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John Wick & Calla Rose Ostrander: Carbon Farming

John Wick is the co-owner of the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch and co-founder of the Marin Carbon Undertaking, which goals

to improve carbon sequestration in rangeland, agriculture, and forest soils by means of applied research and implementation.

Calla Rose Ostrander joined John and the Marin Carbon Challenge after almost 20 years of working to rework climate issues into solutions for giant, complicated metropolis methods in Aspen, Colorado, and San Francisco.

Each Wick and Ostrander are excited about the way forward for (and science behind) soil carbon sequestration. As our environment becomes increasingly laden with carbon dioxide, shifting agricultural practices to facilitate the drawdown of carbon back into the soil is turning into a very real focus for solutions. Beyond sequestering carbon, which is a massively essential endeavor, giant scale software of carbon farming methods has the potential to rework agriculture in lots of different methods, growing productiveness as properly our relationship to the land. We have been honored to host them on the 2017 Nationwide Bioneers Convention to share their hopeful and compelling discoveries. Under is a video and edited transcript of their keynote on the extraordinary prospects of carbon farming.

John Wick & Calla Rose Ostrander:

JOHN: First I have to make an embarrassing confession: I really like concrete.

I worked for a couple of many years in this space of building, doing tasks. In the early ‘90s, I went to high school to turn into a challenge manager, and I had this dream of working on very giant tasks, particularly the Three Gorges Dam in China. I assumed that might be a very spectacular achievement for a profession.

Fortuitously, life occurred, and an exquisite factor happened. My spouse turned very profitable. She created a best-selling youngsters’s e-book, Good Night time, Gorilla, that gained the Caldecott award, and then as a household choice, we chose to place my power and enthusiasm into her career.

Now, I have a large private area and that requires a much bigger studio than we had, so we bought a barn. This barn that we purchased was on a ranch twenty20 minutes west of right here in Nicasio, and we went about our work creating youngsters’s books, with no regard to the ranch surrounding this barn. The ranch is 540 acres of coastal prairie system. Our strategy to managing this landscape was to go away it alone. It was our assumption that nature would heal itself, and we might create wilderness by principally simply watching. However that didn’t occur.

Over a couple of years, the system went into chaos. We had encroachment of weeds from locations aside from here. The coyote brush took over the landscape. We had sudden oak demise. And being who I’m, I seemed to know-how and gear, and started to attempt to manage this technique as a development guy. Every little thing I did made it worse.


It was spinning out of control and it was then that we truly sought professional assist. That help came within the form of a PhD rangeland ecologist, Dr. Jeffrey Creque. Jeff advised that we study what this technique was and that was an enormous schooling for me. These are leaky, juicy techniques. They’re not hardscapes like I’m used to and it required an entire totally different strategy.

Working with dwelling techniques required remark and a more benevolent participation. So, we introduced intentional disruption in the form of an occasional grazing occasion, we did very mild touches on the landscape and began to see spectacular results. We started to truly see entire techniques of native crops appearing on their very own without planting a seed. This turned really thrilling to us.

Dr. Creque acquired increasingly more excited as a result of around 2006-2007, there was increasingly more concern concerning the local weather disaster. It was Jeff’s considering that if, in reality, we have been creating circumstances for the deeper-rooted native, perennial crops to precise themselves via photosynthesis, we have been in all probability considerably growing durable soil carbon and we would have liked a approach to measure that.

Round 2008, we have been capable of create the Marin Carbon Venture, which brought together scientists, coverage makers, practitioners, advisers, and explored the question of the position of carbon in managed natural methods upon which we rely for food, gasoline, fiber, and flora. Over the subsequent 10 years, we truly developed a new insight into these managed techniques. It’s a really exciting time for us.

We now know that via managing for carbon, we will truly improve the system capacity to carry much more carbon, and once you do it, the system on its own starts to do it on its own.

We first experimented with compost. By putting this lovely, biologically secure molecule—carbon, nitrogen, and life—on the soil, the soil knew precisely what to do with it. By making use of a skinny dusting of compost, as soon as, on our grazed rangeland system, it was like putting drugs on this poor soil. It shortly turned wholesome and, on its own, began to advertise more plant progress, which sequestered extra carbon, which held more water, which promoted extra plant progress. And it goes on and on.

We’ve measured this ongoing self-feeding carbon sequestration phenomenon for five years. Our pc modeling exhibits that, per hectare, a single software of compost, one time, will end in a ton of carbon from the environment ending up in a secure type in the soil for 30 to 100 years. That is extremely exciting.

Now, there are a variety of questions round that. Is there sufficient compost? What can we make compost from? And in the event you’re acquainted with the Challenge Drawdown record, number three is food waste. So we now have an incredible amount of assets out there to us to make compost with. But our scaling challenge is necessary and quite a challenge.

Study extra about Undertaking Drawdown on this excerpt about plant-based diets from Paul Hawkens’ e-book.

Before I introduce Calla Rose Ostrander, who’s helping with that scaling challenge, I needed to point out one factor. I put compost on this subject 13 years in the past one time and grazed it for about eight hours, every year. I took this image final Monday in the course of the peak of the wildfires to point out that these deeper-rooted native, perennials are green yr spherical. I’ve by no means watered this. There’s proof that California was green year-round and is hearth resistant. I’m very enthusiastic about this.

I also know that the sheep that graze this type of land produce wool, like this shirt is product of. One pound of this climate-beneficial wool eliminated six pounds of carbon from the environment. The extra clothes I produce—this is organic cotton from Capay Valley, wool from a carbon farm—we will truly clothe ourselves and eat meals and luxuriate in renewable gasoline, all derived from restorative agricultural that removes more carbon from the environment than is re-released. So, it’s nice.

Our scaling challenge is absolutely necessary, and that’s truly taking this 10 years of science and demonstration to the adoption part. So it’s a fantastic pleasure for me to introduce Calla Rose Ostrander who I met while she was on the City of San Francisco Division of Setting, who helped me perceive how we might truly take this science and demonstration to scale.

CALLA: I used to be so happy to satisfy John, and once we talked about this presentation, we decided that we weren’t going to inform you all the science. We weren’t going to enter all of the legal guidelines that we passed as a result of we actually needed to share a personal story with you about this evolution and what it takes to do what we’re going to all have to do. (Word: All science and policy talked about here is accessible on the Marin Carbon Challenge website.)

I met John in the metropolis and county of San Francisco, truly, first over the telephone. He referred to as me up and I answered. I used to be the local weather change coordinator. And he stated, “I’ve got this project, and we’re going to graze cows, and we’re going to reduce carbon, and we’re going to sell carbon offsets.”

And I stated, “That’s nice, call me back when you have a protocol and you’ve proved additionality and you’ve got all these things.”

5 years later, he confirmed up in our workplace, because of our nice colleague Kevin Drew, and he stated, we did the science. We confirmed that the soil truly responds and sequesters carbon with a single software of compost as a result of it makes the whole system healthier. We received a biogeochemist to do it. Listed here are the 12 papers, right here’s a protocol, here’s our policy base. By the best way, we’re working with the USDA and the Pure Resource Conservation Service, and we’re right here because we’d like extra compost. And I stated okay.

Then I had a private expertise where I had simply completed writing the town and county of San Francisco’s climate strategy with numerous people who have been a part of that undertaking. I went on a surfing trip and I dove into the ocean and I acquired a mind damage. I couldn’t read or write for a few yr, and in that time I was about on the same wavelength because the timber. They have been about my velocity.

I sat on the back porch and I listened to timber and I listened to birds, and what I noticed in that point was that so much has occurred a lot quicker than we thought. It was my job daily to read the local weather science, to advocate what we have been going to do for policy. While I used to be inside, studying the climate science and recommending policy, the surface world had shifted quicker than any of us had predicted.

This was the beginning of the drought, so the birds waited for the rain. In November, they all went quiet, they usually started to go inside. Their little goodbye songs. And the rain by no means got here. In December, it was quiet, and the birds have been quiet and the rain by no means came. In January, the birds have been quiet, and then the first magnolias started blooming, and the birds have been sort of like, Ought to we come out? Should we start chirping? They usually did however their track wasn’t pleased. It was confused.

On this time interval, I experienced such grief because the flowers had been pressured to bloom without any water. The birds have been popping out not having had any relaxation. At that point, I noticed, you recognize, we’ve received to play this recreation in a different way. I can’t go sit down for eight hours a day within the office and take a look at my pc and say I’m engaged on local weather change.

That’s not to say that we don’t typically have to take a seat on our computers because we do have to communicate with each other. But I was witnessing a culture that simply acquired up and received on the BART and acquired in the automotive and went and sat, and obtained up and went back and sat and went to bed. And it was like, no, the world is altering now, and in that we also have a lot freedom.

So, what did I do with my freedom? I give up my job with my pension and my Social Safety and all these really nice issues that you simply get whenever you work for the town and county of San Francisco, and I went to work with John within the Marin Carbon Challenge. Greatest choice I’ve ever made.

I really like my colleagues at the metropolis and county of San Francisco, we proceed to work together, and that’s what I’m going to talk about now.

What the Marin Carbon Challenge did, which is so phenomenal, is they created pieces that each one fit collectively to type a working mannequin. As an alternative of claiming we’ve a concept of change and the idea of change appears like this and now you need to account for carbon all over the place within the supply chain—thank you very a lot, Kyoto Protocol, and no thank you, because that’s a point-source pollutant response, and carbon isn’t a pollutant. It’s the elemental building block of life on our planet, and it’s a component, it cycles.

What they gave us was not a framework that we had to match into to create a cap-and-trade or an offset, though they did create a protocol for offsets. What they gave us have been items of a new working system. I noticed pieces together with the Fibershed venture and the work of these districts referred to as Useful resource Conservation Districts, out on the panorama. Theodore Roosevelt created them post-Mud Bowl to unravel for the Dust Bowl.

It turns out there’s this great infrastructure everywhere in the United States within the form of technical assistance to ranchers and farmers on the ground. The Marin Carbon Challenge stated: we’re going to work with these guys, present infrastructure. We’re going to create and fund Fibershed to create regional fiber economies. We’re also going to create a model for compost at the dairy next door. So, we’re going to create our personal compost. We’re going to do the science. We’re going to get the protocols right and then we’re going to take it to scale.

Once we speak about scale, we frequently take into consideration little house, huge home. Little module, huge modules. Many factories. What the Marin Carbon Challenge did is gave us a working mannequin for a fractal. It’s something that’s repeatable in a number of variations across a number of methods. It was specifically designed for america, so I’m not going to say it’s going to work in all places, however carbon works in all places, so I’m fairly positive we will determine it out.

So with this model we have been then capable of go out and scale as much as California.

What did we do with a coalition of people? We passed the Healthy Soils Initiative, which is funding for carbon farming within the state of California. For those of you who’re nervous about it not being funded this yr, it’s as a result of no legislator confirmed up and stated, “This is my priority.” Your homework, should you reside in California, please, is to call your legislator and tell them this can be a precedence for us, as a result of once we present up, change occurs.

We have been capable of get that program handed. We have been capable of move the first invoice on short-lived local weather pollutants on the earth that regulates methane and black carbon. Additionally a very superb accomplishment, we have been capable of move perhaps 4 other legal guidelines that regulate and assist incentivize the compost market. We have been capable of create carbon farm planning tasks with the help of the Carbon Cycle Institute, the California Climate And Agriculture Network, and the California Useful resource Conservation Districts in 33 districts within the State of California from North to South. In three years, we took a working model and we scaled up to the state. It’s pretty spectacular.

JOHN: I have a query for you. In the course of the Kyoto Protocol, once we didn’t sign up for it as a nation, what was the response from the US Council of Mayors?

CALLA: Oh, proper. So John really loves cities, and so do I. So you all know that when the US didn’t ratify Kyoto, the mayors stepped up and stated we’re going to do this ourselves. And that’s really the place this motion is at.

The lady who spoke earlier on renewable power, that’s coming on the city degree. You need composting? That’s coming on the city or county degree. It really is these buildings of power that we need to determine that we will utilize to create the change that we need to see on the earth. Individuals will typically ask, “Well, how do we create the change?” It’s this large drawback. It’s this large drawback and what I discovered by watching the Marin Carbon Venture is they came upon what labored and then they stored supporting what labored.

Oftentimes in our jobs or in our lives we battle what’s dangerous and we spend numerous power preventing what’s dangerous. We have now to seek out what works and help what works, as a result of the place our attention goes, there our power goes. Cities are a type of things that basically work because they are aware of individuals’s energy on the local degree.

JOHN: For me, one of many huge personal discoveries was at first of the Marin Carbon Venture we have been clearly informed that if the state and federal businesses have been going to participate, every part we did needed to be replicable, scalable and broadly applicable. That made sense to me. I get it. Turns out although that that’s the flawed strategy.

What I’ve discovered, and what we’ve truly put to apply, is first to scale one thing to the natural boundaries inside which it’s occurring, and subsequently replicate it once more inside the pure boundaries, and that’s the way you broadly distribute something. So for me native governance, the participation of us as citizens with our assemblymen, mayors, board of supervisors, this is the size within which we will truly change the world. This is our group, and dealing within our group, with each other, we perhaps can truly tackle this concern of otherness.

CALLA: Yeah, we’ve got to deal with it on a regular basis. Individuals ask, “How did you guys get this done? It’s so impressive.” Or, “What do we do next?” And truthfully, 80 % of it is communication.

We’ve got to state what we’d like. We’ve to state what our objectives are. We have now to state what we share. And we’ll find out what things we don’t share, and we’ll find out this stuff which might be totally different in our needs.

I needed to say to everyone in this room: There’s been such unimaginable, inspiring speak this entire week, but what I hope you’re taking forward with you is something that the Dalai Lama as soon as advised me, “This action starts at home.”

It starts with you. It begins with the individuals you work together with, and it starts together with your group. And if we will’t talk with each other, if we will’t say, “this is my need, this is where I’m coming from,” then we’re never going to get there. And if we will’t apologize, if it’s about who’s right as an alternative of where we’re going, we gained’t get there.

So this argument over what’s the appropriate framework or what’s the proper option to do things, it’s not the conversation to be having. Individuals say, “Oh, so soil is the single thing that’s going to save the planet.” We are saying, “No, no, no. You’re missing it. How we exchange energy with each other in the form of carbon, and how we use that energy is probably what’s going to help save all of us.”

In this time, when this drawback seems so overwhelming, just know that there’s this lovely answer which is photosynthesis. It’s built-in in all places around us, and the crops are giving us all power that we will change with each other. Our job as people in this position with the plant group is to offer back. We’ve got to offer again to them. And that’s why compost (I adore it so much!) can also be certainly one of this stuff that’s so simple nevertheless it works so extremely nicely.

JOHN: What we’ve discovered is that relatively than competing for depleting assets from extractive approaches, that by managing for life and managing for the circumstances for all times to occur, we will truly create circumstances which are self-feeding and create abundance. Where else can you do one thing where the extra you do of it, the extra assets you achieve to do much more? Only with dwelling techniques.

CALLA: I’d embrace individuals in that dwelling system.

JOHN: Yeah. In order a lot as I really like concrete, I truly love life extra.