Antibiotics can double the weight gain of a chicken, what are they doing to us?
2500 years ago Plato wrote about ancient Greece many years before: “... the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left.”
At a remarkable mid-June gathering at Morvern in the West Highlands I read the above excerpt from Plato, who was describing Greece before farmers totally screwed it up. The theme of the conference was ‘Soil Matters’ and it brought together leading soil scientists, artists, musicians, government and NFU officials, land managers and others with an interest in soil and sustainability. It was hosted by the Andrew Raven Trust, a trust established in memory of his profound influence on Scottish land management and environmental issues. Because we were in the Highlands the role of peat in climate change and sustainability was a topic. Peat has a deep resonance with the spirit of Scotland - I’m not talking about whisky here but about peat bogs.
The Scottish landscape has seen some hard times - the Clearances led to populated areas seeing the longstanding human residents sent off to Glasgow or America or Australia, to be replaced by deer and sheep. Now the Scots are recreating the marvellous environment that reflects the levels of rainfall that typify the region and rebuilding rural populations living in harmony with this unique environment. A surprising number of the new migrants are from England.
Misguided post-war policy gave indiscriminate tax incentives to forestry. Trees were inappropriately planted on peatlands, the bogs dried out, the ecosystem collapsed. Now there are active peat bog restoration projects all over Scotland and the benefits to environment and climate are inestimable. A peat bog can compete with a woodland in the amount of carbon dioxide it takes out of the air and stores permanently in the depths of the earth. Scotland’s peat bogs are making a huge contribution to mitigating climate change and we still don’t pay them a penny for doing it. With carbon pricing on the horizon that could change. If the carbon price is £50/tonne CO2 then an undisturbed peat bog could earn its owner £2-300 per hectare per year. That’s more than you could make by cutting the peat for fuel or compost.
Peter Melchett, the late Policy Director of the Soil Association, dreamed of the day when peat use was phased out completely from organic farming. A 2010 Government deadline for removing peat from horticulture was quietly extended to 2020 and now neither Defra nor the EU have any concrete plans to phase out peat use - the pressure from horticulture is too strong - tomato and vegetable growers are a powerful lobby.
So, while the Scots are diligently restoring peat bogs the rest of the world is still digging it up to save microscopic amounts of money. We deserve to die if we can’t do anything about this insanity. Vast peat bog areas of Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Canada are being mined on an industrial scale to supply vegetable growers. There have been attempts to phase peat out of organic and conventional production. ‘Peatless peat’: compost blends of coir, composted shredded bark, biochar and green waste perform just as effectively but cost a tiny bit more. They have a vastly lower carbon footprint. The organic movement sees itself as superior to other growers and farmers but the use of peat is one area where we must hang our heads in shame. Every principle of sustainability is contradicted by the use of peat;: it takes tens of centuries to replace; it turns into carbon dioxide within a year or two of being used; and it destroys biodiverse habitats. Growers feel under tremendous pressure from supermarkets to cut costs in any way possible and peat is cheap.
Alternatives that don’t devastate the environment can do the job just as well, they just cost 1/2 a penny more than peat for a seedling plant. A tomato plant can produce 50 tomatoes, so that’s 1/100 of a penny that is saved by using peat to grow tomatoes. Screw the planet, let’s save a penny per 100 organic tomatoes.
It is time for the organic movement to revisit its founding principles, look to the Scottish example and drive a worldwide movement to restore peat wetlands and make peat use extinct before peat use makes us extinct.
This paper outlines the global threat from Climate Change and proposes a simple economic model as a practical solution through which land use innovation can drive behaviour change and reverse global warming. The planet is warming, we are losing the race to save all the inestimable physical wealth and cultural value that humankind created over the centuries and yet we have singularly failed to use the most efficient tool for reducing carbon dioxide levels: photosynthesis. Nothing else comes close to sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, yet we neglect it.Two decades of policies to address the rising threat of catastrophic climate change have focused on reducing emissions. They failed, however, to slow the increase in greenhouse gas levels. Instead, directly and by default, government policies have brought about continuing increases instead.
Forestry and farming are the cheapest and most effective ways to take carbon out of the atmosphere, sequestering it in the vast unexploited reservoir of the soil and trees. Yet instead of actively pursuing these low-cost options we have deforested and degraded forest carbon and soil sinks. How can we fix this?
The “4 per 1000” (‘Quatre pour Mille’) initiative launched at the Paris COP21 aims to do just that, by rewarding carbon farming.vBritain is a signatory and a Forum and Consortium member. “4 per 1000” states that, if farming and forestry increased soil organic carbon annually by four parts per thousand per year, that would be enough to totally offset the annual 16 billion tonnes increase in greenhouse gas levels. With carbon a marketable crop, we could stop worrying about global warming.
In 2015, the French National Assembly responded to ‘4 per 1000’ by setting a €56 (£50) a tonne carbon tax to comes into effect in 2020.
Carbon emissions reduction policies have failed so far:
HM Govt has spent over £1.5 billion supporting Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), the idea that you can capture CO2 emissions and bury them securely in the ground. For CCS to work and be effective it would cost at least €70 per tonne CO2 stored and require an increase in fossil fuel use of 35%.
The voluntary market has created credits for 1 billion tonnes of CO2 in the past 10 years. That’s a mere 1/500 of emissions. Cap and trade is subject to political vagaries. The European Climate Exchange and the Chicago Climate Exchange went bust in 2010 when EU political decisions led to a gross oversupply of carbon allowances.
The EU Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires mixing sugar beet ethanol, rapeseed oil or palm oil with petrol or diesel. 7 million tonnes of the world’s annual palm oil production of 66 million tonnes is burned as biodiesel, much more than is consumed as food in the EU. Land across the EU is degraded by intensive production of sugar beet and rapeseed for biofuel use, with negligible reductions and, even in some cases, increases in CO2.
The “4 per 1000” initiative is predicated on there being a price on carbon, whether emitted into the atmosphere or removed from the atmosphere. The Government sets a price for carbon and all emissions of CO2 are paid as part of a company’s tax bill, declared as part of its annual returns. If a company can purchase carbon offsets for less it can deduct these offsets from its tax bill from carbon aware farmers.
What would happen if there were a £50 per tonne CO2 price?
Nitrates, pesticides and herbicides would become uneconomic in many applications and farmers would minimise or abandon these inputs
Farmers would increase soil carbon by the use of grass leys and compost. They would minimise tillage and grow green manures to keep ground cover all year round
Carbon from straw, sawmill waste and forestry arisings would be converted into biochar (agricultural charcoal) then added to the soil to permanently enhance fertility and increase the carbon in the soil ‘carbon bank.’ Biochar is 80-90% pure carbon and stays in the soil for centuries.
Farmers would plant trees and hedgerows instead of growing rapeseed for biodiesel.
Wood burning would 10.5 billion be disincentivised. Wood would replace steel and concrete in buildings and homes. Wood is carbon negative. Modern cross lamination technology produces wood that equals or exceeds the strength, durability and load bearing capacity of concrete and steel.
The £1.5 billion Government subsidy to date wasted on carbon capture and storage research would be saved.
Peat use would end overnight - peat bogs capture more carbon than any land use other than salt marshes.
The sea would be more productive. Reduced fertiliser use and reversal of soil erosion would herald the end of harmful algal blooms that damage coastal ecosystems and fish stock populations.
Soil is the world’s most important and valuable commodity. With a realistic carbon price, we would not suffer the resource misallocation of agricultural subsidies such as in the Common Agricultural Policy.
Wind and solar are getting cheaper, but are nowhere near as competitive as 4/1000. Money has been poured into supporting wind energy. Every tonne of CO2 saved by onshore wind costs €162, from offshore wind £267.
A regenerating degraded forest can profitably generate CO2 savings for a cost of less than £5 tonne CO2. Forestry management costs of planting, then thinning are minimal. Forests, pasture and arable farmland can easily sequester “4 per 1000 per annum.” Yet we still lose 31 football fields per minute globally of productive agricultural land because industrial farming methods need take no account of carbon emissions.
How does a Carbon Price affect Fossil Fuel Prices?
A carbon tax would add $10 to a barrel of oil. That is well within the range of fluctuations in the oil price (e.g. recent OPEC decisions).
There is a financial opportunity. The Government simply establishes a tax that can be offset by carbon credits. This then puts carbon dioxide, like any other valuable commodity, in the hands of markets.
Fossil fuel emissions are 33 billion tonnes CO2 a year globally. At £50/tonne the market for carbon credits would be more than £1.5 trillion. If Britain leads on this by example then London would be the financial hub for carbon trading . The City of London has the depth of liquidity and the reputation for integrity that a global carbon market will need to succeed.
The flow of cash into sequestration will be transformative. Agricultural subsidies can fall away without impacting on land values. Rural economies will be invigorated and farming can begin to remediate the misallocation of resources that current CAP policy encourages.
Auditing, validation and certification of carbon sequestration represents an opportunity for the certification industry, much of which operates out of the UK.
What is the scale of the opportunity? Carbon sinks are primarily forests, fields and meadows.
The world has 1.5 billion hectares of arable land, 4 billion hectares of forest and woodland and 5 billion hectares of grassland, a total of 10.5 billion hectares that can be put to work removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The annual net increase in CO2 levels is 16 billion tonnes. If every hectare of our available land annually removed 4 tonnes CO2 then we would remove 41 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, which would get us back to pre-industrial levels in just 35 years.
Is 4 tonnes CO2 per hectare realistic?
La Vialla, a biodynamic family farm in Tuscany, comprises 1440 hectares including arable, pasture, woodland, vines and olives. Taking this as an example and microcosm of the global distribution of land use types, the University of Sienna, using IPCC methodology has evaluated La Vialla’s annual carbon cycle for the past eight years. Calculations show that 4.24 tonnes of CO2e per hectare have been captured every year for the past eight years.
An obvious criticism of soil and forest sequestration is that it can be reversed through human and natural impacts. A farmer can plough up the soil, a forester can chop down the trees and then much of the carbon captured is released back into the atmosphere. An additional risk is that fire, war, flood or hurricane can reduce the carbon store.
A two-part payment can address this by providing:
a payment for the annual increment of CO2;
an additional ‘interest’ payment on the carbon that is stored in the carbon ‘bank.’
Soil is the foundation of our natural capital. In a capitalist system it should be valued.
Farmers can insure against loss of carbon. Banks will advance loans against land to farmers who operate best practice carbon farming in the knowledge that the asset that is loaned against is increasing in value as its carbon content increases.
The cost of low carbon food would come down and the cost of high carbon food would go up. No longer would price be a barrier to eating food that is rich in nutrients, low in pesticide residues and which delivers tangential social and environmental benefits.
Carbon sequestration in farmland, pasture and forests is a cheap and effective way of reducing greenhouse gas levels. Compliance with agreed Paris COP 21 targets will be unlikely if we continue to depend on technological solutions and biofuels to reduce emissions. Using up precious soil and forests for the production of biofuels is wasteful, uneconomic and does nothing to help mitigate climate change. An economic incentive to maximise soil and forest sequestration of carbon dioxide is the most effective, practical and low- cost solution to achieving greenhouse gas reduction.
In March 2018 I was a panellist at a Green Brexit conference - our theme was 'Is a Zero Carbon Future Possible? The video is below. I come in at 8:34 and 24:56 and 39:05 but the whole session is interesting. The point of this conference was to explore how Brexit could be a positive green step away from the distortions, waste and environmental degradation that the Common Agriculture Policy has brought it its wake. The conclusion was the there needs to be an overarching commitment to the environment that legally binds all future UK governments of whatever political colour. My message was that the one thing that makes a lot of wishes come true is to reward people who take carbon out of the atmosphere. The atmosphere heated up at 39:05 when Michael Liebreich called me out for seeking a universal and equal price for all carbon - he called it 'utopianism' and naive. Maybe he's right, in which case we are all going to die.
This was a speech I gave at the Harmony in Food and Farming conference in Llandovery, Wales in July 2017.
Please click here to see video clips of the Prince of Wales, Patrick Holden and myself during the conference, which was organized by The Sustainable Food Trust. It aimed to develop an agricultural perspective on the ideas propounded in the book 'Harmony' by HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper.
In 1967 Joni Mitchell wrote a song called Woodstock that included these lines:
“We are stardust, We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves
back to the garden”
We are indeed ‘billion year old carbon’ – the average person of about 80kgs/176lbs contains about 15kgs/33lbs of carbon. That ancient carbon is in our bones, our muscle, our fat and our bloodstream, as carbohydrate, fat, protein and other compounds. The carbon in our bodies may have been previously in soil, in trees, in charcoal, in dinosaur turds, in mosquitoes, in honey... It was everywhere before it ‘reincarbonated’ in us. Carbon is immortal. And it is stardust.
A billion or so years ago a very hot star kept getting hotter. As it got hotter, it formed hydrogen, then carbon, then oxygen and then the other elements that we know.Sir Fred Hoyle, the great astrophysicist, described this as ‘stellar nucleogenesis’ – stars creating atoms.
When that star got too hot it exploded, became a ‘supernova’ and blasted its carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and rock into space. Those chunks of rock and elements consolidated to form our solar system, with a sun that is still burning today with the remaining heat of the star that formed it a billion years ago.
Carbon is a promiscuous atom, it has 4 points where it can ‘mate’ with other elements. That’s why there are so many carbon-based molecules and why carbon is the foundation of all living things. Where there’s life, there’s carbon.
According to Hoyle, life, in primitive form, was everywhere. This was called ‘Panspermia.’
Life in rock was called ‘Lithopanspermia.’
Life was fungi. That life bumbled along, depending on acid rain from the very CO2-rich atmosphere a billion years ago to break down carbon that was stored in rock. Then a miracle happened that changed everything.
Bacteria called cyanobacteria became able to combine carbon dioxide CO2 from the atmosphere with H2O water, using sunlight energy, to make carbohydrate C6H12O6, whilst excreting oxygen. That carbohydrate was the sugar that is the basis of all living energy in plants and, eventually, in animal life too.
Once this happened, one can speculate that the rock-eating fungi saw their chance and organised the cyanobacteria into chain gangs, maximising their potential to capture carbon from the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, then at about 95% CO2.
These became algae, then simple plants, all busy making sugar to feed their own growth and, more importantly, to nourish the growth of the fungi that created them.
The fungi worked with other microbes in the soil, thriving on the sugar coming from the plants and delivering back to 'their' sugar-making plant all the mineral nutrients that they needed to grow. Plants died and decomposed. Fungi and bacteria died and decomposed. The carbon-rich detritus of their existence rotted down to become what we know as ‘soil’ – a most precious resource because it is the perfect habitat for fungi and bacteria and a rich source of recycled nutrients for plants.
This soil built up over millions of years, producing rich plant growth that eventually could support the large life forms such as dinosaurs and brontosaurs that existed in the ‘Carboniferous’ age.
This was the soil that early pioneers found in the American Midwest, rich in organic matter that ran very deep thanks to the 3 metre roots of prairie grasses.
When my great grandfather began to plough virgin prairie in Nebraska back in 1885, the soil on our farm contained over 100 tonnes of carbon as organic matter (organic matter in soil is approximately 50% carbon). By the time I was born in 1944 this was down to about 20 and now it is closer to 10, totally dependent on fertilizer and pesticides.
Farmers are frugal, on our farm we grew and processed almost all the food that we ate, only buying in commodities like flour, salt, sugar and soap that we couldn't make on the farm. Old calico flour sacks were washed and recycled as clothing, overalls for the boys and dresses for the girls.
Some enterprising flour companies printed pretty patterns on their flour bags when they realised this was happening. My mother and her sister Thelma wore Nell Rose flour sack dresses.
The men were frugal too, but they were unwittingly wasting the most precious resource on the farm, the soil. As the poet Wendell Berry put it:
"We didn't know what we were doing because we didn't know what we were undoing."
What we were undoing was all the decomposed plant matter that had been accumulating ever since those first Cyanobacteria sped up the process of life on Earth.
The destroyed soil lost its water holding capacity and lost its structure and integrity. The result was the great Mississippi floods of 1927 when the river was 60 miles wide from April to October, sparking the Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities as their farms were submerged for half a year.
Then in the 1930s the Dust Bowl triggered another migration, of "Okies" from their farms in Oklahoma, Kansas and western Nebraska as their farms became submerged in dust and dirt. Richard St. Barbe Baker, an Englishman who founded Men of The Trees in 1926 and was a founder member or the Soil Association, helped restore the broken soils of the Midwest. Operating under the banner of President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps he oversaw 3 million men who planted 10 billion trees between 1933 and 1940. (These men also made good soldiers in WW2).
Tractors also played a destructive role, they could plough twice as deep as a horse-drawn plough, bringing up fertility and carbon from deeper in the soil. My Uncle Floyd (pictured with me in 1947) still used horses to draw his 8-row planter because horses didn't compact the soil. Tractors did, weakening soil structure.
This experience alarmed people in Europe. In Britain Eve Balfour wrote "The Living Soil" which proposed a new approach to agriculture that worked with nature and became known as 'organic farming.'
Eve Balfour collaborated with Dr. Innes Pearce who had shown at the Pioneer Project in Peckham that low income families did much better if they understood the basics of good nutrition and domestic hygiene.
Together they formed the Soil Association in 1947 on the premise that good farming would produce heathy food to nourish healthy people and create healthy societies.
My introduction to organic food and healthy eating came via the Japanese guru Georges Ohsawa, author of Zen Macrobiotics. I imported the books to the UK and sold them via various bookshops.
I sold brown rice snacks at the UFO Club, where the Pink Floyd were the house band. In February 1966 I opened a restaurant in Notting Hill to spread the macrobiotic message. In 1968 my brother Gregory opened Seed restaurant, our larger restaurant in Bayswater, London.
Getting ourselves back to the garden
ZEN MACROBIOTICS - Taoism
- Balanced - Yin and Yang
- Organic - Sustainable
- Food for health
- 'Justice' (Fair)
- Japanese (Miso, Nori, Tamari)
- No additives, no hormones
- Avoid sugar
- Eat only when hungry
- Exercise and Activity
Like the Stoics mentioned in the Prince of Wales’ book "Harmony" we believed in "an attunement between human nature and the greater scheme of the Cosmos." We saw this through the prism of Daoist yin and yang philosophy and saw it as the key to a long and happy life ('macro' = 'big, long', 'bios' = 'life').
When we launched a range of macrobiotic food products in 1970 we branded them "Harmony" with a trademark that was a Yin Yang symbol with leaves and roots.
The company went on to become Whole Earth Foods a decade later - unfortunately 'Harmony' was a brand we couldn't register in our key European markets.
When I launched Whole Earth cornflakes in 1997 a friend Dan Morrell, who had founded Future Forests (later to become the Carbon Neutral Company) asked me if I'd like to take the corn flakes 'carbon neutral' - a term he originally coined. . He then commissioned Richard Tipper of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management to measure the carbon footprint of the cornflakes.
To our pleasant surprise we had to plant hardly any trees to offset the carbon used in growing, shipping, processing, packaging and distributing the cereal because the increase in the organic matter on the farms where the corn was grown almost completely offset the carbon emissions from everything else. That's when I understood that, if we priced carbon into the cost of food, people would farm in a very different way. It is now urgent that we do so
The UN has said that we only have 60 years of farming left. Farming generates more than a third of the annual increase in greenhouse gas.
Volkert Engelsmann of IFOAM has calculated that we are losing farmland at the rate of 30 football fields every minute. None of these losses come from organic farming, which is restorative and regenerative.
Industrial farming wastes energy. It takes 12 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy. A farmer with a hoe uses 1 calorie of human energy to produce 20 calories of food energy. On a calorie-for-calorie basis a farmer with a hoe is 240 times more carbon efficient than a farmer with lots of equipment and inputs. More than 30 years of trials at the Rodale Institute farms in Pennsylvania show that organic farming can sequester 1 tonne of carbon per annum. They have also shown that once the soil is in good shape, the yields match those of industrial farming.
There is an effort afoot to attempt to bring market forces into bringing an end to this potentially disastrous loss of viable farmland. Part of this is to attempt to appeal to the self-interest of companies like Unilever and General Mills whose supply chain will suffer if farmland becomes unviable and unavailable.
The French National Institute for Agricultural Research published a report in 2015 that stated that if farmers could sequester 4 parts per 1000 of organic matter, that’s 0.04%, every year in their soil that would be enough to totally offset the annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions that is causing climate change. That’s without counting any transition to solar, wind or greater energy efficiency. As a result the French National Assembly voted a carbon price of €65 per tonne to take effect in 2020 and to include agriculture. French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll then announced his ‘4 per 1000’ initiative which became part of the Paris Climate Agreement. It was endorsed at COP 22 in Marrakech and 36 countries so far have signed up to participate in restoring soil, the capital base of every nation.
The Prince of Wales co-authored a children’s book called ‘Climate Change’ that shows how carbon goes into the atmosphere and how it comes back into the earth and the sea. The net annual increase is 16 billion tonnes.
A 3000 hectare biodynamic farm called Fattoria La Vialla in Tuscany Italy has its carbon measured every year by a team from the University of Siena. La VIalla are sequestering ‘7 per 1000’ every year. If everyone farmed like those 3 brilliant brothers in Italy, whose farm is roughly 1/3 pasture, 1/3 forest and 1/3 everything else (grape vines, cereals, fruit, vegetables), then we would not only cancel out the 16 billion tonne increase in CO2 but would see a 12 billion tonne reduction every year. Additional benefits would be greater biodiversity, cleaner water, less risk of drought and flooding and safer food. (Their wine is pretty awesome, too).
Going beyond stopping degeneration is the regeneration movement. This includes: Regeneration International, an offshoot of the mighty Organic Consumers Association in the US; the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO; Soil and More (Netherlands); People 4 Soils (Slow Food movement); and Save our Soils (UK).
Corporations like General Mills are taking strong initiatives. They have 100,000 hectares of land from their supply chain to be organic by 2020 as part of their carbon reduction policy.
But we still burn food. One half of the annual USA corn crop is converted to ethanol using more energy to produce it than is embodied in the ethanol. It is mixed with gasoline to be burned as fuel. The US is now exporting oil and gas yet still burns vast amounts of food in the name of 'energy security.'
We still destroy forests. According to HRH the Prince of Wales this is at a rate of 15 football fields per minute. If we valued the carbon stored in those forests at $20 tonne each hectare would be worth $15000. Once the forest is cleared and then planted with soybeans it is worth $300 per hectare. HRH described this in a speech in 2008 as ‘The greatest example of market failure in the history of capitalism.’
We still burn wood. There is a false virtuousness to burning wood. 200,000 wood burning stoves a year are sold in the UK alone. Wood smoke is more harmful to health than smoke from coal, oil or gas. It takes a tree 50 years to sequester the carbon that is then consumed in a wood burning stove in 50 minutes. If a replacement tree is planted, will take 50 years to take that carbon back out of the atmosphere.
Wood has the resilience of steel and the load bearing capacity of concrete. 'Glulam' and other new wood technologies mean that wood can be used in 20 story buildings ('plyscrapers'), sequestering the embodied carbon in the wood for centuries. We should never burn wood, it's a terribly inefficient waste of carbon.
Biochar, or charcoal made from wood, is a way to convert wood by-products into a carbon rich substance that can be put in the soil and will stay there for decades or even centuries.
It dramatically increases the population of beneficial microbes in soil, delivering a healthier plant immune system, increased water retention and reduced loss of nutrients from leaching. It is the best use for woody material that is not suitable for building or furniture making. It is proven to help restore degraded soils and make them fertile and fit for farming again. There are many examples of its benefits: tomato growers use it to combat plant diseases and increase yields; it cures honey fungus, ash dieback, chestnut blight, phytophthora and other tree diseases; it helps cocoa farmers overcome the devastating impact of black pod. Stockholm uses it for all their new urban tree plantings as it enhances survival rates. In Qatar the Aspire Park now use it for all their new tree plantings, with gratifying results. Biochar in soil protects the beneficial microbes that are part of a plant’s immune system, its food supply and it’s water supply.
Farming and forestry would be transformed if carbon pricing were to be introduced for their activity. People would plant trees instead of growing wasteful biofuels. Prairie grass would replace corn in the Midwest. Farmers would adopt regenerative methods such as organic and biodynamic farming.
Farmers would profit from farming carbon in 2 ways:
- An annual payment for any increase in soil carbon and a charge for any decrease in soil carbon
- An 'interest' payment on the actual level of soil carbon on the farm. This would be effective at around 10% annually.
A typical organic farm would benefit to the tune of approximately £100 per hectare and an industrial farm would have to pay a carbon tax of as much as £100 per hectare. Farmers would change behaviour overnight and agribusiness behemoths like Monsanto, Bayer and John Deere would have to rethink their business model. Taxpayer-funded subsidies to farming could be largely phased out as carbon markets would trade the carbon credits.
Farmers could also insure against catastrophic events such as flood and drought that might impact on their soil carbon. However, farming with carbon in mind would reduce the likelihood of such damaging events.
Soil is Nature’s capital and the foundation of all life on Earth. Capitalism is about valuing capital and pricing it. Capitalism has failed to deal with carbon because industry, transportation and farming have been allowed to pollute freely at no cost. All other forms of pollution are nowadays strictly controlled for wider social benefit. It is time for carbon to be priced and traded like very other important commodity.
We can get 'back to the garden' - the Garden of Eden. We just have to price carbon and change the way we farm our beautiful planet.
"We are stardust, We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves
back to the garden"
The V&A 'Revolution - Records and Rebels 1966-1970) exhibition closed earlier in 2017. I was invited to give the keynote speech at the launch dinner at the museum. It was well received. Here's the text:
While staying in a Sikh temple in Delhi in April 1965 a couple of guys from San Francisco gifted me with a 1000 microgram capsule of Sandoz pharmaceutical grade LSD. I took my first trip in September of 1965, 51 years ago almost to the day. Then I went back to complete my final year at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. In October Timothy Leary came to Philadelphia with his message to explore higher consciousness. This created a psychedelic community, as happened wherever Leary went.
Like many who became health conscious on acid, I adopted the macrobiotic diet and later visited the Paradox macrobiotic restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side. On the spot I decided to cancel my career path of Peace Corps - Navy pilot - State Department and decided instead to open a macrobiotic restaurant in London. I imported books about macrobiotics that were sold at the Indica bookshop. I supplied brown rice snacks every week for the UFO Club from when it opened in December of 1966. My little band of macrobiotic missionaries would talk to people who were eating it, explaining, between Pink Floyd sets, how sugar was bad for you and whole grains were good for you. The American Medical Association described the diet as ‘leading to death.’ My restaurant opened in February 1967 and one of my first customers was Yoko Ono, who knew macrobiotics from Japan.
People got religion – not the old guy in the sky variety, but the personal spiritual discovery embodied in yoga and meditation and Zen Buddhism.
Our clothes helped us identify each other. I imported coats I’d seen in Afghanistan a year earlier. The Beatles bought some at Granny Takes a Trip boutique on the Kings Road and set off a global craze. I also imported Tunisian kaftans, Tibetan shoulder bags and Chinese silks that Aedan Kelly would dye with blobby designs that were then tailored into shirts and dresses.
Clothes also helped the police to identify us and they started randomly searching and arresting people who looked colourful or had long hair. We understood what it was like to be black and this fuelled empathy for civil rights as well as for drug law reform.
We believed in the power of peace and love. The Vietnam war was at its peak – we tried to stop it and faced up to the full force of the law in Grosvenor Square, Chicago and Kent State.
We experienced nature and the environment on an intuitive and empathetic level, seeking out green places like Golden Gate Park or Kensington Gardens. We read the romantic poetry of Keats and Blake, deploring dark satanic mills.
When the Move sang “I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ or The Small Faces sang ‘It’s All Too Beautiful’ we responded viscerally. Then the Beatles summed it all up as “All you Need is Love.”
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth both were born out of this awareness of our oneness with our beautiful planet.
We got sexy. It was hard to repress sexuality when all your other senses were heightened, so if you were gay you let yourself go, if you were polyamorous you started to swing. Sexual experimentation led to sexual liberation.
We were a community – with a strong sense of communalism. Not communism, quit the opposite: we didn’t trust the State but we did form communes. Our individualism, communalism and libertinism combined to forge a political libertarianism.
It wasn’t easy to get a job if you dressed like a hippie and had long hair, so many set up their own businesses. Fashion, publishing, natural foods and music were areas where entrepreneurial spirits could follow their heart and make a good living.
Our goal was to create an alternative society, an exemplar of how life could be and should be.
We underestimated the degree to which the legacy industries that profit from war, environmental degradation, ill health and financial manipulation would still control the agenda 50 years later.
This exhibition captures magnificently the deep spiritual, philosophical and political intent of those times and their impact on the world today.
It could help to accelerate the change of which we dreamed.
Perhaps it will help us to build Blake’s hippie vision of a new Jerusalem in this green and pleasant land.
Now that the Government is slapping a tax on soft drinks I am going to indulge in a reminiscence of my troubled relationship with sugar, health and food. My first job, as a 7 year old kid, was to scour the streets of a Pittsburgh suburb called Bridgeville, collecting discarded soda bottles and taking them to my aunt Gloria's store to collect the 2¢ deposit refund. At that time a soft drink was 10¢, so the drink was 8¢ and the bottle deposit was 2¢ and people still threw the bottle away. The deposit didn't make much change in behaviour. When people wanted sugar, they paid what it cost.
I didn't really have much appetite for sugar for most of my childhood, our mother was pretty strict about it. I remember the day in 1953 when confectionery came off the ration in the UK and some schoolmates emerged from a sweet shop with a bag of humbugs they'd just bought without having to cajole their mother to come along with her ration book. The nation went mad for sugar and the Government had to put it back on rationing until supplies recovered.
It was in 1965, when I was in Afghanistan, recovering in Kabul from a serious case of hepatitis, enhanced with dysentery, that I understood sugar. My liver was on strike and the doctors told me that I should eat lots of simple sugary food to keep my blood sugar levels up. The dysentery told me otherwise: I knew from an early bout in Shiraz, that a diet of unleavened whole meal flat bread and unsweetened tea was the key to stopping the runs. So I tried it again and the dysentery cleared up in 2 days. Amazingly, so did the hepatitis. My liver stopped throbbing with pain and the whites of my eyeballs went from greenish yellow to something close to white.
That autumn, back in Philadelphia, I adopted the macrobiotic diet which forbids sugar. My health rose to an even higher level and I haven't once needed to see a doctor since about my health. After a few years I was able to reintroduce alcohol into my diet but tried to keep a lid on sugar.
In 1966 I was in London, aiming to open a macrobiotic restaurant and study centre. From December, I was a regular at the UFO Club, where proto-hippies would listen to the Pink Floyd and then buy macrobiotic food that my mother had helped me make. My little band of macrobiotic missionaries would then explain to people trying this strange food that brown rice was good for you and sugar should be avoided. I opened a little basement restaurant in Notting Hill in February 1967. Yoko Ono was one of our first customers, as she knew about macrobiotics from Japan.
We made bread without yeast, macrobiotic-style and I imported books like Zen Macrobiotics by Georges Ohsawa (Nyoiti Sakurozawa) that were sold in Indica Books, the bookshop owned by Paul McCartney and Barry Miles.
Macrobiotics avoided yeast for the same reason they avoided sugar: too much could cause dysbiosis of the gut flora. Meanwhile the American Medical Association called macrobiotics a diet that 'could lead to death'
Dr. Arnold Bender, Britain's top nutritionist, said white bread was the most easily digestible and nutritious bread you could eat, slapping down the wholemeal alternative as too slow to digest and with lower nutrients, because wheat bran fibre has no protein and carbohydrate.
In 1968 I had to leave Britain and my brother Gregory opened a larger restaurant in Bayswater called Seed.
None of the desserts were made with sugar - a touch of salt was enough to bring out the sweetness of the apples in the crumbles. At festivals like Glastonbury and Phun City we would serve up porridge to the festival goers and got into trouble at one festival as our customers would head off to an adjoining catering tent to get sugar to sprinkle on their porridge and muesli. We had a shop on the Portobello Road called Ceres Grain Shop that sold all the whole grains, beans, seeds and organic vegetables but the only sweet thing we sold was Aspall organic apple juice.
I wrote a book called About Macrobiotics in 1972 that was translated into 6 languages and sold half a million copies where I wrote: "If sugar was discovered yesterday it would be banned immediately and handed over to the Army for weapons research."
We were hard core. My kids didn't dare even ask for sweets - they might sneak them with friends at school but would destroy the evidence before they got home.
We didn't believe in refined cereals either - no white flour or white rice touched our lips. Our macrobiotic food wholesaling company Harmony Foods introduced the first organic wholegrain rice. In 1973, with other pioneering natural food companies we wrote the manifesto of the Natural Foods Union. We promised each other not to sell sugar or any products containing sugar or white flour or white rice. We were committed to developing organic food sources which were then rare. Signatories included Community Foods, our own Harmony Foods and Ceres Grain Shop, Haelan Centre, Infinity Foods, Harvest of Bath, Anjuna of Cambridge and On The Eighth Day in Manchester.
We published a magazine called 'Seed - The Journal of Organic Living' that had cover stories with headlines like "Garbage Grub - How The Poor Starve on Rich Foods" and a story on Britain's future which set out a dystopian vs Utopian vision where on one side people were clamouring for 24 Hour TV and More Sugar. On the other they were tending goats and living in countryside communes eating whole natural foods.
Then in 1977 I worked out how to make jam using apple juice. Being higher in fructose it was possible to make a jam with a lot less sweetening, so it tasted light and fruity. They were 38% sugars from fruit when other jams were 65% sugars from sugar cane and fruit. Whole Earth jams were an international success as they reached out to the increasing numbers of sugar avoiders in the UK, Europe and North America.
However our sales met stiff competition from much sweeter jams that used fruit juices like grape juice that were higher in glucose than white sugar and they used a lot of it, to match the sweetness of regular jam. Our moral restraint cost us sales to these much more sugary jams. However we also used apple juice to sweeten other products, marketing baked beans, soft drinks and salad dressings. Even our best selling Whole Earth peanut butter contained a touch of concentrated apple juice to make it taste more mainstream.
Then, while searching for another source of organic peanuts I connected with Ewé tribal people in Togo, West Africa, who grew delicious peanuts as part of an organic crop rotation. Unfortunately the peanuts failed our aflatoxin tests but the farmers also grew organic cocoa beans. There was no organic chocolate on the market at that time so I got a sample made up of 70% solids chocolate made with organic cocoa beans.
We called it Green & Black's and launched it in September 1991. It was the first time I had sold a product containing real sugar from sugar cane. It was the first organic and the first 70% and the first chocolate with a transparent supply chain. So we put a sugar warning on the label – I think this is the only time that any company has done this. It read: “Please Note: This chocolate contains 29% brown sugar, processed without chemical refining agents. Ample evidence exists that consumption of sugar can increase the likelihood of tooth decay, obesity and obesity-related health problems. If you enjoy good chocolate, make sure you keep your sugar intake as low as possible by always choosing Green & Black’s.”
How did I square this with my conscience? Well, a French author called Michel Montignac had written a best-selling book called 'Dine Out and Lose Weight' that was one of the first places the idea of glycemic index had been in print. In his book 70% dark chocolate had a ranking of 22 on a scale where sugar was 100. Brown rice was at 50 and carrots at 70. Fructose was at a mere 20.
Two of our best Whole Earth foods customers, Community Foods and Planet Organic, flat out refused to stock Green & Black’s because it contained sugar. Tim Powell at Community said: "Craig, you were the one who got us all to not sell sugar back in the day - we can't stock this." (they came around eventually)
I mentioned earlier that apple juice was higher in fructose. The crystals of fructose and glucose, the two monosaccharides that make up a sugar molecule (sucrose), have exactly the same chemical formula: C6H12O6. So what's the difference between glucose and fructose?
- If you beam a light into the glucose molecule it bends slightly to the right. If you beam a light into a fructose molecule it bends slightly to the left.
- If you put a given amount on your tongue the fructose will taste more than twice as sweet as the glucose
- If you eat the glucose it raises your blood sugar within 20 minutes. If you eat the fructose it has almost no impact on blood sugar.
If you eat a given amount of sugar the glucose half hits your bloodstream, the fructose half passes down your digestion and is eventually turned into glycogen or into fatty acids. These provide an energy source that is managed by the body rather than just absorbed in the way that glucose is. So Lucozade, a glucose drink, was marketed on the premise that ALL the sugar - because it was glucose - got through to you immediately and that this would 'speed recovery.' It was a deluded proposition, but it captured the fact that you got twice as many sugar bangs for your bucks.
If you have apple juice, there is more fructose than glucose or sucrose, so you don't get the same 'hit' as a lot of the sugar takes a different metabolic pathway. Corn syrup is about 80% glucose. Because glucose isn't very sweet on the palate, you have to use a lot more of it to get to the same level of perceived sweetness. This increases the load of glucose to satisfy the taste for sweetness, with a resulting harsh impact on the blood sugar level. 'High fructose corn syrup' has a higher level of fructose, between 45 and 55%, so it is used in industry because it has nearly the same glucose/fructose balance as white sugar. It's healthier than ordinary corn syrup, as measured by blood glucose impact.
If you really want to get all the glucose right away then it's best to drink it on an empty stomach. All sugars are not absorbed equally. If you eat dessert before you eat a meal the sugar will get into your system very quickly. If you eat dessert after a meal then it has to work its way through the previously ingested food and has a longer exposure time to your digestive bacteria. The higher the fibre content of your meal, the longer it takes for the sugar to be absorbed. There are some fibres that are particularly good at delaying the impact of sugar. One of these is psyllium seeds. Not only do they delay sugar absorption by up to an hour or so, they also bulk up, by absorbing water, your intestinal contents, helping regular passage of food. Glucomannan also has this property as does oat bran. Wheat bran doesn't absorb water to the same degree, but it absorbs sugar and delays its release in digestion. The longer it takes for sugar to be absorbed, the less impact it has on blood glucose level.
There are also foods that help with insulin production and that reduce insulin resistance, thanks to the presence of chromium. Chromium-rich foods include black pepper, broccoli, bran, brown rice, lettuce and green beans. The leaves of the white mulberry are considered particularly effective at delaying sugar absorption, containing a component called reductase.
There are also co-factors that accelerate the rate at which your body metabolises sugar or that challenge your natural regulatory mechanisms. These can increase the likelihood of a blood sugar drop, known as hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which are fatigue, depression and a craving for more sugar.
These co-factors include:
Coffee and, to a lesser extent, other caffeine stimulants like tea, maté, cola, guarana and cocoa. They will increase the rate at which the brain burns sugar. Small wonder then that when you purchase a cup of coffee there is always an extensive display of white flour and sugar sweetened products to tempt you. Your body knows it's going to be short of sugar after you drink the caffeine, so you instinctively go for the antidote to have on hand as you consume the stimulant.
The liver is the main organ, along with the pancreas, that regulates your blood sugar level. As blood flows through the liver its glucose level is measured and, if it needs topping up, the liver dips into its store of glycogen, converts it to sugar and drip feeds it into the blood.
Alcohol When you drink alcohol the liver prioritises dealing with what it perceives as a poison and puts dealing with blood sugar on the back burner. The pancreas also finds it harder to produce insulin and regulate insulin levels when it also has to deal with the presence of alcohol.
Dope is another culprit. When you smoke marijuana it increases the blood level in the brain by an estimated 40 millilitres. This increases the amount of sugar available for the brain to burn and this heightened mental activity is part of what is called being 'high.' However this increased usage of sugar makes it harder for the liver to keep up and the resulting drop in blood sugar is the symptom known to dope smokers as 'the munchies' - an irresistible craving for sweet foods.
Glyphosate or ‘Roundup’ - research has shown that ultra low doses of Roundup consumed over time leads to fatty liver disease. Fatty liver doesn’t function very well and therefore makes it harder for the blood to maintain the right glucose levels. Farmers spray Roundup at the end of wheat harvest to kill off the wheat plants. When the plants realise they are dying, they frantically make as many babies as possible, i.e. wheat grains. This is reflected in an increased harvest quantity, but ensures that every loaf of non-organic bread or other flour product contains a low dose of Roundup residue.
Antibiotics also can lead to powerful cravings for sugar. If antibiotics are ingested, they don't just target the disease bacteria they are taken to cure. They wipe out the beneficial microbes that are our healthy population of gut flora. That's why it's advisable to consume yogurt or sauerkraut or other foods rich in lactobacilli to replace these important microorganisms. It's also a good idea to eat foods rich in fibre to help the equally important bifidobacteria which are a pivotal part of the immune system in the large intestine. A small population of these and other beneficial bacteria are always present in your appendix. The appendix is the body's equivalent of a survivalist's food store, a place, at the junction of the small and large intestine, where, once the antibiotics are finished, the intestines can be repopulated. Antibiotics can not kill off the tiny population of yeasts that are a part of the wider bacterial community of the gut. But once the dominant lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are out of the way, yeasts quickly mutate into a fungal form, candida, a sticky white slime that imbeds itself firmly in the walls of the intestines.
There is an established communication between the gut and the brain and this is a vital part of our food choices, what smells nice, how hungry we feel and also what antibodies the gut flora need to produce to combat pathogens - what we call our immune system. When candida gets a grip, like a Russian hacker taking over the CIA, it takes over the communication channel and sends a message to the brain demanding more sugar. The more of these foods it gets, the more powerful it becomes and the more successfully it outcompetes the beneficial microbes that are trying to repopulate the gut after the antibiotic A-bomb has exploded. Getting rid of candida is not easy, but there are ways to do it:
- Saccharomyces - these little microbes compete effectively with candida for sugar, thereby holding back the growth of candida and starving them out. They come in capsule form
- L-glutamine - this also attacks candida. Also in capsules
- Fasting - I often say that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day…to skip.' This is because by the time you wake up in the morning the liver's reserves of glycogen are low and it's time to convert fat into glucose to keep the blood sugar level up. This keeps sugar away from the gut and the candida, which then die off. If you eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, perhaps with a glass of fruit juice, the sugars keep the candida topped up and maintaining or expanding their population, perhaps even migrating to other parts of the body such as the vagina or skin. Starve them out by fasting for 17 hours a day.
- Colonic irrigation - pumping water into the large intestine and then pulling it back out removes a lot of candida.
- Lactobacillli - probiotics. Eating foods rich in lactic acid and consuming spores of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria helps to create ideal conditions for repopulating your beneficial gut microbes that compete with candida
- Inulin - this is a molecule that is made of a long string of fructose molecules strung tightly together. It is indigestible and counts as fibre but when it gets to the large intestine the wonderfully beneficial bifidobacteria feast on it and increase their numbers by the billions.
Good food sources of inulin include whole grain wheat and rye, shallots, onions, leeks, chicory root and the white part of chicory leaves and Jerusalem artichokes. These are all valuable nutrition for the gut microbes. Inulin powder, extracted from chicory roots, is a concentrated source.
Candida puts pressure on you to consume the sugar it needs and urges your brain to crave refined flour products, dairy, wine, beer and sugar. It's not just antibiotics that give candida its supremacy in the gut, it also benefits from hormone replacement therapy, the birth control pill, steroids and hydrogenated fat.
Vinegar also plays a role in sugar metabolism. Nobody’s quite sure why, but if you take 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal the increase in blood glucose later is 34% lower than if you don’t take vinegar. That’s a big difference as it keeps the level at a level less likely to be stressful.
The brain consumes glucose as the energy source that enables neurons to fire. It's the 'carb' or 'carbon' in 'carbohydrate' that is the energy source. Oxygen feeds the fire of carbon in the body, which is why we breathe. So we are like a coal fire, burning carbon to keep ourselves warm and to enable our brains and bodies to function well. However, lactate is another rich source of carbon for the brain. If there is lactate in the blood then the neurons in the brain will preferentially coat themselves in it rather than with glucose. It's as if lactate is like gas fuel for the brain, glucose more like coal or wood. Where do we get lactate?
- When our digestive system has a healthy population of lactobacilli they will compete with candida and other microbes that are eating starch or sugar and a by-product is lactate
- When we walk, run, jump or dance or do any exercise our muscles burn glucose and give off lactate.
At some point in evolution our brains evolved to function best on the super fuel of lactate in preference to glucose. Glucose for the body, lactate for the brain.
So exercise is really important as it provides a better quality of energy for the brain - lactate also delays brain ageing and neurodegeneration. The heart and liver use it, too. Insulin function works much better too if there has been exercise and lactate production. This is why exercise is increasingly being used as a cure for pre-diabetic conditions and for curing Type 2 diabetes in many cases.
Plato wrote: 'I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency'. Kellogg's say 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Who to trust on this? Everyone has a different metabolism, but they all have the power to change bad habits.
Metabolic Syndrome is the name for the multi-symptom disease that is typical of modern sedentary people.
It's also known as 'Sitting Disease.' If a person gets up in the morning, sits down for breakfast, then sits in a car or on a train or bus, then sits at a desk or an assembly line and then sits down to return home to sit down to eat a meal and then sits watching television or enjoying social media they lay the foundations for Metabolic Syndrome
Contributing factors are
- Inactivity/laziness (Both cause and effect but a natural human condition)
- Overeating - large food portions of food low in nutrients
- Pesticides - these have a hormonal effect as well as being mildly toxic
- Processed denatured food that is low in fibre
- Hydrogenated fat - harms the circulatory system, reducing blood flow
- Sugar and refined cereal such as white bread and low fibre breakfast cereals
- Television, electronic games and sitting at computers.
So what's the answer?
Our Government has one solution for everything: Tax it.
A tax on soft drinks will have little impact as the appetite for sugar is not responsive to pricing. If your candida want sugar or you are on a cycle of high and low blood sugar you don't give a damn what the cost is of a soft drink. It's the cheapest form of sugar already and a tax won't make a difference. You get more sugar in a chocolate brownie than in a can of Coke and a brownie costs at least 3 times as much. The best selling soft drink in Britain is Red Bull. It costs double the cost of Coke and has just as much sugar.
A tax will help in one way though: The Government currently subsidises sugar beet farming and sugar production to the tune of £250 million per annum. A sugar tax will raise an estimated £400 million. So the soft drinks tax will neatly subsidise the taxpayers money that goes to sugar producers. How smart is that?
There is a far more intelligent alternative. Researchers studied a group of 46,000 people in a Japanese city who were over 48 years old. They measured their blood sugar, blood pressure, lung function and other measures of health and then recommended actions to rectify any problems before they became serious diseases. Not all of them complied, but enough did to make a difference. They became ill less often and therefore cost the health system less. The estimated average saving came to £200 per person per year.
In the UK, with 26 million people over the age of 48, that would be a saving to the NHS of £5.2 billion every year. Why don't doctors and pharmaceutical companies recommend it? Why don't wine makers discourage wine drinking? Why don't car makers urge walking instead of driving? No business likes to lose its customers, even the caring professions.
In 2011 the Soil Association applied for and won a £17 million National Lottery grant to initiate its Food For Life project. It was a huge success, with schools coming in at Bronze entry level and working up to Gold, where they offer a significant proportion of school meals that are organic, locally sourced and freshly prepared on the premises. There are now 2 million school dinners a day served under the Food For Life Programme. A lot of those schools have stopped serving desserts on some days a week. These kids perform better and learn something really important: you are what you eat.
Those kids will fare better in life, but we have a couple of generations who got the worst of crap food, hydrogenated fat (recommended by doctors), exposure to lead and pesticides and other environmental toxins. They are the ones who need help. Diabetes levels are already dropping in the Western world as more people eat more wholesome food and exercise a lot more, but there is still work to be done. A soft drinks tax is pathetic when you consider what the government could be doing to support healthier lifestyles
Change begins with the individual and it's about education. If people are junk food junkies they will always find junk food. Trying to reform the food industry, which is responding to demand that arises from a multiplicity of causes, is to fight the wrong battle. If we change demand then supply will follow.
The new science of epigenetics informs us that acquired characteristics can be inherited. The unhealthy acquired characteristics of previous generations has been one factor in the increase in autism, birth defects, hereditary diabetes and other diseases, food allergies and other developmental problems. But we need not despair, this is already being turned around and future generations can look forward to even better food produced in a cleaner environment to make healthier happier people, whose babies will be even healthier and happier. We know more now about these factors than we ever did before, so we have the power to evolve positively.
The curse of nuclear power and its associated mass extermination weaponry has hung over the heads of several generations since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were conned by promises of 'electricity too cheap to meter' when the first British nuclear plant was erected at Calder Hall (renamed 'Windscale' then renamed 'Sellafield) but in fact it now costs more than wind or solar. Now Toshiba, who suicidally bought the Westinghouse nuclear business, is consulting bankruptcy lawyers. Electricité de France, 85% owned by the French Government, is in terminal decline, with a share price ten percent of historic highs. This still leaves the question of who will pay to clean up the toxic mess from places like Fukushima and Chernobyl and, eventually, Hinkley Point. The militarists who promoted nuclear power as a cover to get weapons grade plutonium? The politicians who were wined and dined and voted this madness through? The insurers who backed these projects under government guarantees? The investors who relied on taxpayer money to guarantee the huge investment required? Or the taxpayers of today and tomorrow and centuries to come who will have to protect civilisation from this toxic blight on everyone's future?
The below is from the Financial Times...
I first met Larry in 1967, when he was in the dance troupe Exploding Galaxy.
They would perform free-style dance at the weekly hippie gathering, the UFO Club, in between sets by the Pink Floyd. They helped encourage everyone to ‘freak out’ their dancing style. The Exploding Galaxy were part of a commune which lived in North London and took their name from a painting by Larry of the same name. They were immortalised in the book 99 Balls Pond Road by Jill Drower, one of the communards.
Born in 1945, Larry spent much of his childhood in Baghdad, where his father Philip worked with Shell Oil. His exposure at an early age to Islamic art and architecture and its intricate geometry became a lifelong influence. Later he went to boarding school in England and then to Croydon Art College.
Larry's art owed much to his art school mentor Bridget Riley. He created more structured geometric forms than found in her work, while still generating the vibrational effect that results from staring at Riley's paintings, the 'op art' experience. Larry's paintings were more symmetrical and colourful while still achieving and even enhancing the same ‘op’ effect. His circular mandalas were an aid to meditation and awareness heightening, oscillating when you concentrated on them.
At psychedelic events such as the UFO Club, Summertime in the Wintertime or the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, Larry's mandalas would be the focus of light shows created by John Bloomfield. The impact of the mandala was enhanced with pulsing light, increasing the op-art psychedelic effect of looking at his paintings. His mandalas were bought by Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison and funded his meals tab at the vegetarian Baba bel Poori restaurant in Bayswater.
In 1967 he married Carol Grimes, the blues and jazz singer who later performed with Lol Coxhill and the band Delivery. Their debut performance was at our macrobiotic restaurant Seed in 1969. One of Larry's mandalas adorned their album cover.
Larry produced work for Apple Corps and subsequently produced silk screen prints representing John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.
In 1970 George Harrison invited Larry to paint murals at Friar Park, his vast mansion near Henley. Regrettably these works, completed over a year, appear to have been lost. Patti Boyd, his first wife, is unaware what happened to them. Olivia Harrison cannot remember ever seeing them.
Larry also produced landscapes with towers and minarets rising on high peaks that imagined a fantasy world reminiscent of Arabian Nights. After his break up with Carol the mood of his fantastical landscapes changed and led to a series of paintings showed crumbling edifices, with cracks in the walls and broken towers.
Larry was commissioned by the owners of country houses to capture the look of their houses in his distinctive magical realist style, populating the grounds with cricket or croquet players in Edwardian or Victorian dress. The intensity of the acrylic colors he used gave a special vibrancy to these paintings and, indeed, all of Larry's work.
He also spent some time in Granada, painting the gardens of the Alhambra.
In 1968 Larry, myself and Jordan Reynolds spent a week in Marrakech. It was a bit of a blowout for us all, partying until late and then recuperating by the hotel pool the following day. Larry was captivated by the beauty of the architecture and art of the city and the high plateau landscape of the region. He and his new wife Karen subsequently visited Marrakech frequently and Larry began to capture on canvas the fountains, palaces, gardens and mosques of the city. This was a time when the old riads of Marrakech were being restored and the new owners would commission Larry to capture the intricate tiling and designs of the courtyards and fountains of their villas. Larry's bible at this time was "Arabesques" - an art book by Jean-Marc Castera that explained in great detail the mechanics (and cheats) of, for example, creating a 128-point star and integrating it into a pattern of interlocking stars. Larry's understanding of how this art was created by the original tilers and designers was reflected in his canvases, which draw the viewers eye inwards and then back and from right to left and left to right. He saw this work from the inside out and captured its depth of geometrical and mathematical thinking in a way that an artist without that understanding would find challenging. In Tangiers he stayed with Philip Arnott, who introduced him to clients in Marrakech and who now deals art from the Lawrence-Arnott galleries in both cities.
In the late 1980s and 1990s Larry worked closely with me on a number of projects. I would brief him on a new organic food product project such as whole grain corn flakes, blue corn flakes, muesli, baked beans, Blaisdon Red plum jam or hummus tahini and he could create a painting that formed the basis for the label or carton artwork. He created a landscape of the digestive system that provided the perfect packaging for our All Your Fibre breakfast cereal.
By then Larry had settled into a pattern of spending 3 months in Marrakech, then London, then Marrakech again. He would complete commissions in his London flat for clients in Marrakech, then deliver them a few months later and obtain new work, which he would complete in Marrakech or take back to London to complete. His paintings were also sold to visitors to La Mamounia hotel, the pre-eminent and historic establishment in Marrakech where Winston Churchill often stayed and painted.
Larry was a regular visitor to our house in Hastings and painted scenes that captured in detail the shape and symmetry of the Old Town's tiled rooftops, the patterning of the wood on the boats of Hastings fishing fleet and even imposed Arabic- patterned arches over a view across the Old Town from the nearby allotments, where he mischievously slipped in a cannabis plant to a lush display of asparagus, marrows, leeks, lettuces and other garden produce.
In 2004 a work colleague showed me an advertisement in Record Collector magazine for Larry's poster of Jimi Hendrix, selling at £350. I showed it to Larry and he contacted the vendor who proposed printing a limited edition of the poster, to be signed by the artist. The posters were marketed in 2005 and are now prized collector’s items. Larry signed the limited edition but then died a few months later.
The Victoria and Albert Museum hold Larry's Jimi Hendrix silkscreen poster in their permanent collection. They used his 'Kaleidoscope Eyes' (hippie slang for acid-tripping) poster on the publicity material for their wonderful 'Revolution: Records and Rebels 1966-1970) exhibition that runs from September 2016 until February 28 2017). The revival of interest on the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Summer of Love has increased awareness and appreciation of Larry Smart's work. Larry captured the essence of the time and his work informs any understanding of the aesthetic that reflected the transformation in social and political thinking that emerged from the experience of the late 1960s and its aftermath.
A Larry Smart limited edition A1 silk screen print, Kaleidoscope Eyes is now available - only 300 printed, please order from here.
I was 16 when I first heard Mose’s music in 1961, on the school bus on the way to Bushy Park School, the first dedicated American high school in London. On the 45-minute bus ride from our pickup point in Ealing, as I'd be trying to remember a few more lines of a Shakespearean sonnet or finish other homework, Cam and Tom, two fellow students, would be harmonizing on "Young Man" or "Parchman Farm." Cam and Tom both went on to study at Ealing Technical College - I went off to the University of Pennsylvania, but came back to London from Philadelphia every summer vacation. We’d all hang out with the Ealing crowd, including Pete Townshend (the Who) and Michael English, an artist best known for his posters for the UFO Club as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. We'd go to the Flamingo Club in Wardour Street in Soho for the all-nighter sessions where Georgie Fame sang his rocking version of Parchman Farm and other Mose favorites.
Cam's girlfriend Marika also studied at Ealing and they invited me to join them in Formentera, then a sleepy little island south of Ibiza, where we stayed in a pension called the Fonda Pepe. My accommodation was a converted pig sty on the nearby road. We’d hang out on the Mitjorn beach during the day and at La Tortuga, a nearby bar run by an American called Don, in the evening. Don had all the Mose Allison albums up to that time and the bar resonated with his music and various jazz records. Walking back along Formentera’s dusty rocky roads at night I’d be singing ‘Young Man’ or ‘Parchman Farm’ to any hoopoes or mosquitoes that might be listening. Cam left the island and a day later Marika and I began a multi-year relationship. She was a Mose fan too, so our good times together were often accompanied by him on the turntable.
In February 1965 I headed east to India. I had purchased a small battery-powered turntable and carried with me 4 albums: Kirk’s Work, Georgie Fame Live at the Flamingo, an Egyptian dance music album and Mose Allison Sings. Music is the international language and having this music with me in by dad’s old Marine Corps duffel bag (I wore his combat jacket as well) helped to make friends wherever I went. But I was alone a lot, too. Mose kept me company and I learned the songs on that album by heart. One Room Country Shack was the song that was most compelling at that time. It describes being ‘1000 miles from nowhere’ and ‘my only worldly possession is a raggedy old eleven foot cotton sack.’ As I sat alone with my duffel bag in a shelter on the road from Abargoo to Yazd in the lunar landscape of southern Iran I shared the feeling in Mose’s plaintive wail.
In Philly I’d catch Mose at The Showboat whenever he came to town, at least once a year. It was always a bit disconcerting to hear him moaning and grunting when he played. That never ended up, thankfully, on his recordings. Thelonius Monk did the same thing when I saw him at the Five Spot, I guess some pianists need to growl the notes as they play them, maybe using their voice to stay in key.
The lyrics of Young Man are even more appropriate these days: “Nowadays, the old men got all the money, and a young man ain’t nothing in the world these days.” Mose nailed it then and all his later music did it too. ‘Middle Class White Boy’ was his sardonic take on the hippie scene. It kindly captured that moment of change in popular culture.
I saw him many years later at Ronnie Scott’s and we had a chat about the Philly scene. By then the Showboat had closed. Mose lamented the fact that a great club had shut down because the economics of a jazz club no longer worked. Hearing him at Ronnie Scott’s, with a quiet and respectful audience, was quite different to the raucous atmosphere of Philadelphia jazz clubs, where even John Coltrane had to blow extra loud to drown out the chatter.
I suppose my favourite line of all from Mose’s great repertoire of one-liners was ‘Your mind is on vacation but your mouth is working overtime.’ A lesson that I am still trying to learn many decades after I first heard it.
In conjunction with their exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 (10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017), the Victoria and Albert have uploaded a series of videos interviewing 1960s Rebels including myself.
The late 1960s saw progressive ideas emanate from the countercultural underground and revolutionise society. Challenging oppressive, outdated norms and expectations, a small number of individuals brought about far-reaching changes as they sought to attain a better world. Their idealism and actions helped mobilise a movement which continues to inspire modern activists and shape how we live today.
When a business sector sees a rash of mergers and acquisitions, it's for one of two reasons, growth or decay. The organic food industry has seen a lot of acquisitions by companies anxious to get in on the ground floor of the 5% annual growth rate in organic food and regenerative farming. Meanwhile, on the dark side, Monsanto is facing takeover by Bayer, not for any positive reasons, but because they are both looking into the abyss. Merger is one way to survive when the farmers they are competing for are spending less. Farmers aren't stupid - they can do the maths. When they see diminishing returns on their investment in seeds and agrichemicals, they reduce their spending. Normally in a situation like this the agribusiness operators would go to the EU or Washington and just wheedle more subsidies out of the national purse, bleating about food security while encouraging biofuels to prop up soy, rapeseed and corn prices. Who cares if you're destroying the earth's precious farmland at 30 football fields a minute? If you were a big landowner, you'd feel entitled to being paid to do this. That's what us mugs are here for. Now that the EU even subsidises grouse moors you'd think the gates were wide open. But the money is running out. Half the EU budget goes to farmers, much of it British money going via Brussels to France. The US spends $350 billion a year propping up agriculture in the US, channeling money through farmers to agribiz.
Let's take a look at who's eating whom. The potash fertiliser price has halved in the past 3 years, from $450 a tonne to $219. So in Canada, Agrium and Potash, two of the world's biggest potash producers, are merging in a desperate attempt to keep afloat while they wait for a bounce in price that may never happen. Bayer and Monsanto are both facing plunging sales and profits. Monsanto have the seed and Bayer have the pesticides to go with them. But again it's desperation. They hope that innovation will save them, but innovation is not something you find in mega corporations. GMOs are losing support - US farmers never wanted them but were denied choice after Monsanto bought up all the seed companies and forced GMOs down their throats.
The whole ethanol biofuels scam is blowing up, too. It was never even vaguely 'carbon neutral' - it takes more energy to produce a litre of ethanol than the energy you get by burning it. It's more energy efficient to just mix corn with coal and shovel it into a power station, but that would be too obvious and repulsive.
Chem China has taken over Syngenta. They make the herbicides that Syngenta's GM seed can resist. Nobody in China will eat GMO rice but they'll tolerate pork or chicken fed on GM maize. But the real prize for Chem China is Syngenta's strong presence in US market: they're after Bayer/Monsanto's piece of the diminishing pie. Their US competitors are suddenly bleating about food security. Two other agrichemical giants, Dow and DuPont, also merged recently. They're all like a bunch of drunks spilling out of the pub after a good night out, trying to keep each other from falling down.
If you're a farmer, what do you do? You used to be able to play off one agrichemical giant against the other, but soon you'll just take what you're given. Or look for an alternative and boy, what an alternative is on the horizon!
When the French '4 per 1000 initiative' succeeds at the Marrakech COP22 climate conference in November every hectare of organic farmland will be set to get over €150 a year in carbon credits. A hectare of chemical-dependent farmland will have to pay for its carbon footprint and that could cost close to €100 per hectare. It won't happen overnight but the French have fixed a price of €56 per tonne for carbon, to take effect by 2020. The world will probably follow, even the US. If you were a government that was facing huge annual costs to subsidise farmers with money that flows through their bank accounts to Dow/DuPont, Bayer/Monsanto and Chem China/Syngenta and you could instead just let the carbon markets transfer the money from fossil fuel power stations direct to organic farmers, what would you do? Keep on propping up a dying industry or finally recognise that organic food, when the carbon is priced in, is actually cheaper than the degenerative kind that is destroying our available soil at the rate of 30 football fields per minute? (I can't repeat this often enough)
Governments have been holding back for quite a long time because of the immense political power of the agrichemicals industry and of the landowning fraternity. They passionately hate socialism in all its forms, until it comes to their welfare payments.
It's time for a change. We need to bring freedom to farming. Carbon pricing that encourages regenerative farming instead of degenerative farming is the way forward. Organic is good for you and the climate, too.
As the nation ponders the Brexit question, Craig Sams reflects on the EU’s inglorious record on food and health
I was around when we joined the EU in 1973. What was the impact on food and health? Here’s my summation of the good, the bad and the ugly – well the last two anyway.
The first thing was that land prices shot up. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) guaranteed subsidies favouring larger landholdings. Overnight land became an investment asset, its value underpinned by the EU. City money poured in, paying contract farming companies to operate monoculture on vast tracts of land. They cut down the hedgerows, drained the wetlands and sprayed out biodiversity. Pesticide and fertilizer use shot up. In the early 1970s Exchange and Mart listed smallholdings in Britain. When one came up for sale City money would buy it, consolidate the 15-50 acres into an industrialized landholding and sell off the house as a second home. The deck was stacked against small farmers in favour of large chemical-dependent enterprises. The ads for smallholdings disappeared.
Jam could no longer be called jam. The EU list of permitted sweeteners included white sugar, brown sugar, ‘sugar syrup containing not more than 0.2% sulphur dioxide preservative’, glucose syrup and another ten industrial sweeteners. Despite our urgent representations to include ‘fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates’, the EU refused to put them on the list. So Whole Earth had to rename our healthier jam ‘pure fruit spread.’ Lobbyists in Brussels had made sure the deck was stacked in favour of EU-subsidized sugars.
The ongoing suppression of herbal and natural medicine began. The HFMA fights doughtily to protect people’s right to VMS and herbal remedies, but it can be a losing battle with the EU banning much-loved products for obscure reasons, not unrelated to pharma pressures on unelected commissioners.
Hydrogenated fat got a major shot in the arm. It popped up everywhere as a replacement for naturally hard fats like coconut oil or palm oil. This plasticky heart-destroying material was made from rapeseed oil, subsidized to the eyeballs by the CAP. EU levies on imports of palm oil and coconut oil guaranteed that hydrogenated fat was always £50-60 a tonne cheaper than natural fats. Then the medical industry weighed in, encouraging consumption of transfat-rich margarines. By the late 1990s, when the evidence against hydrogenated fat was overwhelming, the EU still wouldn’t budge until Bantransfats.com and the Danish Government finally made transfats unmarketable. So the EU brought out the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation which required member states to mix rapeseed oil with diesel to burn up this food that nobody wanted.
The EU took over organic regulation in 1993 and bogged it down in bureaucracy. In the US if you want an organic no-calorie sweetener, processed from organic raw materials, to be permitted in organic food, you apply to the National Organic Standards Board which looks at the evidence and decides in a matter of weeks. In the EU you have to go to the Soil Association which consults other certifying bodies, then makes a representation to DEFRA, who makes a representation to Brussels who then consults with the other 25 ministries of agriculture in member states, who consult with certifying bodies who consult with licensees and then feed back to Brussels after a few years, usually with someone dissenting and deadlock. Organic food in the EU has to be full sugar because regulatory constipation bars safe organic sweeteners. US makers of low-calorie products can sell in the EU due to the US-EU equivalence agreement, where minor differences in organic standards are just overlooked.
I live in Hastings, where the fishermen operate small boats. The EU gives 97% of the fish quotas to the big trawlers that destroy the sea bed and 3% to the small boat fishermen who are responsible for 50% of employment of fishermen. Our fishermen have to throw fish overboard or buy extra quota from the trawler operators to whom Brussels lobbyists have given more quota than they can possibly use.
For 19 years the EU Court of Auditors has refused to give the all clear to the EU’s accounts because of money that just disappears out of the CAP, which eats up half the EU budget. Unelected and unaccountable, they just laugh at any attempt to stop the corruption, most of which is in farm subsidies.
I’m not saying that Brexit would be any better, mind. Given the level of competence at Westminster, it could be argued that things would be even worse if we let power and responsibility reside there rather than Brussels. Nonetheless, it’s unfortunate that our food and farming are being held hostage by unaccountable bureaucrats, be they in Brussels or closer to home
OK, reversing humanity’s decline took 40 or 50 years longer than we thought. But let’s celebrate it anyway, writes Craig Sams
Could this be the Big Lifestyle Turnaround that we’ve been dreaming about and waiting for?
Every year for decades there has been an annual increase in new cases of Type 2 diabetes, which correlates with comparable figures for obesity, which is a factor in cancer and heart disease. That’s the bad news. What’s the good news?
Over the last 6 years (averaged to avoid ‘blips’) research shows there has been a significant DECLINE in incidence of diabetes in the US. Diabetes is still happening, but less and less each year. That means that, going forward, there will likely be less cancer, less obesity and less heart disease. The endless upward graph is going into a downturn.
The researchers, at the US Governments Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), took a shot at what might be behind this encouraging news. Their studied conclusion? People are more health conscious than hitherto and this is reflected in healthy and informed food choices and greater commitment to regular exercise and bodywork, including yoga and pilates. In other words, the message of healthy living is getting through. More people than ever are shopping at natural food stores or Whole Foods Market. Supermarkets are giving more and more space to organic and healthy foods. We’ve always said that this could happen and now the evidence is in that a healthy lifestyle prevents degenerative disease.
So where does that put Coca Cola? Their sales are down in the US, with the international market also weakening.
And MacDonalds? For seven straight quarters up to the middle of last year, their sales have been dropping with no evidence of a turnaround. Big Macs and Coke once seemed invincible – the obesity epidemic and resulting diabetes soared in parallel with their sales. Now their growth has stalled.
So where is the money going? Last year yoga and pilates studios in the US had sales of $9 billion, up 7.5% year on year. There are 30,000 businesses employing 95,000 people, about three per business. It’s a horde of small enterprises that are capturing people’s longing for physical wellbeing, core strength and flexibility. The yoga bunnies and pilates enthusiasts are alive to nutrition, healthy eating, the gut microbiome and anything else that points them towards a longer, healthier and happier life. There’s little opportunity for scale in this market – there are a few big gym chains but most of this healthy stuff is run by sole practitioners or a small local group that might also include nutritional advice, massage and counseling. In the caring, sharing economy of the future there is a lot more peer-to-peer and a lot less corporate-to-consumer relationship.
It’s not going to be easy to get humankind back on track, though.
The junk food decades from the 1950s to the 2000s meant that a lot of kids were born who inherited the epigenetic legacy of their parents’ poor diet and environment. We know that what you eat affects your health – now we also know it affects your genes and is an undesirable legacy to your children. I won’t go into the detail of DNA methylation and transfer RNAs, but suffice to say that if a father or a mother eats too much sugary and industrial food and is exposed to environmental contaminants such as pesticides, food colouring and preservatives their baby’s start in life is clouded and the kid is more likely to suffer impaired insulin tolerance that could lead to diabetes. The good news is that epigenetics cuts both ways. A lot of the crap that used to screw up our genes is now out of the system – things like DDT, lead, hydrogenated fat, toxic dyes and preservatives and high levels of pesticide, fungicide and herbicide residues in our food are all non-existent or much lower. So going forward we could be passing on healthier and more robust genes.
When we launched Yin-Yang Ltd, the macrobiotic food company that would morph into Whole Earth, Vegeburger and Green & Black’s, we thought the healthy eating revolution would be over by the early 1970s. It was so obvious. We naively thought everyone would go for it – after all, who didn’t want to live a long and healthy life? As my brother Gregory said, we were looking at the future through the wrong end of the telescope. We saw the future, we were just out by 40 or 50 years. Boo-hoo about the ruined lives along the way, but hip hip hurrah for the coming reversal of humanity’s decline.
When Victor Gutierrez asked me to front the video for Thomas Cohen's debut single 'Bloom Forever' it was a pleasure to agree. The actual shoot, like all shoots, demanded an unboreable brain that can ride out the repeated performing of the same stuff until eventually Victor was happy to do it in one run.
'Bloom Forever' has a haunting melody that, not just because I've heard it 100 times now, is embedded in my brain and pops up uninvited but welcome quite often. It's hard to classify, not lounge, not chillout, not a lullabye - not quite sure what to call it... but imagining Thomas writing this in the maternity ward having just 'had' his child, a son, in the bliss of first parenthood, helps explain the quality of the song that I just can't quite nail. "Rhythm 'n' Bliss" perhaps?
Is it time for investors to dump Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer?
The UNFCC has launched its '4 per 1000' initiative based on data from the French National Institute for Agronomic Research that shows that just by increasing overall the carbon-rich organic matter of soil by 0.4% per annum we could completely and totally offset all our annual GHG greenhouse gas emissions. The farming methods that can take carbon out of the atmosphere and lock it in the soil include big reductions of nitrate fertilisers and fungicides. Just doing that will make a difference as they represent a 15% contribution to annual GHG emissions. The rest comes from 'agroecological' practices, mostly pioneered by organic and biodynamic farmers, that are now tested, refined and proven to be competitive in yield with industrial methods of farming. They do not deliver high revenue streams to agribusiness companies and they also do not externalise all sorts of other costs onto society. These biggest cost is greenhouse gas emissions as that's the planetary existential threat. But the personal and social costs are pretty costly, too: pesticide residues in food, soil erosion, dust storms, water pollution, flooding, biodiversity loss, toxic algal blooms and an archaic subsidy system that has the hard-working poor subsidising rich landowners in the name of 'cheap food.'. But forget about that, just concentrating on the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from farming is enough. There are plenty of untested technological solutions like mirrors in space or the delusion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) that you can pump carbon dioxide into old oil wells and somehow convince yourself and everyone else that it will stay there. The beauty of what I should like to call Soil Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) is that with soil carbon, what goes in the ground stays in the ground. All it needs is the right price signals. If carbon has a value then the farmer who reduces emissions and increases sequestration will be rewarded. When carbon has a value it will be traded and there is no need for complicated and inequitable government farm subsidy policies that punish environmentally responsible behaviour. SCCS farmers will sell their carbon right alongside their corn and beans.
Ideally a SCCS farmer would receive three carbon-related payments per annum, as well, of course as their normal income and profit from growing wheat or carrots or alfalfa or eggs or whatever . There would be a capital payment and an interest payment and an avoided emissions payment. Here's how it could work:
- Capital Payment: This is a payment to a farmer for the net annual increase of carbon in the soil. Rodale's research has shown that an organic farm can sequester 2.5 tonnes CO2 per hectare per year. There are 1.5 billion hectares of farmland and 3.5 billion hectares of pasture. For farmland alone, 1.5 billion ha. times 2.5 tonnes is 3.75 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum. Conversely, a farm that continues to reduce its soil carbon annually would have to pay for that reduction.
- Soil Interest Payment - This would be an 'interest' payment of the market price of carbon based on the amount of carbon that is already in the soil, the 'deposit' so to speak.
- Avoided emissions payment - emissions include fossil fuels and the emissions involved in the manufacture and application of fertilisers, pesticides and agricultural equipment.
How does it work in practice? Let's say a farmer has 100 hectares of land. The carbon price is $50 per tonne CO2. There are already 60 tonnes of CO2 as soil organic matter per hectare. The farmer adds 2.5 tonnes in one year. What is the annual carbon payout?
Capital Payment: 100 hectares x 2.5 tonnes x $50 = $ 12,500
Interest Payment: 100 hectares x 60 x 0.5% = $ 3,000
Avoided emissions payment: 1 tonne $50 x 100 = $ 5,000
So the farmer can sell carbon credits to gain an additional $20,500 of revenue on 100 hectares
What about the industrial farmer?
Capital Payment: 1 tonne p.a. soil CO2 decrease, $50 x 100 = - $5,000
Interest Payment: 100 hectares x 60 x 0.5% = $ 3,000
Emissions Payment: .5 tonne CO2/ha = -$ 2,500
(a fee for nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the soil due to the use of nitrate fertiliser and pesticides and fungicides)
Total carbon cost of farming as usual: $4,500
Total 'spread' between SCCS farmer and industrial farmer 100 hectares:
$20,500 + $ 4,500 = $25,000
If yields are equal and input costs are comparable then this is a significant edge in competitiveness in favour of the agroecological or organic farmer.
That's $250 per hectare. About what a farmer gets nowadays by way of government subsidy but, instead of it coming from the taxpayer and the farmer acting as a conduit that channels it to agribusiness the payment is funded by the carbon markets and most of the money stays in the farmer's pocket.
Michael Pollan's made a lovely video that tells the story of soil carbon. And Deborah Garcia's film 'Symphony of the Soil' is certainly worth watching to get a full understanding of the real underfoot magic of our existence.
And the Financial Times published my letter on December 18th 2015 that was a warning to investors not to get caught in a meltdown of agribusiness shares similar to what's been happening with fossil fuel company shares - the writing is on the wall for businesses that generate high greenhouse gas emissions - there's no hiding place any more. The Paris talks have tipped the balance.
This morning, for breakfast, I went into the garden with a couple of slices of bread slathered with mayonnaise and a rice cake smeared with Jersey butter. Then I proceeded to pick from my winter salad garden: lamb’s lettuce, French parsley, various Japanese winter veg including mizuna and two frilly but intensely hot mustardy greens, land cress (a thicket self seeded from a single plant earlier this year), lettuce, winter purslane and, for a touch of the bitters, artemisia – wormwood. I added a leaf of radicchio from plants that have sprung up through the brickwork of a path. Just as we think of ‘food miles’ there is a parallel concept of ‘food days’ from harvest to consumption. In this case it was ‘food seconds’ – the leaves barely knew they had been plucked before they disappeared into the welcoming warm darkness of my esophagus, still brimming with vitality as they headed for the acid bath of my stomach. The garden owes everything to Rocket Gardens Winter Salad Collection, a superb collection of cold-tolerant plants that were delivered to me back in September, to get established before the cold set in. They haven’t been tested by frost (well, a very light one a few weeks ago) but my experience has been that my biochar-rich soil has such an active biology that the warmth it gives off acts as underfloor central heating for the plants. Soil is everything and I am lucky to have Carbon Gold at my fingertips, continually discovering new aspects of the joys of biochar gardening.
But enough about the soil, it’s the variety that gets me every time I have my salad breakfast.
Here they are, sharing a plate with a buttered rice cake and the lamb’s lettuce growing just behind. But read on for the individual varietals and pictures.
I love the light mucilaginousness of winter purslane, with its spade-shaped leaves that look like they’ve escaped from a deck of playing cards.
Then there are the red chicories – radicchio and rosso de Treviso, both squeezing through the brick path. These provide a crisp bitterness.
The Japanese Red Frills Mustard leaves are hot and mustardy and satisfyingly crunchy. Here are the purple ones, finding space between the turnips and the spring onions.
And here are their green cousins, the Green Frills Mustard
The land cress is easily as peppery as its aquatic cousin
The Lamb’s Lettuce miraculously replaces removed leaves almost, it seems, overnight. Light in flavour and texture.
French parsley does the same, endlessly offering up new leaves to replace those plucked earlier. Here it is in the foreground, with emerging Babbington’s leeks just behind.
Mizuna rounds it out, though it seems to be struggling more with the cold than the others.
A dab of Artemisia is always a good digestive tonic, but very bitter, so I get that down first and then follow with the sweeter and more pungent leaves.