Soil Erosion: Deadlier than what you think
Soil Erosion: Deadlier than what you think
Finally it is being acknowledged that centuries of poor agricultural practices has led to devastation of nearly 40 percent of our farming land. Researchers point out that if we do not improve on our farming methods and respect the land, over the next 50 years, starvation will be a common feature globally. Food production relies heavily on decent soil but in many parts of the world, the soil has been degraded. Combined with the destruction of soil, older farming methods have also wasted fresh water, injected animals with all sorts of chemicals and there was significant pollution of the environment with insecticides, and pesticides.
Today it is estimated that nearly 12 million hectares of land has been discarded because the soil is poor.
To put this into realistic perspective, one hectare is roughly the size of one football field. Twelve million hectares covers all the agricultural land in the states of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
How much this degraded soil has already impacted the global food production is not fully known because many countries do not keep tabs on their land or food production. But experts in the food industry suggest that already there is a loss of about 20 million tons of grain crops annually.
In addition, older farming methods that are still in use today are very inefficient at energy conservation. Some experts say that these methods require an input of 10-12 calories for every calorie of food, which is extremely inefficient. For decades, the system has made use of reliable cheap fossil fuels but this cannot go on forever.
Out of Control Soil Abuse
Worldwide, landowners have been engaged in “soil orgy” solely to make quick profits and according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Department, we only have 4-6 more decades of viable soil to grow crops. In fact a recent study from Sheffield University indicates that in the UK there may only be about a 100 harvests left on most of the land.
With an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, antibiotic resistance, continual wars in many parts of the world- we have created a major food crises that is just being realized. Even if we were to fix some of the health disorders like obesity, we need to address the environment and food production.
Sadly, soil preservation is not a priority and is hardly ever mentioned in the media-even though our lives depend on it. Everyone assumes that soil will magically rejuvenate itself but continual trashing the rainforests and the ecosystem has now gone beyond any fruitful recovery of the land.
Surely one would think that the landowners would be more concerned about soil as their livelihood depends on it, but tragically making quick money over rides any common sense.
So what are our options?
To recover the degraded soil, experts say that one must rejuvenate organic farming practices. There is considerable evidence that organic farming not only preserves the soil but it is a very efficient way of farming and it also respects the ecosystem. Unfortunately one of the major drawbacks of organic farming is the cost. Not only is it more costly to grow food organically but the end product is also more expensive- hence in the current economic times, consumers bypass such foods. The global recession and labile economy means that most people do not place the environment as their utmost priority.
Despite many governments setting new set of soil standards, landowners simply do not pay attention.
There are usually no penalties except for withhold some farming subsidies. The farmers themselves do not want to change. In fact there are very few schools that offer degrees in soil sciences. Anti-soil erosion movements have always been suppressed by lobbyists. However, some governments have passed bills to protect the land to promote more sustainable growth without soil erosion.
Mankind has weathered all kinds of adversities in the past. Civilizations have come and gone, many wars have been fought and millions of people of died, we have gone to the moon and come back, we have built the Internet and now we know more about everything than ever before, but all this is minuscule compared to what we have done to our soil. You lose soil and you lose life. Globalization has led to destruction in every community and now also threatens our ecosystem. If humans want to live long, then soil preservation should be a priority. Any more soil devastation and one can rest assured; premature deaths will be a common feature globally.