On this episode, Larry Kopald shares his life’s crusade to tackle global warming by putting carbon back where it belongs…underground in the soil. Larry and I discuss the ground-breaking work being done through his latest company, The Carbon Underground. He gives us a brief history of the evolution of industrial agriculture, the role carbon plays in our climate, the implications of climate change if not reversed soon, the challenges faced by the new administration, and much more. We even get up close and personal by delving into his childhood revealing the influences that shaped his current thinking; and explore how being a veteran advertising executive created a natural evolution from converting his powers of persuasion into a world movement. All this and more on today’s episode.
Now, That’s Unusual.
About Larry Kopald
Larry Kopald is the Co-Founder and President of The Carbon Underground, an organization committed to reversing climate change by restoring the soil of our farms, ranches and grasslands so that it can draw down carbon from the atmosphere. The company works to educate stakeholders about the value and benefits of soil restoration by crafting campaigns that motivate people to act. The Carbon Underground has created partnerships with corporations, governments, universities and food organizations to avert catastrophic climate change.
Kopald spent the majority of his career as a communications and branding professional, working at some of the world’s top advertising agencies. He helped launch multibillion dollar brands like Acura, Oracle and Huggies and managed campaigns for top companies including McDonalds, American Express and Honda. As technology gained significance in the late 1990’s, he started his own agency, THINK New Ideas, which succeeded in putting 40 of the Fortune 100 companies online.
Kopald is also a lifelong environmentalist serving on the boards of Oceana, the National Marine Sanctuaries, 1% For the Planet among others. He has realized the environmental communications for both the UN and the Olympics, and he has been nominated for both Emmy and Grammy awards. Kopald’s background and experience make him uniquely qualified to communicate The Carbon Underground’s message of sustainability to the world.
Key Interview Takeaways
Carbon is not the enemy. Yes, we need to work to curb emissions, but climate change is happening because we have shut down the engine that draws carbon from the atmosphere and returns it to the soil. Techniques of industrial agriculture have destroyed our soil and killed the microorganisms that needed carbon to survive. As a result, plants are not being asked to draw the carbon from the atmosphere and return it to the soil. If we restore the health of our soil, photosynthesis will occur naturally and restore the carbon cycle.
People with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo are always the biggest obstacle to change. Fortunately for The Carbon Underground, restoring the soil makes good business sense. According to the United Nations, we only have 60 harvests left before we will run out of topsoil. As such, the food, apparel and energy industries are beginning to realize that business is not sustainable without change.
Communicate with corporate leaders by speaking their language. Kopald’s background in business has given him the tools to connect with companies by speaking to increased profits, secure supply chains and reduced input costs that come with restoring the soil. Helping reverse climate change and marketing that benefit to consumers is a plus, but protecting the business is of primary concern.
Healthy soil holds onto astonishing amounts of water. Every 1% of organic matter that is restored in the soil results in the retention of 25,000 to 60,000 gallons of water per acre, requiring significantly less water to maintain crops and producing yields even during drought.
The movement to restore our soil will happen with or without help from the US government. The Trump administration’s denial of climate change is a concern; however, individual companies, state governments and other countries around the world are committed to making the change and working toward sustainability.
The public can contribute to the cause in three ways: 1) Get educated and spread the word, 2) Engage in in-store education campaigns, and 3) Participate in the Adopt-A-Meter program by donating $5 to restore one square meter of soil.
There is value in being a generalist. In a world where people are celebrated for being experts in a particular field, Kopald argues that his curiosity about so many different disciplines has allowed him to see the interconnectedness among those disciplines and given him the adaptability it takes to be successful in a difficult world.
Learn More About Larry Kopald
Chouinard & Kopald Op Ed “Answer to California Drought May Be Just Under Our Feet”