassfed beef is also viewed as healthier than feedlot beef (corn-based) by many researchers and members of the public.
3) Conservation Practices that Improve Ecosystem Function: Much of the arid West exists in a degraded ecological condition. In recent years, a suite of restoration methodologies have been developed that improve ecosystem function, including: the riparian restoration strategies pioneered by Bill Zeedyk, water harvesting from improved rural roads, and upland erosion mitigation. These (non-cattle) conservation practices improve land health and thus contribute to carbon sequestration.
Our 9th Annual Conference: A carbon ranch reduces its carbon footprint, enriches its soil, maintains a healthy carbon cycle, conserves natural habitat, restores degraded watersheds, and provides climate-friendly co-benefits, including grassfed meat.