Some people think that the electrification of agriculture is our only hope to combat climate change. Today, I’m giving you a chance to hear from three of the loudest people shouting that message into the ether. But first, a quick lesson in the history of the world, and why agriculture matters.
Jo’s History of the World, Part I
There’s no question that climate change is accelerating, and dramatic weather events, unprecedented wildfires, and shifting coastlines caused by rising sea levels and increased erosion seem to be happening every day. Most scientists — and certainly all the credible ones — attribute these changes to a rapid increase in the average global temperature of the Earth. We know that’s been caused by human combustion of fossil fuels … but what, exactly, does that mean?
Many millions of years ago, when the first trees appeared, there were no bacteria or fungi to break them down when they died. It’s a weird thing to think about, but a seed would land, a tree would grow, then that tree would die — then it would just sort of “lie there.” Like, forever.
“Instead (of decomposing), trunks and branches would fall on top of each other,” writes Robert Krulwich, of National Geographic. “The weight of all that heavy wood would eventually compress those trees into peat and then, over time, into coal. Had those bacteria been around devouring wood, they’d have broken carbon bonds, releasing carbon and oxygen into the air, but instead the carbon stayed in the wood.”
I want you to really, really think about that. The early atmosphere of Earth was full of carbon. It was hot, dense, and unsuitable for the kind of life we see on Earth today — and, certainly, unsuitable for human life. Then, after billions of years of spinning along with this burning, volcanic, poisonous atmosphere, plants and trees begin to appear. Through their biological processes, they take that carbon and use it as fuel, breathing in those deadly (to us) carbon molecules (CO, CO2, methane, etc.) and breathing out the oxygen that we need to survive. That carbon was “trapped” or “sequestered” into the bodies of those early trees, which didn’t get processed by bacteria or animal life because there was none around. That carbon stayed trapped, that poisonous atmosphere stayed trapped in the bodies of those trees.
Over time, the weight and pressure of the trees would work with tectonic forces to create what we now call “fossil” fuels. They’re tree fossils, not dinosaur fossils, and human life on this Earth is only possible because that carbon was removed from the early atmosphere by these trees, and then buried underneath the ground.
The fossil fuel industry is effectively pulling these trees out of the ground, in the form of coal (near the surface), oil (lower down, subject to more tectonic pressure), or natural gas (way down low, subject to both immense pressure and an extreme heat in a way that prevented the carbon’s crystallization into diamond). Then they’re burning them — rapidly oxidizing that fuel and releasing the trapped carbon back into the air.
It’s so bad, you guys.
Other Stuff Happens, Then Agriculture Saves the Day
A lot happened between that first wave of tree fossilization and today, most notably the dawn of humans and the last ice age, which ended about 12,000 years ago. If you look at that data, you can see the global average temperature slowly rising, maintaining an upward trend up until the dawn of human agriculture. What happens then is astounding: the temperature of the planet levels off.
The average temperature levels off and trends back towards “0 change” (the baseline of 0, above, shows the global average temp. at the dawn of agriculture when humans were beginning to thrive “in the wild” as hunter-gatherers). The planet’s temperature hovers around the same point, stabilized by the added plant growth and high levels of carbon sequestration managed by food crops like legumes and grains. Everything is sustainable, life is good, the Earth is in balance … until the industrial revolution shows up and we begin burning fossil fuels, and (it’s worth repeating) reversing the atmospheric and biologic processes that allow human life to thrive on this planet.
What does all that have to do with the three guys sitting up on that stage? I’m glad you asked!
That’s yours truly up there, talking about the impact that agriculture and farming can have on the future of this planet with the two people who are arguably doing the most to advance the cause of green, sustainable farming today, by working to eliminating the use of fossil fuels and wanton use of pesticides from the vast majority of working farms. From left, that’s me, Jo Borrás (look at that sexy motherf**ker — Ed., who is also Jo Borrás), Solectrac CIO and founder, Steve Heckeroth, and CEO of Monarch tractor, Praveen Penmetsa. We had a chance to share the stage at the Electrified Expo Industry Day in Long Beach, California last month, and talk about some of the challenges facing farmers, the climate, and more.
Take some time to watch the full ID22 panel, below, then let us know what you think of Steve and Praveen’s mission to advance the cause of more sustainable agriculture in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Electrify Expo Industry Day 2022 | Fields of Dreams: From the Farm to the Open Road, and Higher
Original content from CleanTechnica, video from Electrify Expo.
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