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Posted - 09/08/2016
Divest/Invest - Reinhard Hohlwein & As You Sow
Divest.jpgDetermining appropriate actions that can be taken to mitigate greenhouse gas creation from anthropogenic sources is a critical component of combating climate change.  Changing the human relationship with land stewardship protocols has high potential to make significant changes to and with our ongoing production of food and fibers.  There are many good people working on developing alternatives to the current status quo, which can point us in a new and more sustainable direction regarding agriculture and materials management.
In the near future, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will be prohibiting the disposal of organic materials in landfills as a way of minimizing our creation of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent, though shorter lived, than carbon dioxide.  Organics materials include green waste, landscape materials, agricultural wastes, and food wastes.

In order for that policy to be successful, facilities that process and repurpose these materials will need to be constructed and operated to benefit the public and the atmospheric commons that we rely on.  In the past several years however, the institutional challenges of building these facilities has been substantial and there has been a plateau in developing organics processing sites in the state.  Contract based economics in the industry are particularly vexing.  This situation is currently static, needs to change and economic alternatives are badly needed.

The first divest/invest workshop sponsored by Invoking the Pause was held in the Presidio in San Francisco on May 26.  The concept was to bring together advocates of carbon management through enhanced carbon farming practices, photosynthetic-based terrestrial sequestration and implementing practical changes in addressing soil health.  The workshop was initiated to continue the current trends of investors divesting resources from fossil fuel infrastructure and moving some of those investments in the direction of sustainable land management practices.  All parties in attendance felt their time was well spent and had positive feedback about the ideas generated.

Participants from As You Sow provided alternative perspectives and offered valuable suggestions regarding the development and issuance of green bonds as vehicles for developing financial resources that could benefit the effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through alternative agricultural practices.

John Wick of the Marin Carbon Project was masterful as always in his explanation of how a more fulsome understanding of the carbon cycle is not only fascinating but essential knowledge for effectively reinvigorating and managing our interactions with the soil and the atmosphere. He is a first rate thinker and a world class visionary for bringing together critical components that promise to make a difference going forward.

All of this comes against a backdrop of the challenge of greenhouse gas management in the state with CARB struggling to maintain the Cap and Trade program in 2016.  The variables are many, some even positive, but mostly it illustrates the difficulty of implementing alternatives to the status quo funding practices for ag, forestry and solid waste management industries.  Thus the possibility that funding decisions motivated by the Divest/Invest movement may be even more critical in the months and years to come to achieve a breakthrough.  A second workshop will be held in Sacramento in the early fall to further explore possibilities by examining methods for establishing workable economic models and the potential for generating momentum for this critical effort.