Through education, policy and outreach, our mission is to promote the power of the natural world to stabilize the climate and to restore biodiversity to ecosystems worldwide.
Collaborating with organizations around the globe, we advocate for the restoration of soil, and of grassland, forest, wetland, coastal and ocean ecosystems–along with the associated carbon, water and nutrient cycles – to draw down excess atmospheric greenhouse gases, cool the biosphere, and reverse global warming, for the benefit of all people and all life on earth.
Education, public information campaigns, organizing, scientific investigation, collaboration with like-minded organizations, research and policy development are all elements of our strategy. Our primary current project is to re-direct the mainstream climate conversation from an almost exclusive concern with atmospheric carbon to encompass the entire carbon and water cycles and the regenerative role of biology. Emissions reduction efforts are essential but seriously insufficient, and climate change is now proceeding not only from fossil fuel pollution but from its own self-generating processes.
Soils are the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet. Restoring the complex ecology of soils is the only way to safely and quickly remove excess carbon from the atmosphere, where it’s extremely dangerous, and store it in the ground, where it’s desperately needed to regenerate the health of billions of acres of degraded lands.
Since NASA scientist James Hansen’s landmark appearance before Congress in 1988 to alert the world to the dangers of global warming, the efforts of climate scientists and activists have been sharply focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources such as deforestation and factory farming. While there is no question about the importance of emissions reductions, the hard reality is that over twenty-five years of intensive worldwide effort, the rate of emissions has actually accelerated. In 2013 there were roughly 50 parts per million more carbon pollution in the atmosphere than in 1988. While we must pursue the elimination of fossil-fuel and other damaging carbon emissions with due dispatch, the inadequacy of emissions reductions so far necessitates urgent adoption of other measures to address planetary warming.
Because climate science traces its development to the fields of physics and chemistry, our understanding of climate change has not generally included the impact of biology and ecology on the geophysical world. In fact, there has been little understanding in the mainstream climate community of the biosphere as a driver of climate change. When considered at all, life on earth is regarded as a victim of extreme geophysical events over which it has little control. The impact of the biosphere on the course of global warming is virtually invisible.
EARTH, THE PLANET OF LIFE
Planets Mercury and Earth
Without life, the Earth would be little more than another celestial rock. Yet over the past 3.5 billion years on this extraordinary planet, through the miracle of light and the basic properties of matter, inert elements organized themselves into infinitely varied self-replicating organisms.
When coming into being, organisms have both adapted to their environments and adjusted their environments to suit their needs. The shift to an atmosphere containing oxygen is one such dramatic environmental adjustment resulting from the evolution of green plants. But life has shaped the entire global landscape and made the soils and the atmosphere, the oceans and the weather, the water and the carbon cycles, what they are today.
Now we have the knowledge we need to mobilize nature to reverse human damage to the biosphere. The carbon that we’ve spewed into the atmosphere we can return to the earth; the vital fresh water that we have wantonly thrown to the oceans, dragging billions of tons of rich topsoil along the way, we can return to thirsty lands worldwide.
Evidence from the formal scientific literature, historical record, and the experience of restoration ecologists, farmers, ranchers and wildlife and land managers across the globe strongly support regeneration of biodiversity and ecosystems as keys to reversing global warming. Broadly speaking, nature does this by capturing carbon and water in soils, thereby lowering atmospheric carbon burdens and regenerating water cycles to reduce surface temperatures. We are at an impasse, however, because the active biosphere is not currently a part of the mainstream climate discussion. It is remarkably ironic that the most effective, most beneficial, least risky and least expensive approach to reversing global warming is not yet on the table.
The vast biodiverse living world has remarkable capacity for regeneration, measurable in spans as short as a few years when conditions are right. We have the knowledge, ability and experience to create those conditions to benefit all living creatures, including ourselves. We have only to decide to do so.