National Issues

Bill Stollery is a retired construction project manager residing in Penticton, and aspiring author of, “How WE Can Save The World.”

‘Kiss the Ground’ for this and my next column comes from a Netflix documentary narrated by actor Woody Harrelson.

The basic concept of the documentary is that CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere by plants and carbon is deposited in soil. Healthy plants make healthy soil, resulting in soils retaining more water and resulting in increased food security.

I also learned that this soils regeneration, if approached on an aggressive international basis, can reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide before human emissions reach carbon neutral.

This process was raised as the ‘4 per 1000’ initiative in France in December 2015 at the UN meeting COP21. The ‘4 per 1000’ initiative is based on an annual growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks in the first 30 to 40 cm of soil.

The ‘4 per 1000’ initiative is voluntary, which I take to mean that successes with taking the initiative are not credited to meeting climate change emission reduction targets. The ‘4 per 1000’ initiative also applies to forest soils.

Canada and Alberta are signatory to this initiative. B.C. should also become signatory to confirm their commitment.

This will confirm B.C.’s political will in this vital process, and justify B.C.’s promotion of appropriate efforts such as at Agriculture Canada Summerland Research and Development Center, and possibly accelerated tax depreciation for appropriate actions.

Diversification of farming businesses could also reduce climate change weather risks.

A very interesting suggestion for increasing soil carbon is “Biochar,” which is based on creating carbon by charcoal production. Charcoal is produced by burning plant fiber with a limited supply of oxygen.

Charcoal production is much more environmentally friendly than slash and burn. Specifics of whether biochar is appropriately environmentally friendly, and where the carbon should be used needs to be confirmed, possibly by Agriculture Canada Summerland Research and Development Center.

In South Central B.C., the application of ‘4 per 1000’ to agricultural soils can be accomplished by:

• Dairy farms should change to paddock grazing. Paddock grazing is releasing farm animal to graze on limited area for limited time frames to ensure the animal do not cause the pastures to be degraded by trampling. Diversification could include, among other things, specialty cheeses.

• Development and encouraged use of alternate crops will improve soils. Optimally crops would be perennial rather than annual, which could allow simple surface and efficient water control systems (less evaporation) and reduced farm equipment operation.

Possible crops could include fiber crops for fabric and other wide applications, and possibly climate change friendly bio mass

• I assume that all B.C. towns and cities with sewage plants have and promote sewage-based compost for appropriate uses, as they do in Penticton.

• Biochar should be considered particularly for the high value and high labour berry production and farm gardening areas.

• In orchards and wineries diversification could include such practices as having free-range chickens, ducks or geese

• Perennial plantings such as all forms of fruit also continually transmit carbon into soils and should always be paired with natural grasses where possible.