Nilang Gor and Theo Ferguson

Paths to Sustainability

By Nilang Gor & Theodosia Ferguson, Cultivating Empathy for All & Healing Living Systems

Our Planet Earth is at a challenging ecological intersection. We’re looking at Peak Farmable Soil and Carbon Capture Capacity, Peak Edible Food, and Peak Water all bundled into escalating Climate Instability. If you eat and drink routinely, if you want to be able to capture more carbon and bring our current 400 parts per million (ppm) Greenhouse Gases (GHG) back down to 350 ppm, this subject has a great deal to do with you. If you’d like to be certain that your community, your grandchildren and others globally have the opportunity to work with you to draw down the 1.4 degree C global hike in temperature we have already experienced, read on!

One among us said, “Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil—and the fact that it rains!”

Source: John Jeavons, World of Hope1


Let’s examine three strategies. First, rebuilding soil and carbon capture. It has become evident that a worldwide increase in population combined with worldwide depletion of soil is making our ability to feed ourselves AT ALL more challenging. Some studies even indicate that as little as 36 to 52 years of farmable soil may remain on the planet—then “Peak Water” becomes less available as global warming changes precipitation patterns.

Our population is growing as the soil is being depleted. Agro-ecological Farming Practices are known, but YOU can build one to one-and-a-half inches of farmable soil in as little as 8 1/2 years. This might mean that six inches of farmable soil could be developed with biologically intensive practices in as little as 50 years.

Everyone growing great soil that captures water while growing nutrient dense food is definitely doing their part. Gandhi said, “To forget how to dig the soil is to forget oneself.” The Marin Carbon Project[2] discovered that applying a thin layer of compost tea—made from crop residues–on acreage acts like a phase change in carbon capture. There are 6 billion microbial life forms in a tablespoon of cured compost. When our focus is on growing soil, the soil grows more food and uses less water as we create a biologically-alive relationship with the Earth.

Plant the “seed” that will breathe life back into the earth and ourselves! Seeds are critical as 95 percent of all food seeds are extinct. If we use agro-ecological, intensive farming methods, we can remineralize our soils and save the seeds of the crop varieties we grow. These varietal seeds acclimatize to soils and climate. Our bodies become healthier and our land grows better crop yields. Simply, life is grown from life processes.

The CA Natural Resources Agency “Report on Increasing Soil Organic Carbon to Mitigate Greenhouse Gases and Increase Climate Resilience for California”—A Report for: California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment[3] includes a comparative analysis of six areas around California considering: Emissions; Gross Soil C; and Net Soil C. exhibiting the indirect benefit of compost to the ecosystem results in additional drawdown of 0.3Mg C/hectare/mid-century to 0.9 Mg/hectare/century.

Gross Soil C and Net Soil C

Let’s look at the second current strategy to mitigate this “moment.” We could consider FDR’s national tree initiatives as a model. It was well thought through and protected the mid-west from the Dust Bowl reoccurring.[4]

The Green New Deal calls for massive public investment in green jobs and infrastructure through a 10-year national mobilization. Farmers are not forced to “overproduce” their way out of poverty and debt. Rather they temper their efforts for the good of all farmers and society establishing a social contract to prevent agricultural overproduction. We can see using agro-ecological practices to produce enough food, reduce food waste and water use, and restore, rather than destroy, our planetary ecosystems. Further, the Green New Deal reduces expectations, time and money by engaging a broad-based, working class, multicultural movement.[5]

A third strategy to rescue the planet elevates plant-based diets. Our economy is a subsystem embedded within the earth’s ecosystems. Our entire economy is built around ecosystem services like soil formation, nutrient recycling, food production, careful management of water, plants and minerals. But our current capitalistic system treats the economy as a separate non-interactive system. Thus our business and investment practices often ignore the interconnected nature of our economy and ecosystems, jeopardizing all natural systems. We need smart, systemic investment practices within sustainable economies that conserve ecosystem services, alleviate poverty, and enable people financially everywhere.[6]

Both smart and heart investments require an understanding of relevant markets. Millennials are educated and informed and demand social and environmental sustainability in their consumer goods and services. This shifting cultural and economic awareness plays out across the food industry and is reflected in a 20 percent growth in the plant-based food sector now worth $3.3 billion.

Earth is home to 7 billion people. The number is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Right now more than 800 million people around the world suffer from chronic hunger[7] while the U.S. feeds 70 percent of its grains to farm animals for dairy and meat[8] and spends >4,000 gallons of water per person per day to produce a meat-based diet versus only 300 gallons of water per person per day for a plant-based diet.[9]

According to a UN report in 2006, animal farming accounts for 9 percent of CO2 and 37 percent of global methane emissions.[10] Methane is 30-times more potent than CO2 in its ability to trap heat[11] and provides 1/3 of global warming due to CO2.

The rising cost of healthcare is equally worrisome to many societal sectors. Scientific articles elevate plant-based diets as promising and effective interventions for some common diseases in the US—i.e. diabetes, heart disease, obesity. The National Update for Physicians published in The Permanente Journal[12] recommends physicians consider plant-based diets as cost-effective interventions for their patients.

Negative impacts of meat-based diets include antibiotic resistance. Meat and dairy industries grow their market positions by using high doses of antibiotics on food animals and birds. Recently, these negative practices have influenced many countries to increase their consumption of antibiotics by 36 percent overall, further expanding use of antibiotics to 70 percent in animal farming, plus last resort antibiotic drugs like colistin in animal farming.[13]This results in people in India and China experiencing colistin resistant infections, opening up the spectre of people dying from common infections.

In March 2018, the USDA convened a committee to formulate new dietary guidelines for 2020-2025.[14] USDA dietary guidelines recommend increasing plant-based food. It is important to have solid guidelines that can inform policy makers. Initiative by world-renowned athletes and celebrities like Tom Brady, Serena Williams and James Cameron shifting to plant based diets already influences their millions of global fans.

Plant-based diets are a vital, sustainable choice that results in the health of our bodies and a deep strategy that addresses ecosystem health.

Consider reflecting on the worldview of some among us who are deeply embedded in social and planetary systems: Afro-ecology – A form of art, movement, practice and process of social and ecological transformation that involves the re-evaluation of our sacred relationships with land, water, air, seeds ad food; (re) recognizes humans as co-creators that are an aspect of the planet’s life support systems.[15]


Article by Nilang Gor and Theodosia Ferguson

Nilang Gor, is a Molecular Biologist and the founder of Cultivate Empathy for All ( Nilang is global citizen and active member of the community with his constant participation through activism/volunteering for homelessness and animal rights. Nilang believes our ecosystem is built on the principle on interdependence and exponential growth in globalization is making our well-being more interdependent than ever before. As a result, he believes cultivating empathy for all is the key factor in creating systemic harmony on our planet earth.

Theodosia Ferguson, Founder & CEO of Healing Living Systems, Inc. (, a California Social Purpose Corporation. Theo focuses on growing community food infrastructure capacity. Theo enables local direct relationship investors to invest in local food enterprises and ensures that every community member is offered dignity and the opportunity for self-fulfillment. Through community support, people can grow skills and gratitude. Collectively these communities can realize health and vitality on a sustainable basis by investing in themselves and their food and farming cooperatively owned enterprises.

Article Footnotes:

Additional Articles, Energy & Climate, Food & Farming, Sustainable Business

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