Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration that has evolved over the decades to underscore the need – and the right – for everybody to live in a clean, safe and healthy world. It is a vision that goes to the heart of efforts by Solutions from the Land (SfL) to make clear to all the role agriculture plays in not only ensuring a healthy food supply, but also making the world a better place to live.
The first observation of Earth Day took place in 1970, and with the vigorous and vocal support of Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who proclaimed it an environmental teach-in and proceeded to promote it across the country, it became a national phenomenon. In 1990, it went international and is now celebrated in more than 190 countries. Today, Earth Day represents efforts by hundreds of thousands around the globe to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change and protect the Earth for future generations.
Almost as if to cement the celebration’s historic significance, delegates from more than 120 nations on Earth Day 2016 signed the formal agreement that came out of the Paris climate negotiations four months earlier. And not surprisingly, through efforts by SfL and others, agriculture is playing a significant role in achieving the goals laid out by the Paris agreement.
Coinciding with SfL’s pursuit of climate targets is the growth of agriculture’s role in global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 objectives born at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The SDGs represent universal benchmarks that can help nations meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.
A number of SDGs are inextricably linked to the agricultural sector of both developed and developing countries. Three high-profile examples – ending poverty, eliminating hunger and stemming climate change – are directly addressed by the scalable solutions agriculture has the potential to provide.
With the SDGs representing an urgent call to shift the world onto a more sustainable path, SfL vigorously promotes the role farmers, ranchers and forestland owners are playing in meeting them. Reflecting that commitment to the SDGs, SfL, working in partnership with the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), filed Tuesday its latest Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) submissions to global climate negotiators. Farmer-led work groups formulated 35 recommendations to improve livestock management systems, and 28 proposals addressing the socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change.
Among the issues covered within the topic areas are emissions and climate mitigation solutions, climate smart agricultural production systems, high quality protein, production and conservation systems, payments for ecosystem services, infrastructure and risk management strategies, among others.
Another weapon in the arsenal against climate change that SfL promotes in its submission to global negotiators is low- or no-carbon energy, which can be generated by our farms and rural communities. Wind, solar and geothermal power among the no-carbon options, and biofuels on the low-carbon side of the ledger, all contribute to multiple SDGs – they both reduce climate-changing emissions and, in the United States and increasingly across the world, provide much needed income to the critically important farmers, ranchers and foresters who provide the world with food, feed, fuel, fiber, energy and environmental benefits. This diversified income has become even more important in our own nation as producers and rural communities have lately taken a disproportionate economic hit, which is only worsening with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Everyone deserves to live in clean, safe, and healthy communities, which is why sustainable, clean energy and the workers and families that make up the sector are so important to our economy and our health. With more than 15 percent of the American clean energy work force facing the loss of their jobs, it is critical that this important sector of the economy get the protection and aid other U.S industries are getting from the White House and Congress.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day provides an opportunity to thank and recognize farmers, ranchers and foresters for the for all of their contributions to our nation and the world – healthy food, renewable energy, rural economic development and a wide range of critically important ecosystem services. Going forward, SfL commits to proactively advocate for policies and programs that will enable producers to be at forefront of resolving food system, energy, environmental and climate challenges and achieving global sustainable development goals. SfL salutes and honors the men and women who deliver these essential solutions from the land.