Ecologist emphasizes climate friendly agricultural practices

Jane Zelikova, executive director of the Soil Carbon Solutions Center at Colorado State University, discusses “Climate Solutions, Justice, and the Rise of a Trillion Dollar Industry” in the Campus Center Ballroom on Wednesday. Her work advances carbon removal science and integrates it with public policy. / photo by Abelina J. Nuñez

About 50 community members attended the annual Robert and Mary Neher Global Sustainability Lecture to learn about climate change solutions in the Abraham Campus Center on Wednesday. 

This year’s lecturer Jane Zelikova, an ecologist and executive director of soil carbon solutions center at Colorado State University discussed “Climate Solutions, Justice, and the Rise of a Trillion Dollar Industry.”

Zelikova broke the recommended climate solutions into four parts: “climate imperative” carbon dioxide removal, soil carbon dioxide removal, carbon markets, and justice implications.

Zelikova emphasized the importance of carbon removal; reducing emissions is no longer enough.

Zelikova said that we have to consider what kind of management practices are already in place. She talked about regenerating soil and improving agricultural systems, including planting perennial grasses. 

“These things have shown to be pretty effective in terms of increasing soil carbon over time,” said Zelikova. “But… it takes anywhere from eight to 38 years to see those effects, so it’s not immediate.”

Some ways to enable the shift to rebuilding soil carbon include minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing crop diversity, maintaining living roots year round and integrating live stocks, she said.

These potential shifts are constrained by social factors, including farmers’ willingness to participate. Zelikova said that most farmers are aware of carbon markets but only 3% actually participate. 

“Most don’t want to participate without big changes to how these programs work,” Zelikova said. “It’s not just about the carbon; there are real people who are impacted by these projects. We have to think beyond just the carbon molecule.”

She emphasized we must embed justice principles into climate solutions going forward in three ways: procedural justice, distributive justice and reparative justice. 

To see climate solutions with impact she said we have to make this moment count, Zelikova said.

She finished her lecture by posing the question to the audience: Are carbon offsets just a trend or can they achieve climate benefits?

—Megan Mojica 

Abelina J. Nuñez, senior journalism major, is a photography editor for Campus Times and staff photographer for La Verne Magazine. She previously served as LV Life editor, arts editor social media editor and staff writer. In Fall 2023, Nuñez was La Verne Magazine's editor-in-chief and was previously a staff writer as well. Her work can be found on Instagram @abelinajnunezphoto.

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