Compost could help with climate change

Compost could help with climate change JP Pinard's letter (the News, Feb. 13) on climate change raises some very important points, in particular that it is not business as usual anymore. When the Rockefellers divest themselves from oil stock the wind i

JP Pinard’s letter (the News, Feb. 13) on climate change raises some very important points, in particular that it is not business as usual anymore.

When the Rockefellers divest themselves from oil stock the wind is changing direction. Most of the battle about climate change mitigation rages over energy usage and conservation. These are very important issues, of course, but to give full perspective to our collective predicament, energy usage accounts for less than half of the carbon we have released into the atmosphere.

Recent IPCC-sanctioned figures estimate that as much as 66 per cent of today’s atmospheric carbon has come from our soils. This is because of the industrial model of agriculture that we use to produce our food.

This model degenerates soil, and literally results in the evaporation of soil organic matter as carbon dioxide. It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, traditionally cheerleaders for the agrochemical and equipment industry, are now advocating the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices. They have even gone so far to designate 2015 as the International Year of Soil.

By growing our soils we can capture enormous amounts of carbon for many decades to come. This will improve our food security and food quality, increase the area of farmable land, reduce the impact of flooding and drought, mitigate the effects of climate change and protect us from disease and pestilence, amongst a long list of other benefits.

We can do our part at home too. For example, about one kilogram of carbon is emitted to produce one kilogram of nitrogenous fertilizer. The City of Whitehorse uses about 8,000 kg per year on its lawns, which is roughly equivalent to 24,000 kg carbon dioxide being released so we can have green lawns.

This does not include the trucking, etc. Home gardeners, and other lawn managers, combined, will use way more than this amount.

Instead of using chemical fertilizer, compost provides needed nutrients, is a source of soil carbon, and stimulates further carbon sequestration. If the city used its own compost on all the lawns (which they don’t), the total amount of carbon dioxide that would be locked in the soil would be in the range of 40,000 kg per year. The lawns would also be healthier and require less maintenance.

Perhaps, one day, our leaders will see the sense and urgency in caring for our soils. The Yukon government and the city could phase out the use of chemical fertilizers on its lawns, and use compost instead.

As part of the Yukon government’s desire to improve food security in the territory, assistance could also be given to farmers to improve their soil using compost, instead of chemical fertilizers. Improving Yukon soils is a massive cost and a significant barrier to food production.

The benefits of using compost are legion, and it can play a huge role mitigating climate change. Conserve energy, buy less junk and use compost. In the absence of leadership, these are the things we can do for our children.

Garret Gillespie

Whitehorse