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‘Carbon farming’ is in fashion: 3 stories you may have missed

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Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Planting crops — and carbon, too 

Regenerative farming methods could help make a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The story: A new front in the fight against climate change is growing — on farms. Reporting for The Washington Post, Gabriel Popkin profiled a Maryland farmer who has been paid more than US$ 100,000 for sequestering carbon in his farm’s soil using “regenerative” methods. 

The benefits of stashing away climate-warming carbon in the soil could be immense: Research published last year by scientists from Conservation International and elsewhere found that soil sequestration could absorb 3 billion tons of carbon each year, and policymakers and even U.S. President Joseph Biden have taken notice.  

The big picture: Researchers estimate that farming throughout history has unearthed roughly 133 billion tons of carbon, an amount equal to almost 14 years of global emissions at current levels, the Post reported. While hurdles remain to expanding regenerative farming to the scale needed to make a dent in that number, the Maryland farmer’s preferred method is seen as having the biggest potential: planting cover crops.  

“When a farmer plants their crop, the standard practice is to harvest the plant, then wait until the next spring to plant new seeds,” Conservation International scientist Bronson Griscom told Conservation News in March. “Between these harvests, farmers could actually increase productivity by planting a ‘cover crop’ such as clover, which helps restore nutrients in the soil. At the end of the season, these cover crops can be plowed and mixed into the soil.”

Read more here.

One of the world’s foremost luxury brands is vowing to fight climate change by protecting forests. 

The story: Gucci is the latest designer label to make a splash in conservation in recent days, unveiling a climate strategy that goes beyond climate neutrality, reported Penny Goldstone in Marie Claire. 

The luxury fashion brand — which has been carbon-neutral in its operations and supply chain since 2018 — is taking it one step further, vowing to go carbon-negative by paying to protect and restore forests, and investing in regenerative agriculture in its supply chain, among other things. The company will work with Conservation International and other partners to identify and scale up “carbon farming” projects within its sourcing regions. 

The big picture: The fashion industry’s massive global influence with consumers is seen as “a powerful signal” for a broader awareness — and more action — on protecting nature, according to Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan. 

Gucci’s move is the latest in a flurry of activity in recent months by the fashion industry to reduce its sizable impacts on nature; according to some estimates, the fashion industry as a whole is responsible for up to 10 percent of all humanity’s carbon emissions. Last week, French luxury group Kering joined Conservation International to launch the Regenerative Fund for Nature, aimed at supporting regenerative agriculture projects around the world and meet Kering’s commitment to have a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2025. 

Read more here and here.

Further reading: 

A new alliance aims to improve the health of freshwater fisheries around the world. 

The story: For all of the global attention on the seafood industry and its attendant social and environmental impacts, the world’s inland fisheries net little consideration — even though conservative estimates put the annual haul of inland fish above 12 million tons as recently as 2018. 

Now, a new partnership, launched on World Wetlands Day, is seeking to promote better care of the world’s often-overlooked inland fisheries. The Inland Fisheries Alliance, founded by conservation and development organizations including Conservation International, aims to improve the health of the world’s freshwater fisheries — and in turn, of the millions who depend on them for food security and livelihoods.

The big picture: A major challenge to improving inland fisheries is simply getting them on policymakers’ radar. “The value of inland fisheries are little known to the Western media and general public, and we often use terms like ‘hidden harvests’ and ‘forgotten fish’ when we talk about them,” the Inland Fisheries Alliance noted in a new post on Medium. 

“When most people hear ‘fisheries’ they think about fish from the ocean, but freshwater fish are no less important — it’s just that the vulnerable people who depend on those fish the most don’t have a seat at the table when development decisions are being made,” said Robin Abell, a freshwater expert at Conservation International. The new alliance, she says, aims to provide a voice for these fisheries so that they can be managed as part of sustainable global food systems and healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Read more here.

Further reading:


Bruno Vander Velde is senior communications director at Conservation International. 

Cover image: A farmer in Guatemala (© Starbucks)