By Maria Rodale
As I write this, the Climate March is happening in New York City. My heart is there, in Manhattan, even as I go through my usual weekend routine: Emmaus farmer's market, supermarket, second half of the Man City vs. Chelsea Game (it was very emotional), lunch, and playing outside with my daughter—the same daughter who insisted we NOT go to the Climate March since this was the only day we had together at home between some very busy traveling weeks for me. (I let her make the final decision.)
And that's the problem with climate change in general, isn't it? None of us really wants to change our familiar routines to solve the problem because change is inconvenient and often difficult. And yet…what if it weren't? What if the answer were actually very, very simple? Usually, the best answers are truly simple, but for some reason, people don't quite trust the simple answer. In this case, we do have the answer to climate change right now: convert every farm, every orchard, every golf course, every lawn, every highway roadside and even every national park to organic.
It’s pre-dawn on the morning of the People’s Climate March. The air is moist and crisp, autumn dancing in the air with summer’s yawning presence. The UN Climate Summit, intended to catalyze action for the 2015 UN Climate Negotiations, convenes this week. Yet the most remarkable display of leadership may be the catalytic momentum on the streets. September 21, 2014 marks the largest convening of global citizen action in the climate change movement: 310,000 in New York City alone.
As I write, I wonder what’s worth reading that hasn’t already been said about the climate change threat and the need for positive action. It occurs to me that what is most important to say again and again is what has become a bit of a restorative leadership mantra: each action and inaction impacts. Leadership that recognizes the interconnectedness of all life faces and embraces the ultimate responsibility of knowing that how we lead our communities, our organizations, and our lives charts a course for our common future.
The question then becomes, which future are we choosing each moment? How can each choice we make serve the possibility that this global ecosystem, which birthed the miraculous gift of life on Earth, can continue to sustain our common needs, our common rights, and a future reflective of our collective best?
Hawaii is one of Earth’s crown jewels, a chain of sun-kissed, emerald-green islands isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But the islands have not been immune to widespread experimentation of genetically engineered crops and application of toxic, experimental pesticides. In fact, because of the archipelago’s relative isolation, biotech has chosen Hawaii as one its primary testing grounds for new GMO crops and agrichemicals.
On Hawaii’s island of Kauai, citizens sought to reign in rampant GMO experimentation and in November 2013 passed Ordinance 960. The new law, which was set to take effect on October 1, 2014, would have required large agricultural operations on the island to disclose the type of pesticides sprayed in fields as well as growth of genetically engineered crops. Companies would also have been required to establish buffer zones near schools, medical facilities, dwellings, parks, shorelines and waterways.
However, in late August 2014, U.S. federal Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging Kauai’s new GMO ordinance by four multinational corporations, thus striking down the new law before it was ever enacted. The group of biotech giants, including Syngenta, Dupont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, and BASF Plant Sciences, filed a lawsuit in January 2014 against Kauai County seeking to block implementation of Ordinance 960, arguing the new county ordinance unfairly targeted their industry.
Uncertainty is a hallmark of the 21st century. As we envision the possibility of global equilibrium and collective wellbeing, we are challenged to confront the reality of having exceeded the limits to growth. With that, sustainability has become an ethical imperative for all leadership.
With sustainability at the forefront, it is important to remember that the challenges to be transformed are what David Orr described as “a miscalibration between human intentions and ecological results, which is to say that they are a kind of design failure.” When approached as a matter of design, it becomes evident that leadership plays the critical role in solving the current social-ecological design problem on Earth—a charge to meet by co-creating with collective intelligence. Fortunately, the framework of restorative leadership provides guidance for what it takes to lead for resounding impact at this planet-critical time.
According to a new White Paper, published in May 2014 by the Rodale Institute, switching to widely available and inexpensive organic farming practices can help curb the effects of global warming in a big way.
“Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture.’ These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect, said the study’s authors.
In fact, claims Rodale, organic farming practices and improved land management can move agriculture from one of today’s primary sources of global warming and carbon pollution to a potential carbon sink powerful enough to sequester all of the world’s current annual CO2 emissions.
With its reduced energy inputs, the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2014 that, “Organic practices could counteract the world’s yearly carbon dioxide output while producing the same amount of food as conventional farming…”