Young Linden Hills environmentalist leads on soil

Felix Malcolm-Manzoni, 9, urges focus on carbon sequestration

Nine-year-old Felix Malcolm-Manzoni
Nine-year-old Felix Malcolm-Manzoni explained to attendees of a Linden Hills environmental workshop how carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change and how agricultural practices such as rotational grazing and using natural fertilizer can help curb emissions. Photo by Isaiah Rustad

A Linden Hills fourth grader is at the forefront of efforts to convince neighbors that healthy soil can help reduce carbon emissions and curb climate change.

Felix Malcolm-Manzoni, 9, is working with Ginny Halloran of the Linden Hills environment and sustainability committee to maintain a demonstration site near 44th & York.

The duo are tending to two plots of native plants, shrubs and grasses on the site, which is owned by the city. The native plants have deeper roots and store more carbon in the ground than turfgrasses or other traditional yard plants, helping to reduce emissions.

On Oct. 17, Felix and Halloran were among the featured speakers at a “young environmentalist” workshop that touched on these benefits and highlighted the importance of healthy soil.

“Native plants are important not only for pollinators,” Felix told the crowd of over 25 people, but they can also help reduce carbon emissions.

“The universe beneath our feet is teeming with life,” Halloran added.

Halloran’s interest in soil as a means to curbing climate change began after she attended a MN350 workshop on regenerative agriculture. In 2019, she and the environmental and sustainability committee received a grant from the Linden Hills neighborhood organization to plant native grasses and plants on the bare ground at the site near 44th & York. They also hosted workshops to explain to residents the benefits of healthy soil.

This year, the committee planted native grasses and plants on a second plot adjacent to the original site. Felix connected with Halloran in early July when he and his mother, Carla Manzoni, walked by the site. The next week, he began helping Halloran tend to the plots, and he continued doing so throughout the summer and into the fall.

Halloran said she could tell that Felix was excited about tending to the plots, adding that she was impressed with his vocabulary when it came to soil biology. She said she doesn’t think the Oct. 17 workshop would have happened without him.

At the workshop, Felix explained to the attendees how carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change and how agricultural practices such as rotational grazing and using natural fertilizer can help curb emissions. Shona Snater of the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project explained how healthy soil acts as a sponge, filtering out pollutants and keeping in water to prevent runoff.

Additionally, Halloran ran through practices that people can take in their own yards to increase the health of their soils, such as using compost, not using herbicides and pesticides and avoiding tilling.

In an interview, she said that actions such as these could have a big impact.

“If you really let nature be the lead, it’s going to come up with the right solutions,” she said. “It’s just that as humans, we have a hard time making that happen.”