Food, Soils, and Agriculture

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INTRODUCTION

DECEMBER ACTION: Try a non-dairy alternative like coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk or any other one in your coffee. Read about California Air Resource's Board efforts to educate people about the importance of their food choices in, Healing the Planet One Plate at a Time, from the LWV Bay Area's Publication, "The Bay Area Monitor." 

The LWV California's Food, Soil and Agriculture Committee brings together league members from all over the state to work collaboratively on these three related areas and their impacts on climate change. Specifically, the Committee looks at food loss and food waste; healthy soils; and agriculture. The Committee's focus is on educating league members and their communities, sharing resources with one another, and identifying and then advocating for legislation that supports our work. All LWVC members are welcomed and encouraged to join.

Food Waste 

More than 6 million tons of food in CA is wasted each year. About 18% of the waste that Californians send to landfills is food scraps. When wasted food and other organic matter decomposes, it releases methane, a powerful GHG. One of CA's current climate goals, through SB 1383, is to reduce the amount of organic waste that is sent to landfills by 75% by 2025. This goal can be accomplished by diverting recoverable food to communities for consumption, educating people on ways to reduce food waste, and more. Visit CalRecyle to learn more.

What Leagues Can Do About Food Waste

Food Consumption

Medical doctors and climate scientists alike recommend eating a plant forward diet to improve one’s health and to mitigate climate change. The American Heart Association recommends reducing one's meat consumption to lower one's risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and more. The scientists at UC Davis’ Climate Change Laboratory  compared the carbon footprint of a medically recommended heart healthy diet to the typical American diet and found that eating a heart healthy diet is both good for one's heart and the planet. They created a short, informative video, "The Diet That Helps Fight Climate Change" to share their findings.   To learn more about the physical and mental health benefits of eating a plant forward diet also see Kaiser Permanente's article

 

The LWVC respects the dietary needs and preferences of individuals and knows that one’s food choices are guided by one’s individual medical needs and cultural norms. Therefore, the LWVC CCTF does not advocate or recommend any particular diet, but does recommend that members learn about and understand the impacts that their food choices can have on climate change. 

What Leagues Can Do About Food Consumption

  • Educate members about climate friendly food choices in fun, innovative ways such as having a vegan lunch challenge – during what would typically be an in-person lunch, but now is a Zoom meeting.
  • Publish nutritious vegan recipes in monthly newsletters
  • Encourage Meatless Mondays

 

Soils and Agriculture

Creating healthy soils can be an effective tool to mitigate climate change impacts because soil sequesters, or stores, carbon. Plants absorb CO2 from the air and deposit carbon into the soil. However, a great deal of the soil in California and elsehwere is quite degraded. With conventional post WWII farming, a lot of carbon can be released from the soil and little is stored. Learn the basics of the carbon cycle by watching the four minute video, The Soil Story.  

California's agricultural industry produces 50% of the nuts, fruits and vegables consumed in the United States and also 8% of CA's GHG emissions. Farmers have been greatly impacted by extended periods of drought, severe weather events, high winds, and record high temperatures - all of which have been made worse by climate change.  To help mitigate these impacts, California has joined the worldwide effort to restore carbon to the land via the CA Healthy Soils Initiative, an interagency plan to reduce GHG emissions and improve drought resiliency by innovating farm and ranchland practices. By using climate smart agricultural practices, farmers can be frontline defenders against climate change. 

California’s natural and working lands cover more than 90 percent of California. These lands include range from forests to farmland to urban green spaces and are currently net GHG emitters. Several California Agencies have worked together to develop a Draft California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan to turn these lands from net GHG emitters to carbon sinks. Though there is a strong emphasis on farmers moving towards climate smart agricultural practices, every Californian can be part of the effort to sequester carbon in the soil - from backyard vegetable gardens to  urban parks. 

What Leagues Can Do About Soils and Agriculture

  • Educate members about the need for healthy soils, partner with gardens and other entities to learn how to create healthy soils.
  • Support farmers by shopping at the local farmers market and supporting funding for climate smart ag programs.
  • Embrace Climate Victory Gardens, create a community garden on city land and suppor efforts like the one in the  City of Fort Bragg to become a garden friendly city like the LWV Mendocino did.  All school children throughout the County are provided with a free lunch that is sourced by local farmers. 
  • Work to preserve undeveloped land like the LWV San Jose did for Coyote Valley
  • Support the development of a County Agricultural Plan like the LWV San Jose did in Santa Clara County
  • Support schools in their efforts to teach students how to growh healthy food like the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley does (LWV Berkeley).
  • Host a party of discussion of Kiss The Ground,  for local league members. 

Is the Solution to Climate Change Really Just Under Our Feet?

It is incontrovertible that soil abosrbs and sequesters carbon. The amount of carbon that is absorbed and stored in soils depends on numerous factors including the location of the land, how the land is used, the natural composition of the soil, and more. Can rotational grazing of livestock improve soil health and sequester carbon? What about its impacts to biodiversity and water? Does the use of cover crops increase longterm sequestration of carbon? At what soil depth should measurements be made to determine if climate smart agriculture practices are increasing carbon sequestration? Soil scientists and biogeochemists all over the world - including at the University of California at Davis - are working to answer these questions. 

Expanding to National

We are growing our awareness to the national level to form the U.S. Food, Soils, and Agricuture team with addition of interested League members from across the country.  States represented are shown in the figure.

Resources