Rick Wilson Federal Member for O’Connor and Chairman of the House of Representative Standing Committee for Agriculture and Water Resources
Mr Rick Wilson is the Federal member for the electorate of O’Connor, an electorate that covers a large area of Western Australia. He is currently the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources. He is also a member of the Parliamentary Friends of Soil. Recently, FDI took the opportunity to interview Rick about these organisations and Australian agriculture and water resources generally.
To slow climate change, humanity has two main options: reduce greenhouse gas emissions directly or find ways to remove them from the atmosphere. Storing carbon in soil is often touted as a promising way to offset greenhouse gas emissions. There is, however, a catch. This Paper offers a critique of this strategy and finds that to be effective, emissions technology in Australia should focus on improving energy efficiency in industry, the residential sector and transport, where big gains are to be made.
Until recently, carbon released into the atmosphere from wildfires was not considered a significant component of atmospheric greenhouse gas as it was assumed that over the climatic cycle this carbon would be returned to vegetative re-growth. In Australia this may well be the case. Globally, however, a growing body of evidence suggests that carbon produced by wildfires is making a significant contribution to the volume of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change.
Agriculture sits at the nexus of some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today: climate change, food security and nutrition, water quality, biodiversity and livelihoods. The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating pressures across the agriculture supply chain, revealing the fragility of the food system. It has shone light on core societal values of health and nutrition and highlighted the importance of essential food system workers. A transition toward regenerative practices could bring a huge win-win for farmers, food companies and the environment and a foundation for a truly future-fit agricultural system.
Soil scientist Declan McDonald has hosted a series of eight short videos articulating the key principles of Regenerative Agriculture. Topics covered include introducing regenerative agriculture, minimising soil disturbance, maximising crop diversity, keeping soil covered, maintaining living roots systems year-round, integrating livestock and trees, and how farmers can transition to regenerative agriculture.
In this, the third and final part of Jack Kittredge’s paper he firstly asks the question: what practices do we need to use to build and keep carbon in our soil? He then discusses, in detail, the soil management practices that will enhance and maintain soil carbon. He then describes the advantages of building organic matter in the soil in addition to of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To conclude the article, the author makes states that if we wish to survive, we have no alternative but to restore carbon to the soil and that it can be done through biology. It utilises a process that has worked for millions of years. Anyone who manages land can follow these simple principles and restore carbon to the soil while renewing our atmosphere agricultural land
In Part Two of his paper, Jack Kittredge discusses in detail the components of soil highlighting its complexity which is driven by the interrelatedness of these components and importance of the living components of soil, particularly the microbes. Part Two will include a description of the carbon cycle and introduces the topic of stable soil carbon which, the soil component critical to the successful sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere and the mitigation of greenhouse gas influenced weather extremes.
A great deal of discussion continues to focus on how to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting weather extremes. Many analysts believe we must stop burning fossil fuels to prevent further increases in atmospheric carbon and find ways to remove carbon already in the air. In this paper, that will be published in three parts, Jack Kittredge provides a carefully researched argument for returning the carbon to where it came from, the soil.
Over the coming decades, humanity needs to address fundamental challenges relating to the provision of adequate and sustainable food and water supplies, protection of habitats and meeting changing climatic conditions. The implementation of a regeneration strategy has the potential to deliver immense opportunities and outcomes for northern and rural Australia. It could produce a more productive and resilient landscape while creating new social, economic and environmental opportunities. It could also deliver significant national and global benefits through increased food and fibre production and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
You are invited to view an advance release of a video interview of the climate scientist and soil microbiologist, Walter Jehne, by Katja Hesse. The video was produced, directed, filmed and edited by Stephen Curtain.