The start of 2021 is likely to be the most challenging of the entire pandemic period. Like a marathon runner in the last few miles, we are all exasperated, frustrated and disheartened. The sacrifices that have been made over the last twelve months have been enormous.
Fortunately, within our midst is the restorative tonic in the form of not one, but three vaccines. At the time of writing over four million over 80s, care home residents and health and social care staff have been vaccinated. The target of fifteen million by mid-February looks likely to be met and the new ambition is bigger and bolder. There are some things for which to be thankful and positive about.
Beyond Covid, I am certain that 2021 has the potential to be a fantastic opportunity for the UK and the globe to create new alliances and take international action on the most pressing issues of the day.
The UK will play host to the International Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November this year. After a year’s delay, heads of state will gather in Glasgow to discuss climate change and hopefully to agree on international action.
I have two particular interests in this area. The first, as a member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), as their sustainable agriculture champion. Secondly, I have a keen interest in regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestration. For those who are immediately put off by these previous two sentences, I urge you to do only one thing, log onto Netflix and watch ‘Kiss the Ground’.
A film about dirt may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can assure you that your environment, your health, even your cup of tea depends upon it. The soil beneath our feet is so much more than earth and insects, it is the most effective carbon-capturing tool known to man. Through the use of regenerative agriculture techniques, we can enhance the fertility of the soil, grow richer plant life and restore the biodiversity that has been lost due to heavily industrialised farming techniques.
Enhanced bio-sequestration sees our plants breathe in carbon dioxide and lock it into our soil. If the soil is then properly maintained by avoiding monocultures and adopting new techniques such as cover crops and no-till farming then the ground beneath our feet can, in a relatively short space of time, begin to reduce the carbon emissions within our environment.
One-third of the world’s topsoil has already been lost and the rapid desertification of huge swathes of the earth’s land will impact more than just our climate. It will lead to mass migration, famine, radicalisation and war. The UN estimates that by 2050 over 1 billion people will have been pushed off their land due to poor soil fertility.
So, you can see our soil is not just important for growing our food but for preserving our entire existence. In Glasgow, we have an opportunity to lead by example and to champion such innovations and techniques. Already within the farming community of the UK, there is a groundswell of interest in regenerative agriculture.
This manmade problem has a simple and effective solution that can make a huge positive impact on our environment, I can only hope that we take this opportunity to act and to lead.