Solutions journalism is news about how communities and organizations are responding to social and environmental problems. This collection contains solutions stories about farmers and businesses that are trying out a suite of new farming models with environmental and social benefits. In Brazil, a syntropic farming technique is mimicking nature to prove that pesticides are not necessary for a high crop yield. A movement towards growing food in agroforests is allowing Hawaiian farms to be self-sustaining and climate resilient. The UK is reckoning with degraded soil after decades of over-ploughing and ground cover crops are helping revitalize the soil. In southern Appalachia, botanists are teaming up with a medicinal plant company to improve native populations, and researchers in California are replacing pesticides with beneficial insects and biodegradable chemicals, while others are building soil health to fight climate change.
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Want to use some or all of these stories in a classroom or community setting? Here are some questions to get you started. Or make a copy of this collection and create your own.
- What are agroforestry and syntropic agriculture? How are they different?
- What are the benefits of no-till farming?
- Where do scientists find the raw materials for biologically friendly pesticides?
- Listen to the Your News Update episode linked to this collection. How do young adults’ efforts to publicize biodiversity issues online interact with the broader efforts described in these stories?
Join the Earth Month Ecochallenge to learn more and take action on this climate solution.
In the modern era, industrial monoculture has taken a huge toll on global biodiversity. Large swaths of vital rainforest across the Amazon and Southeast Asia are cleared every year to plant staple crops like soy and palm oil. Clear-cutting has released an estimated 50 percent of the carbon from earth’s soil into the atmosphere over the last few centuries. Monoculture and industrial meat production are shrinking habitat, pushing ever more wild species towards extinction. According to Project Drawdown, regenerative annual cropping is a powerful solution to reverse this damage and restore carbon in the soil. Regenerative practices include no tillage farming; diverse cover crops; in-farm fertility (no external nutrients); no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers; and multiple crop rotations -- all practices that increase carbon-rich soil organic matter.
Here are answers to the discussion questions:
- Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. Syntropic agriculture is basically an advancement of the concept: a self-sufficient agroforestry system in which different plants interact with one another and, over time, form increasingly complex ecosystems and more fertile soils. This system replaces pesticides and fertilizers with intelligent design and management.
- No-till farming requires keeping the ground covered with crops all year round and growing a wide variety of plants instead of plowing or tilling the soil. This method leads to healthier soil with increased water retention, which reduces costs on machinery and labor and decreases the need for fertilizer and chemicals, which in turn leads to a huge increase in insects, birds and wildlife, as well as fewer floods and more resilient crops during droughts.
- Biopesticides are pesticides made from substances found in nature like plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi that offer a less toxic alternative to man-made chemicals. Biochemist Glenn King, for example, discovered a few molecules in the venom of the Australian Blue Mountains funnel web spider that could kill certain insects but wouldn’t harm other insects or vertebrates. King's biotech company, Vestaron, turns these small molecules into biopesticides that farmers can use to protect their crops without leaving harmful residues or causing damage to fish, reptiles, birds, or mammals.
- Climate change and biodiversity are top concerns for Generation Z. TikTok allows youth climate activists to share information, exchange requests, and spread resources to a community of 800 million users; while young adults may not have the access or ability to engage in large-scale agriculture reform, social media encourages individual interest and provides ideas for communal action.