The observation of Earth Day on Friday has its origins going back 46 years when a UN resolution launched the day. It became a national phenomenon when that same year, Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson proclaimed it an environmental teach-in and proceeded to promote it across the country. Twenty years later, it went international and is now celebrated in more than 190 countries. And serving as a critical partner in these many celebrations is agriculture.
Today, Earth Day represents efforts by tens of thousands around the globe to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change and protect the Earth for future generations.
It is not a coincidence that Friday is when more than 120 nations will sign the formal agreement reached in nearly two weeks of climate change negotiations held in Paris last December. The pact marks a distinctive real-world action plan that embraces the ideals put forth when Earth Day was first celebrated almost a half century ago. And not surprisingly, agriculture will play a major role in achieving the goals sought by the Paris climate agreement.
The nations of the world have committed to reducing carbon emissions to a level that will hold the ongoing increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, below the maximum 2-degrees-C that virtually all of the world’s climate scientists say cannot be exceeded without irreversible environmental damages.
If the world is going to keep temperatures below the danger point of 2-degrees-C above pre-industrial levels, the agreement says, it must attain a fully decarbonized power system by 2050, if not before. The 25x’25 goal – by 2025, U.S. agriculture and rural America can produce the biofuel, biomass, wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower energy to meet 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs – makes an obvious contribution to that decarbonization endeavor and underscores the pivotal role our farmers, ranchers and forestland owners play in meeting the challenges of a changing climate.
Of course, rural America offers opportunities other than renewable energy development to meet the environmental goals advocated by the Earth Day movement. With global demand for food, feed, fiber and energy on the rise, the need for critical ecosystem services like flood control, water filtration, biodiversity and carbon sequestration is even greater. The development of new, renewable energy resources from our nation’s farm, ranches and forestlands as promoted by 25x’25 brings with it the responsibility of sustainably maintaining the land from which those resources can be cultivated.
25x’25 is the clean energy platform of Solutions from the Land (SfL), an initiative that has brought together respected agriculture, forestry, conservation, academic and industry leaders to explore integrated land management solutions that can help meet food security, public health, economic development, climate change and conservation of biodiversity goals. In addition to clean energy, SfL’s two other areas of focus are large landscape working lands conservation initiatives and climate smart agriculture.
Together with its partners, SfL is demonstrating Earth Day principles by advancing new land management practices that American agriculture, forestry and conservation can use collaboratively to address 21st century challenges. The SfL model embraces an integrated approach through which multiple public and private stakeholders join forces to improve the resiliency of agricultural and forestry landscapes and deliver multiple goods and services.
Whether it’s developing a climate-smart agriculture platform that will give farmers, ranchers and foresters ways to improve production resiliency, and mitigate current and future risks of climate change; or supporting North Carolina agriculture and forestry leaders in an effort to engage farmers, foresters and livestock producers in the state on the topic of adaptation; or undertaking an initiative that brings together stakeholders to abate poultry-related nutrient pollution on the Delmarva Peninsula, SfL is working to improve the delivery of environmental, economic and public health values from the land, while ensuring that the stewardship of ecosystem services is rewarded.
The 25x’25 Alliance and its parent organization, Solutions from the Land, are proud to embrace the Earth Day vision. Farmers, ranchers and forestland owners understand better than most that sustainably managing land will be the key to producing the food, feed, fiber and energy needed to meet a global population that is expected to grow by more than 30 percent – to 9.7 billion people – in just 35 years. We pay tribute to those who work the land to meet that challenge.