Susan Jennings Offers Seminar at University of Dayton

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Written by David Diamond, Community Solutions Media Coordinator

Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings will offer a seminar at the University of Dayton this winter. Jennings says "The cascade of political and environmental crises that are impacting our communities have deep and complex roots. During this seminar we’ll explore the interconnected causes of climate change and the transformative solutions that are being piloted across the planet. We’ll also discuss on-the-ground responses in our own neighborhoods."

The seminar will run for six Mondays, from January 22nd -February 26th, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at UD's River Campus. Click here to register.

Stories Made of Rivers

Originally posted on dark-mountain.net

Written by Joanna Pocock

1. Civilisation

The first story I was told about rivers can be summed up like this: there is direct line from the Sumerian Ziggurat of Ur to the Chrysler Building. I was around nine.

2. Civilisation II

Rivers allowed us to grow food, store it, build houses, libraries, museums, cities and empires. I was maybe ten when I heard this one.

3. Cells

In sixth grade, the story shifted from history to science when we memorised that our hearts and brains were 73% water. I have always seen fresh water as precious, magical. I used to believe that water could think. If my brain was mainly water, why not?

Every single living and non-living, visible and non-visible object around us – our computer screens, the retinas in our eyeballs, the dust in the air – all of these rely on fresh water. Our body is a walking river. Water flows from us. The liquid inside us will out eventually.

4. Cycles

In middle school, we were taught about the water cycle: river to rain to snow to mountain glacier to melting ice, back to river. We coloured in those diagrams and added those arrows diligently. But we were not told that this cycle was one of the many ways the earth breathes in and out. Nor were we told that bathing in the River Ganges frees the bather from sin, the outward cleanliness symbolising inner purification. This waterway is fed by the glaciers in the Himalayas, the Mountains of the Gods, and feeds the Indian plains as if descended from the heavens.

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Organic or Starve: can Cuba's New Farming Model Provide Food Security?

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Originally posted on theguardian.com

Written by Roger Atwood

In the town of Hershey, 40 miles east of Havana, you can see the past and the future of Cuban farming, side by side.

The abandoned hulk of the Camilo Cienfuegos sugar plant, shut along with 70 other cane refineries in 2002, towers over the town. But in the lush hills and grasslands around Hershey, fields of cassava, corn, beans, and vegetables are a sign that there is life after sugar.

Once owned by the famous Pennsylvania chocolate maker, the Cienfuegos plant supplied the sugar that sweetened Hershey’s candy bars. After the 1959 revolution, it was nationalised by Fidel Castro’s government and became property of the state, its sugar shipped to the Soviet Union and allies.

As the world’s largest sugar exporter, Cuba relied on pesticides and fertilisers and heavy mechanisation to produce up to 8.4m tonnes of sugar – its peak harvest, in 1990 – nearly all of it exported to the Communist bloc. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 eliminated Cuba’s preferential market and, coupled with a tightening of the US trade embargo, sent the Cuban economy into an extended coma. The sugar industry muddled along for another decade until the government ordered the closure of 71 of the island’s 156 sugar refineries. Places that had depended on sugar for a century became ghost towns.

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Soil Power! The Dirty Way to a Green Planet

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Originally posted on nytimes.com

Written by Jaques Leslie

The last great hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may lie in a substance so commonplace that we typically ignore it or else walk all over it: the soil beneath our feet.

The earth possesses five major pools of carbon. Of those pools, the atmosphere is already overloaded with the stuff; the oceans are turning acidic as they become saturated with it; the forests are diminishing; and underground fossil fuel reserves are being emptied. That leaves soil as the most likely repository for immense quantities of carbon.

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Agriculture and climate change: Is farming really a moveable feast?

Originally posted on Resource Insights

Written by Community Solutions fellow Kurt Cobb 

There is a notion afoot that our agricultural production can simply migrate toward the poles in the face of climate change as areas in lower latitudes overheat and dry up. Few people contemplate what such a move would entail and whether it would actually be feasible.

One assumption behind this falsely reassuring idea is that soil quality is somehow roughly uniform across the planet. But, of course, this is completely false. Soil quality and composition vary widely, often within walking distance on the same farm. Farmers simply moving north (or south in the Southern Hemisphere) in response to climate change will not automatically encounter soil suitable for farming.

We must also consider that lands not previously farmed may very well be forested. Knocking down the trees and clearing the stumps might make such lands arable. But the loss of carbon storage that trees represent would only make climate change worse.

Quite often we think of rural areas as being undeveloped. But nothing could be further from the truth. Agricultural regions have complex networks involving roads, communications and electricity grids, irrigation systems, grain elevators, farm supply and machinery merchants, rail depots, agricultural research stations and field projects, government-sponsored agricultural assistance centers and the specialists attached to them, and entire towns which act as gathering places and service centers for those working in rural communities. All of this would have to be duplicated in newly opened agricultural lands for which pioneering settlers would have to be recruited. These pioneers would have to want to live in previously unsettled or sparsely settled areas with few amenities.

Unlike previous eras when farming was a way of life for most people and owning farmland was seen as a path to self-sufficiency and independence, these new pioneers will be adopting or continuing an occupation that millions are desperately fleeing around the world—in favor of the excitement and opportunities of the city.

Even if such rural migrations were subsidized (or forced—gasp!), they would take time, probably decades. All the while climate change would be bearing down on crop yields around the world. Would such a grand development project make up for ongoing declines in existing farmland production?

This is just one "solution" offered to us by what I will call the "adaptationists." The trouble is there can be no assurance that their solutions will actually work. A better approach would be to prevent further climate change as much as we are able (knowing that the lags in the Earth's climate system will make more change inevitable for the next several decades). The schemes being offered these days include emergency measures such as throwing sulfates into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight and constructing large mirrors between the Earth and the Sun to do the same.

The trouble with these approaches is they are all untried, and we have only the smallest inkling of their unintended consequences. Could we end up with a situation that is worse than otherwise would have been the case?

It is important to remember that when it comes to Earth systems, it is impossible to do just one thing. Whenever we do something, we affect the entire system, and we, as limited beings, cannot understand all the possible consequences ahead of time. We think we are acting on objects, and it turns out that we are acting on networks.

Networks have a way of pushing back at attempts to upend them. But frequently we cannot even see the networks we are affecting until they begin to react to our prodding, often in unforeseen and dangerous ways.

We do not know exactly how our agricultural networks will react as they are forced to change in response to the climate chaos we have unleashed. But we can take a much more humble stance by acknowledging that we cannot confidently predict that simply moving our current system toward the poles will allow us to produce all that we are going to need.

We may be faced with adopting systemic changes that include new ways of growing, more people in more places engaged in growing, changing what we grow and eat, and growing much more of what we eat closer to where it is eaten. Some of these changes are already taking place. But they will likely deepen and widen as climate change bears down more and more on our agricultural systems worldwide.

Saving Walden’s World: Filming in Slovenia

Written by Community Solutions Fellow Jim Merkel

The documentary film collaboration with Community Solutions previously titled “The 100-Year Plan” now has a working title of “Saving Walden’s World.” In 2016 I reported on our filming in Cuba. After attending a Degrowth Conference in Budapest, Hungary, last year, I boarded a train to Slovenia, one of the countries highlighted in the film. The beat of train wheels upon steel rails accompanied me as we headed west out of Budapest toward the Slovenian countryside. At the border, sagging rooflines gave way to neat homesteads, vegetable gardens and orchards lining the tracks and beyond. The train snaked along sparkling rivers into canyons with lush forests clinging to mountainsides, through villages, and past people at work splitting and stacking wood or scything and drying corn and hay.

Once in the capital, Ljubljana, I bussed to Robin Turk’s home to borrow a bike for three weeks. Robin has cycled in 50 countries and, through the organization “Warm Showers,” opens his home to cyclists. In the morning my 25-pound backpack’s contents of camera and personal gear were divided into pannier bags, and I was off.

Ljubljana has earned the title of “European Green Capital” for its sustainable practices. The inner city is car-free, and tourists are drawn to its vibrant cafes and quiet streets. A zero waste program is in place. Forested green spaces surround the city. Community gardens, co-ops and the use of renewable energy are increasing.

Gaja Brecelj, who works with Umanoterra, an NGO focused on sustainability, explains: “It is not just living within the planetary boundaries, but it’s also, as a society, how we can be in solidarity, respect each other.” And, she adds, referring to the refugee crisis, “how we can be open to people who need to move or are forced to move.” 

“Ten years ago everyone knew we could go anywhere by car,” she said, noting that there was resistance in the beginning to making the town center car-free. “That’s why this strategy of doing it bit by bit, was very good. You take one small road, you close it… ahh, people would complain, but it’s not so bad.” Every year they broadened it and now, Gaja says, “nobody wants to go back.”

Slovenia’s 11-acre per capita ecofootprint is well below that of the US (17 acres). The country also has a lower infant mortality rate, lower gender pay gap, and less poverty while having higher literacy and more women in politics.

Živa Kavak Gobbo is the president of a sustainability group call FOCUS. She loads her four-year-old boy into a child carrier on her bike, drops him off at a government-funded childcare center, and cycles in to work on bike lanes. When asked to describe the safety net for young women, Živa responded: “We have good access to education. We have good access to health care. The healthcare is free, for us and for the children. If we decide we want to be mothers, we have access to all the doctors we need. We have a one-year maternity leave, so you can have your child, you can breast feed and then go back to work.” It is common for grandparents to care for the children during year two. However, childcare is free and available to anyone who needs it.

Živa continues: “If you don’t want to be a mother, you can still use contraceptives, which are for free. You can abort. It is also for free. And it’s not a taboo. This is something that we have and we want to keep as a woman’s right. I think women are strong enough to demand this right, to take care and decide about your own body. I don’t see why a society should decide what is going on with my body. I mean, it’s me who is the mother, and it’s me carrying the child for nine months. Being pregnant and having a child, if I don’t want the child— is it good for the child? No.”

I met with Dr. Vesna Leslosek, the Dean of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Ljubljana, who focuses on gender and welfare. “To control your reproduction is very important,” she said. This gives you the power to control yourself. If you don’t control how many children you will have and when you will have them, then you do not have a control over your life.” Slovenia’s abortion rate is half that of the U.S., and the teen pregnancy rate is 12 per 1000. In the U.S. it is 57 per 1000.

Back in the U.S., salaries, on average, are higher and taxes are lower. But those with lower incomes are struggling. These folks work several jobs. Put your kids through college? Tough. Dental care? On your own.

Our youth are saddled with an average of $37,172 of student loan debt per student (college class of 2016). If your parents can’t pay, or don’t have a home to remortgage, you could work nights. It isn’t easy. Along comes Romeo—handsome, nice car—you know the story. In Maine, 58 percent of women without college degrees are single moms.

Only 12 percent of women who graduate college become single moms. What does all this have to do with a sustainable planet? As the status of women rises, more go to college. They have fewer, healthier children later in life, which eases population pressures, but more importantly, this increases the quality of life for the child and mother. Low infant mortality rates could be considered a better measure than GDP of how well a society is doing. In Slovenia, 2.9 children die per 1,000 born. In Cuba, one of the other nations featured in “Saving Walden’s World,” the rate is 4.3. The U.S. stands at 6.7.

It is clear that in the land of too much, millions are struggling unnecessarily. For my son, Walden, and his generation’s sake, I don’t have the luxury to do nothing. It feels more necessary each day to share the stories through this film of people and places that are showing the way toward a more sustainable and just world.

Huge carbon sink in soil minerals: New avenue for offsetting rising greenhouse gases

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Originally posted on sciencedaily.com

Written by Eric Sorensen

A Washington State University researcher has discovered that vast amounts of carbon can be stored by soil minerals more than a foot below the surface. The finding could help offset the rising greenhouse-gas emissions helping warm the Earth's climate.

Marc Kramer, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at WSU Vancouver, reports his finding in one of two related papers demonstrating how the right management practices can help trap much of the carbon dioxide that is rapidly warming the planet.

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New Agraria Interactive Map!

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We're all very pleased and excited to present Community Solutions' new Interactive Map of Agraria! This beautiful representation of our vision for Agraria, developed in partnership with local artist and Antioch College professor Michael Casselli, helps us illustrate and communicate our ideas and plans for this expansive and diverse land. From environmental renewal to education to local business to scientific study, it's all represented here. Just visit the map and click on any icon for a short description. We'll see you online, at the map and on Giving Tuesday, November 28!

A Shift, And An Opportunity, At Agraria

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Written by Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings

Dear Friend—

This year will go down in our organizational and in international history as one of surprise and shift. Organizationally, there is nothing more surprising than the fact that we are currently packing our offices in preparation for our move into a renovated workshop on Agraria, our recently-acquired 128-acre farm on the outskirts of Yellow Springs.

At the root of the swirl of planning and activity surrounding Agraria is a shift in organizational focus. By far the largest project in our 77-year history, Agraria is allowing a grounding and expansion of our community education and outreach. Already we have engaged with dozens of neighbors, farmers, and students in a visioning of the possibilities for Agraria, including:

·         Research and education around soil and water health and biodiversity

·         Restoration of Jacoby Creek and its banks in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy

·         Support of the regional food system through farmland rentals, production of soil amendments, and a native plant nursery

·         Partnerships with Central State University, Antioch College, and Yellow Springs and other regional school districts

Agraria provides a synchronistic platform for the integration of our organizational focus areas of resilient communities, regenerative land use, community economics, energy democracy, and being the change.  You can read on our interactive map about our long-term vision for Agraria.  

Agraria is both a mirror and an outgrowth of two larger, international paradigm shifts.

The first shift is an increasing recognition of the regeneration of soil as an important climate tool, with carbon sequestration in soil integral to the two latest international climate agreements.  Cutting-edge research suggests that regenerative land use could account for 37 percent of the solution to climate change.   Farmers and environmental organizations are at the heart of soil research and action; the Rodale Institute recently unveiled a Regenerative Agriculture certification.

Our hope is that Agraria can serve as a pilot and a model for land use practices that regenerate soil and sequester carbon.  We have been travelling to other farms, including Polyface, The Land Institute and The Arbor Day Foundation, to explore our options, and have also been attending national meetings around land use, cover crops, and soil regeneration. We will share what we are learning at our March 9th Regenerating Landscapes symposium, as well as in our first issue of The Journal of Agraria, due out this spring.

The second shift is the development of community leadership that is effecting important change.  While the local to global movement is decades old, the failure of many of our larger systems to respond constructively to environmental, societal, and economic crises has galvanized action across the planet.

We heard about many of these movements (including Via Campesina, Mondragon Cooperatives, and Mutual Aid Networks) at our inspiring October conference on The Economics of Happiness. We are also seeing community leadership first hand with the purchase and development of Agraria, with friends and neighbors assisting both financially and with trail building, skill sharing, and citizen science.  You can continue the conversation at our December 21st Gratitude Walk and Open House at Agraria as well as in next year’s educational events.

We are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received for what we view as a community asset and resource for building regional self-reliance. We invite you to join us as a financial partner-- matching our organizational leap with a special pledge—by becoming an inaugural Steward of the Soil and committing $1000 a year for three years. Combined with our business and investment strategy as well as a capital campaign, these yearly gifts will help to put us on a solid financial footing for the long term.

With gratitude for your support, and with best wishes for a hopeful turn of the year,

Susan Jennings

Executive Director

Middle School Students Present "Into the Wild" at Agraria

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Written by Community Solutions Staff Member David Diamond

McKinney Middle School seventh-graders culminated their months-long “Into the Wild” project with a presentation and public exhibition on October 26 in the historic barn at Agraria, the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions’ farm and center for regenerative agriculture. Much of the students’ research and inspiration came from a three-day camping trip with faculty and parents down the Little Miami bike trail. The students biked 53 miles, camped out for two nights, researched local history, and canoed and waded in the Little Miami River to study macroinvertebrates.

Kate Lohmeyer, health and physical education teacher for grades 7-12, was part of the teacher leadership team for the interdisciplinary project. All the participating teachers were “in some way, avid participants in the outdoors, either focused on exercise or just being in nature,” said Lohmeyer.  “We thought it would be great to share that with the kids. It turned into this wonderful experience.” Under the direction of science teacher Rebecca Eastman, students also studied macroinvertebrates in Jacoby Creek on Agraria. Holding the exhibition night in Agraria’s barn “was a great way to culminate the experience for our students,” said Lohmeyer.

“It was thrilling to see families enjoying each other at the Agraria presentations, and also to share in Jacoby Creek research that intersected with students’ ‘Into the Wild’ inquiries,” said Susan Jennings, Executive Director of Community Solutions. Since buying Agraria last March, located just outside Yellow Springs, the local non-profit organization has seen the location’s enormous potential for experiential education. Plans for Agraria include installation of a school garden and construction of a bike path from the high school to Agraria for use by both students and community members. “We’re excited and honored to partner with the Yellow Springs Schools on cutting-edge agricultural curricula for Agraria,” said Jennings. “Their Project Based Learning experience and leadership will help us to develop programs that also benefit students from Xenia, Springfield, and Dayton.”

Lohmeyer also sees many opportunities for schools—not just in the barn, but throughout the 128 acres of Agraria farmland. “There’s a push from all levels, K-12, to try to do things outside,” she said. “The more Community Solutions can collaborate, the more people will want to take advantage of that space. I know people are looking forward to it.” 

Help support education at Agraria by donating to Community Solutions on Giving Tuesday, November 28!

A Deep Springs College for Women

Originally posted on newyorker.com

Written by Carrie Battan

Photograph by Laura Marcus / Arete Project

In mid-June, a group of eighteen young women arrived on a makeshift campus in mountainous, rural North Carolina, thirty miles from the nearest interstate and a long hike from reliable cell-phone service. They made themselves as comfortable as possible in small, unheated, unfurnished cabins. Soon, they were cooking soups and stews from vegetables grown on the property. The members of the group, who mostly wore hiking boots, cargo shorts, and old T-shirts, were attendees of the Arete Project, a summer program launched four years ago to provide intellectually curious young women with an experience similar to the one offered at Deep Springs College, the experimental and highly romanticized school in the California desert, which was founded in 1917 with the goal of preparing young men for the vague and lofty goal of “a life of service to humanity.”

Like Deep Springs, the Arete Project offers an alternative to the standard model of American higher education, one defined by three “pillars”: physical labor, academics, and self-governance. Every class, or “cohort,” must determine, from the day the women arrive on campus, the rules by which they will live and work together. Students have minimal connection to the outside world; in the past, cohorts have restricted phone and Internet usage to brief periods or places on campus. No drugs or alcohol are permitted. A potent mix of practical training and idealism, this education is designed to imbue students with a “selfless devotion to world and humanity.”

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From Brussels to Arkansas, a Tough Week for Monsanto

Originally posted on nytimes.com

Written by Danny Hakim

Opposition from France and Italy doomed a European Union vote on Thursday to reauthorize the world’s most popular weedkiller, glyphosate, a decision that came hours after Arkansas regulators moved to ban an alternative weedkiller for much of 2018.

The decisions are a double blow to the agrochemical industry and particularly to the chemicals giant Monsanto. An appeals committee of European officials will convene this month, though, to weigh again whether to continue to allow glyphosate just weeks before its registration expires. The chemical is the main ingredient in Roundup, one of Monsanto’s flagships, but its patent has ended and it is now made by much of the industry.

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Look At the Big Picture, Avoid Groupthink, Remember History

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Originally posted on Resilience.org

Written by Community Solutions Fellow Kurt Cobb

A friend of mine recently outlined as follows his method for thinking about important issues: Look at the big picture, avoid groupthink, and remember history.

First, the big picture. People too often think only about the narrow field in which they work or the community or nation in which they live. But whatever the topic, there is always a context that includes the rest of the world and the interplay of actors and forces in many locales and fields of endeavor.

Let me provide an illustration (not one provided by my friend). If I want to understand the state of renewable energy in the United States, I’d certainly want to know also the state of that industry in other countries including their regulatory regimes; the structure of their industry whether public, private or a combination; and the state of research and development. I’d also want to know how renewable energy fits into the total picture of energy use, for example, its current share of consumption compared to competing sources of energy and its growth rate. Further, I’d want to know about the emergence of electric vehicles, a major new user of electricity, and about the industry that produces them. I wouldn’t stop there, but what I’ve outlined so far conveys the scope of inquiry that I’m recommending.

Next I’d want to check into any relevant claims made in the media and by family members, friends, and co-workers in order to avoid groupthink, that is, believing something merely because I’ve heard it from others. For example, if someone claims that the dominant form of energy in human society in 2030 will be solar (and someone did), I would want to find the basis for such a claim if there is one and also see if the current trends suggest that this is likely. Just because some smart people believe that something will happen doesn’t mean that it will.

Finally, I’d want to know something about the history of the renewable energy industry in America and abroad. What does that history tell me about what is likely to happen in the future? And based on what we know about the history of energy transitions in the past from coal to oil and then to natural gas, are various claims about the speed of the current energy transition to renewable energy plausible? Of course, no one can know the future. But when people make claims about the future that have no precedent, we should be skeptical and cautious.

Of course, these steps—looking at the big picture, avoiding groupthink, and remembering history—require time, concentration and reflection. It’s simply not possible to do such research for every issue that crosses one’s path. So, humans take shortcuts much of the time. They focus on what they know from their own experience. They recall what they’ve already read in the media and heard from those they know. They dispense with any serious study of the history of a subject, assuming that current knowledge is all that they need. (For minor daily issues this process may indeed suffice.)

Beyond the difficulty of doing one’s own research, there is the difficulty of standing apart from friends, family, co-workers and others in one’s social circle. Voicing an opinion that runs counter to the prevailing view can net one ridicule, dismissal and even social exclusion. Moreover, most people don’t want to believe that the world they’ve constructed in their heads may be flawed, perhaps dangerously flawed. If you are the person telling them this, you will probably not be in line for thanks.

The greatest difficulty comes when our research produces information that challenges our own foundational beliefs. This potentially creates a crisis that could require acceptance of a whole new worldview. If accepted, this new worldview can strain relations with practically everyone close to us who may not only be surprised but possibly dismayed by our sudden change of outlook.

There are very few people who can engage in such independent inquiry on a regular basis and retain their mental balance. Being open at all times to the possibility of changing one’s worldview can be anxiety-producing and exhausting. In order to maintain peace of mind most people avoid any thorough examination of topics that could force an alteration of their worldview.

It’s no wonder then that our political, economic, and social culture encourages people to avoid the big picture, succumb to groupthink, and ignore history. It’s much easier to maintain our peace of mind if we simply conform our opinions with those around us and avoid a tedious examination of the facts.

However, the price we potentially pay is that we will get blindsided by what in retrospect seems an obvious problem. That’s when most people finally adjust their worldview to new realities. But by then, any damage is generally already done.

 

How to Start a Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Your Community

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Originally posted on EcoWatch.com

Written by Regeneration International

The most important, although as of yet little known, new paradigm shift and set of practices in the world today is regenerative agriculture, or rather regenerative foodfarming and land use. Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture, and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but actually reverse global warming and, at the same time, provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation, and global conflict.

The world-changing promise of regeneration lies in the fact that a large scale increase in plant photosynthesis (i.e. drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen, but transferring a major proportion of carbon into the plant roots and soil) made possible by fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices, (along with the transition to 100 percent renewable energy) across billions of acres, can drawdown enough excess CO2 from the atmosphere into our living soils, plants, and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate.

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Agroforestry: An Increasingly Popular Solution For a Hot, Hungry World

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Originally posted on Mongabay.org

Written by Giovanni Ortolani

  • Agroforestry integrates trees, shrubs, and crops in a system that functions well together — it covers over 1 billion hectares of land worldwide and its best known examples include shade grown coffee and chocolate.
  • Indigenous peoples have practiced agroforestry for millennia but this technique is now gaining popularity with farmers everywhere.
  • Agroforestry mitigates climate change through carbon sequestration and also benefits biodiversity, water cycling, food security, and more.
  • This is the first in a yearlong series about farmers and communities implementing agroforestry worldwide.

At first glance Cameroon’s western regions seem lush, but a closer look shows a land degraded by overgrazing, unsustainable cropping practices, deforestation of vegetation for firewood, and uncontrolled bush fires.

Still, some plots teem with biodiversity: coffee grows under the shade of banana trees, while nearby there are African plum trees (known locally as safou), cola, oranges and timber trees like mahogany. To the untrained eye this might appear to be natural forest, but is in fact the fruit of agroforestry – the growing of trees with crops.

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Better Land Use Can Achieve 30% of Carbon Cuts by 2030

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Originally posted on EcoWatch.com

Written by Tim Radford

Land use is often a forgotten priority, yet those of us who wish to contain global warming and avert catastrophic climate change have a natural ally: the land.

As nations plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, an international team of scientists has calculated just how much the natural and farmed world could contribute to future stability by absorbing ever more carbon dioxide.

The answer is: up to 30 percent more than anyone had first thought. Natural climate solutions—a way of saving protected forests, conserved marshlands and carefully managed farmland and pasture—could deliver 37 percent of the carbon mitigation needed by 2030.

And if governments, farmers, river authorities, land managers and foresters made the best choices, such steps would mean that the world had a 66 percent chance of containing global warming to below the 2°C target agreed by 197 nations in Paris in 2015.

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Economics of Happiness Conference--Thank You!

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We wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who made the Economics of Happiness conference so beautiful this past weekend. Participants, speakers, staff members, and visitors all contributed to an atmosphere of productive interaction and optimism. This gathering was so transformative, it made us want to do this all the time! For memories, we have started a gallery. Enjoy the photos we have so far, and keep checking back as we add more over the next few weeks! 

Global Warming ‘Costing Taxpayers Billions.’ Here’s How to Fix It.

"The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The soil solution."

Originally posted on CommonDreams.org

Written by Ronnie Cummins

Another report sounding the alarm about climate change. Another missed opportunity to talk about the most promising solution: regenerative agriculture.

The New York Times yesterday cited a new report by the notoriously conservative Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said “climate change is costing taxpayers billions.

CNN also reported  on the GAO study, which calls on Trump to “craft appropriate responses.”

The CNN coverage noted several initiatives to combat climate change undertaken under the Obama administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis, and the Paris climate agreement, which saw almost every country agree to voluntary limits on future carbon emissions.

The current climate-denying Trump administration wants to scrap those, and other climate initiatives, in favor of prioritizing corporate profits.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because once again, a major report on the costs—financial, social, environmental, political—of doing nothing to slow runaway global warming focuses exclusively on reducing carbon emissions. As usual, this new report fails to mention that even if we achieved zero emissions tomorrow, we’re still in big trouble—unless we draw down and sequester the billions of tons of carbon already in the atmosphere.

And once again, a major report on global warming fails to acknowledge that we have the tools readily at our disposal to draw down that carbon, and we know how to use them. They are regenerative agriculture and land-use practices outlined in a recent Stanford Woods Institute report, which says:

If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could “significantly” offset increasing global emissions. They call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource.

The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse.

But Congress has no problem cutting back research on how to improve soil health as a means of combatting global warming?

Fortunately, other governments are incorporating “the soil solution” into their policies and plans to combat global warming. The most significant is France’s “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015.

In the U.S., some states are taking steps of their own to enact regenerative agriculture policies, notably California, Vermont and Massachusetts.

If your state isn’t on the list, maybe it’s time you start building a Regeneration Movement in your own community?

It’s time to stop ignoring our best hope of cooling the planet. If federal lawmakers won’t help, we need to make sure our local and state officials get on board.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Community Solutions Featured on The Atlantic's Website

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Community Solutions and its founder, Arthur Morgan, feature prominently in this recently published article on TheAtlantic.com

What America Is Losing as Its Small Towns Struggle

To erode small-town culture is to erode the culture of the nation.

Written by Brian Alexander

Seventy-five years ago, The Atlantic published an essay by a man named Arthur Morgan. The essay, “The Community—The Seed Bed of Society,” appeared in the February 1942 issue, and was later expanded into a book called The Small Community: Foundation of Democratic Life. Both the essay and the book were arguments on behalf of communities, especially small towns, which Morgan believed had been abandoned by modernity to become “an orphan in an unfriendly world … despised, neglected, exploited, and robbed.”

The social good of such places, Morgan insisted, was being “dissolved, diluted, and submerged by modern technology, commercialism, mass production, propaganda, and centralized government.” While many big-city residents might not worry about the fate of small towns, Morgan believed they should because the “controlling factors of civilization are not art, business, science, government. These are its fruits. The roots of civilization are elemental traits—good will, neighborliness, fair play, courage, tolerance, open-minded inquiry, patience.” These traits are best transmitted from one generation to the next in small communities, he argued, from where they are then spread throughout entire societies. To erode small-town culture was to erode the culture of the nation.

At a time when many small towns are in crisis—facing economic decline, drug addiction, despair—when economists and pundits recommend giving up on small towns, telling their populations to abandon their homes to find economic opportunity elsewhere, Morgan’s 75-year-old plea remains a trenchant warning. Some modern-day sociologists and historians, while not buying everything Morgan said and wrote about small towns, agree with his main point: Such places are vital threads in America’s fabric.

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Economics of Happiness Conference: One Week Until Early Bird Registration Ends

Let the countdown begin! Don’t miss the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions’ annual conference, The Economics of Happiness, on Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, 2017, at Antioch University Midwest, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Early Bird registration ($200 for Community Solutions members, $250 for non-members) ends on October 6, one week from today! Tickets are also available for individual sessions and keynote talks.  

This year’s conference offers a host of opportunities to redefine what is possible and explore the creation of vibrant local economies that focus on meeting real human needs through our ties to community and nature. It will feature internationally recognized speakers, including Charles Eisenstein, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Michael Shuman, and Anthony Flaccavento, with presentations and workshops on a range of topics :

●        Globalization v. localization

●        Mutual aid networks and cooperatives

●        Revitalizing rural communities

●        Creating self reliant communities

●        Building local food systems

●        Local and social impact investing, community banking, and local currencies

●        Screening and discussion of the film trailer for Jim Merkel’s film Saving Walden’s World

●        Tours of Agraria, Community Solutions’ recently purchased 128-acre farm, which is being developed as a center for research and education on regenerative agriculture

●        Pre and post conference workshops on tree identification and a tree survey of Agraria; installing mini-split heat pumps; and slow money and land conservation

Please join us for this insightful, inspirational and transformational gathering! For more information and to register, click here