From our inbox to you from David Suzuki Foundation on: Black Earth:

Dark earth could herald a bright future for agriculture and climate

hands in rich soil

(Credit: Eden Graham via Flickr)


Feeding more than seven billion people with minimal environmental and climate impacts is no small feat. That parts of the world are plagued by obesity while starvation is rampant elsewhere shows part of the problem revolves around distribution and social equity. But agricultural methods pose some of the biggest challenges.

Over the past half century, the world has moved increasingly to industrial agriculture— attempting to maximize efficiency through massive, often inhumane livestock operations; turning huge swaths of land over to monocrops requiring liberal use of fertilizers, pesticides and genetic modification; and reliance on fossil fuel-consuming machinery and underpaid migrant workers. This has contributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions; loss of forests and wetlands that prevent climate change by storing carbon; pollution from runoff and pesticides; antibiotic and pesticide resistance; reduced biodiversity; and soil degradation, erosion and loss.

The “solution” offered by many experts is to double down on industrial agriculture and genetic modification. But doing so ignores how natural systems function and interact and assumes we can do better. History shows such hubris often leads to unexpected negative results. Others are attempting to understand how to work within nature’s systems, using agroecological methods.

One promising development is the renewed interest in a soil-building method from the distant past called “dark earth” or “terra preta,” which involves mixing biochar with organic materials to create humus-rich soil that stores large amounts of carbon. In the book Terra Preta: How the World’s Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger, Ute Scheub and co-authors claim increasing the humus content of soils worldwide by 10 per cent within the next 50 years could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels.

Dark earth’s benefit to climate is just one of its many exciting possibilities. It also enhances soils so they produce higher yields, helps retain water and prevents erosion. It’s more alive with biodiverse micro-organisms, making it easier for crops to adapt to changing conditions. And it’s a good way to recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plants wastes and even human and animal urine and feces, rather than allowing them to pollute soil, water and air through burning and runoff.

Biochar is a form of charcoal made via pyrolysis — heating organic wastes in a low-oxygen environment. According to Scheub, “If you pyrolyze organic wastes, up to 50 percent of the carbon, which plants have extracted from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, is converted into highly stable carbon, which can persist in soils for thousands of years.” As well as carbon, biochar retains nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, and because it’s porous, adding it to soils and compost helps them store nutrients and water.

Western scientists first studied terra preta in 1874 when Canadian-born Cornell University professor Charles Hartt and his team found patches of dark, fertile soils, several metres deep, along parts of South America’s Amazon River where earth is normally low in nutrients and organic matter. Later archeological research determined the soils were created by human communities up to 5,000 years ago.

Scientists have since shed more light on the technique. Because the ancient practice is still employed in Liberia and Ghana, Africa, scientists from Sussex, Cornell and other universities were recently able to compare dark earth to soils nearby where the technique isn’t used. They found dark earth contained 200 to 300 per cent more organic carbon and can support “far more intensive farming.”

Cornell University lead author Dawit Solomon was surprised that “isolated indigenous communities living far apart in distance and time” achieved similar results unknown to modern agriculturalists. “This valuable strategy to improve soil fertility while also contributing to climate-change mitigation and adaptation in Africa could become an important component of the global climate-smart agricultural management strategy to achieve food security,” he said.

Scheub and her co-authors say the technique can be used on any scale, from home and community gardens to large farms. Terra Preta includes instructions for creating biochar and enhanced soils, but cautions that organic wastes should be used rather than valuable forest products.

Dark earth won’t solve all our climate problems, but combined with reducing fossil fuel use, it could make a huge difference while addressing many agriculture, food security and hunger issues.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

SGC Admin: From our inbox to you from: David Suzuki Foundation on; “Geothermal: Tapping Earth’s abundant energy”

Geothermal: Tapping Earth’s abundant energy

Geothermal borehole house

(Credit: Lydur Skulason via Flickr).

In the midst of controversy over B.C.’s Peace River Site C dam project, the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association released a study showing the province could get the same amount of energy more affordably from geothermal sources for about half the construction costs. Unlike Site C, geothermal wouldn’t require massive transmission upgrades, would be less environmentally disruptive and would create more jobs throughout the province rather than just in one area.

Despite the many benefits of geothermal, Canada is the only “Pacific Ring of Fire” country that doesn’t use it for commercial-scale energy. According to Desmog Blog, “New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States and Mexico all have commercial geothermal plants.” Iceland heats up to 90 per cent of its homes, and supplies 25 per cent of its electricity, with geothermal.

Geothermal energy is generated by heat from Earth’s rocks, liquids and steam. It can come from shallow ground, where the temperature is a steady 10 to 16 C, hot water and rocks deeper in the ground, or possibly very hot molten rock (magma) deep below Earth’s surface. As with clean-energy sources like solar, geothermal energy systems vary, from those that use hot water from the ground directly to heat buildings, greenhouses and water, to those that pump underground hot water or steam to drive turbines. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Vancouver and Montreal offices use geothermal.

According to National Geographic, geothermal power plants use three methods to produce electricity: dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle. Dry steam uses steam from fractures in the ground. “Flash plants pull deep, high-pressure hot water into cooler, low-pressure water,” which creates steam. In binary plants, which produce no greenhouse gas emissions and will likely become dominant, “hot water is passed by a secondary fluid with a much lower boiling point,” which turns the secondary fluid into vapour.

Unlike wind and solar, geothermal provides steady energy and can serve as a more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging form of baseload power than fossil fuels or nuclear. It’s not entirely without environmental impacts, but most are minor and can be overcome with good planning and siting. Geothermal fluids can contain gases and heavy metals, but most new systems recycle them back into the ground. Operations should also be located to avoid mixing geothermal liquids with groundwater and to eliminate impacts on nearby natural features like hot springs. Some geothermal plants can produce small amounts of CO2, but binary systems are emissions-free. In some cases, resources that provide heat can become depleted over time.Although geothermal potential has been constrained by the need to locate operations in areas with high volcanic activity, geysers or hot springs, new developments are making it more widely viable. One controversial method being tested is similar to “fracking” for oil and gas. Water is injected into a well with enough pressure to break rock and release heat to produce hot water and steam to generate power through a turbine or binary system.

Researchers have also been studying urban “heat islands” as sources of geothermal energy. Urban areas are warmer than their rural surroundings, both above and below ground, because of the effects of buildings, basements and sewage and water systems. Geothermal pumps could make the underground energy available to heat buildings in winter and cool them in summer.

New methods of getting energy from the ground could also give geothermal a boost. Entrepreneur Manoj Bhargava is working with researchers to bring heat to the surface using graphene cords rather than steam or hot water. Graphene is stronger than steel and conducts heat well. Bhargava says the technology would be simple to develop and could be integrated with existing power grids.

Unfortunately, geothermal hasn’t received the same level of government support as other sources of energy, including fossil fuels and nuclear. That’s partly because upfront costs are high and, as with oil and gas exploration, geothermal sources aren’t always located where developers hope they’ll be. As Desmog notes, resources are often found in areas that already have access to inexpensive hydro power.

Rapid advancements in renewable-energy and power-grid technologies could put the world on track to a mix of clean sources fairly quickly — which is absolutely necessary to curtail global warming. Geothermal energy should be part of that mix.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Dayle’s Switch to a Vegan Diet… come share the journey… :)

SGC Admin: Dayle Lovely, (yes that is her name) 🙂 and she is a very lovely person inside and out … is a long time follower and supporter of SGC, having been a part of the SGC family from the get go, we are so happy to share Dayle’s present journey with you, our readers… 🙂
Dayle, was recently diagnosed with Arthritis, she is a young, vibrant woman, devoted wife and outstanding mum so the news wasn’t very welcome 😦  At first Dayle took the “regular” route of prescribed medication from her doctor to help alleviate the pain so she could move about her day with relative ease. However, after doing her own research and with the guidance of a family member who “suffers” with the same affliction, Dayle decided to change-up her diet.
“We are what we eat” is how the saying goes, which makes sense, seeing as what we eat repairs and builds our cells, muscle, tissue and bone…. and it also makes sense that sometimes, the food we are ingesting can have a negative impact on the whole of our body, (such as in the spread of Cancerous cells) or on specific parts of our bodily makeup.. (such as the make up our blood cells, our muscle strength and bones).
When arthritis attacks the body, it attacks the joint bones and the surrounding tissue… over time the joints become painful and swollen making movement a challenge and sometimes impossible. Arthritis takes away the strength in the affected area’s (such as the gripping motion used to pick up or hold things), along with making the person tired, it causes frustrations and interrupts the regular daily flow of the “victims” life.
Due to her research and her aunt’s guidance, Dayle has embarked upon a “Whole food plant-based diet”… Giving up the meat wasn’t an issue for Dayle, but the other animal products such as cream, eggs and cheese presented another challenge…..
We thought Dayle’s journey may be interesting and helpful for any other folks out there thinking of giving this diet a try, and we asked Dayle if she would share her journey with SGC 🙂 We are happy to report that she is more than happy to share to help others…

Please feel free to comment with your own experiences and to share your own favorite “Whole food, plant-based” recipes in the comments section or send us an email to:


We introduce to you ..

Dayle’s Vegan Journey… 🙂 1st post: April 28 2016

This is the first lunch recipe shared by Dayle with our readers… it is early on in the switch, so as of yet there aren’t    any physical (joint condition and energy levels) changes to report…

 A few people have been wondering what I eat on a whole food, plant-based diet. Here’s today’s lunch.

  • humus,
  • Avocado,
  • Baby spinach,
  • Cilantro,
  • Kale
  • Cucumber
  • on whole grain bread, done Panini style.

I don’t have a Panini pan, so I just used a frying pan, no oil or butter, and toasted the bread with a 5 lb weight on a smaller pan to press it down. (Who knew I could use my weights in the kitchen?!).

The heat makes the humus all melty, giving it a melted cheese consistency. I’ve paired with some cherry tomatoes and baby carrots. I’m still feeling a little peckish, so I’ll follow it up with a couple clementines. That will fill me up nicely.

Prep and cooking time:

It took me about 5 minutes to make this, including the time in the pan. It was delicious!

Dayle… 🙂

Dayles Vegan Diet
copyright: Dale Lovely Photo’s
Disclaimer: SGC staff & Dayle Lovely are not responsible for any outcome regarding this diet or recipes given. SGC blog readers are encouraged to do their own research and/or contact their own health care provider regarding any drastic or long term changes to their present diets.

From our inbox to you from: Blue Dot Movement on Nova Scotia Introduces Environmental bill of rights…


recycling sign with images of nature - eco concept Stock Photo - 7132060 Copyright : Vladimir Voronin

Nova Scotia leads with an environmental bill of rights. Help spread the word!


Hi 🙂
Last Thursday, Nova Scotia took a historic step toward greater environmental rights in Canada — and we couldn’t be prouder of our supporters in Nova Scotia.
A member of the Nova Scotia legislature introduced Bill 178 — an environmental bill of rights — which we hope will recognize the right of all Nova Scotians to clean air and water, safe food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their health and well-being.
We want to see the bill become law, so let’s rally behind the thousands of supporters in Nova Scotia who have paved the way for this legislation to be introduced.
Help give our supporters in Nova Scotia the boost they need. Share this news with your friends on Facebook:
Nova Scotia environmental bill of rights

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Nova Scotia’s proposed environmental bill of rights is evidence of the incredible groundswell of support for environmental rights, which has ignited a movement throughout the country.
But the hard work isn’t over yet.
Thursday’s exciting announcement in Nova Scotia comes on the heels of an Environmental Rights Act introduced in Manitoba in March. However, that legislation did not become law before the province’s April election.
That’s why it’s critical for us to come together to support Nova Scotia’s environmental bill of rights. Together, we can convince the government to enact strong legislation to protect the right to a healthy environment, and compel other provinces — and our federal government — to follow.
Alaya Boisvert
Manager, Blue Dot Government and Partner RelationsThe David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are partners in the Blue Dot movement, a national grassroots campaign to advance the legal protection of all Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.
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From our inbox to you From: The David Suzuki Foundation on: “Tell us your Climate Solutions”

SGC Admin: Happy Earth Day Folks… there are so many ways to help clean up and keep our environment healthy… The David Suzuki Foundation wants your input… 🙂 You may also like to check out the following link on Top 10 ways you can stop climate change

Typographic design poster for Earth Day Stock Vector - 27419500 Copyright : IvetaAleksandrovaAngelova


Tell us your climate solutions

Dear DSF Community,

With an international agreement on climate action and so many new opportunities arising in Canada at the federal level, change is in the air.

At the David Suzuki Foundation, we’re evaluating where we can have the most impact.

Since the success of our work relies on you — to make your lifestyle more sustainable, to influence decision-makers and to organize in your communities — we want to know what would most inspire you.

Tell us your climate solutions

We’re considering focusing on better transit, renewable energy or electric vehicles — or something else you recommend. Of course, all these things (and more) are necessary for a stable climate and a more secure future for all of us. But if we focus, we can have more impact.

Yes — I’ll give my opinion on climate solutions!

We’re curious to know what you think — and grateful for your time and continued support.


Reilly Yeo, Director of Communications and Public Engagement
David Suzuki Foundation