New Food Economy: Regenerative agriculture could save soil, water, and the climate. Here’s how the U.S. government actively discourages it.

Cover crops and other regenerative agriculture practices are still pigeonholed as conservation practices, not as good farming practices. But if farmers want crop insurance, they have to play by the rules.

Last year, a few days before Christmas, Gail Fuller drove me out to the middle of a wind-whipped field just north of Emporia, Kansas. “This is really where it started for me,” he said as he climbed out of the truck, spade in hand. With a thunk, he drove the spade into the ground and pulled out a hunk of earth, holding it up so I could see the texture, which he described as like “chocolate cake” and “black cottage cheese.” Read more…

New Food Economy: Carbon farming isn’t worth it for farmers. Two blockchain companies want to change that

When the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed at the end of 2017, analysts crunched the numbers and concluded that the cryptocurrency was set to consume the entire global energy supply by the end of 2020. “Mining” Bitcoin involves solving increasingly complex mathematical equations that secure the network in exchange for newly-minted cryptocurrency—which incidentally requires lots of energy. Huge server farms have popped up around the world for the express purpose of generating the virtual cash, from China to upstate New York, where one town put a moratorium on new commercial cryptocurrency mining operations to protect “the City’s natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources.”

But in spite of Bitcoin’s eco-unfriendly reputation, some organizations propose using blockchain, the technology that makes the cryptocurrency possible, to power a regenerative agricultural revolution. The ultimate goal is to reverse the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere until atmospheric levels fall to a degree that scientists agree will stabilize the climate. Read more…

Civicist: New Spill Tracker Enlists Crowd to Help Monitor Pollution After Hurricanes

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, a nonprofit organization that uses satellite imagery to monitor the environment launched a tool for citizens to report pollution caused by flooding. Built on the crowdmapping platform Ushahidi, the Harvey Spill Tracker maps reports of oil, chemical, or hazardous waste spills and other incidents based on satellite images, eyewitness accounts, and National Response Center alerts. Later today the organization will release an updated version that expands the region covered to parts of the country impacted by Hurricane Irma. Read more…

Civicist: How the Crowd Could Help Keep Zinke Accountable

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says he wants to be neighborly.

In late April, President Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review the National Monuments created or enlarged by the Antiquities Act—27 National Monuments in all—with an eye to shrinking or even eliminating some of them. Shortly after, the Department announced that they would give Americans the opportunity to voice their opinion during a public comment period. In the press release Secretary Zinke said he wanted to be a “good neighbor” by “listening to the American people who we represent.”

More than 1.4 million comments poured in between May 11 and July 10, and now that the comment period is over, The Wilderness Society wants to ensure that Secretary Zinke follows through on his promise. The organization has asked their supporters to participate in a crowdsourced audit of the comments to see where Americans’ sentiments lie. The audit will also use machine learning to assess the remainder of the 1.4 million comments that volunteers can’t get to themselves. Read more…