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Originally posted at the Commonweal Institute's Uncommon Denominator blog

It seems fitting that the same week we celebrate the independence of our Nation, the House passed historic climate change legislation. In theory, this bill should bring us closer to the goals of oil independence and freedom from the disastrous future of a warming, melting planet. If America is to prosper in the 21st century, then we must take immediate action to reduce our role in causing the climate crisis. And yet, the bill left those of us who care about our shared environment shaking our heads. Is the Waxman-Markey bill is even slightly better for the planet than the status quo, or will it pave the way to increased, legalized pollution? Perhaps the most tragic part of the bill was the compromise with agribusiness interests that was required to secure its passage through the Agriculture committee.

Agribusiness likes to claim that "farmers are the first environmentalists" – a statement that should be true. Sadly, the large corporate interests that drive the agribusiness lobby like to hide behind the image of the American family farmer. And while the American family farmer may in fact be an environmentalist, the new climate change bill further entrenches the status quo of an agricultural system based on unsustainable usage of oil, water, and soil.

Soil represents one of our most powerful tools to sequester carbon, removing it from the atmosphere. However, in the last half-century oil-intensive industrial farming practices degraded our soil from up to 20 percent carbon to between 1- and 2-percent carbon.

The chemical fertilizers and pesticides that degrade the soil also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, we all need to eat, so ending agriculture is not a viable option to combat global warming or to reduce our dependence on oil. But when it is done right, agriculture can sequester carbon, playing a positive role in the fight against climate change.

For example, if organic, regenerative methods were adopted on all the world’s farmland, agriculture has the potential to sequester up to 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, for corn, studies show that organic, no-till methods reduce fossil fuel needs by two-thirds over a conventional, tilled system. Last, measured over several decades, organic corn and soy yields matched conventional yields in most years. The exception was in drought years, when organic yielded 30 percent more corn than conventional.

These findings, that organic methods can match conventional yields for corn and soy, are consistent with the findings of another study that evaluated a large number of crops around the world. That study found that organic agriculture yields, on average, 92 percent as much as conventional in the developed world.

We must also consider that in the developing world, organic outproduces conventional agriculture by 80 percent. That is not because organic produces more; it is because chemical-based methods yield less. Agriculture in the developed world relies on heavy amounts of petroleum-based fertilizer and other inputs, resources the developing world lacks. These numbers paint a disturbing picture for our future here at home as our oil runs out. Without abundant, cheap oil, our conventional agriculture may more closely resemble the decreased yields of the developing world.

In other words, in a warming world that is running out of oil, organic agriculture may be our best shot at feeding ourselves. Simultaneously, organic agriculture may be our ticket to reversing global warming by sequestering carbon into the soil. Yet, when faced with what could have been a very ambitious effort at curbing emissions, agribusiness fought for and won the right to continue business as usual.

The average farmer might like the idea of decreased reliance on oil. Preventing a climate crisis will ensure these farmers can pass their farms down to future generations. But the corporations selling chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds to the farmer prefer to secure their own short-term profits over the long-term well-being of humanity.

The passage of Waxman-Markey represents a loss for science, conservation, the family farmer, and the human race, but a big win for agribusiness. Independence from oil and freedom from climate change will have to wait for a future Fourth of July – it certainly didn’t happen this year.

If you are interested in environmental issues, please join DK GreenRoots, a new environmental advocacy group created by Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily. DK GreenRoots comprises bloggers at Daily Kos and eco-advocates from other sites. We focus on a broad range of issues and are always open to new ones.

Over the coming weeks and months, DK Greenroots will initiate a variety of environmental projects, some political and some having nothing directly to do with politics at all.

Some projects may involve the creation of eco working groups that can be used for a variety of actions, including implementing political action or drafting proposed legislation. We are in exciting times now because for the first time in decades, significant environmental legislation will be passed by Congress. It is far easier to achieve real change if our proposal is on the table rather than fighting rearguard actions.

We alert each other to important eco-stories in the mainstream media and on the Internet, promote bloggers at one site to readers at other sites, connect bloggers of similar interests to each other and discuss crucial eco-issues.

Come help us put these projects together. Bring ideas of your own. There is no limit on what we can accomplish together.

Schedule for DK GreenRoots Week
All listed times are PDT.

Sunday June 28:
11 am: Mr. President, go and see for yourself by Devilstower
3 pm: Kermit was right, it ain't easy by jillian
7 pm: Obama Wants Green Bottom-Up Politics by Patriot Daily

Sunday Series:
Overnight News Digest (Science Saturday) by Neon Vincent; Sunday Talk by Silly Rabbit aka Trix;Free Food Foraging by Wide Eyed Lib, How Regulation Came to Be: Donora by dsteffen; The Week in Editorial Cartoons: The Crying Game by JekyllnHyde; Overnight News Digest - Ole Man River and the Big Muddy by Oke

Monday June 29:
2 am: Now it's "Cleaner" Coal? by Zwoof
6 am: CBS Jumps a Whale Shark by DarkSyde
7 am: News from the Arctic: 29 June 2009 by billlaurelMD
1 pm: With Assistance, Foxaganda Finds Another Denier by Meteor Blades
9 pm: Obama Says Mountain Crimes Can Be Regulated by Jeff Biggers

Monday Series:
Science Tidbits by possum; Maccas Meatless Monday - Action Diary by beach babe in fl; Books by Kossacks by sarahnity; Got a Happy Story? by Eddie C); Labor Diary Rescue by djtyg, Overnight News Digest: Eco Week-O by jlms qkw; Green Diary Rescue by Meteor Blades

Tuesday June 30:
11 am: Ecotourism: Not an oxymoron by LaughingPlanet
3 pm: Walking Gently in the Footsteps of my Ancestors by Got a Grip
5 pm: Coast Redwoods and Climate Change by maggiejean
7 pm: Climate War: the United States and China by Magnifico

Tuesday Series:
Cheers & Jeers Tuesday by BiPM; Glacier Park 1, Strip Mines 0 (Healthy Minds & Bodies) by RLMiller; The Left Wing: Owl Farm by Texas Revolutionary; Top Comments: The Local Green Economic Stimulus Edition by Elise; Overnight News Digest by wader; Green Diary Rescue by Meteor Blades

Wednesday July 1:
5am: DK Greenroots: Beware the Silver Bullet ... by A Siegel
noon: The Video that Could Save Your Life: DK GreenRoots by FishOutofWater
3 pm: DK GreenRoots: The Insanity of Bottled Water by Asinus Asinum Fricat
5 pm: Keep an eye out for bear - a DK GreenRoots/Shenandoah NP photodiary by it really is that important
7 pm: Marine Life Series, DK Grassroots: Responsible Shrimp by Mark H

Wednesday Series:
DK GreenRoots: Bookflurries: Bookchat: The Setting as Character by cfk; Siglines! DK GreenRoots: Caring for the environment by Wee Mama.

Thursday July 2:
9am: jeremybloom on climate
11 am: Muskegon Critic
3 pm: Bruce Nilles
5 pm: boatsie on social networking
7 pm: rb137 on "blood minerals"
9 pm: Jill Richardson on food

Thursday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Labor Diary Rescue by djtyg, Considered Forthwith by Casual Wednesday; Thursday Night Health Care by TheFatLadySings; Top Comments by Elise; Write On! by SensibleShoes; Overnight News Digest by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

Friday July 3:
11 am: Meteor Blades
3 pm: TXsharon
7 pm: Land of Enchantment on energy

Friday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Mojo Friday by rbutters; Frugal Fridays by sarahnity; Friday Night at the Movies by Land of Enchantment; Overnight News Digest by Oke

Saturday July 4:
11 am: Jerome a Paris on wind power
3 pm: buhdydharma
5 pm: Land of Enchantment on climate
7 pm:  Stranded Wind

Saturday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Daily Kos University by plf515; Dawn Chorus Birdblog by lineatus; Saturday Morning Garden Blogging by Frankenoid; Saturday Morning Home Repair Blogging by boatgeek; Top Comments by carolita

Plus there'll be music on environmental themes in jotter's High Impact Diaries every morning, along with schedule updates. Additional diaries will be filled in from amongst the following: faithfull, The Cunctator, and Turkana. And we'll make more slots as needed - anyone who has an environmentally-related story they want to post this week, we'll create a place on the schedule for you.

Originally posted to Jill Richardson on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 07:41 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry for such a lousy diary (19+ / 0-)

    It's not necessarily a bad piece of writing but it's similar to something I wrote recently here and it's intended as a newspaper op ed so it lacks the documentation I would typically include in a diary.

    Also - if you ordered my book from - I hear they were sending out emails asking if you still want the book and apologizing that it hasn't shipped yet. It ships from the printer on 7/14 so expect it soon after that. And, as I've noted here before, you can pre-order an autographed copy from me on my blog at in the ads column.

    I wrote a book! You should buy it!

    by Jill Richardson on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 07:43:33 PM PDT

  •  I'm reading about (6+ / 0-)

    peak oil and its affect on our ability to feed people.  It's not pretty, in face it scares the crap out of me.

    Our government has failed us, that's what I soundly believe.  We've allowed large corporations drive public policy to the point where it could leave to the death of millions of human beings.  It's unconscionable.

    But I'm doing what I can to learn more.  I start my first class in my environmental restoration certificate next week.  I'm going to help push a community garden in my city and present changing the chicken ordinance as well.

    If I can scrape the money together, I will attend an intensive training in permaculture as well.  I'm hungry for knowledge and learning what I can do even though it seems we have run out of time.

    I saw Food Inc.  too.  It was devastating, just so heartbreaking on so many levels.

    •  OMG (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Populista

      I'm a typo machine.  Sorry.

    •  Our goverment has been (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, ladybug53, Ellinorianne

      responsible for the death of many millions of human beings before, unfortunately. Let's hope it isn't again.

      A question about Food Inc (for anyone). Is it worth seeing for a vegetarian small co-op member? Lots of movies are great for introducing topics but are not particularly interesting if you know about the topic already. Anyone who's seen it have insights?

      John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

      by Populista on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:41:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think its (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, ladybug53, Populista

        good for anyone to see.  It really puts in perspective the influence large corporations have had on our food production and how the Government has influence what we eat, etc.  And well, it's worth it just to hear what Polyface Farms owner has to say about the current system and his food philosophy.  It was brilliant.

        And well, putting our money towards films like this is what makes others able to get distribution etc. for documentaries, so buying a ticket alone can be helpful to the cause.

      •  Obama, Clinton... (0+ / 0-)

        have made pro-GMO statements and seem to be planning to spread its goodness worldwide.

        Truth creates money. Lies destroy it. - Suze Orman

        by smartcookienyc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:04:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  GMOs Aren't the Issue Here (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I know it isn't the usual line around here, but to play devil's advocate: herbicide resistance lines like Monsanto's Round-up Ready (glyposate resistance), Bayer's Liberty Link (glufosinate resistance) and a lot of company's imidazolinone resistant lines have all created huge increases in no-till farming on the conventional side, the benefits of which Jill explained above.

          If a farmer can use an herbicide (that targets a biochemical process unique to plants) to kill off weeds, she or he doesn't have to attack the weeds mechanically with a plow, which would break up the soil, promoting erosion and increases carbon outgassing. Which is a lot better than where conventional ag was two decades ago.

  •  Is it even slightly better for the planet than (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, ladybug53

    the status quo?

    That's a important question. And maybe that's the difference between supporters and opponents from the left of ACES.

    I don't think there is any question that it is. The cap, without complementary polices factored in would reduce emissions roughly 25 percent below current levels or 3-4 percent below the international baseline of 1990 levels. The WRI's study of it with complementary polices included (this was of the E and C committee product, not the final bill) found it would be more like 17 percent below 1990 levels (nearly 40 below today's levels), I forget the exact number but can look it up if you want. And that's without including the provisions on anti-deforestation and climate assistance.

    And when you consider what BAU would be it's probably closer to 50-60 below BAU levels. Just by 2020. In the 2030-2050 period it's a almost perfect, 100 percent auction bill with steep emissions cuts. And even in the interim, it's not that bad.

    If you think those numbers are incorrect I can see opposing the bill. But if you generally believe them (as I do) I just can't justify opposing the bill in it's House form even for all it's weaknesses. If it only reduced emissions a few percent below BAU I could see the case but studies are showing it would be a much larger reduction and with that in mind I come down in favor of the bill, but also in favor of strengthening it significantly.  

    Sorry if that's not the central point of your diary.

    As for it benefiting agribusiness. How would you explain the Farmers Bureau's strong opposition?

    John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

    by Populista on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:37:47 PM PDT

  •  Good grief, I thought about you (5+ / 0-)

    a billion times while I was in Nebraska last week. I got into conversations  several times over a few beers with some natives in a tiny town in south eastern NE.  All of them were sick of big agra.  "The pesticides are ruining the water table!"  "We never had cancer like this back 60 years ago!"  "There arne't any farmers anymore!  Just huge corporations!"

    One guy contended that it's the irrigation that's causing the humidity.  He said back when he was growing up, no one irrigated.  "We just left it up to God!"  He says the irrigation is - wait for it - "part a this whole global warming thing!"  And when his buddy laughed at him he said, "No, it's true, Hal!  'Member when we were kids?  It wasn't like this!"

    I actually talked civilly and successfully about organics and local consumption and sustainability.  

    And the best part?  Republican to then last man.

    There's hope.

    •  You. Rock. (5+ / 0-)

      It's viral conversations like this that'll get them to finally understand.

      Had coffee today with my most wingnuttiest friend. He's supporting my greenhouse project because he's afraid that food systems will collapse as the economy worsens, and besides, he remembers "when food didn't always come pre-portioned, cooked and ready-to-heat." I nodded and asked him how his zucchini were doing, and he said they were fine and that his rain barrels were overflowing with runoff from the garage, and that his carrots were stubby because the clay was too hard beneath them..

      I let myself smile at him for that, and thanked him for supporting that "crazy progressive local food movement I've been talking about for a long time."

      He blinked at me for a minute, then sheepishly smiled and said, "I am, aren't I. Well, mebbe you were right."

      I did what I believed was the right thing, and didn't gloat -- until after I got in the car to go home.

      •  We're having a blast with our garden (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, TheOtherJimM

        this year!  We've planted about 12 different "crops" (I put that in quotes because I'm not sure it's fair to call it a "crop" if it's 2 square feet. :-)).  We pull the weeds and run them down the block to our neighbors who have chickens that needs the greens.  They repay us in eggshells to crush for putting around our plants to keep the cutworms off.  We repay them in radishes and chard.  They repay us in eggs.

        Et voila!  Our own little mini co-op.

        And I'm going to pretend that this is perfectly on topic and not in any way highjacking your lovely diary!  (I guess it's not, in a miniature way...)

        •  Sorry, Timroff! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I thought Jill had written your comment!  Thanks for the reply.  I applaud you for not gloating when talking to your friend.  I must admit that talking to the old guys took some patience.  I tried not to sigh heavily.  They really surprised me, though, with their conversation.  I was prepared for the worst and came away feeling pretty good.


      •  Healthy, good food is "traditional" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CJB, RunawayRose

        as much as it is "progressive."

        Truth creates money. Lies destroy it. - Suze Orman

        by smartcookienyc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:02:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yo, look below my last comment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for some clarification.  I am not tracking tonight.

    •  wow! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CJB, RunawayRose

      that's so cool. Can you put me in touch w/ them? Or were they just random people you met? You should totally post a diary about this!

      I wrote a book! You should buy it!

      by Jill Richardson on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:15:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Eh, these were just random guys. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jill Richardson

        Jimmy's an 85-year-old retired truck driver.  Hal has a lawn mower repair shop. ("Ah, shit, Hal doesn't do a thing down there.  He just keeps that dump so he can get away from his wife." :-D)  I don't even remember the rest of their names.

        Maybe I'll do a diary one of these days.

  •  Food, Energy, and Health (4+ / 0-)

    Director of the new film, "Food, Inc," was just on Daily Show with Jon Stewart saying that the food system we have now is cheap but is also making people sick with diabetes, obesity, and other food related illnesses.  The health costs of continuing the way we are eating and growing food now are going to be enormous.  Cheap, mass produced food is making us sick.

    This is an existential threat from a variety of directions.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:42:42 PM PDT

  •  Sunshine in our meals. (0+ / 0-)

    Some food studies experts believe that the lack of "sunshine" in our food chain, having been replaced by petro-chemical fertilizers, has resulted in the lack of Vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients and a corresponding increase in heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

    Truth creates money. Lies destroy it. - Suze Orman

    by smartcookienyc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:56:35 PM PDT

  •  Diarist - WFD, Greermarket .... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Jill Richardson

    I volunteered this week to write the What's For Dinner diary on July 5.  I'm planning to write about not just cooking, but purchasing ingredients from farmer's markets.

    I am planning to post at about 4 - 5 pm EDT.

    Truth creates money. Lies destroy it. - Suze Orman

    by smartcookienyc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:00:04 PM PDT

  •  Vegetarians and cancer, some contrary (0+ / 0-)

    Cancer incidence in vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition

    Conclusion: Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

    Eating a lot of fatty beef isn't good for you, no doubt. I have no idea why this study found more colorectal cancers in vegetarians.

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