Ground Breaking

Soil Security and Climate Change

Practical solutions for agricultural management, enabling the restoration of landscape, climate and community.

  • Sequester carbon in soil
  • Increase system diversity
  • Reduce bare ground
  • Increase multi-function eco-corridors

Reaching zero emissions alone won’t stop the earth heating up.

There’s another factor at play, even bigger than rising greenhouse gas levels: agricultural land use, and it is turning the world’s bread baskets into deserts.

In south west Western Australia, the ‘Bunny Fence Experiment’, the world’s largest study of two contrasting land uses in the same vast region, showed strong evidence that clearing and cropping was the reason why rainfall over the Wheat Belt has dropped 20 per cent in the lifetime of some of us.

This book tells of how what farmers do exports heat waves, dust and fire, south and south-eastward in Eastern Australia and north and north-westward in Western America.

You’d be forgiven for thinking there ought to be a law against it, but our lawmakers don’t even acknowledge that under the air and the plants, there is anything but bedrock. Soil, the depleted carbon sink that still manages to feed us today, might as well be a vacuum in law, but it could be a saviour for our civilisations.

Ground Breaking has the solutions too: manage land use, sequester carbon in soil, reduce bare ground and increase bush corridors.

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Anthropogenic Climate Change is happening.

It is very apparent when measured by temperature, precipitation, extreme events, major fires and stream flow that anthropogenic climate change is occurring and started to accelerate from about the 1920s, well before world wide average temperature changes were detected.


GHGs are not the only cause...and may not even be the main cause.

The root problem is heat, not greenhouse gases (GHG).

In Ground Breaking we explore how heat regulates the Earth’s temperature, of which greenhouse gases are but one, albeit important, component.


Sequestering carbon together with other practices restores soil security and increases the small water cycle.

Thereby decreasing the impact of climate change both by removing GHGs from the air and by reducing the heat from the land.


Rapid Solution is possible, but it requires a whole–of–government approach.

New planning systems need to be introduced and funded, like town planning, but rural planning instead.

It has been done once before when addressing the problem of acid sulfate soil.

"This is literally a blueprint on how we save the planet by one of the most knowledgeable people in all the right areas for this to happen.

There is a Terraton of extra carbon in the atmosphere - if every farmer put 1% of carbon back in their soil it would remove 1 Terraton."

– Dru Reschke

Anthropogenic climate change is undeniably happening, but are we addressing the wrong problem?

Climate change is a grave issue affecting us all and collectively we can do better – we must break new ground.

About the Authors

Philip and Freya Mulvey

Phil Mulvey is a specialist in soil and water chemistry with over 40 years of experience in soil science, land repair and groundwater. He is founder of one of Australia's leading environmental geo-science group EESI Group, was co–founder of 3D–Ag, a sustainable farm systems consultancy, and CEO of Carbon Count, the world’s first commercially available online soil carbon project management software.  Phil is part consultant, part contractor, part researcher and part entrepreneur but has always been a free thinker.

Co-inventor of the patented Fast Adaptive Algorithm of Soil Testing (FAAST), an innovative Fast Sampling methodology to quickly and easily measure and certify the carbon in a project area, Phil has trained numerous scientists in the art of commercial scientific problem-solving throughout his career, and has made it his personal mission to restore 10% of the world’s degraded land in his lifetime.

Freya Mulvey is a commercial lawyer and environmental enthusiast. In 2017 she won the National Civil Justice Award for championing the rights of Timorese seaweed farmers in the Montara class action, a contemporary David-and-Goliath battle. Freya is Phil's youngest daughter.

"In this age of vast digital information availability but also planetary crisis, our species continues to ignore one of the fundamental lessons of history: that the agricultural destruction of soils destroys civilizations."

"Problem is, this ongoing blindness has ever more frightening implications, because the entire health of our planetary systems are now at risk.

But every now and then a book comes along that is full of basic common sense, but that is supported by solid science and easily understood explanations. This is such a book. Co-authored by father and daughter – the first an agricultural scientist and hydrologist, the second a lawyer and ‘environmental enthusiast’ – the Mulveys shine a fresh light on solutions to our planetary, and particularly climatic, crisis. For they cut through the zillion reams and hours of scientific papers and scientific meetings on global climate change to highlight one simple but largely overlooked fact: that poor land management practices, and particularly the degradation of the hydrological cycle, are at the root of the increased heating of the Earth’s surface and thus anthropogenic climate change.

That is, when it comes to climate change, landscape processes are as important as atmospheric ones concerning the preservation of life on planet earth and of reversing continental climate change. In other words, a key pathway to addressing climate change is to regenerate healthy soils via regenerative agricultural practices. This in turn sustains more humans and biodiversity generally, and positively impacts eight of our Earth’s governing systems – including our ever more vital water cycle.

Whether home gardener, farmer, consumer, scientist or policy decision-maker, this straight-forward book is a must read, for it proves the old adage: that plain common sense is extremely rare."

– Dr. Charles Massy

"Another Uncomfortable Truth?: Agriculture’s Impact on Climate."

"While much has been written about the impact of climate change on agriculture, Phil and Freya Mulvey explore a little discussed ‘uncomfortable truth’ in “Ground Breaking: Soil Security and Climate Change”.

They make a compelling argument that the clearing of large areas of woodland to create bare farming fields, directly drives local climate changes, disrupting the “small water cycle”. This lesser known climatic process recirculates and re-uses moisture, driving much of the effective precipitation in inland Australia. Maps of rainfall decline, bisected by the WA “bunny fence” is shown as evidence of this theory. In at least the short term, these impacts are said to be more significant than rises in temperature related to increases in atmospheric carbon.

Phil and Freya are not however arguing for an abandonment of agriculture. They site examples of farmer who have adopted various ‘regenerative farming approaches' to boost soil health and ‘soil security’. Their theory is that greater stored carbon will be the very foundation of a more hydrated landscape that can restore the Small Water Cycles. While there is extensive discussion around the state and federal legislative actions that can support this, including recognising soil in the EPBC act, many suggestions seem doomed to be lost in federal/state arguments, and resistance from farming lobbies sensitive to any impost on private property rights. While the need to clear vast areas of land to feed the worlds (soon to be) 10 billion people is a kind of  “uncomfortable truth”, there are now hopes of market solutions.

The Glasgow conference agreed rules to link global carbon markets, and reward environmental co-benefits. Financial drivers, including costing Natural Capital, should greatly incentivise farmers toward regenerative processes. Maybe we will hardly be able to see the WA “bunny fence” by 2050."

– Richard Dickmann

"While the text rambles a little places, the central message is: “determined land use change for local and global soil security” (and - achieving this by principally increasing and maintaining vegetative ground cover, increasing the capacity of our soils and landscapes to capture and store permanent organic carbon, and more - to restore the small water cycle for rural landscapes)."

"Not a difficult message but one that needs persistent reinforcing.

Clearly articulated - soil is the foundation for life... and Anthropogenic climate change is the scourge of our society - the authors present readers with excellent illustrations together with clear and present challenges! The author(s) wrap up the text by calling on decision makers, policy advisers, government and others to develop Local, Regional and National Regenerative Landscape Plans - and to value our Natural Capital.

Overall, an excellent read. Highly suitable for all Australians!"

– Tim Overheu

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