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A podcast about the different people, technologies, and organizations that are coming together to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reverse climate change. We also talk about blockchains.
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#53 Dr. Charles Massy, Farmer and Author

December 26, 2018


With the Industrial Revolution and the development of a mechanistic mindset, we have come to view ourselves as entities separate from the earth. In fact, the earth has become a subset from which we extract profits. This attitude has led to industrial farming practices that destroy the land and an industrial food complex that strips the nutrients from the foods we consume. What if we combined the best of science and mechanics with the indigenous understanding that we are dependent on the earth to sustain us? What if we adopted—on a large scale—the regenerative agricultural practices that produce nutrient-rich foods, restore the soil, and remove carbon from the atmosphere?

Dr. Charles Massy is a farmer, writer, and self-professed shit-stirrer. He has managed a 5K-acre sheep and cattle property for the last 40 years and conducted research in the areas of innovation in the Merino sheep and wool industries, regenerative landscape management, and climate change. Charles is a research associate with the Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University and the author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth.

Today, Charles joins Ross, Christophe and Paul to explain how the industrial approach damaged his own family farm and how draught and debt led him to the practices of modern regenerative agriculture. He discusses the dangers of economic rationalism and how we can work within the capitalist framework to profit from sustainable practices. Charles offers insight around the lack of nutrients in food produced by the industrial complex, describing the health impacts of processed and fast food as well as the opportunity to reestablish a human connection to our food through community gardens. Listen in to understand how an emergent mind combines the best of science with an indigenous or organic worldview and learn how regenerative farmers and urban consumers can collaborate to initiate the healing process and reverse climate change along the way!


Climactic Podcast

Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth by Charles Massy

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Books by Wendell Berry

Books by Carolyn Merchant

Ian and Dianne Haggerty

Companies vs. Climate Change

Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno

Mary Oliver

Don Huber

The Poison Papers

Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam

UN Food & Agriculture Organization


Acres USA

Landcare Australia

Paul Hawken

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken

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Key Takeaways

[1:28] Charles’ path to regenerative agriculture

  • Took over 5K-acre family farm at 22
  • Industrial approach led to damage/debt
  • Search for alternative led regenerative ag

[6:16] The geology of Australia

  • 2/3 up to 3.8B years old (scarce nutrients)
  • Western prototype suited for different climate

[7:58] The indigenous mindset

  • People indivisible with Mother Earth
  • Mechanistic mind views as separate

[10:42] The profitability of regenerative practices

  • Must function within capitalist framework
  • Haggerty’s doubled yield with 1/6 cost input

[14:36] The idea of economic rationalism

  • Must revolutionize system from within
  • Danger in arrogance, focus on profits

[19:56] The truth about industrial agriculture

  • Food empty of most essential nutrients
  • Poisoned by chemicals (e.g.: glyphosate)

[23:16] The myth around the necessity for industrial ag

  • 70% of food supply comes from peasant farms
  • Current farmland could feed 11B

[24:57] The cost to consumers for shifting to regenerative

  • Low if grow own food, use community gardens
  • Opportunity cost to human health if don’t change

[30:00] The idea of the innovator’s dilemma

  • Big companies lose connection with consumer
  • Difficult for mammoth corporations to pivot

[31:53] Charles’ insight on developing an emergent mind

  • Combine best of science with caring for earth
  • Humility keeps open to adaptation

[35:00] How self-interest is tied to sustaining the earth

  • Best regenerative farmers are top businesspeople
  • Take care of ecosystem that facilitates profitability

[37:58] Who Charles is trying to reach

  • Farmers open to new practices
  • Health-conscious urban consumers

[43:12] How agriculture can take the lead in healing the earth

  • Industrial agriculture played major role in destruction
  • Best climate solutions come from regenerative ag

[45:08] Charles’ take on our spiritual connection to the earth

  • Spiritual element critical to emergent mind
  • Elimination is ‘what got us into trouble’


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