Previously, here at the home of 3pfi we reflected on how we might apply some of the solutions recommended in the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming and benefit from them in the pursuit of financial independence. In this post I’d like to continue these musings working our way through a few more of the one hundred solutions posited in the book. As outlined in that last post, the solutions are grouped into seven categories: energy; food; women and girls; buildings and cities; land use; transport; and materials.
Given my love for plants, gardening, and sustainable agriculture my attention is most strongly drawn to those solutions targeting food and land use. Coming in at # 11 is regenerative agriculture, which unlike conventional agriculture improves and maintains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity. Likewise, #16 conservation agriculture and #23 farmland restoration highlight the need to minimize soil disturbance and get abandoned farmlands back into production using regenerative practices thus increasing carbon sequestration in the soil.
My next blog post will feature an interview with Ethan Roland Soloviev, an expert on regenerative agriculture, in which we discuss ways non-accredited investors can invest in this arena. Slow Money is one option, which I mentioned in an earlier post. It involves investing in sustainably-minded local farms while offering farmers access to capital at a (s)lower rate of return.
As a result of my training in permaculture, which taught me to look to nature as the model, I prioritize perennial versus annual crops in my own yard. Unsurprisingly, the Drawdown solutions affirm this line of thinking. Not only do perennial plants require less work in the long run and produce more food they also sequester more carbon in the ground than annual plantings. Solution #51 – Perennial Biomass – looks beyond edible plants to encourage the large scale planting of perennial plants that can become the feedstock for biomass energy generation, such as switchgrass, silver grass, willow, poplar, and eucalyptus. “Many perennial bioenergy crops are prime candidates to grow on degraded land not suited to food production. Compared to corn and other annuals, perennials can prevent erosion, produce more stable yields, be less vulnerable to pests, and support pollinators and biodiversity.”
This perennial biomass solution may not be easy to implement at home, but we could certainly consider purchasing a property covered in one or more of these types of plants as a small addition to our investment portfolio or potential side hustle/small business. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlines the possible pitfalls of this type of investment when the financial gain relies on planting only one type of crop. We don’t want to enter this type of initiative without conducting due diligence, but my inclination would be to secure a property that is also conducive to growing multiple food, medicinal, and biomass crops as well as native plants (and not necessarily all for bioenergy production) to diversify and reduce risk. I’ll go into a little more detail about this later in the post.
Similarly, multiple solutions highlight tree and forestry based approaches further underscoring the importance of perennials in our ecosystems. Living in Florida as I do I can more easily implement solution #14 – Tropical Staple Trees. Such trees include banana, avocado, nut, and carob. (Here I described how I use the abundance of avocados I harvest as a form of living capital.) Currently, the majority of cultivated land in the world is dedicated to annuals. Yet, perennial staples sequester, on average, 1.9 tons of carbon per acre every year for decades, far more than annuals. Additionally, perennial staple tree crops are hardier and often can weather and thrive under conditions that annuals cannot—vital in a warming world.
Permaculture teachings encourage the establishment of “food forests.” This low-maintenance sustainable agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporates fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. These food forests offer those living in temperate zones a way to incorporate the concepts behind the tropical staple trees solution into their own landscapes. The premier books on this topic are Edible Forest Gardens Volume I & II by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier.
Solution # 5 is (restoring) tropical forests. Over the past several decades millions of acres of tropical forests were cleared, largely to make way for conventional agriculture, thus largely increasing the release of greenhouse gases into the environment as opposed to sequestering those carbons as the forests do. Not to be forgotten are forests in temperate zones, which comprise one fourth of the world’s total forested areas. These temperate forests are such a valuable natural resource that they appear on the list at #12. Unlike forests in tropical regions, forests in temperate (primarily northern hemisphere) regions are felled for development, as we sprawl outside of the cities into the suburbs to buy bigger homes and shop in strip malls.
Forest protection makes the list at #38. If you want to help protect temperate forests consider NOT buying a home in a new development on the grounds from which a forest was removed to make way for it and speak out against the clearing of forests for future developments in your area. To help protect all forests look for eco-certified products when buying those made of wood. A simple thing you can do when surfing the internet is to use the Ecosia search engine instead of Google. Ecosia plants a tree each time you use it.
I’m intrigued by #15 – afforestation, which refers to the establishment of forests in areas where there weren’t any before, primarily on degraded farmland. Combining afforestation with #28 multistrata agroforestry holds tremendous potential to avoid mono-cropping and focus on long-term impact. I need to do much more research, but would consider investing in a degraded property to create a multistrata agroforest from which food, herbal medicine, biomass, etc. could be sustainably harvested and sold. I have a friend who is a wildcrafter and makes good money sustainably foraging medicinal plants and selling them to herbalists and pharmaceutical companies. I am going to ask him about this idea when I see him next time.
I’ve contemplated the idea of trying to connect the above mentioned Ethan Roland Soloviev with Mark Poldolsky, the Land Geek, who was interviewed in episode 77 of the Fire Drill podcast to brainstorm financially prudent ways to purchase rural land that could be used to raise bioenergy crops or for other profitable carbon sequestration businesses. Watch out for more on that front in early 2019 when I’ll have more time to reach out to them to gauge their response to this idea.
A related solution I am particularly fond of is #35 – bamboo. The Drawdown team points out that “bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil.” Additionally, “even though it is just a grass it has the comprehensive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel.” This means bamboo shows strong potential as a sustainable building material. I imagine we will be seeing more and more experimental homes built out of bamboo. I also greatly appreciate bamboo for the zen like quality it lends to its surroundings increasing our overall peace of mind and well being.
Bamboo is often a prolific grower and considered an invasive species in many places. Tremendous care should be taken to select appropriate locations and manage its growth. I plan to learn more about clumping bamboos (which spread less aggressively), especially those that are edible, to incorporate into my landscape. I am already envisioning Asian inspired meals with fresh bamboo shoots as well as lovely fences and garden borders built with felled bamboo. Growing your own building material seems very FI to me, especially when you stack on the additional functions of food and beauty.
Lastly, I have been enthusiastic about # 72 – Biochar ever since I participated in my PDC (Permaculture Design Certification) course back in 2009. Biochar is essentially fine-grained charcoal created by pyrolysis, which involves the heating of carbon-rich organic matter in low oxygen conditions. There are large-scale more complicated ways to create biochar and smaller, simpler homescale ways to make biochar for your garden. This article from Mother Earth News magazine does a good job of laying out how you can convert the remains of your backyard bonfire into nutrient-dense carbon-sequestering biochar that will improve the health of your soil and improve your garden yields. Looking for an eco-firendly side hustle – start making high quality biochar in your back yard and sell it to local gardeners or online.
I find all of these Drawdown solutions so intriguing and inspiring that I have still been unable to touch upon all of the ones I would like to on this blog. Therefore, I will continue this series in future posts from time to time.