Carbon Underground – How soil can help us tackle climate change



Monday 30.10.2017, 13:15 - 16:00
Juhlasali (310), 3rd floor, The University of Helsinki Language Centre, Fabianinkatu 26, Helsinki

--- Excerpts of the seminar will be available for viewing via this site after the event. ---

Soil’s ability to capture carbon offers an important opportunity for us to transform to a healthy planet, with healthy food. To regenerate soil and capture carbon through agriculture requires good science, collaboration and communication of new knowledge. What does the future look like with the carbon underground? And how do we get there? What are the benefits of healthy soil?

World renowned carbon to soil experts Larry Kopald and David Johnson will present key insights based on their research, with commentators reflecting on different perspectives and further discussion will engage in this issue. The event is organised in collaboration with FORI Finnish Organic Research Institute, Forum For Environmental Information and the Finland Futures Research Centre’s BioEcoJust project.

Keynote speakers


Larry Kopald – The Carbon Underground

Larry is the founder of the Carbon Underground initiative, aiming at finding new means to combat climate change through regenerative agriculture. He made the environmental communications for the UN and the Olympics, and his work for the Earth Communications Office was seen in over 100 countries by over a billion people. A lifelong environmentalist he has served on several influential NGO boards like Greenpeace, Oceana, the National Marine Sanctuaries, and 1% For The Planet. He has been communications and branding professional for over twenty-five years, working at some of the world’s top advertising agencies. He has overseen the advertising for brands ranging from Patagonia to Honda. Larry has been nominated for both Emmy and Grammy awards.

Summary of the speech

Climate Change is being referred to as the biggest threat humanity has ever faced, with unimaginable consequences being predicted in years, not decades or centuries. Fortunately, new data from around the world have lead to new understandings in the causes of climate change and to potential solutions. We now know that climate change is not caused by the burning of fossil fuel, per se, but by how we have interrupted the earth’s carbon cycle. This is primarily due to the practices of industrial agriculture and our mistreatment of the planet’s soil, the earth’s second largest carbon sink. But new studies have shown that through the introduction of regenerative agriculture we can restore the carbon cycle and reverse climate change itself. This presentation will focus on the science and possible plans to get the world to scale carbon drawdown quick enough to avert the worst of climate change and begin the process toward a healthier climate, healthier planet, and healthier people.


David Johnson, PhD – New Mexico State University, USA

David is a molecular biologist specialising in soil microbiology at New Mexico State University. He works as a research scientist at WERC, a consortium for environmental education and technology development housed in the College of Engineering, and he does research for the Institute of Sustainable Agricultural Research at NMSU. Johnson has developed the innovative BEAM system, where experiments reveal the relationship between improving fungal–bacterial ratios in soils and increasing the ability to capture, store and retain atmospheric C02 as new soil carbon.

Summary of the speech

This talk will explore how ~470 million years development of evolutionary interactions, between plants and soil microbiota, have shaped this planet. It will focus on how we can recruit the biological barter that developed over this period in successional ecosystems to begin effective reduction of atmospheric CO2.  Also explored are the multiple benefits associated when using this approach for improving productivity in agroecosystems and for reducing environmental pollution. The presentation will discuss the science, magnitude, timing and cost of employing this biological methodology for a robust, practical, and cost-effective soil-based atmospheric-carbon-capture mechanism.

Amos Taylor's blog post on the FFRC blog: Alternative Futures of the Carbon Underground

Videos of the keynote speeches
(playlist of two videos; excerpt of Larry Kopald's presentation and the whole presentation by David Johnson)


13.15 Opening words, Prof. Markku Wilenius, Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku
13.20 Keynote by Larry Kopald
14.05 Keynote by David Johnson
14.50 Commentator’s responses and open discussion. Comments by

  • Saara Kankaanrinta, Chair of Baltic Sea Action Group, Co-Founder of Soilfood Ltd
  • Kristiina Regina, Professor, Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • Johanna Muurinen, PhD Graduand, University of Helsinki

16.00 Closing of the event

The event will be chaired by Prof. Markku Wilenius.

The event is organized in connection with the morning session Luomutuotanto ja tulevaisuuden kestävä ruokajärjestelmä (in Finnish).

Registration for this event is closed. In case you are interested in joining, please write to kirsi-marja.lonkila(a) for inquiries of free seats.


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