An hour after Pope Francis spoke to Congress and issued "a call for a courageous and responsible effort [...] to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity," a rally on the National Mall highlighted a "shovel-ready solution" to the climate crisis.
Speaking at the Moral Action on Climate Justice demonstratoin Thursday, Larry Kopald, co-founder and president of organization The Carbon Underground, said it's "a solution that will put carbon back in the ground, a solution that will feed us better, make us healthier, create jobs, and even boost our economy."
"What is this magic solution?" he asked. "You're standing on it [...] It's the soil."
Kopald and his organization are not alone is calling for soil to be seen as part of a climate solution, with organizations including the Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, the Rodale Institute, and Vandana Shiva's Navdanya also touting the approach. Regenerative agriculture's ability to heal soil was also the focus of the Regenerative International Conference in Costa Rica this June, as well as the Soil Not Oil International Conference held earlier this month in Richmond, California.
Kopald explained the problem with the dominant method of food production, saying, "Industrial agriculture techniques have destroyed most of the soil. Seventy percent of the soil on earth is dead or dying, and all of that carbon that should be in the soil is now stuck in the atmosphere causing climate change."
But healthy soil fed through agroecological methods can be an effective carbon sink, he explained.
"Here's the good news: If we restore that soil, we can bring that carbon back. We can fix the climate. There are a billion acres of land in the U.S. alone used to grow food," he said. "If we restore those acres, if we restore that soil, we we bring down 3 billion tons of carbon back from the atmosphere [...] every single year."
The current system in which "subsidies [are given to ] to farmers using chemicals destroying our soil and causing climate change," needs to stop, Kopald continued, with the subsidies instead going "to farmers who are willing to restore our soil, and feed us better food, and help reverse climate change."
"We need to tell President Obama and the next man or the next woman who lives in the White House that we've got to stop focusing on the problem and start focusing on the solution," he said, urging rally attenders to send a message to lawmakers to "fix the soil, fix the climate."
The event, which organizers stated on their website invited people to "join thousands of people of all creeds, colors and faiths, on the National Mall in asking our world leaders to #FollowFrancis to take bold action for climate justice," also included speeches by the Moral Monday movement leader Rev. William Barber, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo, and the musician Moby.
Twitter users captured parts of the event with the hashtag #FollowFrancis: